Random Thoughts

  • Its hard to appear visionary when people hear what you’re saying is that we are going to live life like in the distant past.  We are not.  We will live much better lives than in those in the distant past, we will just be forced to live in way that accommodates the reality of having a lot less energy to use than we have in the recent past.  My vision is a combination of the form of great low energy cities of the past, but with all the technology, medicine and health, sanitation, and simple conveniences of today.  Those can be accomplished with renewable energy.
  • We need city-wide scenario planning for city functions based on the new realities of energy, economy,  and climate:

o   Fuel off

o   Food disruptions

o   Banks closed

o   Flash flooding

o   Devastating power outages

As far as I can tell, none of that is happening. I think here in comfortable land, many would argue that we don’t need to worry about such things.  Some would probably argue that we don’t need to be alarmist. And some would argue that if we plan for these events, they are more likely to happen.  We need leadership from the Mayor and others on this.

  • The weak point in our economy is our national debt, like many teabaggers are claiming.  To pay it back, we can grow our economy or inflate our money supply.  Or we can default. I doubt we will default within the next few years.  Peak energy means that economic growth will be slow to non-existent.  Thus, the only option is inflation.  Inflation is already occurring, and as energy prices continue to rise and Quantitative Easing results in bubble-fueled commodity speculation, it will increase. The problem is wages will not increase, due to globalization, increased productivity, and high joblessness.  End result:  stagflation.   Perhaps the worst possible economic condition for 90% of Americans.
  • High oil prices make everyone a believer in Big Government:  “Washington should do something about these darn crazy prices!”  I just wish the teabagging right would be consistent – but that’s probably asking too much.
  • Many “experts” are saying that there are significant differences between now and 2008, and thus high oil prices shouldn’t worry us.  Yes, there are many differences. One is that we are as weak economically as we’ve been since 75 years ago.  Another is that there are 100 million more people in the world. These two things don’t bode well for us if prices stay high.
  • Unfortunately, we have been saddled with the worst possible system for organizing the life of our city:  zoning.  Zoning is now being shown to be devastating to our cities.   Zoning requires – mandates – high energy use for transportation, food production, and single use, short life, cheap buildings.  All this high energy use also has had devastating effects on our climate.  We need a whole new way of thinking about how our city evolves that takes into account the realities of low energy, climate change, and the need for a localized economy.  I don’t know exactly how to get there yet, but I do know what the results would look like.  We will have a set of compete neighborhoods, rather than a sprawling city, and life will be focused on a much smaller scale.  Commerce will function on a very local rather than a city-wide or regional scale.  (Think small butcher, baker, and produce seller rather than Meijer’s.) Buildings will look different in response to low energy and climate change – we will have a new architecture.   Uses and functions of the city will be completely intermingled, and much transportation will be human powered.  Riding buses and sharing rides won’t seem so scary.  And we will get a new and closer relationship with our food. These are NOT values.  These are rational responses to reality.
  • All of this points to the fact that all of us – governments, organizations and individuals must redouble our efforts to maintain and improve the quality of life for the least among us.  Those of us who have much cannot simply assume that somehow they will be provided for. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
    Martin Luther King, Jr.


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3 responses to “Random Thoughts

  1. Rod lindauer

    Steve, you do such a good job of boiling down the issues and making them relevant to Lexington. I admire your optimism in light of very real problems. I hope that Lexington is able to overcome the problems that work against localization because I too believe that we have the opportunity for a more just and prosperous region even in light of, or perhaps catalyzed by, energy descent. I also admit that in the wee hours sometimes, I worry about how bad things may become in Kentucky and the nation as we scratch the last lumps of coal from the ground in a desperate spasm to hold onto the ghosts of the past.

  2. Thanks Rod
    If I have anything to offer, its inspired by the real people like you who are living the transition and showing how it works

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