“We are entering a capital scarce, energy scarce future.
I believe a great deal of all trade in the years ahead will be in material goods already made, re-purposed, as they say, and re-circulated.
We will probably come to see a long era of little-to-no-growth. Whatever happens in terms of the human habitat from now on will involve the re-use of stuff that is already there, one way or another.
Personally, I believe the action is going to shift to small towns, small cities, and places that exist in a relationship with a productive agricultural landscape. The fate of suburbia is to become slums, salvage sites, and ruins.
I maintain that any activity organized at the colossal scale will tend to fail in the face of the compound crises of energy, capital, and ecology (climate change). Giant governments, giant universities, giant retail operations — all these things will wobble and fail in the years ahead as reality compels us to downscale and re-localize.
The big box chain stores rely on economic formulas that have no chance of surviving under the new stresses loose in the world — procedures like Walmart’s vaunted “warehouse on wheels,” which relies on the incessant circulation of tractor-trailer trucks traveling vast distances on the interstate highway system (itself subject to failure in a capital-scarce economy).
Most truckers in America are independent contractors who have to cover their own costs, and as the price of diesel fuel rises, they will be battered. Likewise the conveyor belt of cheap plastic merchandise from Asia is also not a permanent arrangement, but rather a transient phenomenon of cheap oil and labor cost arbitrage. Consider, too, that the traumatic loss of jobs and incomes is impoverishing the very customers that the chain stores depend on. So the whole picture for these operations is rather grim.”
James Howard Kunstler – interview here
Damn this sounds so….out there. And yet, it also seems extremely plausible. The rise of swap meets and yard sales are nothing but the reuse economy emerging. More of that is coming.