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Kunstler: Coasting Toward Zero


In just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.

To allay these vexations, we just coast along on the momentum generated by the engines in place — the turbo-industrial flow of products to customers without the means to buy things; the gigantic infrastructures of transport subject to remorseless decay; the dishonest operations of central banks undermining all the world’s pricing and cost structures; the political ideologies based on fallacies such as growth without limits; the cultural transgressions of thought-policing and institutional ass-covering.

This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?

The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.

Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots. What kind of foolish Popular Mechanics porn fantasy is this? If human beings have only a minor administrative role in this set-up, what do two hundred million American adults do for a livelihood? And who exactly are the intended customers of these products? You can be sure that the people of China, Brazil, and Korea will have enough factories of their own, making every product imaginable. Are they going to buy our stuff now? Are they going to completely roboticize their own factories and impoverish millions of their own factory workers?

The lack of thought behind this dynamic is staggering, especially because it doesn’t account for the obvious political consequence — which is to say the potential for uprising, revolution, civic disorder, cruelty, mayhem, and death, along with the kind of experiments in psychopathic governance that the 20th century was a laboratory for. Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.

What preoccupies the USA now, in June of 2014? According to the current cover story Time Magazine, the triumph of “transgender.” Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate sexual confusion as the latest and greatest achievement of this culture? No wonder the Russians think we’re out of our minds and want to dissociate from the West. I’ve got news for the editors of Time Magazine: the raptures of sexual confusion are not going to carry American civilization forward into the heart of this new century.

In fact, just the opposite. We don’t need confusion of any kind. We need clarity and an appreciation of boundaries in every conceivable sphere of action and thought. We don’t need more crybabies, or excuses, or wishful thinking, or the majestic ass-covering that colors the main stream of our national life.

27 Comments on "Kunstler: Coasting Toward Zero"

  1. bobinget on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 6:02 pm 

    Electing Elisabeth Warren POTUS, would be a positive first start.

    Raise the minimum wage to $12.00 with inflation indexing.

    Indeed, celebrate not sexual confusion but individual identity.

    Hold a mass funeral for the Republican Party on the Washington Mall. Since the GOP never identified itself as Catholic, suicide should not be at issue for burial.

    Cut President Obama’s fifteen year banishment of coal
    burning down to five.

    Along with a massive effort to sustainably re-power the nation, employ hundreds of thousands to fortify
    coastal cities against storm flood tides and subsequent higher shorelines.

    Use American deserts, costal lines, to respectfully generate solar & wind power where appropriate.

    Most importantly, hold a series of ‘teach-ins’, televised debates on outcomes, management of climate change.

  2. Plantagenet on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 6:19 pm 

    Kunstler is dreaming. We aren’t going to have “clarity’ in “action and thought” from our leaders as long as Obama is in charge. Look for more drift, uncertainty, dithering, lying, and incompetence in the years to come.

  3. JB on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 6:41 pm 

    “Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.”

    I venture a guess we are now entering the very early stages of scarcity. There have been about two major wars every century. WW1 and 2 in the last century, and the Napoleonic wars in the early decades of the 1800’s. I’ve been doing some reading on the Napoleonic wars. Shocking! They were just as devastating as WW1. The stage is being set. I don’t like being a doomer, but history, you know. The world is about due for a big war and soon scarcity will be ramping up.

  4. noobtube on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 7:47 pm 

    I say it and they call me a fool.

    Kunstler says it, and he is brilliant.

    The only thing America produces is stupid people.

  5. Yeti on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 8:03 pm 

    Maybe cause you and Kunstler are saying different things, fool.

  6. noobtube on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 8:16 pm 

    Or, maybe, Americans don’t like hearing the truth, from anyone other than Americans or Europeans.

    It all goes back to the degenerate, self-important, arrogant, pompous, self-congratulatory, pretentious, childishness of the American idiot.

    It is what led to slavery, genocide, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, dropping an atomic bomb on women and children, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, Katrina, and the financial collapse.

    Americans love to scream about how bad everyone else is, but can’t take it when it’s their turn.

    And, Americans are the most vicious, violent, despicable scumbags this planet has seen yet.

  7. DMyers on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 8:39 pm 

    Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots.

    That paragraph is awesome. This is a great argument, unheard elsewhere. If robots are making all the money, who’s going to buy the human designed products they manufacture? This is absurd and a complete reconfiguration of our current system/economy. The only thing humans can get in this scenario is welfare, and that ain’t gonna buy the shit the robots make, even if it’s being made by fockin robots!

  8. Makati1 on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 9:06 pm 

    Kunstler paints a very very accurate picture of America. Some here will disagree, but the apple is rotten clean through even though the rot is covered by a shiny red veneer of wax and polish. It will soon shrivel and dry up.

    Leave the 50 states for a year or so and then come back and see if you too don’t see the blemishes poking through the veneer. The potholed interstates. The abandoned buildings. The closed shops and stores on main street. The for sale signs that litter the streets of America. The cost of things like food and energy that are increasing with every new stocking of the shelves. Those that are still stocked, that is. No, the rot is visible to those who want to see. Most don’t.

  9. Northwest Resident on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 9:20 pm 

    Makati1 — The rot is everywhere, not just in America. I’ve been in your city (Manilla) several times. Talk about rot…

    Kunstler has to come up with a dramatically worded article once a week — I’ll cut him some slack.

    But yes, most Americans are clueless. And yes, “TPTB” are controlling us and democracy is just a showboat to make us *think* that we are in control of our situation, somewhat. But it has always been that way — what’s new?

    Hey noobster — whatever Kunstler is saying, he says it at least with a flair for the dramatic and with a little style and class. Everything you post is pure trash and stinking garbage. Kunstler makes a lot of good points — you never do. Go home to your mama.

  10. Hubert on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 9:24 pm 

    Let’s face it, America is bankrupt third world country. We’re going through some very interesting times indeed!

  11. Davy, Hermann, MO on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 9:53 pm 

    Hubert, OK, but the US has food unlike much of the rest of the world that are in overshoot to carrying capacity. Even if modern agriculture begins to crash the US can still produce enough food to support a significant percentage of the population at least in the beginning.

  12. Perk Earl on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 9:53 pm 

    “Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots.”

    DMyers, robotics is closing in on being similar to people: Incredible Singing Android! – HRP-4C Humanoid Robot : Creepily realistic robot can hold conversations

  13. noobtube on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 11:13 pm 

    The United States is finished without “modern” (i.e. petroleum-based) agriculture.

    There will be no United States with the end of oil. It will be like Rome. Once the food stops, it was just a matter of time before the Rome Empire was finished, forever (likewise the American empire).

    The best hope for the Southern continents is for the United States and Europe to crash as soon as possible.

    Especially in Africa, they are trying to get their degenerate “modern” agriculture into these areas (with time-expiring seeds, soil destroying machines, industrial farms). Who in the world would want Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland in their country?

    Anyone who advocates an American approach to anything on this planet, is advocating fighting the exponential function. That is the American idiot.

  14. Northwest Resident on Mon, 2nd Jun 2014 11:39 pm 

    noob — There will be no Europe, no Russia, no China, no Japan — no major or 3rd world country will remain the same when the end of oil comes. Why single out America?

    The “American idiots” have pretty much dominated most of the world, noob. Are they really idiots? Or are the “American idiots” — at least, the ones running business, finance, industry and government — ruthless in their determination to dominate? They can’t be that stupid, noob. But you could, and apparently are.

  15. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 5:09 am 

    Noob, you are doing your message a disservice. Try to grow up and mature in your delivery of this message. Show some balance and compassion. You have some important points but they are soiled by a poor delivery. You appear nothing more than an uneducated kid learning something new and you think world shaking.

  16. ffkling on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 5:58 am 

    Right on Northwest Resident. So sick and tired of reading the same cut and paste noob garbage ad nauseam.

  17. J-Gav on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 6:41 am 

    JB – I was going to cite the same quotation you did from the article.

    A lot of us can feel a kind of drift toward something big and scary approaching. Knowing exactly what it is and when it will strike is another matter – but the foreboding is real. Will it be a tipping point in the ‘scarcity’ Kunstler talks about? Could be …

  18. paulo1 on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 9:06 am 

    Don’t let the reality TV portrayal of American life fool you. It is no more realistic than the Peter Sellars’ portrayal of Inspector Closseau as a representation of the French. Those ‘southern corne pone crackers’ Kunstler likes to denigrate will be whip hard tough resilient when required.

    America has food, some energy, and know how. They have gotten soft in the body and head, perhaps, but there is a core group that will do just fine. Las Vegas and Phoenix may be abandoned one day, but there are some damn fine states with good growing ground and rail networks. Give me a lumbering old freight like the kind that used to haul through my Grandmas back yard in Minnesota over those sexy high speed bullets hauling ‘folks’ between mega-cities, anyday.

    The only fear I have is about angry poor cities full of automatic weapons and crowds of disenfranchised with tucked-away hand guns.

    Small cities and rural areas will do just fine, imho. My dad’s family somehow prospered and enjoyed themselves for 10 years of the Depression on a 1/2 acre lot in a small Minnesota farming town. They had lots to eat, just no money. They fixed their torn clothes and wore sturdy shoes. (What? No 200 dollar neon green runners?) I suspect it will be a similar story of survival. Lots od scrap to weld into useful things.

    As some might know, I’m Canadian. I believe we will politely muddle along as well.


  19. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 10:27 am 

    Paulo I concur!

  20. Northwest Resident on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 10:51 am 

    Paulo1 — 1/2 an acre is more than enough to feed an entire family and have enough left-over produce to sell for extra cash. At least, according to a best-selling book that I’m using as my “bible” these days:

    Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

    Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require.

    On Amazon dot com, in case anybody is interested.

  21. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 11:07 am 

    N/R, I am engaged in farming, gardening, and animal husbandry. I do not see it possible to make it on a 1/4 acre but I would love to be proved wrong. I see gardens providing maybe 1/3 of needed nutrition. You must have some grains fields planted and some animals like chickens, milk cow, hogs, rabbits, goats, and beef cows. You can make it with that with back braking sun up to sun down work. That is my experience.

  22. Northwest Resident on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 11:42 am 

    Davy — I am definitely not an expert and no way as experienced as you at farming — I’m just telling you what the lifelong farmer and engineer who wrote the book is saying. A theme throughout the book — and it all makes a lot of sense to me — is how to maximize output with the growing space that you have. There is a lot of technique involved. And you don’t get that increased output per square foot of planting space in the first year — it takes a while to gradually improve the soil over time and to get that compost pile whipped into shape. Raised planters are key, as is crop rotation. Hey — I’m just telling you what the book says. And you’re not the first one to question the premise of a family being able to survive off of 1/4 acre. Check out the book — it is worth the read, anyway.

    In my 1/16 acre (just three of us — no need to make money off selling produce), it will be interesting to see what my first-year production ends up being. I’m already pulling good-sized Russet potatoes out of the ground, and there is a LOT of them. My hard red spring wheat is about knee-high now, with plenty of time to develop. Two varieties of corn are well on their way. Barley — not so sure about how it is doing, we’ll see. Onions are going crazy — we’ll have way more than we can use. Kentucky pole beans growing like crazy, same with tomatoes. Lots of herbs and spices. Still have a four 4×16 planters left — but too late in the season to start anything for fall harvest, so I’m going to plant bean crops which will just be plowed under to fertilize for fall/winter planting of grain.

    I’m having the time of my life. Great project. We’ll see how the self-sustaining thing goes, but I’m optimistic. With enough grain (and Timothy grass hay which is also growing), I should be able to support a few laying hens, enough rabbits for one or two per month on the BBQ, maybe some meat chickens too. But cattle, sheep or goats — no way — not enough space.

  23. Northwest Resident on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 11:59 am 

    Davy — A little more, in case you’re interested.

    My front yard is currently a very well tended, manicured front yard with all kinds of shrubs and bushes that serve no purpose at all except to “look good”. But… this fall I am going to be planting a TON of Camas (native plant to the Chehalem valley where I live and a major source of food for the indian tribes) — a pretty blue flower with very sweet and nutritious bulbs. Also, I am going to plant camelina — lots of it — you can look that up to see what it is if you don’t already know. Those two will blend in to my landscape design and most people won’t even realize that what I’m really growing is food. And finally, my current well-tended lawn in the front yard will be quickly converted to a large grain rotation field when maintaining a good-looking front yard is no longer a priority (but food production is). I think I’m going to have enough space to grow a lot of food — enough to keep us going. We’ll see…

  24. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 12:26 pm 

    N/R, you must have a liberal neighborhood. Around Missouri if you are in a conservative Republican uptight neighborhood you might be thrown in jail for converting a well tended front lawn to a garden. In the Ozarks were my farm is you can keep toilets as planters and junk cars on blocks in the front yard and no one will say anything.

  25. Northwest Resident on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 12:31 pm 

    Davy — That’s the trick — to make the camas and camilina blend in with the existing landscape, so that anybody driving by will think “oh, what pretty blue and yellow flowers”, when in fact that may be true but the secret underlying truth is that those pretty flowers can be eaten!!

    I think I live in a “mixed” town of about 20K population, most living in the farms and wineries and orchards surrounding the main part of the city. Oregon tends to be mostly “liberal” anyway, especially on the west side of the Cascade range where I am. East of the Cascades it is just rednecks and rattle snakes as far as the eye can see…

  26. J-Gav on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 2:25 pm 

    You guys are just trying to make me jealous right? I mean with my O acres!

    Well, you’ve succeeded! I confess my ‘dream plot’ would be 1 or 2 acres – room for a large kitchen garden, a greenhouse, a woodlot and a pond.

    There are loads of videos on YouTube about 1/4 acre, 1/2 acre, 1 acre etc prtoducers I keep watching just in case some day …

    Here’s one from Australia:

  27. Northwest Resident on Tue, 3rd Jun 2014 2:37 pm 

    J-Gav: Thanks for the link to that video. I love the accent of those Aussies!! And it is a fact, demonstrated again, that a quarter acre can feed a LOT of people all year long. There were several other video links on the sidebar also on the subject of producing substantial amounts of food on a half or quarter acre. I really believe it can be done. One-sixteenth — that’s what I’ve got to work with, at least until post-collapse when I can expand into my front yard and make it a full-blown 1/8th acre — still enough for three people I think. I hope!

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