Tuesday, May 12, 2009


An Italian street market

Sometimes, quite by accident, good things happen!
by Charlie Leck

As a result of the damned economic crash of 2008, a dam has burst and, quite by accident, some damn good things were left scattered around as detritus when the waters receded.

What I’m trying to say is that some good things are happening as a result of the tough economic times of the last 6 months.

Credit will be used much more responsibly and those who provide credit will be regulated much more carefully. The consumer (you and I) will not be allowed to get such easy credit and we’ll be held more accountable. As a result, we’ll be more responsible about how much we extend ourselves, buying only what we can truly afford.

And this is a good thing. The astronomical gas prices of the summer of 2008 hit people right between the eyes. Suburban development 30, 40 and even 50 miles out from the work centers began to look less attractive to potential commuters. Every metropolitan area in America saw developments, under construction, come to a roaring halt. Near us, some of these proposed developments look like ghost towns.

America will begin to discover something that Europe has now for generations – the positive side of high density living. It will allow us to create better school systems that are better funded. Kids will actually have neighbors and neighborhood playgrounds and they’ll learn about YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs. There may be revivals of the neighborhood bakery and the corner grocery store. Families will be able to walk to church and stop at the soda shop on the way home. There’s a new day ahead and it’s a better life style than you might for a moment think.

I discovered Jim Kunstler about four years ago when I first started blogging. I’ve read his stuff pretty regularly since then and I find he is extremely accurate in his assessments and prognostications. He calls us a “junk nation.” He’s plenty eloquent here in stating that we’ve come to the end of the suburban explosion.
“The suburban living arrangement is over, along with all its accessories and furnishings. Taken as "all of a piece," the suburban expansion was one sixty-year-long orgasm of hypertrophy. We did it because we could. We won a world war and threw a party. We had lots of cheap land and cheap oil. It made lots of people lots of money and all its usufructs have become embedded in our national identity to the dangerous degree that the loss of them will provoke a kind of national psychotic breakdown. In fact, it already has. The completely unrealistic expectation that we can resume this way of life is proof of it.

“The immediate problem is that we can't build anymore of it. The next problem will be the failure of the stuff that already exists. The first stage of that is now palpable in the mortgage foreclosure fiasco and, just beginning now, the tanking of malls, strip centers, office parks and other commercial property investments. The latter will accelerate and become visible very quickly as retail tenants bug out and weeds start growing where the Chryslers and Pontiacs once parked. The next stage, which involves large demographic shifts in how we inhabit the landscape, has not quite gotten underway.’
And this is a good thing, too. Food will become more local and we’ll eat fresher, healthier stuff. The high cost of transporting everything we eat thousands of miles will reduce that system to supplying only what we absolutely can’t get locally – for example, strawberries in Minnesota in January.

One of the great wonders of living in a place like Paris was that I could walk down the street to an open-air market and buy what I needed for dinner from vendors who had brought their products in from their rural farms (that weren’t all that far from the city center). Whether fresh bread, lettuce, tomatoes or fabulous fish and meat, one got to know the vendors and developed favorites. This is something America has lacked, for certainly the last few generations, but it is developing here now and will be common practice for us in only a few more years.

Our love affair with the car and transportation in general will evolve into something wonderful
Kiss your father’s Oldsmobile goodbye – as well his Pontiac and Park Avenue, Fleetwood and Town Car. America will continue to love the automobile, but we are going to develop a love affair with sleeker, slimmer and more modest babes who don’t need constant refueling and continual pampering. Cars in 10 years will not be running on petrol; yet, they’ll still be fast and powerful and much quieter and cleaner than what we drive now. That’s a promise. Hold me to my word.

The journeyer will have more options when it comes to crossing the fields and traveling through the woods and streams to grandmother’s house. In 20 years, sleek high speed trains will whisk us from one downtown center to another all across America – traveling at speeds up around 250 miles per hour. At your arrival center, you’ll be able to rent a car by simply sliding a card through a locking devise on its door. The family piles in and you make the remaining drive to grandmother’s in these rental convenience cars. Small, sleek, environmentally friendly planes will fly us around if we think it’s more convenient than the train. Airports will be redesigned to be traveler friendly and security systems will be fast and nearly full-proof. Travel within metropolitan areas will improve greatly also. Hardly anyone who will work in a major employment center will need to drive a car to get there. There will be numerous transportation choices including light rail trains and quiet, clean, economical buses – and special bike roads, bridges and parking areas.

Lots more people will be able to connect to their work places through virtual systems that let you chat with and see fellow workers and remain at home in your offices, producing more and better than when one went to the office. To create a sense of community, companies will develop new approaches and the company picnic or social will become a reality again.

I think we are moving toward a brave new world and things are looking up for our nation and for the world. Humankind may even be forced into living peacefully only because the cost of not doing so is economically infeasible. And, there will still be Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It’s just that the turkey on Thanksgiving will be fresher and healthier and we’ll take greater care not to waste as much of the food. It doesn’t sound bad. I envy the young!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog today Charlie. The long overdue awakening in taking place. Not an easy experience for everyone but I hope it leads to a much more realistic and sustainable way of life.