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Deep thought - May 24

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Reinventing Collapse by Dmitry Orlov released

Elizabeth (EJ) Hurst, New Society Publishers
The much anticipated Reinventing Collapse - The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov has just been released by New Society Publishers. This book has been creating quite a stir on blogs such as Energy Bulletin, Life After The Oil Crash and Carolyn Baker.

Jan Lundberg of Culture Change says, “Be prepared to have your window shoved open and feel the fresh air shake you up. But don't worry, reading Dmitry Orlov usually just means gaining special insights with a strange, humorous twist. Dmitry is unique, contributing mightily to the vital but suppressed discussion of collapse and rebirth.”

In the waning days of the American Empire, the US administration finds itself mired in political crisis; foreign policy has come under sharp criticism; and the economy is in steep decline. These trends mirror the experience of the Soviet Union in the early 1980’s. Reinventing Collapse examines the circumstances of the demise of the Soviet superpower and offers clear insights into how we might prepare for similar events in the United States.

Reinventing Collapse suggests that there is room for optimism if we focus our efforts on personal and cultural transformation. He argues that by examining maladaptive parts of our common cultural baggage we can survive and thrive, in spite of steadily deteriorating circumstances.

This challenging yet inspiring work is a must-read for anyone concerned about energy, geopolitics, international relations and life in a post-Peak Oil world.

Dmitry Orlov was born in Leningrad and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. He was an eyewitness to the Soviet collapse over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late eighties and mid-nineties. He is an engineer who has contributed to fields of high-energy Physics and Internet security. He is a leading Peak Oil theorist featured on www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ and www.powerswitch.org.uk/.
(23 May 2008)


Panel Discussion: James Howard Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros

Lakis Polycarpou, City of the Future
A panel discussion with James Howard Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros. In part 1 Kunstler and Salingaros discussed peak oil, the religion of the automobile and the New Urbanism, among other topics.

In part 2 they talk about September 11th and skyscrapers, the fallacy of LEED certification, the fate of major urban centers, and the need for humility among architects and urban planners.
---
James Howard Kunstler has written numerous books about urbanism and “the fiasco of suburbia”, including The Geography of Nowhere, Home from Nowhere and The City in Mind. In his most recent book, The Long Emergency, Kunstler explored the shocking implications of what the imminent decline of oil and natural gas imply for the American way of life. His recently released novel, The World Made by Hand, is set in a small upstate New York town in a not-too-distant “post-petroleum” future-a place where highways and suburbs have been abandoned and life has become “extremely local.”

Nikos Salingaros is a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a renowned urban theorist. The author of Principals of Urban Structure and A Theory of Architecture, Salingaros links mathematical, fractal and network theory to urban planning and architecture. Over the years he has been a close collaborator with numerous noted architects and urban planners, including Christopher Alexander, Andrés Duany, Leon Krier and others. Among his admirers is Charles, Prince of Wales, who has called Salingaros’ work “provocative” and “historically important.”

LP: I would like to start with a quote. Writing 50 years ago on the inauguration of the Interstate Highway System, Lewis Mumford commented that “the current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation, but on the religion of the motorcar; and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism.”

Half a century later the religion of the motorcar is, if anything, stronger than ever. Is there any hope of changing course in the coming years, or are we doomed to repeat the auto-centered planning mistakes of recent decades? Is there any way for healthy cities to make peace with the automobile, or must it be banished from them altogether?

JHK: First of all, I don’t think that we’re going to have to make a whole lot of further accommodations to the automobile. I’m serenely convinced that the automobile is going to be a diminishing presence in our lives. We’re not going to come up with any “miracle” or “rescue remedy” for the petroleum scarcity problem.

I think you’re going to see an interesting political problem arise, where motoring simply becomes an elite activity again, and will be greatly resented by the masses of Americans. There are all kinds of problems including unanticipated ones.

Now that’s the second half of the Mumford question. The first half has a lot to do with what I call the “psychology of previous investment.” The investment we’ve made now in the happy motoring life is so enormous, that no matter what reality is telling us about it, we’re probably going to see a big campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs. I maintain that this will probably work out as a gigantic exercise in futility and a further waste of our remaining resources. We’re probably going to campaign to keep suburbia going, but it’s not going to pay off for us, and it’s really basically a waste of our time and our resources.

... LP: So we can learn something from the developing world?

NS: Oh, we learn the most fundamental things about human scale. We so-called civilized or more technological people have lost the human scale. And if we only learn that single thing it would transform our cities overnight. Respect for the human scale. Which includes pedestrian links. But more than that, it’s the human scale, the range of human scales, from the size of a finger to the size of the head, to the size of a human body, to the distance of a short walk.

LP: That’s what you’ve called “fractal”.

NS: Right, right. A fractal hierarchy of scales which we have eliminated from our cities. If we can reintroduce them in the physical structure and then accommodate them in the physical structure to human beings, who want to walk three meters, and who want to lie against a low wall, sit on a low wall, sit on a bench. Now we eliminate them, because we think, “this place will be invaded by vagrants.”

Many of the solutions that I have proposed in my writings and that Christopher has proposed, we know, we have old books from the 1930s full of them. But nobody pays any attention to them.
(13 May 2008)
Long, mind-bending interview. We are working with Lakis Polycarpou to publish the entire article on Energy Bulletin. -BA

(Part 1)
(Part 2)

A shorter version is posted Next American City magazine.


How the Government Could Pay Us to Stay Home and Garden

John Walker, Organic Gardening Magazine (UK) via Transition Culture
Rob Hopkins writes:
Here is a brilliant piece published recently in Organic Gardening Magazine, which contains a brilliant idea that something like the Tax Credits system could be used to support localised food production. Thanks to John for permission to republish it here.

John Walker is spending two days a week growing his own food - and being paid to do it. It’s all part of the Home Growing Act. And, by the way, it’s 2027. Read on…

... I still have the yellowing newspaper cuttings from that gloom-laden autumn of 2007. But now, 20 years on, things are very different. The spring of 2028 will be a special one; there will be more ‘homegrows’, as we’re affectionately known, than ever before. I’ve been one for over ten years.

... So what is a homegrow? In a nutshell, it’s someone who is rewarded, via the personal tax system, for growing food in their garden, or on their allotment.

... It took a bunch of rapidly greening politicians to realise that punitive taxation aimed at mitigating environmental meltdown wasn’t half as effective as persuading people, with the help of a real financial incentive, to do something about it in their own gardens. The Green Party laid the foundations of what became the Home Growing Act, which was included in the King’s Speech of 2018. No British monarch has ever looked quite so chuffed at seeing his own personal passion enter the statute book.

... Some incredible things followed, like the discovery that within every few streets in every town in the land, there was an established organic garden. Mine was one of them. These became ‘growcentres’ for the first generation of homegrows, and people around the corner, who these new gardeners had never met before, suddenly became their mentors and friends.

... I now only ‘work’ three days a week, and I homegrow for the other two. I don’t get ‘paid’ for being a homegrow; it isn’t like having a second job. How it works is that by growing vegetables, fruit and herbs in my garden, as opposed to mostly ornamentals, I’m entitled to a substantial tax break. This allows me to work for three days and still earn a comfortable living, by keeping more of the money I earn.
(22 May 2008)


Rapid unraveling and the decline of adolescent America

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth To Power
... As most of you know, I'm traveling, yes on the road, across this country.

... In my travels I've seen exactly one RV on the road, a few SUV's and vans, a number of small cars and motorcycles, and lots of eighteen-wheelers going 55 MPH. Motels have a record low number of guests, and few people are eating in restaurants. I thought about writing an article entitled "Ghost Town USA: Echo Across America", but that was before oil reached a new record of $135 yesterday. The speed of collapse is taking even a seasoned collapse-watcher like me by somewhat of a surprise, and I feel compelled to talk about it as it unfolds in this moment.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what we are witnessing-and there are oh so many, is the ubiquitousness of blame. Attending almost every report on skyrocketing gas prices is the question: "So whose fault is it?" I certainly am not surprised by this, but I find it unsettling to say the least. Because Americans in particular have been absolutely recalcitrant and incapable of looking at collapse, they are being and will continue to be increasingly blindsided by it.

... In tribal cultures young people have the opportunity to experience ritual rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood, that is, an initiation, which involves some type of ordeal created and supported by the tribe's elders. Ordeals may include rugged endurance challenges in the wilderness, treacherous hunting experiences, or isolation for a period of time in nature. In all instances, the experience is one of discomfort and danger and literally sets up a brush with death for the initiate.

... Since cultures are comprised of individuals, it follows that when the individuals of the culture have not been initiated, the culture itself is likely to remain in an adolescent state. Many cultures that have experienced collective suffering such as protracted wars, famines, and disease have in the process, experienced a collective initiation which may produce some of the results of an individual initiation. This may be the reason that some European countries that endured two world wars appear to have a more mature relationship with the earth community.

... For me, collapse is the opportunity for an outpouring of the latter qualities that causes me to at least partially welcome the demise of all that has prevented us from living and sharing them. Perhaps finally, amid a frightening unraveling, we will grow up-becoming mature human beings who ultimately find it impossible to tolerate anything remotely resembling industrial civilization because we will at last have become adults.

Carolyn is an adjunct professor of history, a former psychotherapist, an author, and a student of mythology and ritual.
(23 May 2008)

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