Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weekend Update

Another great relaxing weekend in the bag. Danielle and I saw Borat on Friday and it was just as ridiculous as I expected. All the hype was accurate, and while parts were horrifying, I hurt from laughing at other times. I downloaded a couple oddly catchy songs from the end credits too.

Saturday Steve came to town and we all went to Buffalo Wild Wings for a night of gluttony and sports. We watched Michigan basketball not lose to Minnesota. The team is not playing like they really care if they make the NCAA tournament or not. We won, I guess. While that was happening, the hockey team clawed their way back from a 3-0 deficit to end in a tie. Considering it was against MSU at Joe Louis, where we perennially suck, that was a pretty decent accomplishment by the end. We made our way to a "Middle School Jamz" party at the lovely 516, where I partied like it was 1997 -- which is to say, shooting baskets in the gym, buying 50 cent cups of Mountain Dew from my math teacher, and pacing around among the various cliques while trying to get Steve to ask Danielle if she would dance with me at arm's length (she said yes!!!).

Saturday we also watched The End of Suburbia, which was basically an hour-long overview and introduction to the impending problem of peak oil, our dependence on cars, and the catastrophe that may result. I liked it very much. It was not surprising, but that's probably just since I consider myself well read in the subject (or at least the surface-skimming sort of information that this movie provided). For example, it prominently featured author James Kunstler, and I've read four of his books and saw him speak in Ann Arbor last spring. I watched the movie more curious of how they were going to deliver the information and I was impressed with how palatable it all turned out. Even the concepts that Kunstler and others introduce, that come off as outlandish claims and cynical naysaying (like the harsh dismissal of alternative fuel sources), are actually backed up by research in their books. The movie gave brief mention of the problems and their solutions, ending on a somewhat uplifting note as it sang the praises of the New Urbanism movement. I want to watch this movie with as many people as possible.


Bryan said...

I think you only have to read this article (written by Kunstler) to realize that he is completely insane. He predicted the Dow would crash to below 4,000 last year and still thinks that such a crash is imminent? He thinks that the housing slowdown, rather than having essentially already passed, is going to continue to reach catastrophic levels? China is about to invade Kazakhstan in order to stem an economic decline?

I just can't trust a guy who so gleefully predicts extremely unlikely catastrophes. The best evidence that he's wrong is the oil futures market - if the research really showed what he said it did, then a lot of smart people would bid up futures contracts pretty quickly. Saudi Arabia would be cutting supply so they can sell for more in future years, rather than announcing this week that no such cuts are necessary.

It looks to me that this guy and other "End of Suburbia" types have taken some basic, moderately troubling facts (oil will run out eventually, we are approaching peak capacity) and jumping to outlandish conclusions based on their own not-at-all hidden desire to see their 'cultural inferiors' get their comeuppance.

There's no doubt that the US will face a challenging energy landscape over the next century, but I find the recieved economic wisdom much more convincing than the ravings of an americana-hating lunatic. Rising oil prices make alternate fuels and energy efficiency economically viable. Rising prices give a better incentive for new technological advances. There may be some short-term price shocks, and some boom and bust. But civilization isn't about to end.

Bryan said...

Oh yeah, and also choice quotes from this interview such as "I've had to live in the shitty environments of daily life here in America". This guy is one step removed from the Unabomber.

Jeremy said...

Kunstler refers to himself as a prose artist. In interviews he is a different guy than at the weekly post. He resorts to overblown hyperbole in part because it gets people's attention.

I should specify that I've never read JHK denounce the use of alternative energies, but rather dismiss their importance, as in they're not going to allow us to continue Happy Motoring on the same scale as we currently operate. I understand there's a grain of salt to be taken with his claims, but I appreciate what he's trying to do and get people to think about.