James Howard Kunstler is the author of “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century” and “Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of a Nation” among many other books. James is best known for his books The Geography of Nowhere (1994) and The Long Emergency (2005). In The Long Emergency he argues that declining oil production is likely to result in the end of industrialized society as we know it and force Americans to live in smaller-scale, localized, agrarian (or semi-agrarian) communities. Starting with World Made by Hand in 2008, Kunstler has written a series of science fiction novels conjecturing such a culture in the future.
Kunstler so gives lectures on topics related to suburbia, urban development, and the challenges of what he calls “the global oil predicament” and a resultant change in the “American Way of Life.” He has lectured the TED Conference, the American Institute of Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the National Association of Science and Technology as well as at numerous colleges and universities, including Yale, MIT, Harvard, Cornell, University of Illinois, DePaul, Texas A & M, West Point, and Rutgers University.
Also a seasoned journalist, Kunstler continues to write for The Atlantic Monthly, Slate.com, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Op-Ed page where he often covers environmental and economic issues. Kunstler is also a leading supporter of the movement known as “New Urbanism.”
To learn more about James, you can visit http://kunstler.com
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.
Start of Interview with James Howard Kunstler
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome James Howard Kunstler to the show. I have been a fan of his work for several years now, and he publishes a lot of interesting stuff. He has a weekly blog, podcast, many books, and I originally found him when he had his book out The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century. It’s a pleasure to have him with us on the show today. James, welcome. How are you?
James Howard Kunstler: I’m fine. It’s a beautiful day in Upstate New York.
Jason Hartman: Well, fantastic. Give us a little bit of your background. You are making some pretty big and dire predictions, If I may say, and I just wanted to kind of dive into your work and what your latest thoughts are.
James Howard Kunstler: Gee, it’s funny because I don’t consider them dire.
Jason Hartman: Really? Okay.
James Howard Kunstler: I’m a journalist, I’m an author, I don’t pretend to be an academic. I published a number of books on the fiasco of suburbia – back 20 years ago I started that series. And about urban design because I was interested in why the human habitat in America was just so unrewarding and so lacking in grace and amenity. So I wrote The Geography of Nowhere, and then I published Home From Nowhere, a sequel which was kind of about the new urbanist movement and some of the remedies for bad town planning and bad architecture.
And then I wrote a book called The City in Mind about cities, and then in 2005 I published The Long Emergency. And that was about what was developing to be a set of predicaments that the human race faced, America in particular because of our lifestyle and the way we do things. So what I predicted was that we were going to get into trouble with oil, and we were going to get into trouble with finance. And indeed we’ve gotten into trouble with both of them. And also that we would get into trouble with something else, which has also become a special problem in America which is delusional thinking. And I think the reason for that is as a society becomes distressed, the wishful thinking and belief in magic and the supernatural kind of increases.
And in fact I wrote another book published in 2012 called Too Much Magic: Technology, Wishful Thinking, and The Fate of The Nation. And it was largely about how we were trying to tell ourselves that Shale oil and Shale gas would allow us to keep driving to Walmart forever. And I just don’t think it’s going to work out that way. I hope that’s not too much information.
Jason Hartman: No, that’s great. Because one of the areas that I was going to pick a debate with you, if you will, is on Shale oil and how the US, seemingly to me (correct me if I’m wrong), but is slated to be the next big energy exporter if our government will let it happen.
James Howard Kunstler: It’s complete nonsense.
Jason Hartman: Okay, tell me more, yeah.
James Howard Kunstler: That’s not going to happen. The Shale oil enterprise is going to prove to be very ephemeral. And the way I would encourage your listeners to think about it is in the following way: We had many, many decades of cheap oil. And that’s pretty much what made the current version of the American economy, or at least the most recent version of the American economy what it was.
Jason Hartman: Absolutely. And now, before you go on, I just want you to maybe define cheap oil a little bit. How much per barrel, and you can site real or nominal dollars, but just tell us which one we’re talking about. When you say cheap, what does that mean?
James Howard Kunstler: I’d say that to me in today’s dollars, it probably means oil that is under $35 a barrel. And we stopped seeing that in really the early 2000s.
Jason Hartman: We’re nowhere near that, yeah.
James Howard Kunstler: We briefly touched it during the crash of 2008 when the price of commodities crashed. But that was a very brief thing and oil has basically been in the 75-110 dollar range since then.
Jason Hartman: Right.
James Howard Kunstler: So the way to think about it is this: So we had this era of cheap oil, and compare a classic Texas oil well of the mid-20th century to a Shale oil well. Classic Texas oil well, East Texas, 1930s – it cost about $400,000 in today’s money to drill. It produced thousands of barrels a day for decades of tremendously high flow, tremendously cheap to produce, easy to work with, room temperature, you could drive to work, didn’t have to worry about being up in the Arctic Ocean or anything, very easy to go there. Okay, North Dakota. The average well in North Dakota cost between 6 and 12 million dollars in today’s dollars. The average flow of the Bakken North Dakota Shale Oil is about 80 barrels a day.
That’s compared to thousands of barrels a day in Texas. 80 barrels a day, it depletes by over 50% the first year and over 20% the second year. So unlike the Texas oil that produces for decades at high rates, the Bakken Shale oil craps out after a few years. And that’s what you’re going to see.
You’re also going to see something else – you’re going to see that the capital is not there to do the production because one of the problems with expensive oil is that it impairs capital formation in the kind of financial system that we have evolved into. And the capital is not going to be there to perform these expensive operations to get the shale oil out of the ground. So not only is it going to deplete very quickly, but we’re going to find that we don’t have the money even to pursue it after a certain point.
So I think that what you’re going to see is that this is a delusion, and that the media has been suckered into this story by the oil industry which is desperate to get as much investment as possible to keep up doing what they’re doing because they’ve got nowhere else to go. Most of the other places where they did business, where they did oil exploration and production in foreign countries, that oil has been nationalized. They can’t go there anymore. The only thing that’s left for them is the dregs of what’s left in North America, so that’s what you’re seeing.
What’s going to happen with Shale oil is the American people are going to be hugely disappointed and they’re going to feel that they have been lied to. And this will be just another thing that they will have been lied to about, and it will be just another thing that will erode the legitimacy and authority of the people who run things in this country. And that’s a very dangerous thing to do politically.
Jason Hartman: Well, hey I don’t think there’s much legitimacy and authority of the people who run things anymore, whether it be at the highest levels of government or at the financial system.
James Howard Kunstler: They’re still running stuff.
Jason Hartman: Fair enough. There hasn’t been a revolution yet.
James Howard Kunstler: There’s no revolution going on. So all that shows is that we haven’t reached a tipping point of people really being disgusted with it.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, fair enough and they should be more disgusted. No question about it. We’ve got this complacent society, we’ve got the bread and circuses, we’ve got enough comfort and food stamps to keep people fat and stupid. It’s just ridiculous. But that’s almost another discussion, which I know you’ll have something to say about. So it’s fair to say then, now you’re a Peak oil guy, right?
James Howard Kunstler: Yeah. And peak oil is not a yesterday’s story contrary to a lot of the other propaganda out there. It’s still very much with us.
Jason Hartman: Okay, and what about natural gas?
James Howard Kunstler: Yeah, well natural gas is a very similar story. There’s kind of a myth going around that we have a hundred years of Shale gas, a hundred years of natural gas, and it’s just not going to happen. We produced a lot of it in a short amount of time. We drilled a lot of wells since 2007-2008 and we drove the price down. And by the way a lot of those drilling rigs have now gone to the shale oil plays. So they’re not there anymore. The price of shale gas will probably be going up. That will help the producers because at the current price they can’t actually make a profit drilling for shale gas at three and a half dollars a unit. So that’s just another thing that’s going to end up disappointing the American people, that we don’t have enough shale gas to keep on running Walmart forever.
Jason Hartman: And what about alternative energy? Do you have any hope that there is something that works out there or that anything we have now works, or something will…
James Howard Kunstler: There are a lot of things that have worked but they don’t work in the way that people expect, and this is another rather tragic problem, is that we’re going to be disappointed by what renewable and alternative energies can do for us. They can do things, but we’re not going to run the interstate highway system, Walt Disney World, suburbia, Walmart, the US army or any other stuff on any combination of solar, wind, algae secretions, ethanol, biomass, dark matter, it’s just not going to happen. And it’s going to be another one of those things that will disappoint people about technology.
And all these things that I’m saying, they don’t amount to an invitation to be depressed and become suicidal. The message here is that we’ve got to change our behavior. We have to live differently in this country. This question that you asked me, what about alternative energy? Well the subtext to that, which your listeners did not hear because you did not state it is, and I don’t even know if you thought this but it’s really in there, the subtext is how can we keep on running all the stuff we’re running now by other means? And the answer is we’re not.
Jason Hartman: And in your mind we shouldn’t. We should run on less, right?
James Howard Kunstler: We can’t. It’s because in my mind, I’m interested in reality. I like to live in a reality based world rather than a wishful thinking based world. And reality has plans for us. And what reality wants us to do is to find some new ways to live and to change the way we operate many of the basic systems for daily life, including agriculture, we’ve got to do that differently. The way we do commerce and trade, we’ve got to do that differently. The way we make our household goods, we’ve got to do that differently. The way we do transportation, we’re definitely going to have to do that differently.
Jason Hartman: That’s a great statement. So drill down on those if you would, those bullet points you just mentioned. How should we do them differently?
James Howard Kunstler: Well let’s start with transportation, because the auto mobile is behind a lot of our desperation. Having built a society that is tragically dependent on automobiles for everything we do every day, we can’t imagine what might happen if we can’t do that. And I think the truth is we won’t be able to run our cars the way we have been. Probably in a very short time.
The same thing is true, by the way, with the airlines. I think the airlines are going to go out of business. They’re already kind of in the process of dwindling. They have been doing it by increments and by merging and dropping routs and by firing everybody they can fire and eliminating the pensions of their former employees, etc. etc. They’ve done everything they can now, and the only thing that’s left for them to do is to fly fewer routes and fly fewer passengers and that’s what’s happening now. So basically we’re going to lose the passenger airline system and we’re going to see the happy motoring system dwindle. What do we do?
Well, one of the things we ought to do that we should have started doing three decades ago is rebuilding the railroad system in America. We’re going to need it desperately. Nobody is interested in doing it, and that includes most members of the public and most leaders including leaders in business and politics. Nobody sees any benefit in it, but I’m telling you that if we don’t do that we’re going to be in terrible trouble. We’re not going to be able to go anywhere in this very large country. So that’s one project that’s terribly important, and the reason I mention it first is that it’s something that we could do if we just had the political will to do it. And if we did do it, we would accomplish something very important. And on top of accomplishing something important, we would set an example for ourselves to demonstrate to ourselves that we were capable of doing the other things that we have to attend to.
We’re going to have to reform agriculture because we can’t just keep on turning oil into food. We’re going to have to make agriculture smaller, finer, more local. We’re going to have to grow our food closer to home on smaller farms, probably using more human labor. Probably using more animal labor. We’re making no plans for these things and in the meantime we’re destroying the soil and we’re running out of capital. Because the other big input for industrial agriculture after oil and gas based fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, the biggest input is capital. You have to borrow a lot of money to get the crop in every year. And we’re moving into a capital scarce economy. And I think the way these things are going to work out will surprise people.
For example, the whole motoring thing does not just hinge on the price of gasoline. That’s the only metric they can understand this with, a lot of people, is the price of gasoline up at the pump or is it down at the pump? Well, guess what? When you enter a period of capital scarcity, what that means also is that there are going to be far fewer car loans available, and far fewer people who qualify for them.
Jason Hartman: Right, so the cost of ownership goes up a lot.
James Howard Kunstler: Well it’s not that it goes up, it’s that fewer people can afford it whatever the price is.
Jason Hartman: Right, but most people buy a car on a payment, not the price of a car. So even if the price of the car drops but the cost or the unavailability of financing, when financing is scarce, the little that’s out there will be more expensive.
James Howard Kunstler: Well the point is that they have to buy the cars on installment loans, period. And if the money for the loans is scarcer and fewer people qualify, there will be fewer people participating in the motoring system. And you can say the same thing about maintaining the infrastructure for motoring. Because we’re seeing already that states and municipalities and counties are going broke. The capital is not there, and we’re going to enter a period of triage where we have to make very difficult decisions about what stuff we fix, and what stuff we don’t fix.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so I’ve got so many questions for you. This is so fascinating. So first of all, you’ve been very critical of suburbia and I know the reasons why, the car and the dependency on the car, just the whole equation doesn’t work.
James Howard Kunstler: It’s also generally a miserable place to live.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, now why is it miserable? Because there’s not enough to do, because all the houses are cookie-cutter, why do you say that? I’m just curious.
James Howard Kunstler: That’s part of it. It’s because it’s monotonous to an unbelievable extreme but also because it has no connection at all with the things that make life rewarding. It has no connection to amenity other than having a lot of bathrooms in proximity to where you live.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so what kind of amenity? Like culture, performing arts…
James Howard Kunstler: Yeah, culture, commerce, social interaction… I was in Irvine, California…
Jason Hartman: Oh god, that’s the prime example. I spent most of my adult life in Irvine and I used to love it and now I hate it.
James Howard Kunstler: I was just amazed at how dead every place was that I went to except for the trip mall.
Jason Hartman: James, I’m going to tell you something funny about that. I sold real estate there for many, many years, okay? And in Irvine it frequently wins the FBI crime ranking for one of the safest cities in America over a hundred thousand people…
James Howard Kunstler: Yeah that’s the only thing that we care about…
Jason Hartman: Now, listen. Hang on, you’re going to like what I have to say. So it frequently wins this and a couple of years ago when it won it again, I posted on my Facebook, I said “Here we go again. Irvine wins the safest city in America, so at least we know if we live there we’ll probably never die. The only problem is we may never live because it’s so boring”. So yeah, I agree.
James Howard Kunstler: Well that’s just the stupid metric. It’s just such a one dimensional stupid way of understanding the human habitat.
Jason Hartman: I know. But if you talk to the typical family person there, and I’m single so I hated it, but you talk to the typical family person there with 2.2 kids and a dog and a couple, they seem to like it pretty well.
James Howard Kunstler: Well that may be what they’d tell you superficially but I think if you dug a little bit deeper, I think you’d find that they’re spending half their day in the car, that they rarely see people, anybody besides their own family.
Jason Hartman: Because they go in and out of the garage, I know.
James Howard Kunstler: That in fact there’s a tremendous amount of boredom, purposelessness, and just plain depression.
Jason Hartman: It’s like that show desperate housewives, you know? That’s sort of a metaphor for it. So who do you think is doing it right, or is anybody doing it right? Like is Europe doing it right with the café culture and the high density inner city core?
James Howard Kunstler: Well, we’re talking strictly about the human habitat now. There’s no question that anybody who has gone to Europe, anybody who has spent any time in France or Italy or Spain or Denmark, or other places, there’s no question that their towns and cities are just better than anything in America by orders of magnitude. Just the richness and rewarding quality of these places. They have problems with their economy, with their economies, they have problems that are every bit as complex as ours. But at least they didn’t screw up their towns and their cities.
Jason Hartman: yeah, well they built them a long time ago when they didn’t have the car and the cheap oil, so America was afflicted with a different point in time.
James Howard Kunstler: That’s true. And I think that what that points to is a certain theory of history that I subscribe to, which is that societies do things because they seem like a good idea at the time. And American society did what it did in the mid-20th century. We made the choices that we made because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now the catch is that life is tragic and sometimes groups and societies make bad choices and then you’re stuck with the consequences. So what seemed like a good idea at the time is now a banquet of consequences that we have to feast at rather unhappily.
Jason Hartman: And so, who, like I get the picture of suburbia and kind of who’s to blame for that, it’s just sort of history and the way we made choices at the time, but when you look at all of this overall and all of these challenged that we face, and we haven’t even jumped into the monetary policy side of things which I really would like to cover that with you as well. You have some interesting thoughts on that. Who’s to blame? Is it this sort of fake prosperity, is it getting off the gold standard back in ’71 and expanding the money supply? I look at it as like this smoke and mirrors economy in which we live. It’s a joke. It’s really a Ponzi scheme.
James Howard Kunstler: Well we’re trying to offset our inability to create more wealth or to form capital with really, a banking system and a financial system now that’s based on accounting fraud and interventions and manipulations. And the people behind it at the Federal Reserve and probably even the Wall St banks are not necessarily evil guys twirling their mustaches, they’re human beings with families and feelings like everybody else. But they’re doing something which is a tragic thing. They’re trying to replace an economy that is in the process of contracting with tricks. And it’s going to end up producing a lot of hardship and a lot of misery.
Jason Hartman: Two books I want to ask you about – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them, but I get really negative on the future a lot for many good reasons I think, but then I kind of turn a little bit after I read a book like Abundance by Peter Diamandis, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one. I had Stephen Kotler, his co-author on the show and gosh, it’s like there are so many… the basis premises is will technology save us from ourselves? Maybe it will.
James Howard Kunstler: That’s not my opinion and I think that we’re investing too much hope and too much wishing that some mythical “they” will come up with a set of rescue remedies that will allow us to keep driving to Walmart forever. That’s sort of the master wish in America these days, to keep on driving to Walmart forever.
Jason Hartman: The American mentality, more is more instead of less is more.
James Howard Kunstler: Well, that’s the master wish. I think the fact of the matter is that the money is not going to be there and that we are in a comprehensively contracting economy and the biggest task that we face, that is kind of a comprehensive task is managing contraction. It’s very difficult because so many of the mechanisms of our economy and culture that we have depended on just don’t work in the context of contraction, like credit issuance and the repayment of debt does not work in a contracting economy. And so we have to find some other way to do our stuff. In the old days, let’s say in the 19th century, a lot more business was done on the basis of money that had already been saved not just on loans. People started corporations with capital that had been saved up by people.
Jason Hartman: Actual real honest to god capital formation.
James Howard Kunstler: Right, and we probably have to get back to something like that if we’re going to continue operating civilization at a lower level. But I don’t know how we’re going to get to that point. My guess is, and this is probably one of the reasons that people think that I’m a doomer-gloomer, although I don’t see myself that way, but it seems very likely that we will go through some kind of a bottle neck that will represent a considerable amount of hardship for people. And nobody likes to think about it, but we’re probably heading into it and we’re not doing anything to avoid it. We’re not making any plans, we’re not reforming any of the systems that we need to reform, we need to reform agriculture and do it differently, there’s no conscious effort, there’s no leadership to do that, we need to rebuild and change the transportation system. We’re not doing that.
Jason Hartman: Before you go on, on the agriculture issue, you’ve got all these entrenched interests like these huge food companies…
James Howard Kunstler: That’s just an excuse. You’re just making an excuse…
Jason Hartman: Well listen, I don’t like it. I’m just saying the corporatocracy is the reality, and their affiliation with government. We’re in this sort of socio-fascist environment.
James Howard Kunstler: Well then the consequence of that is that we won’t do what we’ve got to do and we will live in a disorderly contracting economy, and a disorderly society. People may say I’m a doomer, but one thing I don’t believe is making excuses for why you’re not doing stuff, and I don’t believe in being a crybaby. And I don’t even particularly believe in casting a whole lot of blame on people. There’s really an awful lot that we can do and we’re wasting our time wringing our hands.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, right, right. So is the future, on the monetary and economic side, is the future inflationary or deflationary?
James Howard Kunstler: Well, my just sort of gut take on it all is that we are heading into a very serious deflation that could easily mutate into a hyperinflation if we do the kinds of things that we have been doing, namely creating money out of thin air to try to make up for the fact that we’ve got a crippled economy. So all the trends right now seem to indicate that we’re heading into a very serious deflationary contraction because for the simple reason that we have too much debt that can never be repaid and those debts will be repudiated. And they are, money vanishes and wealth vanishes and capital vanishes.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so when you talk about debt are you talking about the debts of the nation, are you talking about the debts of the individual?
James Howard Kunstler: All of that. All of it.
Jason Hartman: Because it works out so differently.
James Howard Kunstler: Look, it’s all borrowed money, and it all amounts to a set of promises that one person or one group or entity has made to another person, group or entity. And obligations that can’t be met are obligations that can’t be met. And it doesn’t really matter that much whether they’re public or private – ultimately they will all be expressed in the disappearance of wealth or money or the disappearance of the value of wealth and money.
Jason Hartman: So a couple things there, and really we should call it currency probably just to be more accurate. It’s not money. But James, do you think the US could lose its reserve currency status?
James Howard Kunstler: Sure. Of course. Yeah, I think we could destroy the dollar, but I’m not sure that any of the other currencies in the world would take its place. In the novels that I wrote, in World Made by Hand and Witch of Hebron, the situation had gotten to the point in the not very distant future that the American people were using circulating silver coins because there were no paper currencies that had any credibility anymore. So I think that that’s a possible mid to longer term outcome.
Jason Hartman: You must be fascinated by this whole bit coin situation. I bet you’ve been following that.
James Howard Kunstler: Yeah, I have been but I think that it’s really just another kind of…
Jason Hartman: It’s a fad. I think the government will put it out of business.
James Howard Kunstler: I think it’s kind of a technological scam that seems to have a lot of appeal right now because there are things that you can do with computers that appear to protect people, but it’s not real. It’s just ephemeral wealth that has no real anchor to anything. So I’m not persuaded that bit coin is going to…
Jason Hartman: Oh, me neither. I’ve always said I think that anything that is a competitive force to the Federal Reserve, to the fiat system will be destroyed. They will figure out a way, whether it be FBI raid, regulatory…
James Howard Kunstler: Oh, I think they’ll try to destroy it but they won’t succeed.
Jason Hartman: Oh really? Okay.
James Howard Kunstler: Well what are they going to do? Go gather up all of the silver coins in America? All the pre-1965 silver coins? I don’t think that can happen.
Jason Hartman: It’s awfully hard to do that with the metals, but we did it a little bit in 1933, right? But with bit coin they can just say it’s illegal, like they said pyramid schemes were illegal or something. I suppose they can just outlaw it.
James Howard Kunstler: I don’t know.
Jason Hartman: I don’t know either. It’s interesting. Any thoughts, just to wrap up here, on what we should do as individuals?
James Howard Kunstler: I think that young people especially have to be very careful about the place that they decide to move to and start to try to make a life in. There are parts of the United States that are just not going to make it.
Jason Hartman: So, do you want to call some of these out? Like any recommendations?
James Howard Kunstler: I just wouldn’t move to Phoenix, Arizona – I’d stay out of Southern California…
Jason Hartman: Southern California is going to be the worst of all. Why is Phoenix so bad?
James Howard Kunstler: Well the climate is terrible and will get worse.
Jason Hartman: Oh so you’re saying because of global warming?
James Howard Kunstler: It’s libel to get worse. But it’s already bad enough so that if this became a poorer society…the only reason that Phoenix works is because absolutely everybody can have air conditioning including the guy who cleans your pool.
Jason Hartman: But remember that’s only an issue about 4 months of the year. The other 8 it’s pretty nice.
James Howard Kunstler: It’s going to be a problem. What will be a bigger problem, probably, is that you can’t really grow a lot of food there without heroic irrigation. So it’s also the way it’s been designed. It’s so drastically automobile oriented, that the capital is not going to be there to retrofit it for walkability or anything that we really need to do so it’s just going to prove to be a throw-away city.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so just give us a couple others. So, I say Southern California when the government aid stops, I grew up in LA and I hate LA but I did grow up there, that’s just going to be a disaster. The civil unrest is going to be immense in Southern California. That’s going to be a very dangerous place if you ask me.
James Howard Kunstler: I think it might be. I don’t think that the entire sunbelt is going to be a very favorable place. I think it’s going to end up being an agricultural backwater.
Jason Hartman: So what is favorable? Oregon?
James Howard Kunstler: I think that Oregon has its appeal and I think the Pacific North West in general, there’s reasons why people might want to be there. I think the great lakes region is highly undervalued because of its excellent agricultural land, great farm land. I think that our economy in the years ahead as we deglobalize and decomplexify, I think that our economy is going to become much more internally focused in North America and that the great lakes and all of the inland water ways are going to be much more important than they have been for the last 60-70 years.
Jason Hartman: You know Jim, I forgot to mention a book. I mentioned Abundance which is pretty interesting, but also Chris Martenson’s new book Makers, which is a lot about 3D printing, another technology could rescue us type of thing. But I don’t know, he makes a pretty good case.
James Howard Kunstler: I don’t know enough about 3D printing, so I’m really not equipped to talk about it.
Jason Hartman: Fair enough. So the globalization will actually subside rather than increase…
James Howard Kunstler: Well it’s not a permanent fixture of the human condition, contrary to what Tom Friedman would like everybody to believe.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, the world isn’t that flat.
James Howard Kunstler: The world’s not that flat and in fact we’re now going in the other direction. Look, the globalism happened because of a set of special circumstances in a particular time and place in history. And you can actually state what those conditions were, about a century of relatively cheap energy and about a half a century of relative peace between great powers. And that allowed these long manufacturing supply chains and resource supply chains to evolve and now we’re in a different situation. We no longer have cheap energy and we’re beginning to get friction between the great powers. In what Michael Claire has characterized as a race for what’s left, resource wars or at least a sort of a fight over the table scraps of the global resources. So this is going to create a certain amount of friction and conflict and already is, especially between us and China. So I think that that’s only going to develop further. And globalism will be unraveling and unwinding.
Jason Hartman: You know, there’s this pervasive thought… it’s like the whole backdrop, the whole context in which we all live that in order to have a good economy, you must grow, you must grow. And your October 16th entry on your blog is “Growth is Obsolete”. Which is an interesting idea, that growth does not equal prosperity. Can you just comment on that really quickly?
James Howard Kunstler: Well, that was actually an essay that I wrote for Chris Martenson’s website. And the full essay is there. But the point is essentially this, that growth is a word that’s getting us into a lot of trouble. Because our energy is no longer cheap, we’re having a big problem now with capital formation and we’re not going to get the kind of growth that is expressed in the beloved metrics of the economists, in the statistics that they’re comfortable with, with GDP etc. And so my proposal is that we really have to replace the word growth with the term “Economic Activity”. Because we certainly want to have activity. We certainly want people to be occupied and to be eating good food and living in clean, well-lighted places, and to be comfortable, and have culture, and have civilization. But we may have to express that wish differently, and certainly not in just the stupid metrics of statistical analysis.
And there’s one other final thing about that, is that we have this, as part of the huge cargo of stupid beliefs that we have subscribed to in America, this thing behind econometrics and statistical analysis which is so pervasive now. We’re always turning to studies for the statistics to try to prove some point. Well the reason behind that is this neurosis, that we think that if we can just measure everything then we can control everything.
And it is a neurosis and we’re going to discover that we can’t control everything, that to some extent, reality has mandates of its own and reality has plans for us.
Jason Hartman: I love that saying, by the way, reality has plans for us.
James Howard Kunstler: We have to get on board with what reality wants us to do and then try to arrange our lives around the demands and requirements of reality.
Jason Hartman: One last time before you go, I’ll just play devils’ advocate with you: Back in the 1700s you had these Malthusian ideals that we were this scarcity, we had a population problem, and certainly the population is much higher now. Hasn’t technology rescued us to some extent? Why do we know this now and it was so wrong back then?
James Howard Kunstler: That’s such a dumb idea. Obviously we blundered into a reserve of fossil oil, of this liquid fuel that allowed us to postpone this particular reckoning for 200 years.
Jason Hartman: But that didn’t happen until a hundred years later, really.
James Howard Kunstler: But well we had call first. Malthus published his famous essay in 1798, so it was virtually the take-off point of the industrial revolution. And so the industrial revolution happened, we took advantage of those fossil fuels, we made food out of them basically and we supported an enormous population that is doing so much damage to the ecosphere, to the planet itself, that there’s just no way that we’re going to accommodate another billion, 2 billion or 3 billion people. So we have to get with the reality that we really have reached the limit for increasing human population and we’re not going to solve it with technology, we’re not going to fly off the planet within any imaginable period of time and inhabit other planets like this.
So we have to get real with living here in a practical way and we’re not interested in doing that. So the upshot will be that we’ll go through a rather painful collapse, the population will go way down, and then we’ll have to reckon with the damage that we’ve done to our soils, to our aquifers, to many of the things that we depend on in this planet. And we’re probably going to go through a very long period, if the human race does survive, of relative austerity.
Jason Hartman: Well, good to hear all of this stuff. It’s certainly a warning call. James Howard Kunstler, thanks for joining us. Give out your website if you would and tell people where they can find out more about you.
James Howard Kunstler: My website is www.kunstler.com. My books are on there, my weekly blog is on there, my essays are on there, and you can find out about me.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Jim, thanks for joining us and we appreciate it.
James Howard Kunstler: Okie dokey.
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Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.
Transcribed by Ralph
Guest: James Howard Kunstler
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