Thursday, October 2, 2008

The End of Suburbia

I just watched a great documentary on our suburban way of life and peak oil called "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the End of the American Dream." Or at least most of it. I got the DVD on an inter-library loan, and it was really banged up. So I used my PS2 and my 360 (video game systems that can also play DVDs), and no dice. Which is too bad, because it was just getting to what I find to be the good stuff. Well, it's not good at all, it's quite scary, but it's the aspect of peak oil that intrigues me most. And that's the impact it will have on our political system.

But for the moment, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Although I regrettably was not able to finish it, I will buy the DVD and lend it out to anyone I know who is interested. I came in to this documentary with knowledge on the subject, so many of the insights were not new. But the value of this film is that it presents the issue in a fast-paced, involving style, and it's very short, around 80 minutes. And a lot of people don't like to read. So I think it's invaluable for the average person, if they can be persuaded to sit in front of the TV and check it out.

A few things. One of the aspects of the age that we live in now is our abundant use of energy. And I found it ironic in what I just said, that in addition to my DVD player, I have 2 game consoles hooked up that happen to be DVD-compatible. So I'm just as guilty as everybody in using these abundant amounts of electricity that aren't sustainable. I try to be good, I disconnect my appliances before going to sleep. But I know that that isn't enough.

Also, I wanted to get back to what I was talking about, the part of the film where it ended for me due to the DVD being scratched. And that is the impact that peak oil will likely have on our political process. As James Kunstler (the man who introduced me to P.O. through his book "The Long Emergency") says in the video, "the 21st century will be a battle for the table scraps of the 20th." Most inhabitants of this experiment called suburbia will demand that Washington do anything possible to maintain the illusion that we can have it all: the suburban lifestyle, the commute, the cheap goods, etc. And, again in Kunstler's words, we "will elect maniacs who will tell us that they'll do anything to maintain this lifestyle."

Another thing the video touches on, albeit briefly, is the conspiracy by the auto industry to dismantle our street-rail lines in the 20's, forever compromising public transportation so that more people would use the car to get around. It always annoys me when I see these commercials and other platitudes spouting about America's "love affair" with the car and the open road. I don't feel that it's so much a "love affair" as it's the only avenue that we have to get places, and that it's been imposed on us as a result of our developing our society around the automobile and the consistent undermining of alternative modes of transportation, such as train, bus, pedestrian and bicycle travel, etc.

It's also funny (and sad) when Kunstler says that we have a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. A vital player in a peak-oil world would be the railroads, and we've virtually destroyed it in the name of a lifestyle that cannot possibly last.

Well, Youtube has a 52-minute cut of the film that I will post here, but I want to see the full 78-minute version, so I will probably buy the DVD from Amazon.

No comments: