“Future Perfect”: Peak oil, Mayberry, and a saner world

Peak-oil believers have multiplied like religious revivalists across America and the world, describing on their websites how they became, in the language of
conversion, “peak oil aware.” Still, the news coverage falls back on old stereotypes—
environmentalist, survivalist, homesteader, and homeschooler—often dismissing peak oil, like most useful ideas, as an obsession of the far Left or far Right.

The simpler truth is that peak-oil converts are often young people reviving the personal habits and self-sufficient skills of their grandparents’ generation, thinking seriously about their tap water, transportation, income, food, heat, and electricity, and realizing how little would survive the end of fossil fuels. They anticipate that population trends, climate change, and other problems will compound the crisis, creating what Kunstler has called the Long Emergency. While others are preoccupied with the hot-button lifestyle issues of the moment, they are planting gardens, buying foreclosed farms, learning traditional crafts, taking crash courses in survival skills, and soberly preparing while silently counting down.

In this wonderful piece (Sorry, subscriber-access only! Go subscribe to this fine, anti-war conservative organ!), from the 25 August The American Conservative, Brian Kaller, nonetheless warning of the impending peak oil “crisis”, sets himself apart, marvelously, from the likes of Kunstler (“Tattooing has traditionally been a marginal activity among civilized people, the calling card of cannibals, sailors, and whores. The appropriate place for it is on the margins, in the back alleys, the skid rows. The mainstreaming of tattoos (on main street) is a harbinger of social dysfunction.”) — whom I very much respect, whose writing, particularly in The Geography of Nowhere has influenced me tremendously –, prognosticating that “peak oil will probably not be a crash . . . but a series of small breakdowns, price hikes, and local crises.” [My emphasis. – NPO]

Kaller, as I (and numerous others, including John) have, laments the destructive ways intrinsic in agri-business; however, he particularly strikes a chord with me when he asserts that

[w]e need a common vision that avoids post-apocalypse yarns as well as “Star Trek” fantasies in favor of something both realistic and hopeful. Handled right, peak oil could bring a revival of small-town America, local farming, small businesses, and an economy that centers around Main Street rather than Wall Street. It wouldn’t require us suddenly to turn Amish. With solar, wind, and nuclear power, we can maintain the Internet, commuter rail, and other technologies and continue the global exchange of ideas.

So, for our new vision during this national crisis, I nominate “The Andy Griffith Show.” No, really, I’m serious.

Is this simple suggestion, that we model our communities after that over which Andy Taylor presided, rather than after some abstraction, based not on people, but on technology and “progress”, not that about which conservatism truly is? Rather undeniably, not everyone one the right accedes to the position that peak oil truly threatens our way of life; I disagree with them, but, wishing to reach out and to establish common ground, suggest that, even if we, who forewarn against the “local crises”, say not sooth, but preach of doom that shall pass, may be right in urging a return to Kaller’s Mayberry-like world not out of commercial necessity, but, instead, out of cultural necessity.

What has come to represent American “conservatism” descends less from Burke than from those Jacobins whom he detested, against whom that great sage took took to his pen: They seek to spread democracy, that most debase-able of governments, one which, often enough, they fail to exercise at home, the world across, giving birth to empire as they bring death to community. Particularly in the wake of Senator McCain’s announcement that he selected Palin to run with him, the right has offered incessant peans to small-town America, all the while sending small-town Americans, including Governor Palin’s son, to fight foreign battles, shipping small-town American jobs abroad as part of ideological “free” trade, and, generally, furthering distancing itself from the actual, real values, whereof Kaller composes, that emanate from and denote small-town America. Look homeward, America: Look homeward, conservatives. Harry Kazazian has. The facts that seem to indicate the truthiness of these nonsensical forecasts of peak oil have left him with little choice.

(Page Two)


One Response

  1. I discovered your blog when I was searching for something unrelated, but this post was one of the first sites listed in Bing, your blog must be pretty popular! Keep up the good work!

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