I'm less than one fourth of the way
into a book,
The Long Emergency,
James Howard Kunstler.
I've been reading these warnings for at least forty years,
warnings about the dangers of overpopulation
on planet Earth.
I've always struggled with specifics:
what exactly will happen,
who exactly will suffer,
and when will all this happen?
published in 2005,
has some predictions in Chapter seven,
and I skimmed over those,
but I'd rather focus on more basic points,
made in the earlier chapters of the book,
and concoct my own predictions,
based on those more basic points.
Daydream with me,
below the squiggly.
One interesting thing about this book,
is that the author,
while giving me plenty of information
about many nations
in many regions of the world,
this author primarily gives predictions about future life in the USA.
I like that,
because I've never been outside the USA myself,
so I feel a frustrated fog of mind
when I try to think about the future of other parts of the world,
when I feel I only know bits and pieces I've read
about those other places.
I feel more comfortable,
reflecting on my firsthand experiences,
more than fifty five years of living,
living in places such as
small town Kansas,
and now in Wichita, Kansas,
home to half a million mostly working class Americans,
reflecting on all that,
and thinking about specific looming disasters,
and asking myself what might happen,
here in the middle of the USA.
The biggest point Kunstler makes early in the book
is that we have now,
passed the peak of worldwide oil production,
and within 30 more years,
the supply of oil
will be clearly well below,
very far below,
Kunstler hints at what, exactly will happen then;
but I put my thinking cap on,
and here is my daydream:
First of all,
let's get a clear picture of life with very little oil:
We go to the gas station,
and there is no gasoline for sale,
most of the time.
When there is,
the price is $25 per gallon.
Stop and think about that.
Here in Wichita,
we do have a city bus system,
and I've used it to get to work;
I liked it,
it served me well.
The big drawback for me
is that I work second shift,
nights and weekends,
and the buses don't run at nights or on Sundays or holidays,
I could get to work on the bus,
but a family member had to come bring me home,
and both ways on Sundays and holidays.
My daydream is that the city bus system
will run twenty four hours,
on all days of the week, all days of the year.
The city of Wichita
will get a large enough supply of fuel
to get everyone to work and to the grocery store.
One diesel bus is way more efficient
than twenty or thirty cars.
But that system will be only temporary,
since we will eventually have no oil at all.
to build a system for transporting everyone
with no oil based fuel,
we could build electric trolley cars,
and electric trains.
we could use electric trains
to transport our food to our grocery stores.
For that, we need more electricity.
In order to build any new power plants,
and to install wind turbines and solar panels,
it takes workers using heavy earth moving equipment and trucks,
which burn diesel fuel.
before we run out of oil,
we need to build those power plants,
so we can get around town
totally on electricity.
If coal fired power plants are a lot faster to build than nuclear,
we should set aside global climate change concerns,
and build the coal fired power plants.
Then we should build nuclear plants,
and we should build twin plants,
not too far from each other,
so that if one plant needs to shut down,
the emergency power for that plant
would not be provided by diesel generators,
but by the other nuclear plant.
If we build enough nuclear power plants,
we can lay down lots of railroad tracks,
all over areas that need plowing and planting,
to grow the grains,
to feed the livestock,
for us to eat.
And we can use electric trains
to plow and plant and harvest
what we need.
That may sound a little goofy,
but this is my daydream!
my guess would be
that because of numerous factors,
we will not directly substitute
electric trains in place of tractors,
and everything else remain the same.
For one thing,
our fertilizers and pesticides
are made from fossil fuels,
so that would have to change.
We could make similar chemicals from coal,
but another approach,
that sounds wonderful,
but may not produce enough sheer volume of food,
is some version of organic agriculture.
Fertilize with manure,
do little tricks to help the soil hold the water,
like a sponge.
I've read about such methods,
outside of this particular book.
Now comes the idea
that I already understood from other sources,
and my own daydreams,
the idea that Kunstler really promotes,
but I'm truly worried that it simply won't work
on a large enough scale
to feed three hundred million Americans.
The idea is that folks will,
nearly all of us,
move to farms or small towns surrounded by farm land,
that nearly all of us will simply work,
and work hard,
to produce enough food for everyone.
This would eliminate the need for fossil fuels
to plow and plant,
if we use horses and mules,
which use pasture and hay
as their fuel.
It would certainly eliminate the need for fossil fuels
to get to work,
and to get to the grocery store;
and it would certainly eliminate the need for fossil fuels
to deliver the food to the grocery store.
We would simply feed ourselves,
I want to believe this;
in fact I'm reasonably certain that's what will happen,
But my guess is,
we simply don't have enough good land,
with enough rainfall,
and irrigation ruins soil,
by depositing mineral salts,
which reduce crop yields.
I'm truly concerned
that if we can't build efficient means of producing food
for three hundred million Americans,
with zero fossil fuels,
we could have massive famines,
right here in the USA.
I want the nuclear power plants
to power the electric trains,
to bring the food to my home town,
and the electric trolley cars
to get me to the store and back.
I'm willing to do what I can to feed my family,
from the land I'm living on,
but I live in the middle of Wichita;
I would need forty acres and a mule,
and no drought,
to do it.
Feeding ourselves will be practical
when we have only three million Americans,
not thirty million,
and certainly not three hundred million.
Which brings me back
to my old mantra,
that my sig line points to,
the only long term way
to make our human civilization sustainable:
At the same time we build those coal fired,
we need to persuade 99% of the people of the world,
and especially here in the USA,
to have one child per five couples,
for two generations,
until we have one percent of what we have now;
70 million humans on Earth.
Not 7 billion,
not 700 million,
but 70 million.
Then we can fertilize with manure,
and compost everything,
and when our favorite farm has a drought,
we will simply move to another backup farm,
one that has enough rain,
and no one else living there.
And then we won't need as much electricity, either.
We could use wood as fuel,
since the trees will grow faster than we would cut them down,
with only three million Americans.
Thanks for reading.