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Thread: AIB Peak Oil: What replaces the "American Dream"?

  1. #1

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California

    AIB Peak Oil: What replaces the "American Dream"?

    I was thinking about the doom and gloom about Peak Oil. Given the lack of a strong, pre-modern unifying culture in the United States based on history or traditions or unifying religion or ethnicity (for the country as a whole, not individual enclaves or subgroups):

    What replaces The American Dream in the post cheap-oil era? For the purposes of discussion, I am defining the American Dream as "progress" often over generations, with poor immigrants landing in the established working class, getting a college education, becoming middle class, etc. This is heavily predicated on material progress (suburban house instead of city tenement apartment, private car instead of bus or walking).

    Admittedly, not everyone shares this definition-there are certainly of religious freedom, political refugees, etc. But, this is the basic theme of the American Dream that still holds true today.

    So: post cheap oil, what replaces it? The frightening theocracy of Randall Terry (read his quotes in my hometown Newspaper. No democracy. No choice. Handmaioden's Tale come to life. Scary stuff). James Howard Kunstler states that the Southeast will be consumed with this kind of hardocre theocracy-I'm not sure it will extend far beyonfd the traditional South.

    Or, will we localism-a loss of nationalism in favor of local patriotism similar to that found in pre-Modern Italy? That will likewise mean a lot of violence.

    Any thoughts on this? ")

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Jul 2003
    SW-Coastal WA
    How about a new global consciousness of how interconnected we all are based upon online communities connecting us with folks everywhere.

    Some years back I read someone's ideas about this and they suggested that progress might mean something else now -- less material used to make our stuff but more "intelligence" in that stuff. Kind of like how we now have cell phones tiny enough to stick in a pocket, way different from the rotary phone I grew up with.

    I belong to a list that talks endlessly about how polluted our world and how it is destroying our health. Folks are spending enormous resources (in terms of time and energy too, not just money) to get well or make their kids well where traditional medicine and conventional ideas have failed them. And there is a "voluntary simplicity" movement with a "less is more" theme. Right now, I have home-made pizza in the oven. My oldest son and I make this together these days and we were just discussing how the ingredients for it are under 4 dollars and it feeds he and I and his brother very well but many modern Americans can't "afford" the luxury of homemade pizza like that because they work all day, come home starved, and don't have the time to wait for the dough to rise, etc.

    Having the luxury of time seems to have become a more precious commodity than actual money these days. I don't know where that relates to your questions but, well, pizza is ready so time for me to eat!

  3. #3
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    May 2003
    Near the Geysers
    Step 1 would be energy efficiency trying to duplicate the american dream but more efficiently. 100 mpg vehicles would give the average SUV driver the same mileage per dollar with $20 per gallon gas. Those 100 mpg vehicles will be much more "personal" sized.

    Costs of goods would inflate because of transportation costs (we won't have 100 mpg trucks or ships). So transportation would factor much more into cost of goods. We will see more locally produced goods and produce.

    Houses would become more self-sufficient, with solar panels and heating. But the McMansions will be divided into rooming houses. Heating 5,000 square feet for two people would be prohibitive.

    The internet will provide mental mobility unlike past times when physical mobility prevented mental interaction.

    Small businesses will replace big boxes. The big box assumes that customers are willing to pay for gas to drive all around town to shop. Big box shopping will be the high cost option.

    Step 2. Don't know. Either we will be wise and clever or ... poof!

  4. #4
          abrowne's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Murderous, incestual enclaves. The future is rosy.

  5. #5

    Jul 2002
    Chicago, IL
    It's hard to say. If our nation finally does start seriously investing in the technologies that will produce energy from other sources, maybe nothing replaces the "American Dream". We simply continue moving onward and upward with other energy sources.

    Somehow that seems unlikely.

    On the other hand, if we decide to engage Europe, India and China over scarcer sources of oil, we could be going downhill fast, in economic and societal terms. I guess in that scenario competing factions within the US would fight for control of the nation, and the potential for an actual fissure of the nation would be great.

    I don't usually lean toward doomsday scenarios, but it could happen.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    As Wulf suggests, replacement is a part of the strategy. We already have electric cars and nuclear-powered ships. I don't think we will see much of a shift on the local level, as people will still have that mobility. So forget about the demise of the big box and supremacy of the corner store. It won't happen. Industries like trucking may suffer the most, but there too, intermodal transport can be beefed up.

    The other unifying element for Americans will be conquest. Trying to maintain our lifestyle requires resources which we do not have. The solution is to take them from the countries that are not effectively using them to our benefit. Some countires like Great Britain, England, and the United Kingdom may join with us, but they are the exception. (What about Poland? Huh? What about Poland?) It is likely that we will continue to focus on the Middle East for some time, but as these countries/colonies become less important we will recognize the need to devote more attention to our own hemisphere. Manifest destiny requires us to settle the whole of North (and then South) America. We have paused in this noble goal, leaving places like Mexico and Canada to primative peoples entirely unable to govern themselves. Canada still even has a queen! American expansionism will provide an outlet for the United States and will bring civilization and democracy to our frontiers.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
    Jul 2003
    Cyburbias Brewpub, best seat in the haus!
    Serious effort devoted to energy and environmental issues that could bring direct and immediate lifestyle changes could help drasticly while not reducing the need for hindering a persons lifestyle.

    In essence, do we really need to keep the street lights burning all night? Additionally, its not just energy sources, but environmental issues we need to address. Environmental organizations can't just stand in the way of every issue like a ludite in the headlights. They need to choose something even if it is hard, so other paths can be developed more fully such as nuclear power.

    The really HUGE problem, is that even if we were to develop this amazing and wonderful new energy production system, the parts and production still might not occur in the US, and soon we may not be able to afford our own brain power.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  8. #8

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    These technological fixes are important. But, the bigger question, still, is 400 million Americans cannot continue to be members of a "mass consumerist" society. Even if we solve the energy crisis (which the jury is still "out" on), there are other resource and environmental issues that will mean the myhtos of continuously increasing consumption will be unsustainable. We already see that, to a certain extent, in our working class and increasingly, the middle classes, who cannot afford the quality of material life their parents had.

    Without this force, what holds the country together? Religion?

  9. #9
    To me, one of two options appear likely. Either, we will have to develop additional energy sources and/or maximize the use of our current sources or we will have to revert back to a more compact/localized development pattern.

    The problem I see is the economic shocks as we transition to either of the two options. Our economy is based on growth, spending and cheap gas. If any of these change, our economy will go through massive convulsions.

    While our imperalist tendencies were mentioned in jest, I find more there is more an element of truth to this. We will either take over counties and set up puppet regimes or de-facto do this with NAFTA style trade agreements.

    Our problem, thanks to W and other presidents, has been our unwillingness to address the issue while we still can. Now is the time to make the changes and prepare our economy. Instead, we are using the situation as an excuse for energy producers to drill more and weaken the environmental regulations. Weakening the environmental regulations will only come back to bite us. One needs only look to counties with weak or no regulations and see the health problems they are having because of this. Even Indiana is looking at the link between asthma and air pollution abd we aren't exactly know for our progressive tendencies. Unfornately, for some of us, its a little late.

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