It’s hard to walk around a Boston suburb on a beautiful summer night after reading Kuenstler’s The Long Emergency and not wonder how on earth we presume to carry on this insane lifestyle forever. Huge McMansions crammed into tiny quarter acre lots on endless streets completely disconnected from any town center. Brimming with cathedral ceilings, plastic trim, and impossibly manicured, fertilized and watered lawns, each with the AC running full tilt in every window, even though all they really need to do is open the window to get in the fresh evening air. Each with a three car garage, outside of which is parked a late model Chevy Suburban, many of them with eco-conscious stickers about loving nature, some of them trendy enough to sport the “Flex Fuel” sticker that means they’ll guzzle a gallon of tax-subsidized fermented corn syrup just as happily as they will devour a gallon of regular refined Saudi crude oil.
But, really, now. Isn’t that Flex Fuel sticker on the Suburban merely the environmental equivalent of a rapist who compliments his victim on her nice hair and feels that surely that makes it all better? In the last issue of Wired Magazine, Bill Gates speaks candidly about his take on our energy dependence. He uses the phrase “cute” to describe the way in which we rich people are pretending to play the CO2 emissions-reduction game, with our solar panels and hybrids and weird-looking lightbulbs. We’re so inept, so unable (and unwilling) to grasp what really needs to happen that it largely becomes an exercise in futility and distraction, our guilty conscience trying to get away with the least painful amount of actual “change” in the vain hope that we’re making a difference.I think we know it’s not working. I think we realize that it’ll take a little more than just inflating our tires and turning down the heat a bit in the winter.
At her Bat Mitzvah earlier today, the daughter of a good friend talked about her dream of helping to do something about climate change; she did this in the context of facing our fears, about being afraid of change and the unknown. I believe that’s partly the issue here: we’re scared to death of facing the reality of having to live in a world without AC, without fresh bananas shipped in from Ecuador daily, without the freedom to drive 50 miles to buy cheap lawn furniture. The average American is incredibly vulnerable, because without his big truck and his big house and his beautiful green lawn he has no idea what he is. That’s too bad. But we’re also fucking arrogant and ignorant if we think we can continue this way, eating and burning our way thru what’s left of our abundance of resources.