This cartoon provoked a series of interesting questions from John Mathom. It provided a good opportunity for a good old fashioned rant, so I thought I’d clear out the cobwebs and treat his questions as a Q&A post. Cheers John!
Are we having the better world now?
Sadly, no. Suburban sprawl wastes tens of billions of dollars in traffic jams, lost productivity, and kills millions of people around the world in pointless car accidents and throat and lung cancers burnt into our bodies by fossil fuel exhaust. Our town planners designed a whole lifestyle based on the car, not walking and public transport. We’re eating ourselves to death and not getting enough exercise. People who move into New Urbanism lose weight. It’s a lifestyle thing. With oil fuelling suburban sprawl, we are NOT living the good life! It’s killing us, literally.
Health care? Lower poverty? Does spending all your money on things which have no useful benefit long term really “build a better world?”
You tell me? America loses $600 billion a year, every year, buying overseas oil. That’s $6 trillion a decade. (It could even be as high as $700 billion a year, depending on what oil prices do).
Obama recently ran a committee to investigate how to save a $trillion dollars a decade. It’s easy. Stop buying overseas oil! Mandate electric cars, and accelerate GE’s S-PRISM program to charge all those cars! Generation IV nuclear reactors like GE’s S-PRISM will be able to run the world for 500 years on today’s nuclear waste. As America already owns much of that waste, it could probably run America for the next few millennia! Nuclear waste is not a problem, it’s the solution. Global nuclear waste stocks are now worth $30 trillion dollars precisely because they could run the global economy for 500 years (or the American economy for the next thousand years. In other words, once you build S-PRISM reactors, your fuel is FREE for the next millennia. Close those uranium mines!)
Peak oil is coming. America is frighteningly vulvernable to the coming global oil shocks. I am truly scared for both America and my home country of Australia. It’s going to hurt, bad. And yet it’s avoidable. A legislative program of New Urbanism, clean and efficient public transport and electric cars all fuelled by S-PRISM nukes could both clean our air, save the local environment from suburban sprawl and restore it to local agriculture and forestry and parks, make our cities more attractive, increase public health, lower public health costs, and make us energy secure forever!
Imagine America was not addicted to oil. Imagine you did not have to be in Saudi Arabia, hypocritically backing a Monarchy of the Medieval kind against a possible democratic uprising in their own country. Now, and I’m treading carefully here — imagine the USA being in Saudi Arabia had not alienated Ossama Bin Laden. 9/11 might not have happened! It’s America’s presence in the Muslim holy lands of Saudi Arabia that really gets their goat. I’m not justifying terrorism — PLEASE don’t here me saying that. I’m just pointing out one geopolitical example of what energy security might mean. It’s about having no vulnerability to overseas suppliers, economic or cultural or military or imperial. It’s about being energy independent, and being immune to sudden oil price shocks and immune to further oil wars.
Capitalism is about the allocation of scarce capital among the most productive alternatives. Spending money on things which in the end prove worthless or even in the short term prove worthless leaves us impoverished and where all the poorer countries of the world have been.
America has 5% of the population of the world and yet consumes 25% of the oil. China’s on the rise and want’s their turn at the oil party. Yet peak oil is coming. Sooner or later, something’s gotta give. What gives America the right to keep consuming all that oil to the exclusion of others, especially when there are viable transport and energy alternatives?
in the end prove worthless
Why on earth do global warming Denialist’s also deny any alternatives to fossil fuels? This view is ultimately worse than those of us who take global warming seriously, because at least we think that with strong action to get off fossil fuels, we can do something about it. Your view? We’re stuffed. It might not happen immediately, but you seem to think that there is no alternative to fossil fuels. When the fossil fuels run out Industrial Civilisation and Industrial Agriculture that feeds us; it’s all going down. Big time. All because — as you said — investing in anything else will in the end prove worthless.
High minded bureaucrats and do-gooders don’t seem to understand that capital is scarce
Right-wing denialists don’t seem to understand that you need to do this because capital is scarce. Or do you like funding Middle Eastern types that don’t like you very much? Do you like sending $6 trillion dollars a decade overseas when it could be spent back in America, circulating through your own economy, raising your own local tax base, creating local energy and transport and building jobs? Capital is scarce. So why send it overseas?
and must be allocated by people who have proven to make money in the past, not based on moral arguments of do-gooders.
Local government authorities experimented with suburbia after WW2. The experiment has failed. This is an enormous waste of money! As James Howard Kunstler says, “The whole suburban project, I think, can be summarised pretty succinctly as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world! America took all of its post-war wealth and invested it in a living arrangement that has no future.”
Local governments interfered with how developers were making money in the past. Developers and architects and builders used to build according to a Urban code with its own beautiful semantics and syntax and language and understanding of walkable, dense and diverse and vibrant cities that humanity has used for 10 thousand years!
After WW2 we threw all that in the dumpster and created single purpose boxes that we have to DRIVE home from work to sleep in, and then get up and DRIVE back to work, then DRIVE to the shops, then DRIVE to pick up the kids from after-school-care because mum isn’t home because it takes 2 parents to pay off the over-sized mortgage that it takes to buy the over-sized McMansions everyone is buying today.
We can fix this. We have 10 thousand years of building dense and diverse and liveable cities that are trendy, beautiful, and built around moving PEOPLE, not cars. If I ran my home country of Australia we’d have a national conversation about the fastest way we could building cities to become more European than Europe. More walkable and trendy and diverse. Within a generation we would have everything we needed within a 7 minute walk outside our own front door! This is easy! And it makes money!
That’s why concentration of capital in the hands of the few can make sense. In the end we all benefit if Bill Gates invests his money well and makes a boatload because he builds 30,000 jobs that never existed before and millionaires that got money not from stealing it but out of thin air.
You seem to be under the impression that because I accept global warming, I am therefore a Communist. Have you even looked up my political stance? I really do believe in a free-market for most things. I do. I love the innovation of a free market. The surprises, the dynamics. I love iPad’s and everything Mac, designer jeans, and grabbing a coffee in a good bookstore. I love movies and hiring a DVD on a Friday night with some take away Chinese or Indian — especially Vindaloo Beef. It’s all good.
Why would anyone want to shove society towards North Korean poverty and industrial collapse purely on ideological grounds? Which is exactly my point, and is exactly what YOU are doing! We’re running out of fossil fuels, and the real science says we are also changing our climate! If we don’t get off the fossil fuels soon, we’re going to lose everything we love. If we take your Denialist ideology to its alternatives-denying extremes, we head towards the Book of Eli!
What happens when we invest a bunch of money in people who can’t pay their mortgages is an implosion of wealth and jobs.
This is totally off the subject now. But this is where good town planning like New Urbanism might have saved America from GFC1.0. New Urbanism guarantees good, affordable apartments and other accommodation — even some larger homes with their own backyards — right next to the stuff of life; the bookstores and shops and restaurants and cinema and churches and schools and universities and light industry that gives us employment and the local, circular, economy supporting circular flow of money. Good town planning (with sensible banking regulations) could have saved America from the GFC.
We cant afford to spend our precious capital on things which are fantasies.
If a mix of nuclear power and renewables CANNOT get us off fossil fuels, then you’re more of a Doomer than I am! You believe The Book of Eli is inevitable. Therefore, why not just live it up now and stuff the next generation? Yeah, makes me want to run out and buy a Hummer!
If global warming is a fantasy then anything we spent on it in the short term could have been spent better to create jobs which create more jobs. Instead the better world of the future can never come from misallocating resources to activities which have no payoff.
No payoff? Are you serious? Did you even read the chart above, or think it’s based on lies? We really are talking about:-
- much improved public health with vast savings in public health spending,
- better and trendier and more livable city designs that save lives and money lost in traffic accidents and traffic jams,
- more local jobs as $6 trillion dollars a decade is invested in American nukes and trains and trams and trolley buses and jobs rather than being sent overseas to fund people who don’t like you very much,
- less reason to invade other countries and waste all your money (and young lives) fighting unnecessary oil wars.
America should take the Nuclear New Urban option right now — even if global warming were a fantasy. Which it isn’t. Every National Science Academy on the planet says so.