The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Countdown to the end

Lyssa Beyer

When I first read James Howard Kunstler’s novel, “The Long Emergency,” it was for a course at the university. I’m not going to lie, his views scared me a bit.

Last Thursday, I sat in Zorn Arena, listening to Kunstler speak, and although some of his thoughts still sent chills down my back and butterflies spinning in my stomach, I was a little more open to listening. Yes, some of his ideas and predictions for our future might be blunt, mean and downright rude to think about – but others need to be addressed.

Kunstler’s book details many factors of the ongoing global oil crisis we now face, which will, Kunstler says, lead to the inevitable destruction of American society and way of life. When this happens, Kunstler also alludes to the dwindling of globalism and the inability of suburban life forms to exist.

I really didn’t want to listen. I want my American dream. I want my white-picket fence, a big backyard where the kids can play and the dog can run free while I watch from the house with my loving husband. I want my big, fat paycheck to buy expensive, fancy furniture. I want to entertain guests with my fancy china. I want to take jet planes all around the world where I can lay in pristine sands of paradise beaches. And, I want my big, fancy cars so I can drive into town when I need some groceries or want to spend a day at the spa – that is, of course, how all Americans dreams turn out, right?

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And the reason these dreams won’t come true isn’t just because this fantasy American dream is hardly attainable, but it’s because of deeper and darker forces that America needs to start paying attention to.

This, my friends, is among one of the big problems that Kunstler finds with the unraveling of the oil crisis. Kunstler said America needs to start having conversations about this problem – and those conversations need not focus merely on what the cool-new hybrid, alternative fuel method-that’s-never-going-to-get-off-its-feet may be. These conversations need to instead focus on how we can adapt to the inevitably changing future, one in which we may not have any oil at all.

Well, I agree. And then I thought of the power this places in my hands as a journalist – the driving force of journalism is really the learning and sharing of information, the uncovering of the truth. As reporters, journalists and media in general, we should be focusing on caring more about these important issues – instead of MSNBC contemplating whether Barack Obama did indeed give Hillary Clinton the finger (in my opinion, he was just scratching his face, but I could be crazy). MSNBC anchors were later laughing about the fact they had nothing better to talk about. Well, they’re just not looking hard enough. Or, maybe they just choose to blindly stare through the $3.59 per gallon we’re all paying.

I won’t begin to say that I am an expert on any of the issues involved in the evaporation of oil, but I am urging people who are to start talking about them in a way that would prove useful. Kunstler offered four “tasks” the public could focus on, including locally growing agriculture, creating a closer-to-home education system, creating our own products to reduce the need for imports and rearranging our living situation differently.

I can agree those tasks are ultimately what we will have to do if Kunstler predictions come true – if one day soon we find ourselves unable to afford the gas to get into town and buy our groceries, we will certainly need to be growing our own or some other sort of improvising. I would like to strongly disagree with Kunstler’s faith he puts into the country and its people in being able to make such changes.

One topic that specifically made me cringe was the future he gave to our education system. He believes the small school house system of the old days would not return, and instead people would convert to home-schooling. Then, neighboring families would team up and their students would ultimately obtain an eighth grade education at the maximum. I’m not even a teacher and I take offense to this. I have more faith in the ambitions of our American people to help our society continue to function at the level we are. Sure, we may see changes in the way our systems work. Farmer’s markets may become the only way we can buy produce, products might not all be made in China, and people will need to live closer to work. But in a way, I also see this lending to something positive.

Perhaps all of these changes could open the door to the slow down that American needs. Our energy obsession feeds our addiction to daily life conveniences – and although they are called such, the fact that I can wash my dishes while doing the laundry, talking on the phone and checking my e-mail all make Americans think they just can’t accomplish enough in one day. Americans take very few vacation days compared to other countries, and the stressful lifestyles are slowly killing us.

I also think it goes far beyond all of this – it’s obviously a complex issue. I would encourage more people to walk, bike or take public transportation so as to buy us more time in resolving this oil crisis. People should be more serious about recycling and conserving our environment. And then people just really need to start talking – about things that matter. Let’s steer away from this obvious recession our country is going into and start doing something about our futures. It’s going to take a lot of people from a lot of different places with a lot of expertise, but if we can collaborate we won’t have to experience America’s ultimate demise. And maybe we can forget about the fact that Barack Obama had an itch.

Beyer is a senior print journalism and Spanish major and online editor of The Spectator.

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