- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Power Down

Fascinating, mind-numbing piece here in the Daily Reckoning, a quirky investment newsletter.

But wWow. I may have been criticizing it for years, but I never thought I would see American society forsake the "American Way of Life" so quickly, en mass. Talk about a "tipping point!"

Some quotes :

"High energy prices are undermining the American way of life itself, such as it is. As colleague Byron King explains, below, we've spent the last 100 years building the wrong kind of world. Now, many Americans are doomed to live in the ruins of a civilisation that no longer works."

"Like it or not, Americans are being forced to park their cars. This spring, they cut back on their driving at a sharper pace than anytime since 1942. But it's hard to stop driving when you live far from work and far from shops."

""Prices in outer suburbs will get clobbered," concludes economist Mark Zandi."

"And it will get worse before it gets better. To be perfectly blunt, it might not even get better. Over the next year, and into the foreseeable future, in the developed world people will go broke buying motor-fuel, heating oil and natural gas. (Wait until next winter... Sweet Jeeeezus!) In the less-developed world, people will go broke buying bread. And then the poorest amongst us will starve. Any way you look at it, it's bad for business.

"Fast-rising energy prices are decapitalizing entire nations. Energy prices are destroying wealth faster than people can re-create it. Entire segments of the world economy have hit the iceberg and are filling with cold seawater. Some industries are becoming obsolete in a matter of months. Much of the airline industry is drowning in red ink before our eyes - almost every flight in the sky is losing money, no matter how much they charge to check your suitcase or how few peanuts they put in the small package.

"And down on the ground, most motor transport is just plain uneconomic any more... 'Dead Rigs Driving.' Farewell to the 'Warehouse on Wheels.' Sic Semper Globalisation.

"Large swaths of the auto & truck building industry have become capital-wastelands. For example, GM is closing SUV factories and planning to ditch the Hummer brand. This cascades down to firms that make everything that goes into a set of gas-guzzling wheels. You name it: hot-coiled strip, axles & tires, wire bundles, paints & coatings, window glass and seatbelts, and so much more. Billions of dollars worth of past investment is just gone...bye-bye, poof! And the good-jobs-at- good-wages? History."

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