Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

History unfolding in real time



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Of course the more far-reaching implications of the history we’re swimming through right now are harder to really get your mind around. They’re so fantastical in fact that no one can actually believe them. But the fact is, whether you’re talking about three-quarter tonne pickup trucks or plug-in hybrids, we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of car culture itself. Barring the manna-from-heaven arrival of a relatively free, non-polluting energy source, there is no way the world can continue to be organized around a century-old technology for moving people from one place to another. If the developing world — already smitten by how much more comfortable cars are than bicycles — were to embrace the North American model of car culture as we’ve been living it for all of our lives, global oil production would have to increase 11 fold. There just ain’t that much oil left in the ground.

Two clashing forces are inevitably true. The developing world will continue to consume more cars. North Americans will only reluctantly abandon cars.

Reality will trump reluctance.

But how we live and where we live are, to a large extent, based on having unlimited availability to personal transportation. Therein lies a bitter reality that’ll make swapping the old SUV for a Prius seem easy. Suburbia is just a ghetto in waiting. That castle you bought, the one that’s an hour away from where you work and a shorter drive to the nearest milk store, is on its way to becoming worthless.

Of course, the upside to this grim history in the making is that once suburbia becomes truly unsustainable as housing, it’ll revert to having value as farmland. Which may make it easier for all of us to become locavores.

Who said there’s no upside to Armageddon?