This post by Ianqui Doodle, and this nonsense courtesy of the president who will be remembered (by me) as the Nonsense President, and a discussion this evening on NPR about lifestyle changes people have made in response to the economy, food prices, and gas prices (all of course one complicated, inter-related bundle) all have me thinking too about what sort of future we're looking at in this here country.
Yesterday John and I walked eight blocks to our gym, and then on our walk home stopped to pick up this week's CSA bounty--arrow root and napa cabbages, red- and green-leaf lettuces, corn meal milled by the supply farm, broccoli, green onions, and something called kohlrabi (also kind of a cabbage). On the short walk home from there, we were marveling at how low maintenance life in Urbana is. Indeed, one of our many motivators for returning to Illinois was peak oil, news about which wasn't quite in the mainstream when we left Pittsburgh, but it was close. This is why we bought a house in the neighborhood close to campus, and it's why we invested in a bike trailer. We have train access to a major metro area, and we live in a walkable/bikeable small city that is surrounded--on the way outskirts--by farmland (which is key in the broad scheme of things). In other words, it's a relatively sustainable life. Oh, and as John pointed out, our good friends just moved nearby, so we have mostly everything we need--including our jobs--within a one mile radius.
But we are lucky. If we hadn't landed jobs at Illinois, we could easily be working in a place where it's not an option to live close to work, and where public transport (which is rather good here for a town of this size) sucks or is non-existent. My parents live in a rural area, and their fuel costs are climbing so high that my dad, ever the fan of a big roomy buick, just had a look at hybrids. (Hybrids really do need to become more affordable for more Americans, and frankly, they need to be even more fuel efficient, but that's another post.) My sister's family lives in suburban Knoxville, where walking isn't an option--there aren't really even sidewalks. And my niece will start driving next year. I wonder how long it will take before teenagers just stop driving so soon? Or at all?
Ianqui and some of the folks on NPR suggest that perhaps people will start to migrate back to cities, and this may happen in a trickly kind of way, but it's hard to imagine what such a migration--even a trickly one--would do to housing markets, etc. Or what it would mean for food availability. It's all very disconcerting.
Of course all this could lead to a passionate appeal for people to vote for Obama in November, even though that's not what I intended to do (updated to add: appeal, that is! You're damn straight I intend to vote for him!). He has his eye on all this stuff and sees the folly of wasting so many lives and dollars in Iraq--dollars that would be far better spent developing alternative fuel sources, and building a new (and modest) economy around restructuring this country, sustainably.