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NewTowner

Too Much of a Good Thing

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Recently, avid Urban Planet poster and Weltpolitik Maestro (that's a good thing, Barbara!) Nashville_Bound responded indignantly to an assertion I made on a different thread regarding Cool Springs and why, in my opinion, that "place" offers a self-destructive Program for Living. NB suggested, correctly, that I was offering a viewpoint which could be described as alarmist. My spiel, while full of bombast and witticisms, went something simple like this:

A) People become large and unhealthy when the only exercise they ever get is slouching to and from their automobiles.

B) An economic system which depends completely and totally on an imported good which is finite in supply is not only foolish, but dangerous.

C) A healthier and more rewarding way of life exists, in walkable mixed-use neighborhoods built with affection and respect.

All of this stuff, which is currently at the heart of our nation's whispering dialogue about the sustainability of suburban "lifeways" and the Truth about Oil, are plastered loud and clear, in ALL CAPS, on the bifocals of people like me who have learned to look at Cool Springs objectively and in the context of global architectural theory and practice. Cool Springs is a "product," not a "place." It is a cartoon. It is the bizarre beotch brainchild of social-extremist European urban theory and Anglo-American agrarian nostalgia. It was gleefully milked to death as a system in which citizens are transformed into consumers. But besides all that, it is inherently unhealthy and dangerous here and now. Why?

There is a growing consensus among petro-chemical professionals, oil company execs, and anyone who understands the glories of capitalist supply/demand that the global oil supply has peaked and that this means serious consequences. Basically, while we won't be running out of the sweet stuff any time soon, the ability to produce X number of barrels per day will slowly...slowly...diminish--with no new fields to be tapped, and no nice juicy stores to be sucked a little harder. What this means to Saudi Arabia: pumping millions of gallons of seawater into the oil fields isn't doing the trick anymore. What this means to Cool Springs: Holy Crap-Sausage! Every time the demand for oil goes up...the price goes up! And guess what else: it will only get worse, because the downside of bell-curve production cycles is that there is a downside, and we are on it.

Now, all of this may be bunk. But please know that it certainly is not bunk for American domestic oil supplies, the North Sea oil fields, and Iraq's oil fields, among many others--all of these blighted landscapes peaked years ago, and production has been falling drastically ever since. Whether or not the Saudis have peaked, we cannot know for sure--they don't talk about that sort of thing, and they might not even know themselves. Oh, and we can forget all that oil shale in Canada--it is so expensive to convert that sour mash into sweet crude that we would all be better off burning old sneakers (literally)...and besides, China bought it all. Oops!

I confess that this kind of talk is pretty hard-core alarmist, but I like to think that being an early 21st century alarmist regarding America's addiction to oil is sort of like being a late fifth century alarmist regarding Rome's shaky relationships with all those bloody Goths in the northern forests, or a late 30s alarmist concerning Hitler's intentions with Poland. Sometimes, bad news is real news, and no amount of Exxon blaming or wishing thinking regarding the Tony Award-winning musical farce The Hydrogen Economy will change the facts. That is, if they are facts. Nobody knows for sure. But it looks a lot like facts to me.

The obvious conclusion: when Healthways moved to Cool Springs, they place their corporate heads in a social guilllotine of ratcheting-up gasoline prices. They also created a nasty scenario in which healthcare for their own employees will become more expensive, since common sense and the observable world tell us that a lifestyle which equates to being the soft gooey innards of a motorized prosthesis equals: fat ass.

Nashville_Bound, you suggested that people are getting fat because they are no longer workin' on the railroad, all the live-long day--and that white collar jobs are a good thang despite the increase in booty sizes. Okay, that's a point. But have you been to not-fat places like Rome, New York, Paris, or Savannah (where I currently live)? Recently, some good friends of mine from Spain, Japan, and Germany came to visit this lovely walking city in order to attend a wedding party (my own). They are all well-acquainted with America, and all said: "Savannah has a lot less fat people than Nashville." Why do you think that is? Because we eat less fried chicken or collard greens? Heeeaaaaaaalllleeee no! It's because we--get this, ya'll--walk around. I walk an hour or so every day, but not in circles just to burn cals...I do it--get this, ya'll--going to and from class/shops/bars/the homes of my pals.

And so we, as well as downtown Nashville, will not be hurting as much under the inevitable energy squeeze as will the unfortunate denizens of Cool Springs. The upside to their downside: it will take a looonnnnggg time for them to starve. And that's all, Folks!

PS: I was pretty chubby before I moved to Savannah. Full disclosure.

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LMAO! What a thread. May be the best I have ever seen on an online forum. LMFAO!!!

NT, you never cease to amaze me my friend.

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lol... glad to have ya back NT. Now if we can just get Kheldane back, we'll have hours & hours of reading... of which... most of us only really understand about 70% of :)

Your posts are always entertaining :thumbsup:

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LMAO! What a thread. May be the best I have ever seen on an online forum. LMFAO!!!

NT, you never cease to amaze me my friend.

lol... glad to have ya back NT. Now if we can just get Kheldane back, we'll have hours & hours of reading... of which... most of us only really understand about 70% of :)

Your posts are always entertaining :thumbsup:

Thanks!! Those are high compliments!

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Even if world oil supplies haven't peaked, with political instability and outright turmoil affecting so much of the world's oil producing countries coupled with skyrocketing demand from the world's two fastest growing economies, China and India; gas and energy prices will only increase from here on out. We need political leadership that is willing to take a stand on this issue and actually LEAD our country into the future. Maybe this is an area where our forum can come together and influence policy at least on a local level. Especially with mayoral elections plus U.S. Congress seats coming up this year.

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Now, see, this is what happens when you pay too much attention to college professors. :blink:

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Now, see, this is what happens when you pay too much attention to college professors. :blink:

Who do you pay attention to?

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Even if world oil supplies haven't peaked, with political instability and outright turmoil affecting so much of the world's oil producing countries coupled with skyrocketing demand from the world's two fastest growing economies, China and India; gas and energy prices will only increase from here on out. We need political leadership that is willing to take a stand on this issue and actually LEAD our country into the future. Maybe this is an area where our forum can come together and influence policy at least on a local level. Especially with mayoral elections plus U.S. Congress seats coming up this year.

You are on to something, for sure. How about we convince our city, state, and nation to invest in a transporation network with a future--or at least, a future that doesn't require imaginary technologies to emerge like rabbits from the magician/scientist's "thinking cap"?

Or, more moderately phrased, the redistribution of our civic mobility eggs into more than one basket?

Now we're cookin' some serious puddin'!

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Who do you pay attention to?

I'm a Conservative Republican. Don't you know I only pay attention to and take my marching orders from Dick Cheney and Halliburton ? :yahoo:

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Friends,

New Towner's writing style can be compared to that of the venerable James H. Kunstler, author of my favorite book about the destruction of place in America: The Geography of Nowhere.

NT, are you sure you're not Jim Kunstler who mistakenly believes he is an art student living in Savannah?

Despite some of his bombast and his need to show us how smart he is, there is no doubt New Towner makes some excellent points and provides an important contribution to the forum. The Cool Springs piece in this thread is dead on.

WW

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I'm a Conservative Republican. Don't you know I only pay attention to and take my marching orders from Dick Cheney and Halliburton ? :yahoo:

Sorry I asked.

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Despite some of his bombast and his need to show us how smart he is, there is no doubt New Towner makes some excellent points and provides an important contribution to the forum.

What the...? I don't know where people get off trying to lodge a Chinese Fork Tie in my throat every time I come to the table. Why on earth would I go to such lengths, burning up time writing what may be slightly self-indulgent but are totally sincere posts, just to show "everybody how smart" I am?

I mean, geez William--I appreciate the post-insult compliment, but the pre-compliment insult sort of stung. I cannot help it if the Online Experience is not conducive to my tone of voice or writing style. What should I do, to make my posts seem less smarty-pants? I know that maybe you were just trying to grease the gap between me and few other posters...but ouch. Cry.

If you think I am too hoighty-toighty and deploy too much spice, you should hear your friend James Howard Kunstler knock 'em dead on his lecture circuit. The architecture faculty won't even let him come back and speak at the Savannah College of Art and Design, because he told them the truth and it tasted like vinegar. Also, he dropped the "F-bomb" like it was the word "and".

This thread was simply intended to get the basics about Peak Oil theory into the wonderful dialogue here at Urban Planet, since the previous discussion about Cool Springs couln't digest reference to it. Peak Oil was not Kunstler's idea, but of course you are right in identifying him as one of the most vocal "alarmists" on the issue. I personally hope that the threat is exaggerated, and that we will have time to reform our way of living before an Energy Crisis the size of Spring Break 1997 comes a-squeezing the soft gooey people innards out of those Hummers in Brentwood. I hope we will have time to build an intercity passenger rail system worth showing to our children, and time to string together more than a handful of walkable neighborhoods connected by sustainable transportation networks. Otherwise, it might be Europe and India vs. China. We won't even be able to deliver the morning papers outside of Manhattan and Portland.

Or it could all be bunk. That would be good news, wouldn't it?

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Here's a link to a cartoon at the Village Voice.

villagevoice.com

That cartoon is awesome. I just wish the list of life-saving options Mused over that poor suburban woman's gas-gouged skull had included "Buy a House in a Walkable Neighborhood."

But I guess us begging urban design kids can't be choosers...yet. But sit back and watch...when the obvious comes a-callin', those Icon flats are going to look mighty more attractive to Healthways' Board of Directors.

How long did we imagine we could keep this oil-bloated economy up and running, anyhow? I mean, the Universal Laws of Life teach the world that too much of a good thing always goes sour. Whether its alcohol, sugar, videogames, or huevos rancheros...abuse of something which provides a pleasure always turns that pleasure into a need.

And now, the United States of Motorist Cul-de-Sacs needs oil like a woolly mammoth needed oxygen. No wonder we are demonstrating the same withdrawal symptoms...rage, denial...as a heroine addict on the recieving end of an Intervention.

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Sorry I asked.

I'm kidding. I just like to feed liberal paranoia. :rofl:

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I feel like I just walked into the middle of a private joke. Awkward...

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I feel like I just walked into the middle of a private joke. Awkward...

Don't feel so bad, I think the problem is that the mods stuck this is in the WRONG Coffee House forum. This should be in the Tennessee Coffee House, where most of us are from (and are familiar with one another -- hence all the inside jokes). :lol:

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New Towner,

Sorry for being a bit harsh. It was meant to be a playful jab. No malice intended.

Kunstler gave a presentation at the Main Library about a year ago (maybe longer; my memory is shot). And, yes, he dropped the F-word. The classy Ann Roberts, executive director of the Metro Historical Commission -- on my asking her opinion of Kunstler -- replied: "Jim doesn't mince words."

I'm sure you read his piece in Rolling Stone magazine. Strong stuff.

WW

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Great post -- once I defined "Weltpolitik". Ironic that I'd been thinking of reading up on the lead up to the first world war; time for a trip to the main library.

Now, more than ever, I want to find myself a job in downtown or midtown. Imagine being able to WALK to work!

Thanks, NT, for a very insightful and helpful post. I hope to hear more! :thumbsup:

David

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They are all well-acquainted with America, and all said: "Savannah has a lot less fat people than Nashville." Why do you think that is? Because we eat less fried chicken or collard greens? Heeeaaaaaaalllleeee no! It's because we--get this, ya'll--walk around. I walk an hour or so every day, but not in circles just to burn cals...I do it--get this, ya'll--going to and from class/shops/bars/the homes of my pals.

New Orleans is fatter than Nashville and has/had a terrific public transit system. So good in fact that folks only have to waddle a block or two to the bus stop. :P

Now, see, this is what happens when you pay too much attention to college professors. :blink:

Hey, I teach college. I just don't do it on this forum. lol

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New Orleans is fatter than Nashville and has/had a terrific public transit system. So good in fact that folks only have to waddle a block or two to the bus stop. :P

If there is truth to what you say (and I trust your word!!), then perhaps we should take stock of how many of these weight problems live in the walkable Big Easy, and how many live in the sprawling Bigger Easier suburbs of gated communities and Big Box retailers. South of Savannah, where the automobile suburbs are, there is a significantly higher percentage of obese people than in the downtown and more walkable old streetcar suburbs. One can literally see a difference in the people girths.

Of course, a walkable nieghborhood won't automatically produce healthy people any more than it will happy neighbors. It only makes health and community much more possible--and I dare say likely.

If architecture and urbanism is the stage of human events (which it is, despite the many people here on Urban Planet and elsewhere who claim it is sculpture), than one must concede that the stage effects the play, even if it does not control the script and cast per say.

Speaking of the "sculpture vs. stage" concept...I may try to start a thread thereabouts. I hope it doesn't get segregated into the "Coffee House" again.

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Although people everywhere and of whatever race are fat, I would say that African-Americans generally have more weight problems than Caucasians. In the New Orleans metro, African-Americans are concentrated in the city.

Much has been written about the lack of access to healthy food choices in innercities. In New Orleans, it's not Burger King, but the easy stroll down the street to the neighborhood poor boy shop.

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In other words I have faith that there is too much money to be made by the right energy source and/or innovation for total societal breakdown to occur.

I happily commend you for not falling prey to the Credit Card Mentality so prevalent in America--that is, the way of looking at reality in which the victorious scheme for living becomes BUY NOW and pay later. The energy implications of this mentality are quite predictable:

I will burn resources that I have now, though I will need them later, in expectation of future unearned resources which are purely hypothetical.

The completely made-up hydrogen economy, the hilariously petroleum-dependent ethanol gas-into-corn-into-gas, the dwindling supplies of uranium, and the consistently expensive and inefficient solar/wind scenarios are often cited as MasterCard solutions to the problem of collapsing petroleum supplies. Nuclear power is perhaps the most reasonable among all of these (yikes!), but it isn't exactly eternal in its scope, either--outside of the waste it produces. Regardless, Americans are "buying now" by continuing to build a way of life completely dependent on petroleum. Cool Springs comes to mind. The question is, will we truly be able to pay later?

You acknowledge the reality of the issue and there we agree. However--your faith that "there is too much money to be made by the right energy source" is somewhat naive in my view. There is also a lot of money to be made in producing Dinosaurs, an AIDS vaccine, a weight-reducing almond, and an iPod that graces one with gratifying physical affection. Where are they? Where is my Jurassic Park? Squelched by the jealous and powerful Conventional Zoo Industry?

People constantly confuse energy with technology, and this is bad thinking. People also seem to believe that the human race has been on an upward energy swing ever since that wonderful Industrial Revolution, and that one new energy-juice after another has been produced by a series of marvelous innovations that will most likely continue.

Bad news: petroleum is not new--in fact, it's millions of years old. We won't drum up a replacement with Research and Development any more than we'll come up with a new kind of sideways gravity that will pull Hummers to the Kroger and back again. Petroleum is not a compound cooked up in a lab, it is an organic miracle-saft that us monkeys figured out how to explode. We are so far from developing the "right energy source" it is not even funny.

Here is an alternative fuel vehicle for you: my damn feet. The "party" might not be over, but I think the host just shot himself in the basement. Pass the Chex Mix--I'm going home.

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Great case in point.

The paper also cited an Interior Department study that said the U.S. continental shelf contained 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That would be enough oil to satisfy U.S. demand, at current consumption levels, for 16 years and enough natural gas for 25 years, according to the Times.

http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/09/news/econo...dex.htm?cnn=yes

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