Last September (2007) I had occasion to keynote the annual Housing Conference in Washington State. In that speech I suggested to a skeptical audience of housing, building, and real estate officials that the debt problem then appearing was deeper and more structural than currently accepted. The economic indicators, stock market performance, and general near panic in official circles in the past week suggest that my analysis, not unique but unusual at the time, was correct.
This past week we heard the first proposals to shore up the general economy from Democrats and the President. The problem, however, is deep and structural and even cultural. It has to do with energy, with lifestyle, with the shape and form of what we build, and with global politics, and more.
One of most provocative and controversial observers of this scene is James Kunstler. His observations will usually take you over the edge where you peer into a true crisis. But, if you ignore this view you may miss the starker challenges that we face. His most recent blog entry, “Disarray,” is one of his best, because it summarizes the data has he sees it, then goes beyond that to list steps that he believes must be taken, soon. These include, stop highway building and instead start building rail, end subsidies to big ag and instead direct dollars to small local farmers, begin planning and construction of harbor and river shipping facilities (less energy intensive shipping), re-direct new development, decide about nuclear power, prepare for the end of current global commerce as currently conducted, prepare psychologically to downscale, take a time out from immigration, prepare for a lot of paper “wealth” to disappear, prepare for a psychology of resentment.
Some of Jim’s solutions here are perhaps cases of constant solutions in search of problems to attach themselves to (i.e., his preferred future vision), but this is a useful list of thinking to be considering as the economy plays out in the next months and years.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.