Podcasts I Listen To: Kunstlercast

Kunstlercast regularly covers three areas- New Urbanism,  Climate Change and Peak Oil, and occasionally, politics.  Kunstler is great on New Urbanism- I have learned a lot from his podcast and his book The Geography of Nowhere about how functional and successful cities are built.  The Geography of Nowhere is over 20 years old but it’s still a great read.  Definitely my favorite part of what he does.

The Long Emergency was his book on climate change and peak oil, and is a bleak read.  James is convinced that nothing significant will be done on climate change and that we’re nearing the end of the fossil fuel economy.  I’m basically in agreement about both, though I’m not entirely convinced the latter will come as soon as he thinks.  A couple years back James was predicting the end of commercial air travel in the next 10 years.  I have no idea how to evaluate that claim beyond waiting 7-8 years and finding out.   These things are also pretty close to being added what I am tentatively calling my apocalypse list.

My Apocalypse List:

This is my list of things that, rather than prepare for, I intend to die early, so I don’t have to see much bad shit happen.  If you remember that movie Deep Impact, I will be one of the people waiting at the shore getting smashed by the giant wave.  Taking the easy way out.  The list (by no means definitive)= a new ice age, giant solar flares, nuclear winter, global fascist dictatorship, ZOMBIES, venus syndrome, a flu pandemic that kills more than half of the planet, alien invasion. 

I’ll still go to 350.org rallies, but if and when peak oil and climate change hit the list, they’ll no longer keep me up at night.

On politics Jim was long ago added to my list of people whose proclamations should be vehemently ignored.  Around 2011 I started keeping track in my head of what pundits were saying about the reelection chances were for Barack Obama.  I’m a Democrat, and largely satisfied with the president, so my view may have been biased, but based on available information, I was certain he would be reelected*.

So when Jim said “he’s probably going to be a one term president” (or something to that effect), I said to myself- I’m going to remember this.  And I did.  Jim was wrong, I was right.  But being wrong is one thing.  To be wrong when counter evidence is widely available is another.  I follow politics pretty closely and there was a huge generation gap.  Pundits raised before the internet age we mostly bearish on Obama’s reelection chances.  Us internet age people thought there was no way he would lose.

Why the difference?  I was following guys like Sam Wang and Nate Silver- guys who aggregated polls.  Obama was more or less in the lead in the electoral college for the entire race.   I also knew who the potential Republican candidates were.  You could be forgiven for thinking that it mattered that Obama was polling lower than a generic candidate if you had no idea who the potential replacements for the generic candidate were.   This information was so easy to find on the internet, that there just really isn’t an excuse not to.  I suspect it’s just a matter of people in Jim’s generation not being used to doing it.

Since Jim was so wrong about the election, I’ve definitely started discounting his views on peak oil.  It happens when you screw up a testable prediction.  But he’s overall very interesting.  He’s the Statler and Waldorf of my podcast list with his complaining about young people and tattoos -“young people today look like angry clowns!”  Take him with a grain of salt and he’s a worthwhile listen.

*I’m bragging here because I’ve only been right about two big things.  The other time was when I said “I doubt Saddam Hussein even has WMDs.”



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