Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Back from the Future

My wife and I just returned from three weeks in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, mainly in rural areas, visiting Manchester, York and Dublin only as long as necessary.

These islands were populated and developed initially before the automobile. Southeastern Ireland and Dublin demonstrate the absurdity of attempting to fit US car culture onto this template, resulting in lorries and tour coaches attempting to negotiate narrow bridges and street corners in 800 year-old villages. Dublin is the nesting ground of the forty-story crane, building new hotels, widening roads, and even building a tunnel for lorries from the airport to the industrial sections of the city. Just in time for the end of the age of oil!

Great Britain and much of Europe will fare better in the future than the US, as the pre-auto infrastructure still exists in the villages and countryside of these countries. Local production for local consumption will return, local factories will be refurbished, markets revived, canals dredged and put to use, local stores and services reinstated. It's still there waiting for the people to remember how to use it.

We heard much disgust with EU regulations in Wales and Scotland, as the impositions do not fit in the local scene and independent people bridle at being told how to live by bureaucrats hundreds of miles away.

Most of the US has never had the infrastructure to conduct a local economy, and what little existed historically, mainly in the east, has been steam-rollered out of existence by the auto culture. It will be much harder, though not impossible, to make the transition here to a post-oil economy.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

...for now

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