Hope vs. Despair

The Door to New Directions by h.koppdelaney
It seems that an increasing number of writers have begun turning from the "we must do something to avert climate change" mantra to the "well, doesn't seem that we can stop it - what now?" track. I was particularly interested in Paul Gilding's The Great Disruption because it's more hopeful than most books on the subject and sadsacks like myself need that. Gilding's point is that humans are slow, but not stupid. We'll wait until the last minute to change our wasteful habits, but we will change them. Not only that, but the world he envisions after this "Peak Everything" crisis will be a better one with stronger community ties and less stuff.

Gilding focuses heavily on personal consumer habits. James Howard Kunstler's piece in Orion Magazine describes what the future will look like from an urban planning perspective. Both the suburbs and the cities will wither, he says. What we're in for are a small cities/villages close to farmland. I definitely dig that:
A lot of young people already have no use or affection for suburbia, and have begun moving into big cities. But when our energy supply problems get worse, there will be wholesale demographic shifts to smaller cities and small towns, especially places that have some relationship with local food production, water power, and water transport. Our smaller cities and towns are intrinsically better scaled for future energy realities. Most of these places are in sad shape after decades of neglect, but they can be repopulated and reactivated.
Peering into his crystal ball, he also sees waterfronts being converted back into commercial use, the demise of the trucking and aviation industries, migration (in the US) out of the Sun Belt and southwest, obsolete skyscrapers, the movement of food to the center of the economy, the decay of the suburbs into "squats, ruins, and salvage yards" and the loss of an "infatuation with technomagic".

Comments on the article display that push-and-pull between the optimists and the pessimists. One pessimist seethes: "[the article is] a pointless diversion in an empire undergoing catastrophic collapse. The world we are heading into will bear more resemblance to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road than the middle class fantasy Kuntsler envisions."

A similar hope vs. despair debate is happening in the comments section of Friedman's recent NYT article on Gilding's book. And the pessimists are getting the most hits. One comments "I am thoroughly convinced that we will eat the last grain of rice, ear of corn, rabbit, squirrel, rat or cockroach on the planet before we do anything to solve this problem."

Neither Gilding nor Kunstler are entirely convincing and the pessimists sharp points are difficult to ignore, but maintaining optimism is the only way to stay sane.