POSTED 25 June 2005 - 10:30am HST

Bunker mentality infecting the rich

by Juan Wilson 25 June 2005

Bunker Mentality.. You can see it reflected in many phenomena of today's America. The well-off no longer feel safe in their own neighborhoods.

Just watch the sealed air-conditioned SUV war wagons pass with belted passengers on their way to gated communities guarded by private armies.

Taste the rising resentment of Americans knowing they are despised because of their insatiable need to burn twenty million barrels a day of oil and the quagmire in Iraq that is the salient expression of that addiction.

Feel the anxiety of even the most privileged Sunbelters as they see increasing chaotic natural forces pummeling even the richest enclaves as the effects of global warming begin to kick-in.

Sense the thirst for unrenewable resources (like water) in places like Imperial Valley, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and most of the mountainous yuppie-extreme-sport west.

Share the worry about crime, depression, child-safety, terrorism, sex-offenders, ethnic minorities, school violence, ID theft and cosmetic surgery that seems to fill the minds of America's well-heeled suburbanites.

When you do you'll know why so many (that have made a financial killing on the mainland) now want to hunker down in paradise. Back on the mainland they are beginning to smell the smoke of an oncoming economic melt-down, and they want a safe place to run and hide.The rich are bunkering down here!

In Hawaii (particularly Maui & Kauai) the median price of single family homes has passed two-thirds of a million dollars and is on the way up. As the privileged move here they are bringing their SUV's and demand for Big-Box stores. In fact what they are bringing is the very thing that is destroying the mainland... suburban excess based on monumental fossil fuel consumption.

In the not to distant future, as the price of oil goes north of $100 a barrel, the lifestyle of the American suburbs will become unsustainable. James Kunstler, the author of "The Long emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century" says:

"The dirty secret of the American economy in the 1990's was that it was no longer about anything except the creation of suburban sprawl and the furnishing, accessorizing, and financing of it. It resembled the efficiency of cancer. Nothing else really mattered except building suburban houses, trading away the mortgages, selling the multiple cars needed by the inhabitants, upgrading the roads into commercial strip highways with all the necessary shopping infrastructure, and moving vast supplies of merchandise made in China, for next to nothing, to fill up those houses"

This tells us why the Planning Commission approved Home Depot and Costco. As much as the modern supermarket is the place we go to get the stuff to make people (you are what you eat); Home Depot and Costco are the means by which we feed and nourish suburban sprawl.

If we want this island to be sustainable into even the moderately near future we need to focus the remaining resources we have to prepare for a non-suburban post-cheap-gas future.

The suburban bunker-mentality will try to hold desperately to a way of life that is doomed. Much mischief will be wrought. Just look at Thursday's US Supreme Court ruling allowing local government agencies using the power of eminent domain to bulldoze private homes it finds "dilapidated" in order to assemble large tracts for private developers with more money than the former residents.

If oil breaks $100 per barrel what will happen to tourism in Hawaii? What will happen to the cost of a box of cornflakes shipped to Kauai from the US Midwest? What will happen to the price of a KIUC kilowatt hour?

It does not take much imagination to realize that Hawaii will be in a bind even to feed itself at $100 a barrel oil. This is because through the economy of scale related to cheap oil, the vast majority of food consumed in Hawaii is shipped now from the mainland. This includes milk, beef, pork, rice and other stables that until recently were supplied locally.

In the near future Hawaii will have to be much more self reliant. It is likely that the cane fields on Kauai being subdivided for five acre MacMansions will be needed for food crops, pasture and bio-diesel corn. This does not even touch the subject of a redistribution of some of Oahu's bloated population to outer islands. Oahu cannot sustain one million inhabitants without cheap oil and heavy mainland support.

Given all the resources of the islands we can probably make a rich and sustainable way of life for the people of Hawaii if we dedicate time and resources to meet the demands of the changes that are coming. It won't be in the fast-lane of today's suburban life-style. It will probably be more like life in the islands before the 1930's.

If you don't think you'll like that way of life, maybe you should consider bunkering down somewhere else.

See also our previous articles:
Island Breath: No Growth Planning

Island Breath: After Cheap Oil
Island Breath: No Not Nuclear
Island Breath: Planning for no oil
Island Breath: Kauai without oil

Island Breath: Sustainable Kauai


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