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Oil Prices, Giffen Goods, and the American Landscape
October 4, 2005 4:34 AM   Subscribe

Running on Fumes -- a fascinating essay by the Nation's Sasha Abramsky on what rising gas prices will do to poor exurban communities.
posted by digaman (165 comments total)

 
Errr is it just me or do all these "poor people" drive SUVs or trucks in this article?

Bill
posted by evilelvis at 4:40 AM on October 4, 2005


In a rational world, both would be able to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. In the Siskiyou County of 2005, however, neither can scrape together enough to make the upgrade.

Totally understandable, there really should be more incentives by Governments to get people into smaller, fuel efficient cars. There's a small car tax discount in the UK for cars with less than 1.3 engine but still. Someone driving a hybrid car should be charged less duty on their petrol.
posted by twistedonion at 4:50 AM on October 4, 2005


Totally understandable, there really should be more incentives by Governments to get people into smaller, fuel efficient cars.

We should tax people who drive big cars in order to save them from themselves?
posted by Kwantsar at 4:51 AM on October 4, 2005


We should tax people who drive big cars in order to save them from themselves?

That's the supposed reason for such a high fuel duty in the UK. Doesn't work though. Giving tax breaks for being "responsible" however, that might work?
posted by twistedonion at 5:02 AM on October 4, 2005


It's certainly the case that from the 1930s British society has increasingly been structured around the automobile: out-of-town supermarkets and larger stores, fewer miles of railway, decline in local amenities like pubs, less public transport. I believe this process has gone far further in the Western USA (because of the available space).

So, will higher gas prices result in a reversal of this process, with higher-density population centres linked by rail? Or will we simply replace gas with another fuel, like electricity or hydrogen produced by nuclear power stations, and keep using individual transportation devices in a low-density population pattern? I'm inclined to think that we like our automobile-based lifestyle too much, so we'll go with new fuels rather than restructuring society.
posted by alasdair at 5:03 AM on October 4, 2005


Errr is it just me or do all these "poor people" drive SUVs or trucks in this article?

Yes. A '92 Ford Explorer (that's really from before the big SUV boom) and a '74 unnamed truck. Typically, when living and especially working in rural areas, these types of vehicles are actually needed. You tend to haul more things around when the trips are longer - more groceries, taking the trash bags to a landfill/dump, performing the 'bit work' mentioned in the article, etc.

Not that I'm defending anyone in the article. If gas prices continue to rise or even just stay high, it will have a heavy impact on rural America. That's fine with me.
posted by melt away at 5:13 AM on October 4, 2005


Errr is it just me or do all these "poor people" drive SUVs or trucks in this article?

Which they bought when fuel cost half (or less) what it does now...and I doubt many of those vehicles are brand new, either.
posted by alumshubby at 5:14 AM on October 4, 2005


...It will have a heavy impact on rural America. That's fine with me.

Oh? What did rural America do to you?
posted by alumshubby at 5:16 AM on October 4, 2005


In a nutshell, Kerr's experience shows up the fallacy of the laissez-faire notion that free-floating prices alone are a fair way to regulate consumption of a scarce commodity like gasoline. While higher prices might stop some tourists from driving up to Castle Crags and might curtail the discretionary gas use of the middle classes, as long as people live in regions like Siskiyou County and commute to far-away jobs in places that are hard, if not impossible, to reach by public transportation, these people are going to need gas.
I don't really get Abramsky's point. Does (s)he think that it's "fair" for someone who lives so far from his workplace to use more gasoline than do others?
posted by Kwantsar at 5:16 AM on October 4, 2005


No cloud without its silver lining. Gas prices spike, SUV sales tank. So long GM, don't bother to write.

As for poor exurban communities, I've known many over the years. Mules (and free range--i.e.under-the-house--chickens) used to be very common in these. Maybe both will make a comeback.
posted by jfuller at 5:21 AM on October 4, 2005


What did rural America do to you?

I don't know about poor people driving 30-year-old vehicles, but let's face it those are a tiny minority. It's hard to feel sorry for the much more usual case of people who go out and buy a very large vehicle because they tell themselves "gas is cheap, who cares about the environment?" when that decision revisits them with a vengeance, though.
posted by clevershark at 5:27 AM on October 4, 2005


Mules... used to be very common in these.

You mean that in those cases people were out on their asses? (couldn't resist)
posted by clevershark at 5:29 AM on October 4, 2005


It's pointing out a truism: the way American society is currently structured is leading to an inevitable showdown with gas prices, and has been for some time now. The big idea, and the reason I was interested to read this piece, is not that it's a sob story for exurbanites but rather the realization that the suburban sprawl around which American society and economy is founded is self-defeating. If, as the article hints, it is in a serious crisis, then dialogue about alternatives has to start.

My personal hope is that the silver lining could be a reasonable public transit system, but the oil companies have a lot of influence on the government and that's always been one of the things they oppose.
posted by graymouser at 5:31 AM on October 4, 2005


I don't know about poor people driving 30-year-old vehicles, but let's face it those are a tiny minority.

Yes, there are so very many poor people driving brand-spanking-new hybrids.
posted by alumshubby at 5:38 AM on October 4, 2005


Yes, there are so very many poor people driving brand-spanking-new hybrids.

Is that a straw man I see before me? yay verily, methinks it is!
posted by clevershark at 5:40 AM on October 4, 2005


Poor people driving old vehicles are a tiny minority? What planet are you on? Spend some time away from a city.

Her point is not that it is fair for people to live far away from their work to use more gas, it's that poor rural people are more likely to live far away from available work, more likely to be driving an old car. These people cannot afford more efficient cars, and cannot afford housing closer to work. And rising gas prices hit them hard, while the people with the means to buy more efficient cars and live wherever they like also have the means to continue driving whatever they want.

Rising prices will, hopefully, help move the U.S. away from reliance of fossil fuels. But the pain of the transition is, and will continue to be, a burden disproportionately borne by the poor. $5 gas will suck for the middle class, but it will bankrupt these people.
posted by Nothing at 5:48 AM on October 4, 2005


So, Nothing, I notice a slag on the free market in the article (nevermind that US Transportation Policy has no free-market trappings), but I don't see any good counterproposals-- unless you think that taxing people and paying others to consume a scarce resource makes sense.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:00 AM on October 4, 2005


Oh? What did rural America do to you?

What rural (err exurban) America did or did not do to me doesn't matter. The article mentions the polictics of one particular resident - a tough looking Republican who supports Bush and Cheny, supports The War and probably believes it's every American's right to drive gas-guzzling tree-eating soul-destroying monster trucks. Yet when the times are tough he is calling for a ceiling on fuel prices. This is a pretty typical thought pattern for these folks.

I harbor no ill will toward anyone supporting our leaders who are heavily involved with the oil companies - but I can't help feeling like they are reaping what they've sown. Or is that "we are reaping what they've sown"?
posted by melt away at 6:20 AM on October 4, 2005


What did rural America do to you?

Oh come now that's just a gimme. Starts with a B...

Really, there's just something in the American consciousness about spreading out and finding your own homestead, damning the consequences. A couple of months ago, Walter Kirn (a writer I respect) wrote a piece on Andrew Sullivan's website that got my goat about how Americans need to spread out more to defend ourselves against terrorism.

I wonder how he'd feel about that after reading this. I mean, not everyone can be a successful writer living in Montana, some of us actually have to get to our place of work.
posted by fungible at 6:22 AM on October 4, 2005


It will have a heavy impact on rural America. That's fine with me.

It's not fine with me, I live in rural America. My neighbors drive big trucks. If you have only one vehicle, you need one that you can take the trash to the dump in AND take the kids to school in AND as do odd jobs to bring in a little more money. I have a job where I get paid for mileage and my rate just jumped up from 40.5 cents a mile to 48.5 cents per mile so I don't feel the hit as much as a lot of people around here [and I drive a Honda, and I could move if I needed to]. The price of gas around here means that the local Greyhound/Vermont Transit bus no longer stops in the next town over meaning that for people with no cars, they have to get a ride or take a cab another 25 miles in order to get to Boston. Trust me, there are lots of people without cars. Every time a little grocery store closes in a small town around here people get screwed.

The lack of mobility, both in terms of housing/relocation costs as well as cost of living concerns is a growing problem for America's rural poor. I'm curious to see if higher prices at some point will push people towards more different behavior like carpooling or telecommuting.
posted by jessamyn at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2005


For someone harboring no ill will, "fine with me" sounded pretty mean-spirited. You and clevershark ought to get together.
posted by alumshubby at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2005


I don't know about poor people driving 30-year-old vehicles, but let's face it those are a tiny minority.

And exactly *where* do you live? My brother-in-law drives a 1985 Bronco that he got used from his nephew when his (small) car blew a tranny and he couldn't afford the parts to fix it. He lives in the farmhouse that his grandparents built because he can't afford to live anywhere else. $3 gas will, essentially, put him out of work as he won't be able to afford to get there.

It's not restricted to exurban areas, either. If you actually *leave the suburbs*, and go into the poorer parts of any city, you'll see people driving 1980s (and earlier) cars that areheld together with baling wire and pop rivets, and kept running by sheer willpower. The jobs are in the suburbs, but they can't afford to live closer to work, nor can they afford a better car.

And, of course, there's the fact that many of the exurban folk who are driving pickups and suburbans actually *need* them. When your driveway is a mile long, it's probably not going to be paved. If it snows or rains, you still need to get to town. A small car would get bogged down in the driveway (btdt). And how do you bring home a month's worth of groceries in a small car, much less move a load of fenceposts?

When you've got $2K to spend on a "new" vehicle, do you buy the one that's going to be of some actual use, or do you buy the small fuel-efficient one that will leave you stuck halfway down the driveway?
posted by jlkr at 6:24 AM on October 4, 2005


>>> "Mules (and free range--i.e.under-the-house--chickens) used to be very common in these."

Damn. Snark in MeFi isn't surprising, but this smells like a new strain of "let them eat cake" classism.

There is a marked difference between Yuppie Jane using her Porsche Cayenne to ferry one snotnosed brat, her faux Prada handbag and 63 cubic feet of dead air to the local Target, and Rural John using a fifteen-year-old Chevy to haul two week's worth of family trash down to the local landfill, or two week's worth of family groceries back up to the house.

I turn my nose up at suburban assault vehicles with the best of them, because a young family of 2.5 in a gated community living less than a mile from three strip malls just shouldn't need a 3 ton Hummer, but for folks in rural America, a Honda Civic just isn't going to do the trick. This is particularly true if they're trying to eek out a living by actually using their day-to-day vehicle (i.e., hauling dirt or topsoil, carrying landscaping or farming equipment, pulling trailers for livestock).

Sorry. I'll re-read this in a few minutes and it will sound like a rant, but come on ... surely we can do better than "Let the dirty peasants go back to their quaint agrarian ways."
posted by grabbingsand at 6:25 AM on October 4, 2005


It's OK, grabbingsand. The quaint agrarian ways might not be long for this world anyway. Eventually all these backward people who think relying on personal transportation that fits their needs and have the nerve to think they can get away with owning one fuel-inefficient car will be forced to the city where they're going to magically find work.

I'm sure factory farm owners will provide some sort of shuttle service for their employees. Maybe some corporations can own a few small towns, similar to the mining towns of the last century. It all sounds kind of dire to me.

Make no mistake, we're going to see some interesting changes as the fuel economy continues to turn. The fact of the matter is that owning a car (or resource-sucking SUV) in a larger city is seen as an unnecessary excess by some people where in a more sparsely populated area, it's a necessary evil. To a lot of people in rural areas, having access to this kind of transportation is seen as a key ingredient to their personal mobility and freedom.
posted by mikeh at 6:46 AM on October 4, 2005


Maybe there aren't good solutions. I just think it should be acknowledged that, whatever good might come of it, higher gas prices are going to hurt people who can't afford to do things any differently. I don't like the gleeful attitude.
posted by Nothing at 6:52 AM on October 4, 2005


It seems the only problem is that these people are poor. I think petroleum prices are kind of a red herring here, if they lived in the city or suburbs the problem would be rent, if they lived someplace cold heating would be a problem. Sure something being more expensive makes you poorer, so to me the problem isn't that gas is more expensive, because I think it's still too cheap on the whole, it's that people are too poor.

If you try and fix the high gas problem you're likely to end up with people buying the same amount of gas living the same way as they did before and never adapting to the new reality of expensive petroleum. If you treat the poverty problem you could mitigate suffering to the same extent and the market would still encourage lifestyle change. Maybe these communities would no longer exist, that is fine with me. These communities are increasingly not practical, people in a situation where commuting to work is more expensive than what one makes at work should be encouraged to extricate themselves from that situation.
posted by I Foody at 6:57 AM on October 4, 2005


Well, I mean no offense, but Rural in the northeast / east-west coasts, is much different than Rural where I live. Which is Oklahoma BTW.

I get the feeling that very few of you have any perspective at all on what it's like to live or exist in a truly rural environment. Some of your comments (site wide, not just this post), make me laugh.

Fuel prices and one's ability to get to work is only a small part of the eventual problems with expensive hydrocarbons. Try farmers who can't put out a crop because $3 wheat costs $4 to produce... Not to mention the costs for storage and transport over the 2000 miles of interstate. Think bigger folks.
posted by DuffStone at 7:05 AM on October 4, 2005


Maybe there aren't good solutions

You know – it's a crazy long shot, and the kind of thing that gets people labelled Godless communists, but I think that it might just work – how about taxing petrol to the fucking hilt, increasing the price of just about everything you can walk into a shop and buy, paying the working class decent wages so the price rises don't hit hard, building a governmentally subsidised public transport network so fewer people need to drive everywhere, and funding it by taxing the rich?

Oh. It's that last bit that's the deal-breaker, isn't it?

[on preview: what I Foody said. The problem isn't increasing petrol prices (and if you think three bucks a gallon is outrageous, wait until it hits European prices), that's just the symptom of an economy that's fucked from the ground up, itself the product of an ideology which keeps the people being ground into the dirt hoping that they might one day win the American Dream lottery]
posted by Len at 7:09 AM on October 4, 2005


to Len:

I reiterate; How do you afford to produce food for the masses of US citizens who will starve? Are you gonna subsidize Farms too? Institutionalize them? Will the land owners be able to retain ownership of their land, or will the government take that too?

It's a fair question, I'm not being a dick. If the government does what you noted, then you must follow that tangent into the "Food" scenario. You either have to pay farmers to produce food, or the government has to do it themselves... But taxing the hell out of petrol will damn sure leave this nation starving without government assistance...

Think bigger than just commutes, global warming, and mass transit. Getting to work is great, starving sucks.
posted by DuffStone at 7:15 AM on October 4, 2005


Sure something being more expensive makes you poorer, so to me the problem isn't that gas is more expensive, because I think it's still too cheap on the whole, it's that people are too poor.

No, the problem is that there's a dependence on non-renewable fuels that are being consumed by insanely inefficient machines. New technology is helping this issue, but it's expensive and is going to take decades to trickle down to the people who could benefit most from it. Rural self-employed farmers, farm laborers, etc. simply rely on self-transporation as a need, not a luxury. It's not a matter of saying that market pressure will drive people to where it's more efficient to live, it's a matter of a national economy that relies on this agricultural and living system to sustain everyone, even -- no, especially -- the people living in cities.

The particular case in the article seems a little more tragic to me. This is an area where the original timber economy is gone and they're left with factory work, retail, and tourism. Sure, the local residents could have all magically relocated when the timber companies left, but how and to where? I'd like to think that MeFites on a whole are pretty good at thinking things through, but how do you cleanly collapse a rural economy like this? It's not like everyone can put their homes on the market at the same time and move to one town for the purposes of efficiency.
posted by mikeh at 7:23 AM on October 4, 2005


Man, this is the sort of thing that bothers me from our liberal (and neo-liberal) contingent. You wanna start looking at why you get called "elitist liberals"? Read Clevershark and the arguments for the collapse of rural America. Instead of looking at the Republican in the story with a smug "serves you right," think of ways to help these people.
And Kwantsar, giving subsidies for upgrades (especially if they're just no interest loan guarantees) would allow people to use less of a precious resource over time by taxing people who, by and large, use too much of it. That's a win-win.
This is an opportunity for populism and for compassion toward the poor, no matter where they live. And I don't just say that because I'm poor too.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 AM on October 4, 2005


"I'm spending $40 to $50 a week on gas," says 41-year-old Rosie Kerr, a resident of Grenada who works as a secretary at the Northern California Indian Development Council on Yreka's Main Street and drives a 1992 blue Ford Explorer with 164,000 miles on it. Before taxes, Kerr, a mother of four whose husband is currently unemployed, earns about $21,000 a year. After taxes, she estimates, that works out to $1,200 per month.

Obviously they meant $1.2k per year, and about $100 a month.

Look, this is capitalism. You get to sleep in the bed you make, you know. $21,000 a year would be a huge amount in a lot of countries where gasoline costs the same amount (or more) it does here.

Rural America lived for centuries without cheap gasoline, and cheap gasoline changed things... now it's going away. Capitalism doesn't mean you get to keep living whatever lifestyle you like as long as you want.

As much as I dislike bush and the Neocons, I still think capitalism is a good idea, with a healthy amount of assistance to lower income people. If I was in charge I would setup some sort of assistance to help transition people from rural to urban living. But I'm not.

Also, with the money they're spending on gas, they could afford payments on a daily driver that gets decent mileage, and make the payments with the money they save on gasoline. I'm not talking about a prius, I'm talking like a late 90's civic or Tercel or something.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 AM on October 4, 2005


People rely on agriculture and that's exactly the reason that market pressure will work so well. There is no reason to expect that food prices wouldn't rise when food is more expensive to make. So everyone -- no, especially -- people in cities will pay more to eat. If people decide that they aren't willing to pay these higher prices then farms will close down. People will still need to eat a certain number of calories per day to stay healthy, if they can't do that with higher food prices than that's a problem, but it's the same problem; being too poor.

I'm not saying that the collapse would be clean, it would be messy, I just think that out of the options for mitigating this problem changing what people can pay (through income redistribution) and changing the prices (subsidies, grants, etc) the better solution is income distribution. It doesn't make sense to subsidize something that you'd like people to use less of.
posted by I Foody at 8:09 AM on October 4, 2005


Look, this is capitalism. You get to sleep in the bed you make, you know.

Except it's not delmoi. The oil industry - from top to bottom - is a cartel.
posted by three blind mice at 8:11 AM on October 4, 2005


I grew up one county south of Siskyou. All this glee makes me sick.
posted by keswick at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2005


DuffStone: totally, fair question, of course you're not being a dick.

It has to be a long-term (which is part of the problem; no politician is going to risk their poll numbers for something that won't pay off until they're dribbling away in some retirement home, mumbling about how they blew it 30 years ago), but unless there's wholesale structural reform of the American economy, then things are gonna look pretty grim for the millions attempting to eke out a living on its lowest rungs – and they're already looking pretty grim, but it's only going to get worse. I don't know what it will take for them to actually say "we've had enough" and start voting for people who will actually serve their interests.

Anyway, the food thing: I don't think you necessarily have to follow the subsidisation tangent into the realms of food production, or if you do, it needn't be a permanent step. When the market is so distorted because one thing – one essential thing, at that – is so much cheaper than it ought to be, you can't just restore that thing to the price it should be without screwing over the people who (justifiably; not frivolously) depend on it. So subsidise farms, to a degree, regulate or break up the massive corporations whose tactics have driven the price way, way below what food ought to be by cutting corners and externalising every expense they should, in reality, be internalising, and hope that somehow, it works before the people with pitchforks decide that there's a more profitable use for them that shifting hay. Because unless something drastic is done, that's what's coming.
posted by Len at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2005


People rely on agriculture and that's exactly the reason that market pressure will work so well. There is no reason to expect that food prices wouldn't rise when food is more expensive to make. So everyone -- no, especially -- people in cities will pay more to eat. If people decide that they aren't willing to pay these higher prices then farms will close down. People will still need to eat a certain number of calories per day to stay healthy, if they can't do that with higher food prices than that's a problem, but it's the same problem; being too poor.

LOL. We are never going to see food be too expensive for people get their calories. Go check the prices for rice and beans at your supermarket.
posted by delmoi at 8:20 AM on October 4, 2005


Except it's not delmoi. The oil industry - from top to bottom - is a cartel.

Maybe, but um, the prices are still pretty much controled by the market. It's not like we'd see 50¢ gasoline if the industry was pure as the driven snow.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 AM on October 4, 2005


delmoi, I totally agree, I basically wanted to show that my point was still valid even in the most extreme case.
posted by I Foody at 8:26 AM on October 4, 2005


klangklangston: You wanna start looking at why you get called "elitist liberals"? Read Clevershark and the arguments for the collapse of rural America. Instead of looking at the Republican in the story with a smug "serves you right," think of ways to help these people.

Of course in the broader sense, you're right, klang. At the same time, if you want to know why the liberal elite doesn't change, comments like yours are a good place to start.

While the whole cut nose, spite face business is stupid, you may want to look into directing some compassion at the die-hard liberals. We've spent our lives advocating a system where people in need of help can get help, and dillholes like this Republican fellow have been working against it. But now all of a sudden it affects them, and the government better help! I think that deserves a little told you so. I think it deserves help, too, but if you're gonna demand that I help without my moment of disgust, then I'm gonna have to fight a lot of negative feelings to get to what's right. Is that worth it? Yes. But your chastising just makes what you want harder to come by.

Further, thinking that the way people live is going to have to be revamped in the interest of a long-term solution is not necessarily contempt. To a fair extent, it is practical.
posted by dame at 8:31 AM on October 4, 2005


The best thing that could happen to Siskiyou County is them to just get off the grid. Siskiyou County is one of the richest California counties in terms of natural resources, including water (They've got the Shasta Dam which supplies the northern half of the state.) But they are politically and economically owned by both big corporations and big government (i.e., the neocons). They could start by creating local manufacturing of alternative energy systems and small organic farms (and there are a few already). They could use biodiesel and alternatively generated electric power to get started rebuilding their local economy.

But the hard part is breaking the mindset that they need to be part of Corporate Dream America with all the trimmings, including MacDonalds, Wal-Mart and GM trucks. It's that addiction that keeps those people poor and ignorant, not to mention drugged up and drunk. Rural America is basically a ghetto with nice scenery.
posted by silicaspan at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2005


People rely on agriculture and that's exactly the reason that market pressure will work so well. There is no reason to expect that food prices wouldn't rise when food is more expensive to make.

There is no "market pressure" in U.S. agricuture. The $190 billion farm bill Bush signed in 2002 so heavily distorted the free market that "market pressure" has very little relevance to consumer prices.
posted by three blind mice at 8:35 AM on October 4, 2005


Are you gonna subsidize Farms too? Institutionalize them?

What the fuck do you think we do now? The small farmer isn't a dying breed, he's basically extinct. The farmers now all have three letter initials, and get *massive* subsidies from the government -- and the small farmers consistently voted for the party that fed those subsidies to the corporations.

They weren't institutionalized or socialized. They were corporatized. And, you know, I find it hard to cry from ADM.

I would feel more for the rural population, who has been mercilessly fucked over again and again by the ruling elite in this country. But, you know, they voted for it, time and time again. They wanted a corporate government with theocratic overtones, and they voted for a corporate goverment with theocratic overtones, and guess what? They got just what they voted for, and they are getting fucked over because of it.

And I'm supposed to cry hard? The local stores are gone, because they all went and shopped at Wal-Mart. The local jobs are gone, because they voted for people who quickly worked to move those jobs away. They got exactly what they voted for. They wanted America! and God! and Guns! and they got just that. Hope God fills thier gas tanks, because America can't. Wonder if those magnetic ribbons and flags on your car can help? No? So sad.

Sorry, I'm not about to help poor white people who spent much of thier time bitching about welfare for poor black people. Guess what, assholes? You fucking dug your grave. Die in it. ShrubCo will get around to filling your gas tanks and feeding your kids just about the time that he catches whathisname, you know, the Iraqi who blew up New York. Him, yeah.

Oh, but don't worry -- we'll be dying with you, but don't expect me to be friendly about it. You brought this on all of us. "You're either with us, or against us", remember?

Welcome to the nightmare. Welcome to the nightmare we've been living in for five years.
posted by eriko at 8:37 AM on October 4, 2005


I would feel more for the rural population, who has been mercilessly fucked over again and again by the ruling elite in this country. But, you know, they voted for it, time and time again

Oh? Who should they have voted for? I don't know if you're aware of it, but ADM donates money to both parties, not just the Republicans.
posted by unreason at 8:45 AM on October 4, 2005


Look, this is capitalism. You get to sleep in the bed you make, you know.

And if you can't make your own bed, for whatever reason (impoverished parents = no chance at getting to Harvard), then it's the gutter for you chum... nice

(And I know there are exceptions, that's the American dream, but the exceptions are few)
posted by twistedonion at 8:45 AM on October 4, 2005


including water (They've got the Shasta Dam which supplies the northern half of the state.)

Yeah, um, Shasta Dam/Lake is in Shasta County. And SoCal is bogarting all the water from the Sacramento River, Nestle will be bogarting water from the McCloud, and Klamath River? Let's not go there. kthxbye
posted by keswick at 8:49 AM on October 4, 2005


I'm wishing I had just read the article, appreciated it, and moved on up the page. Instead I came into the thread to thank digaman for posting it and found a bunch of classist comments from clueless urban snobs who think all poor rural people are dumb fucks who buy SUVs for the fun of it. Thanks to nothing, jessamyn, grabbingsand, and the others who have some basic understanding of how people live outside the charmed world of geekdom.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2005


Languagehat, you don't think people brought this on themselves to some extent?

I'd rather see this an oppotunity to make a point about about helping people when they're down, but can you really not underrstand the anger?
posted by dame at 9:00 AM on October 4, 2005


Welcome to the nightmare we've been living in for five years.

This "system" that you describe, eriko, started well before GWB. Democrats take the same corporate money that Republicans accept, pander to special interests when they see fit, and rule with the same elitism that can be seen with the current administration. Don't put out the sophism that suddenly the Republicans are ruining it for everyone.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:02 AM on October 4, 2005


exurban?

define: exurban

No definitions were found for exurban.

Suggestions:
- Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
- Search the Web for documents that contain " exurban"
posted by cmdnc0 at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2005


Don't put out the sophism that suddenly the Republicans are ruining it for everyone

Particularly since big business was helped tremendously by the globalization initiatives which both parties support.
posted by unreason at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2005


you don't think people brought this on themselves to some extent?

How exactly did some poor rural joe bloggs bring it upon themselves? I'd love to know, really.

If anything it's Governments and Corporations who have convinced us that consumption is good.

Blaming the poor for their own predicament is just way to easy.
posted by twistedonion at 9:09 AM on October 4, 2005


Try looking up "ex-urban" cmbnc0, and try not to be so condescending without doing a decent search first.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:14 AM on October 4, 2005


Don't put out the sophism that suddenly the Republicans are ruining it for everyone.

Bing bing bing! Always encouraging to hear this. You want to solve the problems of these people, you're going to have to start looking outside the system.
posted by graymouser at 9:14 AM on October 4, 2005


Democrats take the same corporate money that Republicans accept, pander to special interests when they see fit, and rule with the same elitism that can be seen with the current administration.

True enough, but nobody does it better than - or with the same unabashed abandon as - the Bush administration.
posted by three blind mice at 9:15 AM on October 4, 2005


To eriko:

You have anger issues... If you hate me so much so be it, I have no love loss for your liberal disposition either.

You're way off base though, and it appears your letting your emotions get in the way of the facts here. ADM is a big player in agriculture I agree, but they don't "own" agriculture as it stands. More to the point, Corporate america doesn't "Own" the farms either. at least not here in Oklahoma.

You see, when expenses started to rise, farmers who couldn't compete sold out, to other farmers, who are larger and more capable of continuing on. You're seeing local farmers consolidate into their own co-ops of sorts. Only, it's not really a co-op because farmers that fail, loose their land to those who haven't, and thus become an ordinary employee of the larger farmer. Or basically, farmers are naturally moving toward corporate farms, but as "New" business and not part of an established conglomerate.

This is my experience with mid-american farms. Wheat has been $1-3 or there about a bushel since 1950-60ish. Bush, nor any corporation has effected this. I'd like for you to prove that anything bush has done could have caused this commodity to stay flat at $3 for the last 50 years.

Farmers, at least in my part of the nation, are not being subsidized in any significant fashion. In the late 70's, the government paid my grandpa to destroy bumper crops of wheat. Mainly to keep the commodity price in the $3 range, whereas a bumper harvest could have dropped it to $1 or so. These programs died in the early 90's though. I think there's still some programs out there for crop insurance, disaster relief, etc, but they don't tell the farmers when to destroy crops anymore, and they don't pay them directly for increased expenses.

My Father is not a corporate farmer, he runs a modest 1300 acre Wheat farm in north oklahoma. I"m not saying that "Everyone" works like my situation has illustrated, but I can damn sure point out where your "everyone" situation is false.

But the real argument here is not who fucked what commodity. It's how the increase in costs of hydrocarbons will directly effect the production costs of other commodities. Some of which, are plentiful enough that their overall trends won't be effected for months and years. This can drive those who rely on hydrocarbons to function out of business if their product doesn't increase in value to match.

This goes far beyond Oil, agriculture, manufacturing, or any other large class of business. EVERYTHING is reliant on Hydrocarbons in a major way. You can't make a hybrid car without massive hydrocarbons and petrochemical compounds. You can't make cotton blankets without hydrocarbons. You can't make commuter trains without hydrocarbons. you can't make cellphones without hydrocarbons...

When oil gets too expensive, EVERYTHING will follow that trend very quickly. And it doesn't matter who voted for who, or which region of the country you want to suffer and die horrible deaths. I'll laugh at city folk as they laugh at me, but we'll all be up shit creek...
posted by DuffStone at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2005


Yeah, um, Shasta Dam/Lake is in Shasta County.

Okay, the dam is a few miles south. But the source still is Mt Shasta and surrounding mountains and rivers inside Siskiyou County.

Regardless, the only thing that can save rural places like is to cut their dependence on the mass consumer economy and develop their own local economy.
posted by silicaspan at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2005


Don't put out the sophism that suddenly the Republicans are ruining it for everyone.

I don't know about that. I would hypothesize that the shift in Democratic ideals came in part with the demise of Carter and the "Reagan Revolution," along with the very effective propagation of Reblican ideas in the last decades--if people had supported candidates with old school liberal ideas, I find it hard to believe the Deomicrats would have abandonned them.

How exactly did some poor rural joe bloggs bring it upon themselves? I'd love to know, really.

Reread eriko's comment. They don't have a government to help them because they voted for a government that is against helping people. Corporations may give governments money, but politicians still need people to vote for them. If everyone turned around and voted for Dennis Kucinich tomorrow, there would be a thousand Dennis Kuciniches in the next election.

If keeping manufacturing jobs in your community is important to you; if having having a local grocery is important, then support those things.

But people are incredibly shit at thinking through the ramifications of their actions. You see it in this article, with people begging for price caps on the gas, but not more public transport. That isn't limited to poor people. But to ignore the actions that did contribute to this is stupid. You won't get the structural change that is necessary if people cannot understand how they came to be here.

That is, I don't blame poor people for being poor. I do blame them for supporting a system that exacerbates their problems.

(Sorry if the last bit of this is rough--running out the door.)
posted by dame at 9:28 AM on October 4, 2005


"I think that deserves a little told you so. I think it deserves help, too, but if you're gonna demand that I help without my moment of disgust, then I'm gonna have to fight a lot of negative feelings to get to what's right. Is that worth it? Yes. But your chastising just makes what you want harder to come by."
Dame: Do you want policies that you favor enacted or do you want rural people to tell you how wise you've been and how stupid they've been?
I'm more concerned with getting these people onboard with things that I support, rather than having my ego assuaged by the idea that I've been right all along. And demanding a bit of kowtowing to your superior values is a good way to alienate people, and alienating them is a good way to continue policies that fuck all of us.
posted by klangklangston at 9:28 AM on October 4, 2005


Don't put out the sophism that suddenly the Republicans are ruining it for everyone.

Suddenly? Hint: Reagan, Reagan, Bush I, the "Newt Revolution", Fox News, Bush II, Bush II. The only reason this didn't happen earlier was the Yellow Dog Democrats of the south, once they got over Lincoln, the long slide began.

That's what Rural America has been supporting for over twenty-five years. And, yes, the Democratic leadership has a share of the blame. But rural America didn't vote for them. They've voted for the GOP, Corporations, and Theocrats. They helped push Clinton into what used to be called "Moderate Republican", but which is of course now called "Far Left Liberal."

It's been GOP all the way, baby, for twenty five years, for them, and the GOP has been screwing them over the entire time. Now, when the GOP controlled government, finally with the Holy Trinity of Executive, Justice and Congress, really starts screwing them over, they want gas price caps? Welfare? Dream on. There are more important people to take care of, and they don't give a flying fuck what a gallon of gas costs, unless, of course, they're the ones selling.

There's nothing new about this administration. Hell, half of them *WORKED WITH REAGAN.* This isn't new. This has been going on for over half my life. They wanted Morning In America. They wanted four more years. They wanted more and more -- got held back a couple of times, but they just tried harder. Can't teach Evolution. Gays are bad. Fucking welfare queens are making me poor. Now they're bitching about gas.

Tough. Shit.
posted by eriko at 9:29 AM on October 4, 2005


You misunderstand, klang. I don't think people should kowtow. I think you should stop chastising liberals for their understandable anger.
posted by dame at 9:34 AM on October 4, 2005


From jfuller's article:
"...vehicles that are a mix of passenger cars, minivans and SUVs..."

How can something be a mix of an SUV and anything else, when an SUV is a mix of a passenger car and a truck (and sometimes minivan)? I subscribe to a one-drop rule for SUVs; if it's part SUV, then it's an SUV.

There's a lot going on in this discussion. The bottom line is that if someone's going to be hurt by economic change, it's the poor folks. It's always the poor folks. Gas prices go up, school buses get more expensive to run, property taxes rise, landlords raise rents, tenants suffer. Petroleum products become more expensive, pesticides become more costly, farmers suffer. I agree with I Foody about this. And this is the fundamental problem. Government and big businesses thrive on milking the poor folks. Are any of the people in the original article talking about using less gas? No, because the oil companies have got us by the "short hairs". And this is, again, the problem.

In any situation, whether it's a job you hate, an unhappy relationship, or an economic policy; you need an exit strategy. Yes, you should try and make the existing situation work, but at a certain point you can no longer do that to the exclusion of all other possibilities. You have to start sending out resumes, hanging out with people other than your SO and their friends, and funding research into viable alternatives. Getting yourself into a need-based relationship with a non-renewable resource is not entirely unlike going steady with someone who is an unrepentant cheater. If you know it can't last forever, why commit yourself?

Why do we fall for it every time?
posted by Eideteker at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2005


Eriko: And there are more of them than you. But let's not work on convincing any of them. Let's just have 'em continue to feel fucked. Because while they've been poor under Democrat and Republican, at least the Republicans understand their theology. And since life on earth sucks, let's hope to go to heaven.
Your gloating doesn't help your cause. Isn't acting against enlightened self interest the same thing that you're railing against them for? You're either a moron or a hypocrite.
posted by klangklangston at 9:36 AM on October 4, 2005


eriko: you're part of the problem. please curl up, die, and go to hell.
posted by keswick at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2005


They don't have a government to help them because they voted for a government that is against helping people.

How do you know who they voted for?

And in any case, since when was America a democracy? Two party state at best, but a democracy?

The American system makes people believe they have a say when they actually have none. The past two farces of an election have proven that. But because there is an illussion of Democracy then the elite can wash their hands of the whole affair because "the people voted them in"
posted by twistedonion at 9:40 AM on October 4, 2005


delmoi, I know you have had incredibly easy access to people who are not only designing but running corporate and family farms. Have you actually talked to them about oil dependence, government subsidies, and where their crops actually go? I skipped out on that opportunity when I was around agriculture students so working in an agriculture company has been enlightening.

The assumption that people will readily live off of a rice and beans diet seems like a bad case of "what works for me in theory would work for everyone." It's easy to live that way for a while, or learn how to cook every combination of ramen, but have you ever considered that your long-term plan? Sat there thinking that yeah, pinto beans are your favorite now, but maybe lentils will be your favorite later in life? I doubt it. People realistically need fruit, vegetables, and (unless you're going to force a whole new way of cooking and eating on them) meat. They're going to need it in forms that they can easily prepare and eat in minutes and not hours, because they're going to need the food after working in a crap job for long days.

Also, with the money they're spending on gas, they could afford payments on a daily driver that gets decent mileage, and make the payments with the money they save on gasoline. I'm not talking about a prius, I'm talking like a late 90's civic or Tercel or something.

They're already spending money they don't have on gas. It was barely profitable to go to work, and now it's not even worth it. No one will give these people a car loan except the most obnoxious sharks possible, a situation that would leave them in worse debt. Do we need some sort of aid organization to go into rural areas hit by poverty to give people instructional classes on how to live their lives?

I mean, it's really easy to say "these people are fucked, they need to move on." It's another to live through the slow erosion of your life because you see yourself as part of a community and one day wake up to finally realize that your whole community is fucked.
posted by mikeh at 9:46 AM on October 4, 2005


DuffStone :This goes far beyond Oil, agriculture, manufacturing, or any other large class of business. EVERYTHING is reliant on Hydrocarbons in a major way.

Right. The rural poor just happen to be the most vulnerable to oil price fluctuations. The folks in the cities are more insulated but they will feel the pain too.

Eventually though, we will see small farms on the edge of cities become much more profitable, because of the lower transportation costs. Especially organic farms that don't require as many chemical (i.e. hydrocarbon) inputs. So there is hope, but only in the mid to long terms, and only for some, rural people.
posted by recurve at 9:47 AM on October 4, 2005


I think you should stop chastising liberals for their understandable anger.

Yes, because educated urban yuppie liberals are suffering so much compared to rural dwelling working class people. The aforementioned rural folk deserve criticism for swallowing the neo-con kool aid (although the fact that states like Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin went blue tells me not all of them did), but the whole "We told you so routine," helps exactly nothing. But the fact that the folks in this article are people you are allowed to show contempt for without losing PC points encourages snarkiness, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2005


Gosh, I wish we could have a two-week moratorium on the following words and all their derivatives:

Bush, liberal, democrat, conservative, republican, Reagan, Clinton, Carter, GOP, Theocrat, Corporations, Fox, and any other entity that people seek to saddle with the Sole Blame For Everything Wrong Ever.

But then I guess it just wouldn't be MetaFilter. Because it's impossible to find solutions without wasting a lot of time looking for one thing to blame amidst a myriad of causes that can't see their effects.

MetaFilter: Better Living Through Finger-Pointing!
posted by Eideteker at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2005


I think the notion that someone is forcing a new way of life on these people is pretty silly. Things are different with more expensive gasoline, I don't expect to behave in the same way as I used to, I expect food to get incrementally more expensive and adapt to that. I think meat and produce will be more expensive so I'll eat less of that, who's forcing anyone to eat rice and beans? In winter it's cold so I wear a jacket, no one is forcing this on me, and I'd prefer that it was always 67 degrees out but I live in the world as it exists, I expect the same from others and am willing to help them to do this to a certain extent.
posted by I Foody at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2005


Well put, eideteker. An additional lyric to expand on the subject. It's about race, but could apply equally to a lot of American politics today.
posted by jonmc at 10:15 AM on October 4, 2005


recurve: yes, this is true. and not one person has mentioned the advantage of subsistence gardening for those who need to cut back on trips to town for too-expensive, trucked-in food.

as someone who lives all year on the produce from a garden that supports three families, i find it puzzling that no one sees a garden in every backyard as part of a larger, necessary solution to an inevitable future.
posted by RedEmma at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2005


Things are different with more expensive gasoline, I don't expect to behave in the same way as I used to,

Truth be told, I'm amazed nobody's tried to market hybrids to the Bubba demographic. Imagine the ads: A cowboy hatted mustached dude in a hybrid pickup saying "Drive a hybrid. and tell OPEC to go fuck themselves!"
posted by jonmc at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2005


i find it puzzling that no one sees a garden in every backyard as part of a larger, necessary solution to an inevitable future.

*looks out window at concrete and asphalt*

You assume the existence of a backyard, sister.
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on October 4, 2005


jonmc: a lot of people buy trucks because they NEED them. A hybrid like that might sell to the suburban bubbas, but these people need hauling capacity, towing capability, and 4-wheel drive. AFAIK, hybrids can't deliver all that yet.

aside: jonmc, you're truly one of the good guys. Thanks.
posted by keswick at 10:23 AM on October 4, 2005


If you hate me so much so be it, I have no love loss for your liberal disposition either.

Oh, yeah -- Standard Conservative Fuckwad Trick #1. Since I'm not willing to Instantly and Proudly drop to my knees and suck Bush's dick, I'm a liberal.

Hint, fuckface, if I were truly a liberal, I'd be trying to find a way to help these desperate people -- despite the fact that they've categorically refused to do the same for years. I'd be pushing to get subsidized intercity buses running. Hell, I'd be seriously thinking a transportation tax credit, or maybe even capping the price of gas. That's liberalism, fuckwad, and the fact that you think my anger and hatred is liberalism shows just how little you really know about liberal democracy.

Hate you? Fuck yes. I hope your life falls into desperate poverty. I hope you end up lying on the ground, begging for someone to give you the rope to hang yourself with -- and you can be damn sure that if I find you, I won't give you a hand, and I won't give you the rope. I'll leave you right there, in your own personal hell, and I will fucking laugh.

Where did I learn to hate so? Simple: I watched the masters teach hatred and intolerance. I watched the GOP. They taught me to hate. I just fucked up the lesson on who I'm supposed to hate. Liberals don't bomb churches. Liberals don't assassinate anti-abortion clerics. Liberals don't tie homophobes to bumpers and drag them to death, then set up a memorial to killing them. Liberals don't fucking hang people from streetlamps and trees based on genotypes. That's what liberalism is son, and it is something so far beyond your understanding that it's a wonder you can spell GOP, much less understand the policies they've implemented.

So spare me your "liberals did it" bullshit. Liberals haven't had an real effect on public policy on the federal level, and on most state and local levels, for over twenty years. Liberal democracy in the United States is *dead*. The liberals rolled over and died, and fucking handed the country to you.

So fuck you and your "liberal" bullshit.

Anger issues? I don't have a problem with anger. Hell, look where it's gotten the GOP!
posted by eriko at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2005


Where did I learn to hate so? Simple: I watched the masters teach hatred and intolerance. I watched the GOP. They taught me to hate.

Sounds more like self-starting entreprenurial hate to me. But whatever.
posted by jonmc at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2005


why do liberals have to be superhuman?

seriously. why?

it seems like we have to constantly listen to republican politicians and "these people" tell us how much better than us faggoty, communist, terrorist-appeasing elitists they are; how they have some kind of magical, folksy wisdom that's infinitely superior to our useless book-learning; how their focus on america first, foremost, and above all other nations and cultures on the planet makes so much more sense than our pointless, affected globalism; and how their supposed strict adherence to policies the god of the bible makes them holy and just and qualified to condemn us at every turn (not to mention the fact that they think those of us who don't believe in the god of abraham aren't entitled to the same rights as them).

we're supposed to hear all that and keep smiling, shuckin' and jivin', saying "gawrsh, maybe one day they'll see things our way if we keep nodding and smiling and thanking them for sharing their opinions with us."

then when they reap what they sow, as we kept saying they would, we're told we can't even indulge in a little self-righteous anger. i don't think anybody here is really saying we shouldn't help our brothers and sisters, but for fuck's sake, allow liberals to have normal human emotional reactions to things.

i can't shake the feeling that if the shoe were on the other foot some of those who are so quick to condemn "liberal elitism" would still be apologists for these rural republicans: "well, of course they're a bit angry at you and some of them will be smug about it, but you have to excuse that and accept whatever form of help they offer you with a smile on your face."

i can understand the idea of needing to be better (i.e., more compassionate and accommodating) than those who seem to oppose you, but i think some of you are carrying it to unrealistic -- and unfair -- levels.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:33 AM on October 4, 2005


eriko:

Whatever dude. Not everyone falls out of a cookie cutter, and not everyone enjoys being called fucktards... Nice of you to group us all together though, that's a nice touch.
posted by DuffStone at 10:33 AM on October 4, 2005


Given the uptick in farming costs we're all talking about, aren't the first people who are going to get it in the neck going to be in the foreign countries we export the stuff to? It's not as though we're exporting grain to countries that are richer than us. This talk of "city people are going to bite it! No! Rural people are going to bite it! hahaha" seems neither here nor there.
posted by furiousthought at 10:34 AM on October 4, 2005


oh, and although we've really gone off the topic here, you should really check out the real demographics on the mid west "Red" states. It's not all or nothing like the electorial system suggests...

Reguardless of my views as a conservative 30 something single guy, I can assure you that my Parrents consider themselves Democrats. Yet, I know for a fact that they don't stand for the same things that liberals are quoted from here.

I think alot of you have a very skewed version of what a party really believes, and how it's supporters perceive their worlds. My parents aren't bad folk, and neither am I. There are only slight differences in our politics overall, yet if you hadn't lived in the US your whole life, and all you did is read MeFi, you'd think the line is so visibly drawn in the sand that we're doomed to fail.

That's just not true. People like Eriko expound the problem because they don't allow for soft edges. They don't allow for the Republican that believes in free choice. to him that's a hipocrite by association, and that's exactly why politics are so evil now days.

In my opinion anyway
posted by DuffStone at 10:40 AM on October 4, 2005


You know what? I have a better idea—nay, implementation for the moratorium; one that could become at least quasi-permanent. It involves setting up a reference list. Anyone using the words on that list gets shunted to a parallel page where they can shout "Liberal!" "Conservative!" back and forth at each other without actually solving anything. It'll look just like the regular page, and will include all the other comments of the ongoing discussion, except nothing posted there will ever show up on the actual thread. Those of us interested in intellectual discussion or at least rational cogitation can continue in peace. We will never see these inflammatory comments nor be bothered by those who make them.

I hate to do this, but MeTa.
posted by Eideteker at 10:41 AM on October 4, 2005


Obligatory peak oil link
posted by AllesKlar at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2005


I don't know about poor people driving 30-year-old vehicles, but let's face it those are a tiny minority.

God you're so full of shit! You should come visit east TN sometimes, to see exactly how small a minority it is. And what about the rest, which drives 20 year old cars because they cannot afford to buy new ones, regardless whether its SUV or not. What about all those people who drive old *cars*? Do you really think some Mercury Cougar or a TransAM get a much better gas milage than an SUV?

Oh, and eriko, why don't you drop on the floor and jerk and foam at the mouth? It will make your point oh so much more valid. Do you really think your life will improve with a whole buch of "desperate poor, lying on the ground, begging for a rope"? With all the guns around? Methinks you may or may not be a liberal, but you're sure not very bright.
posted by c13 at 10:46 AM on October 4, 2005


i think there's several people in this thread who ought to ask themselves some questions

1) what could they possibly be "bringing onto themselves"?

2) my understanding is that gas is 5 or 6 bucks a gallon in europe ... did they all vote republican?

3) the first big oil jump happened in 1974 ... when richard nixon, hardly a ultra-conservative was president ... the 2nd happened when jimmy carter was president

4) when the urban poor of new orleans get shunted aside by society, much outrage ensues on the left when rightwingers say "they deserve it" ... when the rural poor get shunted aside, they deserve it, period ... can anyone explain this?

5) ever wonder why militia groups got so popular in certain rural areas of the country? ... do you think it could happen again?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2005


4) when the urban poor of new orleans get shunted aside by society, much outrage ensues on the left when rightwingers say "they deserve it" ... when the rural poor get shunted aside, they deserve it, period ... can anyone explain this?

Because urban, educated white liberals hold ugly stereotypes about rural poor whites, though they'd never admit it.
posted by jonmc at 10:50 AM on October 4, 2005


johmc wins question 4
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2005


jonmc: See lord_wolf's comment.
posted by dame at 10:53 AM on October 4, 2005


If anyone wants to know why the rural poor doesn't vote Democrat, they need only look at this thread. The Republicans hate black people. Therefore, black people don't vote Republican. The Democrats hate the rural poor. Therefore, surprise, surprise, the rural poor aren't too keen on the Left.
posted by unreason at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2005


of course those same urban, educated white liberals hold stereotypes about the urban non-white poor, too and they'd never admit those either, but they're also tortured with white liberal guilt about them. So the hatred gets diverted to Bubba.
posted by jonmc at 10:55 AM on October 4, 2005


furiousthought:

But that's the primary problem. Grain as a commodity moves very slowly on the market. We have a surplus market, with many bushels stored here in the US and abroad. One bad harvest will effect the overall price by maybe 20 cents, that's if we've had lean preceding years, maybe a nickle if the prior years were good.

Contrast that to Oil, which changes daily by very Large and directly proportional values. a $5 swing in oil causes industry's stock prices to fluctuate, gasoline prices to rise, and other chaos within 1 or 2 days of the change.

so if oil hit $100 a gallon, the price to produce a grain will increase beyond what the market for that grain can adjust to simply because of the surplus. Eventually it will equalize, but not before most farmers are out of business, and possibly leaving us in a glut market with not enough food for a period of time.

It's all complicated but a very real possibility. Take my above example and apply it to Cotton, or Vegetables, or Plastics, or pharmaceuticals, or whatever really.

I agree that we need to research alternative fuels, but we need to keep government involvement to a minimum. the private sector is more than capable of resolving this problem, they just need to take the first step. Part of this is investing your money in companies that develop those fuels. That's where we can start making a difference without begging our government to "Save us from the nasty oil mess". which of course they won't until it hurts the governments purse strings...
posted by DuffStone at 10:55 AM on October 4, 2005


jonmc: See lord_wolf's comment.

I did. And as is par for the for the course for lord wolff, it made it's point well. I still differ on things with it. It comes down to what's more important to us, feeling superior to the country folk or actually getting stuff done. Call me crazy, but I get uncomfortable being a (somewhat) left leaning person when so many of my compatriots seem to feel so much contempt for so much of the population. I thought we we're supposed to be all about the compassion and the caring and stuff? I still think we are, because they day we become as bad as the right, is the day I give right the fuck up.
posted by jonmc at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2005


yes, the Democratic leadership has a share of the blame. But rural America didn't vote for them.

Put your wide brush away, rural American voted overwhelmingly for Kerry out here. I know that's not representative of the US, but it's at least actual numbers. The problem is the whole "voting with the pocketbook" thing only works if there are enough people in your area to make a difference to the bottom line of whatever big company you're trying to get business from. There are many things we can do [and in my town, things we are doing] but sometimes it just comes down to having enough warm bodies to make something happen.

Here are some more numbers/data. My town got DSL three months ago. Our cable tv/internet costs more than cable tv/internet in the big city because there is no incentive for big companies to provide any service at all to small rural areas. With population decreasing it looks like it may never be worth their while. It costs them money and it rarely brings in enough. I work with people who use computers at the library because they can't afford their own computers. Around tax time it's crazy because so many of the IRS forms are available online [see: FEMA forms]. The government is moving more and more of its printing online and people in my town and neighboring towns need to find a way to get access to this information. No one's flipping out and saying "oh woe is me!!" but it's a challenge that isn't just a money problem, it's a money, education and resource allocation problem, like many of these issues.

We used public transportation as much as possible until they stopped coming to our town. You can't really tell people to "use the bus more" as a way to keep the bus coming because they use the bus because they NEED to, not because they can make a choice to support environmentally friendly transportation options. Even if you use public transportation, you still can't do without a car. The bigger issue is with stuff like trash. It costs money to throw away trash in some towns. In those towns people are more likely to burn, bury, or otherwise poorly dispose of their garbage, which has larger social costs. You can tell those people to recycle which does help somewhat, but they've still got trash they need to deal with, recycling or no. Some towns have higher taxes and include trash disposal as part of the town services, but it's a different way to pay money to do something and it's a squeeze for people with fixed incomes watching cost of living increase.

Anyone who wants to come for a vacation to Rural America, New England version is welcome to come check it out and visit for a while [we're very hospitable here]. However your cell phone won't work here and the nearest wifi that isn't my house is nine miles away.
posted by jessamyn at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2005


4) when the urban poor of new orleans get shunted aside by society, much outrage ensues on the left when rightwingers say "they deserve it" ... when the rural poor get shunted aside, they deserve it, period ... can anyone explain this?

Because poor urban people vote for people who actually attempt to serve their interests and get screwed by the rural people who vote for assholes.

But whatever, you can jon can just continue your "we're so much better than those liberal elitists who just don't understand" circle jerk that you always enjoy in these threads, because nothing anyone says is going to change your opinion anyways. You do the same thing you deride in others, only you get all sanctimonious about your hypocrisy.

Other than eriko, I think most liberals would support structural change that would help these folks. But I'd also like us to do so in a way that makes clear that this sort of help is the type everyone deserves. Because I don't want people to get the help they need and just turn their backs on others. More than anything else, this is not okay.

2) my understanding is that gas is 5 or 6 bucks a gallon in europe ... did they all vote republican?

No. They voted for liberal governments that use gas taxes to support public transport and make it so that poor people don't need a car.
posted by dame at 11:08 AM on October 4, 2005


It comes down to what's more important to us, feeling superior to the country folk or actually getting stuff done.

And my original point, way up in my first response to klang, is that you won't get shit done without the support of people who ostensibly agree with you. And you won't get that support by walking around clucking at a totally justifiable anger.
posted by dame at 11:12 AM on October 4, 2005


Because poor urban people vote for people who actually attempt to serve their interests

If they bother to vote at all. and the same goes for much of the rural poor.

But whatever, you can jon can just continue your "we're so much better than those liberal elitists who just don't understand" circle jerk that you always enjoy in these threads, because nothing anyone says is going to change your opinion anyways. You do the same thing you deride in others, only you get all sanctimonious about your hypocrisy.

So I'm an anti-elist elist? Makes my head hurt, but whatever, dosen't change my point. Admit it, when someone says "rural America," you see visions of cross-burning toothless moonshine-swilling troglodytes. And that stereotype is as media fed as any stereotype of blacks, jews or gays. But we seem to swallow it a lot easier, because it flatters us.
posted by jonmc at 11:13 AM on October 4, 2005


I'd also like us to do so in a way that makes clear that this sort of help is the type everyone deserves.

This I agree with, but we have to make the rural population see that these policies can help them without making it look like noblesse oblige. We've failed at that somehow, or the right has succeeded in making us look like contemptuous elitists. Or both. Either way, we better work around that.
posted by jonmc at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2005


"You misunderstand, klang. I don't think people should kowtow. I think you should stop chastising liberals for their understandable anger."
You misunderstand Dame. What I am doing isn't "chastising liberals for understandable anger," it's chastising liberals for being stupid. That's what this "understandable anger" is. Stupidity.
Lordwolf: "then when they reap what they sow, as we kept saying they would, we're told we can't even indulge in a little self-righteous anger."
Not if you want to win elections, you dolt.
Party identification (and especially "liberal" versus "conservative" self identification) hasn't run very deeply in this country for about 50 years, though there's been an upturn lately. Blaming Republican policies is good. Blaming the people that voted for them is bad because it's UNPRODUCTIVE.
And honestly, it's not superhuman to not gloat over the misfortunes of others. Hey, I know that a lot of people in New Orleans probably could have gotten out, or voted for more effective politicians, or any number of things that would have mitigated their risk. Am I rubbing their noses in it? No, and for two reasons: it doesn't do them any good and it doesn't do me any good.
Oh, and these shitty gas prices are fucking my aunt and cousin up in rural Wisconsin just as much as they're fucking people in Wyoming. My aunt and cousin are hardcore progressives. So not everyone who's getting fucked needs the "You voted for it, asshole!" sloganeering, you simplistic dipshits.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on October 4, 2005


How do you know who they voted for?

Popular Vote Records - Siskiyou County

2004
Kerry 7,880
Bush 12,673


2000
Gore 6,323
Bush 12,198


These other data are from Counting California.

1996
Clinton 7,022
Dole 8,653

1992
Clinton 8,254
Bush 6,660

1988
Dukakis 8,365
Bush 9,056

1984
Mondale 7,130
Reagan 10,544

1980
Carter 5,664
Reagan 9,331

All besides the point of course, as these people need help, no matter how they voted. Still, if I were a Democratic nominee in Siskiyou County next year, the ties between the GOP and Big Oil would be a major theme of my campaign. No harm in pointing out the facts to people.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:18 AM on October 4, 2005


"And you won't get that support by walking around clucking at a totally justifiable anger."
Fuck that. I'll get more done by enlisting those who can look past their "totally justifiable anger" and are willing to go and help than I will by trying to blow smoke up your urban liberal ass. If you don't want to help, that's fine. But do try to fuck off and not be visible in the media, because your anger is only going to help to keep people away from the policies they need.
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on October 4, 2005


Jonmc: The image of the appalachian which still holds the most currency (the "hillbilly") was a creation of mining companies in the early 20th century to discourage public support for the rural poor when they were being fucked by larger corporate interests.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 AM on October 4, 2005


Outside of a quick mention of the Bush-supporting store owner, this article doesn't really delve into the realm of liberal/conservative elements. To pretend that this town and area haven't been on a downward slide that has left them especially at risk in the case of high oil prices and instead blame the current administration is ridiculous. This is about the choices that have been made for decades.

There's going to have to be a lot of long-term planning to get out of the oil dependency, I don't really think that finger-pointing and speedy solutions are going to happen. In the meantime, treat this like economic disaster relief and find a way to set these people up somewhere away from the metaphorical floodplane. There are short-term and long-term problems here.
posted by mikeh at 11:26 AM on October 4, 2005


2) my understanding is that gas is 5 or 6 bucks a gallon in europe

Of course, everyone knows a British Imperial gallon is 20% larger than an American gallon, right?
posted by SweetJesus at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2005


Because poor urban people vote for people who actually attempt to serve their interests and get screwed by the rural people who vote for assholes.

http://www.cssny.org/news/releases/2005_0831.html

"Reflecting widespread dissatisfaction, likely voter turnout among lower-income New Yorkers shows a steep drop over prior years, with only 31 percent saying that they are almost certain to vote this year."

really, dame? ... what are the other 69% doing?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2005


KlangKlangston wins. And Jonmc.

It's like all the knee-jerk soldier bashing in the Iraq War threads - you are going to NEED these people - your fellow victims of dangerous and self-serving policy - if you want your country back.

Stop gloating and start reaching out.
posted by tkchrist at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2005


Stop gloating and start reaching out.

Exactly. I once saw a t-shirt that said "You're part of the problem, or you're a fucking liar."
posted by jonmc at 11:30 AM on October 4, 2005


Because poor urban people vote for people who actually attempt to serve their interests and get screwed by the rural people who vote for assholes.

Plenty of poor urban people vote against their own interests. As a DC resident who remembers the Marion Barry years, I can attest to that.

No. They voted for liberal governments that use gas taxes to support public transport and make it so that poor people don't need a car.

I think that public transport is a more viable solution in Europe than it is in the US. The distance between places in Europe tends to be much smaller than within the US. I'm all for public transportation wherever possible, but in rural America it would be very difficult to make that happen effectively.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:30 AM on October 4, 2005


This type of situation is needed to wake up the proles et al. We need more real-life problems like this to slap people across the face and wake them up in the voting booth. In the past, the things on an inordinate number of people's minds have been:

- We've gotta stop those gheys from gettin married!
- We've gotta stop those baby-killers from aborting babies
- They ain't takin *my* guns!
- They're trying to make my kids into atheists by teaching evolution!
- He's gonna give me a check for $300! Golly!
- various other pointless ideological issues

When they should've been thinking about things like:

- Which of these guys is going to think about the inevitable gas shortage and work on making a 80-mpg supercar? (or at least not scrap the nearly completed existing project?)
- Who's going to do something about the health care I can't afford?
- various other real, serious problems

Many of these same people who are now hurting for gas voted for a man who unilaterally scrapped the supercar project. We could've all have the option of purchasing conventional internal combustion vehicles which achieved 80 miles per gallon.

The bottom line is, you reap what you sow. Perhaps we need a potato famine to make us think about our agricultural practices, so to speak.
posted by mullingitover at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2005


Eventually though, we will see small farms on the edge of cities become much more profitable, because of the lower transportation costs.

This points in the direction I hope things will go as this energy crisis deepens. Right now, fresh live lobster costs about the same at my local supermarket here in the middle of the Canadian prairie as it does in the town fifteen kilometres from the village where it was caught in Nova Scotia. That is batshit insane.

DuffStone, I'm not sure how it applies to your father's situation in Oklahoma - US agricultural policy is not my long suit - but you might want to check out Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken and Hunter and Amory Lovins. The basic argument is that a capitalist system (unlike the current one) that includes the extraordinary, irreplaceable value of natural resources - rich Oklahoma soil as well as water and fossil fuels - would "correct" the nutso situation in which wheat (among many other commodities) is so enormously undervalued and its "extraction" and transportation costs so out of whack with their value.

At a semi-educated guess, what the natural-capitalist model would mean for someone like your father would be a short-term shock as he adjusts to vastly altered production and distribution systems (which could very easily be budgeted for by an enlightened government), followed by a new era of prosperity as the full value of 1300 acres of prime farmland accrues.

Anyway, that's just a guess. At any rate, I find the natural capitalist model far, far more encouraging - and more respectful of rural people and their labours - than anything that's come out of Washington in the last few decades.
posted by gompa at 11:40 AM on October 4, 2005


Do poor rural people actually read threads like this? Blaming the attitudes someone posts on the web for wide political disagreement with them is silly.

People have lived in rural communities since before gasoline was widely available. It's obviously possible to do no matter how high gas prices get. It's to bad these people are getting screwed, but that's the market for you.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2005


Do poor rural people actually read threads like this? Blaming the attitudes someone posts on the web for wide political disagreement with them is silly.

Probably not, but I'm sure that carefully selected quotes that make liberals look bad make it into local papers op-ed columns and onto talk radio. We don't live in a vacuum. And it's foolish to pretend that attitudes displayed in places like MeFi don't get displayed in the larger world, too.
posted by jonmc at 11:50 AM on October 4, 2005


Bottom line here people is a what have you done for me lately idealism. The rural poor are screwed no matter what they do as far as which party to pick. What proposals have the democrats come up with for helping out? I don't remember hearing a damn thing out of either party during the last round of elections. If the Democrats could actually find somebody with some ideas for helping the rural poor and the urban poor and could articulate those ideas and stay away from the right-wing tarbaby of abortion, gay rights, and "values", we'd be looking at a 2 term president. Instead, no fresh ideas or attempts to solve the problem and air time wasted on red vs blue, liberal vs conservative crap.

There is a reason why food prices haven't gone up too much for the average joe american. The companies that put the food in the market can afford to take a hit on the grocery end so they can sell trinkets. Most of the food produced in the US eventually ends up going through only a handful of companies hands. These companies can basically set the price at whatever in the hell they feel like. Why because they hold the cards. There was a time in the late 90's when the cattle market was all but cornered. The big companies would wait until the end of a week/month before they'd bother buying cattle. This meant that most producers who wanted a higher price were stepping all over each other to sell at a loss because selling at a loss wasn't as bad as not selling at all. There was no alternative, as there weren't too many other companies buying. Many producers begged the Clinton administration to do something, but a blind eye was turned as the companies feed big $$ to both parties to make sure the subsidies gravy train doesn't end for them.

If the whole system collapses it won't be the rural poor who suffer the most it will be the urban poor. The rural poor could still manage to eat off the land so to speak. You can eat concrete. If the price of food were to double or triple like the price of gas over the last 10 years, we'd be on the brink of some sort of revolution. The house of cards that is the current socioeconomic scheme in the US rest firmly on the back of Oil as almost every product requires at least some amount of oil to produce. (I think this would be an interesting research topic actually, does anybody have any idea how many barrels of oil it takes to produce some common items, a gallon of milk, a box of cheerios, a Dell, a SUV, a bike, or a house?)

Sorry for the long rant, didn't get to see this thread until now, and I fear too late for my $.02 to be noticed.
posted by Numenorian at 11:57 AM on October 4, 2005


klangklangston, please point out in my post the place where i called you or anyone else in this thread an insulting name. when you do, i'll apologize for it, because while i am angry, i certainly hope that i didn't allow my anger to master me to that extent.

if you can't find an instance of such name-calling in my post, i'm going to have to take a dim view of your "dolt" and "simplistic dipshits" comments and wonder why my anger is wrong and pointless, but yours is just and compelling.

jonmc, thanks for the nod. if more of us on metafilter and meatspace were more like you...well, i won't say the world'd be a better place, but it be easier to work towards making it so.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:00 PM on October 4, 2005


jonmc, thanks for the nod. if more of us on metafilter and meatspace were more like you...well, i won't say the world'd be a better place, but it be easier to work towards making it so.

It's a mutual admiration society, dude, and I can be as big a prick around this stuff as anyone. But it's true that we need to start listening to eachotehr, especially those we disagree with, in stead of just digging in, if we're gonna get anywhere.
posted by jonmc at 12:03 PM on October 4, 2005


also, props to gompa and numenorian for positive input.
posted by jonmc at 12:03 PM on October 4, 2005


Klang, jon, etc: I think we have all made our points and going back and forth at this point would be useless. I'm sorry that none of us is able to make those who disagree see the virtue of our position. There are some specific things I'd like to address, however.

jon: So I'm an anti-elist elist? Makes my head hurt, but whatever, dosen't change my point.

I would suggest that is part of why we are missing each other. We often come to this point, and I have never been able to find a satisfactory way of addressing it. Maybe someday. But yes, you do to those you consider elite exactly what you get down on them for doing.

jon: Admit it, when someone says "rural America," you see visions of cross-burning toothless moonshine-swilling troglodytes.

Actually, I do not. I see white people with many kids and questionable taste. But generally when I think of suburbanites, I see mostly white people with lots of kids and questionable taste, too. And in both cases I also see a very human sort of tragedy: People who in attempting to get by don't see the limits of an ideology that makes those attempts harder. People who have failed themselves and been failed by others. I know it doesn't fit your little stereotype of Brooklyn-dwelling, Republican-hating me, but that's the truth. And it does make me angry. It makes me very sorry, too. Just like urban poverty.

pyramid termite: what are the other 69% doing?

Not voting for Republicans. Which is better than voting for them.

me & my monkey: I think that public transport is a more viable solution in Europe than it is in the US. The distance between places in Europe tends to be much smaller than within the US. I'm all for public transportation wherever possible, but in rural America it would be very difficult to make that happen effectively.

Well, part of the solution, perhaps, is a diminishment of rural America. Which is sad. It is always sad to lose a unique culture. But if the oil isn't there--and it's never going to be again--then some pretty thorough structual change is required.

However, public transport is plausible for the majority of Americans. Changing suburbs from sprawling masses to walkable town centers connected by rail is a workable solution. It means smaller houses, smaller yards, and perhaps some feelings of constrained personal freedom (many people feel that relying on a train rather than their own car constrains them--I disagree, but I understand why the feeling may be there). The savings here, combined with moving rural areas off the grid could make it possible for people who must live in rural areas to afford to do so.

Just treating the symptom of high gas prices is not an actual solution.
posted by dame at 12:07 PM on October 4, 2005


Lordwolf: If you don't see refering to "these people" and a reflexive straw man of their views as insulting, then I can see why you'd take theatrical umbrage at being refered to as a dolt and a simplistic dipshit (even though I don't believe I applied either of those directly to you). Or is the semantic hair-splitting to be done on the basis that only your attitude is insulting, though you refrained from using any direct insults?
posted by klangklangston at 12:09 PM on October 4, 2005


also, props to gompa and numenorian for positive input.

Hey all I'm saying is there is a strong need to get the rural and urban poor together behind a single standard, they have a lot more in common than being poor.

Too much energy was spent last election on fairly stupid issues: War in Iraq (proven to be a bad idea, but a majority signed on at the time, the rural and urban poor go out an die), abortion, gay rights, etc. Most poor people don't give 2 shits about these issues. How much time was spent on economic ideas and education? The republicans have done a great job of distracting people with the whole "Values" BS, avoid that and talk issues that people can get behind.
posted by Numenorian at 12:12 PM on October 4, 2005


Actually, I do not. I see white people with many kids and questionable taste. But generally when I think of suburbanites, I see mostly white people with lots of kids and questionable taste, too

Well, taste is a matter of taste. and one could describe Brooklyn-dwelling hipsters the same way, minus the kids. But ultimately, you're right in that we're all battling our way through different flavors of the same shit, no matter what, so we need to listen to eachother, is all I've ever tried to say. I just don't feel comfortable distancing myself from so much of the population, but that's just me. And I know you too well to have, for a moment, doubted your compassion. It's just like Bobby D sez: We always did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of veiw...
posted by jonmc at 12:12 PM on October 4, 2005


Hey all I'm saying is there is a strong need to get the rural and urban poor together behind a single standard, they have a lot more in common than being poor.

I wasn't being sarcastic. I honestly think what you wrote was perceptive and on target.
posted by jonmc at 12:13 PM on October 4, 2005


"However, public transport is plausible for the majority of Americans."
...majority of urban Americans. And even that's hard to do a lot of the time.
"Well, part of the solution, perhaps, is a diminishment of rural America. Which is sad. It is always sad to lose a unique culture. But if the oil isn't there--and it's never going to be again--then some pretty thorough structual change is required."
That is, unfortunately, pretty correct. Rural America is largely unsustainable aside from a few exceptions (autonomous agrarian communities, mostly).
posted by klangklangston at 12:13 PM on October 4, 2005


Admit it, when someone says "rural America," you see visions of cross-burning toothless moonshine-swilling troglodytes.
posted by jonmc at 11:13 AM


No, I don't. Most of my relatives live up in jessamyn's part of the world, in the circumstances she describes. Near as I can tell, they voted the way she describes, too. Historically, they have been ill-served by the national government, and in the past have voted for those who promised a smaller one. By the time of Bush's second campaign, they realized he was lying about that, too. Government of, by, and for corporations is not going to serve any of us well.

What really frosts my cake is those who are not satisfied putting words in other people's mouths, but feel the need to put thoughts in other people's heads. You are one of those, jonmc.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2005


What really frosts my cake is those who are not satisfied putting words in other people's mouths, but feel the need to put thoughts in other people's heads. You are one of those, jonmc.

It was an ill-advised retort made in anger (I'm having a serious medical procedure day after tommorrow, so I'm a mite nervous), so point taken, and many of my relatives are from Jess's neck of the woods, as well.
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2005


Well, part of the solution, perhaps, is a diminishment of rural America. Which is sad. It is always sad to lose a unique culture. But if the oil isn't there--and it's never going to be again--then some pretty thorough structual change is required.

Thorough structural change is very difficult to achieve, especially in a decentralized state. I agree with you that changes are necessary, but I don't think they'll be driven from the top down. They are more likely to happen on their own, causing pain for lots of people who happen to be in the way.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:22 PM on October 4, 2005


klang, when you quote me and put a sentence underneath it that says, "...you dolt," it's pretty hard for me not to see that as aimed at me. that also applies to the "dipshits" comment; if i'm addressed once in your post and you follow-up later with an attack on the position i held, it's hard not to see myself as included in your insult.

but you know what? since this obviously a very charged and emotional issue for you, i'm going to break it off by wishing you peace. all things considered, i remain confident that my fellow americans and i can get our shit together, even though we occasionally get angry at, and talk past, one another.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:30 PM on October 4, 2005


jonmc, I wasn't angered at all, I knew what you meant.

I think the folks who think the rural way of life is dead are a little naive. Until people grow their food in giant vats, there will be a need for people living in rural areas (even if they work for some sort of megacorpfarm). It took the dust bowl to make the first shift, but it wasn't until the 1950's, I belive that a majority of US citizens lived in urban areas. The bigger question for me is how to get people to understand that this country isn't 50% republican / 50% democrat, I think of it more like 30% rural poor / 30% urban poor / 30% urban middle class / 10% wealthy. The rural poor have been suckered into voting Republican, turn them away from that and you'll have a revolution in politics that is akin to the shift of the old "solid south" from demo to repub.
posted by Numenorian at 12:32 PM on October 4, 2005


120+ comments into this thread, I think the Peak Oil post pretty much trumps everything else. The folks out in the sticks better get some darn good horses.
posted by alumshubby at 12:33 PM on October 4, 2005


Obligatory: The End of Suburbia

you're part of the problem. please curl up, die, and go to hell.

And you're obviously the solution. The FINAL solution. Godwin!

I'll get more done by enlisting those who can look past their "totally justifiable anger" and are willing to go and help...

What are YOU doing? How are YOU helping?

How does ANYONE propose "helping" these poor rural folks? Seriously.

Aside from Len, I don't think there have been any (reasonable or unreasonable) suggestions about how to help these people.

What an utter wankfest. Carry on.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2005


klang: "However, public transport is plausible for the majority of Americans."
...majority of urban Americans. And even that's hard to do a lot of the time.


No, I mean for the majority of Americans public transport would work. It doesn't exist now, and it would mean a different development pattern, but there is no reason people living in the suburbs can't have walkable town centers and commuter rail but for political will. And it isn't hard if you have a thorough system, which we should be able to have for a fraction of the price of roads and private cars.

me & my monkey: Thorough structural change is very difficult to achieve, especially in a decentralized state. I agree with you that changes are necessary, but I don't think they'll be driven from the top down. They are more likely to happen on their own, causing pain for lots of people who happen to be in the way.

Well, I'd like to think that somehow we could use the first disorientations and pain to get some top-down work going, thereby avoiding what is avoidable.
posted by dame at 12:42 PM on October 4, 2005


1 liter = 0.264172051 US gallons

1 litre of petrol in the oxford, uk region now is nearly £1 (from 90pence to 95p).

So that equates to c. £3.80/US gallon, or $6.65/US gallon.

Yeah, it's beginning to hurt.

posted by dash_slot- at 12:45 PM on October 4, 2005


I think it merits saying that, at least in California, the car-driving, voting segment of the rural working class no longer has much connection to agriculture. Farms are mostly owned by wealthy people (directly, or through their shareholdings in corporate farms). They are run by a very small number of college-educated managers, who are paid a professional salary. Farm labor is essentially 100% migrant Latinos, who don't vote and who rarely own cars.
posted by MattD at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2005


People are making some big assumptions about how oil and gas prices are going to move through the economy.

We have monetary regime which is incredibly focused, and adept at, restricting inflation. And beyond this, there is the macroeconomic fact that prices don't increase because supplier's costs increase -- they increase only if consumer demand increases and/or suppliers reduce quantities. Since consumers are going to have more, not less, demand on their disposable incomes (due to their own direct fuel costs), demand for foodstuffs is likely to decline. Prices for foodstuffs are thus going to rise only if production is significantly curtailed. And never has American agriculture reduced output on a sustained basis. We know exactly what happens when costs rise too high for agricultural producers: they go out of business and are bought up by farmers with deeper pockets and/or more efficient operations, who are more likely than not to increase outputs from the acreage that they just acquired.
posted by MattD at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2005


Aside from Len, I don't think there have been any (reasonable or unreasonable) suggestions about how to help these people.
Well other than talking about ways to change the political system to untie the poor folks, I'll jump from that and talk a bit about helping rural communities.

My suggest is this: Outsource urban jobs (and poor) to the country. Rural communities offer an opportunity for business and industry. There is a lot of open area to build on, there is cheap housing, and fairly cheap labor. Many areas still have old rail lines that could be used to ship goods in and out. Some of these towns have a glut of houses that sit empty or that can be purchased for 1/100 of what you could find in the suburbs. The cost of living (outside of fuel prices) isn't that far off (in some cases cheaper). Sure the location will add some cost, but that is where the help must come in, there would have to be some sort of reduced federal taxes for the company or at least some sort of assurance that the money that a company spends stays in the communities.
posted by Numenorian at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2005


In my experience, the attitude some rural adults have towards urban areas can come from the fact that their children are forced to move there to get work, and their families end up scattered to the wind.

They wish their children could make a living and raise their grand-kids near them.

It kind of gets twisted around, but in my opinion, that is one of the roots of some of the rural distrust of urban life, that it provides an economic incentive for their own children to flee.

A temptation, a distance, a diaspora, a loss of community and continuity, all things that ring little church bells in the sub-reasoning portions of some rural minds.

Think of The Pied Piper....
posted by dglynn at 1:01 PM on October 4, 2005


My suggestion is to make these people caretakers of new wilderness areas (subsidized by taxes on the rich, of course).
posted by mrgrimm at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2005


"No, I mean for the majority of Americans public transport would work. It doesn't exist now, and it would mean a different development pattern, but there is no reason people living in the suburbs can't have walkable town centers and commuter rail but for political will. And it isn't hard if you have a thorough system, which we should be able to have for a fraction of the price of roads and private cars."
Dame: Come to Michigan some time. You'll laugh at how naive you sound.
Yes, public transit could work if we had a "different development pattern." But we don't.
Michigan can barely make its budget without cutting education and public health spending, and you want to pay for a billion dollar increase in public funding for transit?
Public transit requires urban areas (that's what you're describing when you talk about walkable hubs— urban areas). There's just no way to sustain public transit in sprawl.
It would be one thing if there were jobs in cities; then people would move there and bring development with them. But there aren't. The jobs are in the service sector at strip malls. Which means driving, at least until massive redevelopment on a New Urbanist plan can be done. Which should take, at best, 25-50 years.
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 PM on October 4, 2005


MattD: Prices of factors of production are intimately tied to prices whether dealing with labor, capital markets, or energy markets. True there hasn't been a prolonged period in that agriculture production fell, but in the 1970s food prices increased during the oil crisis. Improved efficiency will help but I don't think it will solve the problem. I stick by expecting food prices to rise with gas prices, not necessarily at the same rate but increase they will.

"Higher energy prices will soon work their way into the food supply system and cause food prices at the retail level to increase slightly for the remainder of the year," wrote USDA food-price analyst Ephraim Leibtag.
posted by I Foody at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2005


a very good reason to delay that plan sine die!
posted by matteo at 1:40 PM on October 4, 2005


Do you have any imagination at all, klang? Yes, it takes time and genuine change. Look, I grew up in Orange County, California, in the midst of sprawl that makes Michigan look lightweight. (You know how I know? I've been to Michigan.) But even there, there is a backbone of a New Urbanist design.

Yeah, the state of Michigan doesn't have money right now. Make it a federal program. Stop wasting federal money on useless corporate subsidization. Raise taxes on rich people. Tax the shit out of private cars and gas. Change zoning laws that make sprawl the preferred development paradigm. Are those things hard? Yes. Are there all sorts of problems I've yet to even think of imagining? Yes.

Yet it is still better than sitting around with your thumb up your ass saying it's impossible and condescending to strangers on the internet whose greatest sin is that they disagree with you. Oil is going away someday. Let's make that transition easier by beginning now on structural change.
posted by dame at 2:02 PM on October 4, 2005


yeah, and klang, is all the name-calling necessary? you think you have the answers down so well that you can call those that disagree a bunch of names?

enlighten us about the great font of wisdom from which you hold forth -- from the sounds of it, you must be in your 50s, you must have really lived to be so certain of your correctness that everyone else is a "dipshit."

either that, or you're just out of college in your first job and still have the lingering certainty of orthodoxy that comes with the teenage years.

but be careful! someone may box your ears, boy.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:20 PM on October 4, 2005


MattD: Prices of factors of production are intimately tied to prices whether dealing with labor, capital markets, or energy markets. True there hasn't been a prolonged period in that agriculture production fell, but in the 1970s food prices increased during the oil crisis. Improved efficiency will help but I don't think it will solve the problem. I stick by expecting food prices to rise with gas prices, not necessarily at the same rate but increase they will.

"Higher energy prices will soon work their way into the food supply system and cause food prices at the retail level to increase slightly for the remainder of the year," wrote USDA food-price analyst Ephraim Leibtag.
posted by I Foody at 1:38 PM PST on October 4 [!]


Agree, although the rise will be MUCH slower. Remember that we run suplus markets for most commodities, but Oil / Gas runs nearly real time.
posted by DuffStone at 2:33 PM on October 4, 2005


Today I helped my neighbor plant a garden. I have one myself and it is growing quite nicely. All of the parts I needed, I scavenged, with the exception of a few bucks of piping for my automatic watering system that I rigged up from an old refrigerator pump and an alarm clock. All the seeds I kept out of fruit and vegetables I bought at the grocery store over the last few months. The total cost of this garden, which produces enough for me to get my fruit and vegetable servings from it daily, was about 15 dollars. I've even learned the sweet science of canning, in preperation for the coming winter.

I stopped driving my car completely; it's the bike, the bus, or carpooling for me now.

We have lived so fat and so lazy for so long that people have forgotten how to fend for themselves. I would remind everyone here that people got by just fine without oil for a long time.

This year I've begun to design my home; while I lack the funds to begin construction, I hope to do so within a few years. And you would be surprised how easy it is to remove yourself from the grid, to one extent or another; all it takes is smart planning and an imagination.

All this pissing and moaning about the Left and Right is useless; I don't like Bushco more than anyone else, but the real enemy is the Corporation and the idea that the Lowest Common Denominator, Greed, is the right way to run a society.

Cheers
posted by Cycloptichorn at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2005


Nothing writes "Poor people driving old vehicles are a tiny minority? What planet are you on? Spend some time away from a city. "

People driving 30 year old vehicles aren't a tiny minority? Put down the crack pipe, buster.
posted by clevershark at 2:47 PM on October 4, 2005


Oh? What did rural America do to you?

Bush

I would welcome the end of ignorant insular rural America, too bad its not going to happen, but I'll welcome it become more cost effective to live in cities instead.

"It's your future: I see...a cab ride. Sorry guys, move out of the sticks. Say goodbye, Raquel" - Quentin Tarantino
posted by jeffburdges at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2005


Great thread! I loved the eriko's beatdown, zing! But I think kk is correct at some level, in that Republican fuckheads can use eriko's impolitic words against us. Oh well!

Oh? What did rural America do to you?


posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:38 PM on October 4, 2005


bravo, Cycloptichorn. i second everything you've said, and add myself to your number. (of those who have consciously put myself into a space of planning for a future of scarcity.)

jonmc, somewhere upthread, where i don't have the energy to search, retorted to my small mention of gardening as a way to deal with both trucking and personal fuel costs reflected in food costs that all he sees around him is concrete and asphalt.

first of all, jonmc, we were talking about the rural poor, were we not? lots of space out there for gardens. the main problem is that we've both gotten away from the idea of subsistence gardening because of culture and the both perceived and real need to work insanely long hours punctuated by evenings in front of the teevee.

in the suburbs, all you've got is land too wet for development surrounded by huge expanses of monoculture green. someday, whether those folks like it or not, their suddenly multi-family McMansion lawns are going to become gardens. that is, if they make it that long.

and even in your urban area, jonmc, i have a real hard time believing there aren't community gardens near you, or neglected space that couldn't be transformed into such. i've known plenty of people, even in Chicago housing projects, who've managed to do that. one can grow all kinds of things on fire escapes and on balconies and on roofs. you can't be that disconnected from what it might be like to be dependent on growing something to counter the costs of store-bought food, can you?
posted by RedEmma at 3:54 PM on October 4, 2005


More than 100 miles north of Sacramento, the flat farmlands of California's Central Valley give way to the forested mountains and breathtaking grasslands surrounding the 14,000-foot Mount Shasta.

Call it sustainability, or balance of trade, or value-added, or resource usage -- the point is that historically, towns and cities and populations have grown or shrunk (or disappeared) when (economic, trade, climatic) circumstances changed.

Siskiyou County has trees (but logging is a slowly-dying business) and grasslands (but cattle-farming there isn't competive with large enterprises, particularly those with less harsh winters and easy access to corn and other monoculture crops). Mining died a long time ago. Some tourists come and spend money; people drive through (on I-5) and spend a bit of money. The bottom line is simple -- what goods or services can the county export (think of it as a question of creating cash inflows) to pay for the money flowing out for oil and gasoline, and for the products that Wal-Mart sells, and the food that is shipped into the town?

Ultimately, economic viability comes down to cash flows. Those who live in Siskiyou County can be helped by price controls and subsidies, but ultimately there are either jobs that bring cash into the County (working at Wal-Mart or other retailers that sell mostly to local folks doesn't count; working for a city or County doesn't count; a law firms or a hair salon, providing services to local folks, doesn't count) or there are not.

Raising one's own food or sewing one's own clothes only goes so far in reducing the cash that flows out of the County. Getting off the grid certainly costs a lot of money up front. To repeat, ultimately, there either have to be jobs that bring outside money into the county, or there have to be subsidies (like unemployment compensation), or those people who haven't retired in the county (tapping their savings) are going to leave when/if they can, in search of a job elsewhere.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:32 PM on October 4, 2005


Clusterfuck Nation, indeed.

Judging by the discourse in this thread (with a few exceptions), I don't think there will be any solution to anyone's problems - we're all just gonna throw recrimination back and forth until the whole thing collapses on us all. Kinda sad, really.

I really wish it were otherwise, but it just gets clearer to me every day that most Americans, whether poor, rich, or middle class, are so caught up in their personal status quo and ideological convictions (of every type) that they really, seriously just don't have any connection with anyone other than the people in their immediate circle. Because of that, they have little if any empathy, and can't even begin to accept that the choices they make affect everyone else, and sometimes themselves if they're not smart about them.

And most certainly, nobody will make the changes that are really necessary, because they are painful, and just simply because they change things.

These problems are far enough advanced that any effective solution will cause pain to everyone. Everything that everyone in this thread has said tells me that every one of us is operating on unsustainable ideas at the very roots of our lives, and to make the necessary changes will require letting go of these ideas - things like being entitled to buy whatever vehicle one wants - even that individual vehicle ownership is rightful and sensible - and to live on as much land as we can buy without actually producing anything from it.

Rural people who are spread out on big tracts of land that are not actually productive (as opposed to active farm or timber land, to give examples) should give up that land and move to consolidated towns. These towns should start up their own local food production and, if possible, local energy production. Any town with a river nearby could build local hydro, for example (some of them have old abandoned local hydro plants, even). If you're going to insist on living 40 miles out in the middle of nowhere, well then you're on your own. You're now a frontier family. Learn to hunt, fish and farm, and maybe you oughta buy a horse!

Suburban people who commute long distances (10 miles or more) into cities should consolidate that commuting into a mass transit system, either buses or trains - or perhaps "trains" of bus-like vehicles that travel on the existing highways (think a tractor-trailer pulling 3-5 bus coaches). The money saved on fuel should be directed to consolidating suburban areas into walkable small cities built around the transit hubs that take the commuters into the big cities. Again, local food production should start close by these small cities. If you want to live on a suburban estate, well, be sure to get rich first.

Urban areas should condense as much as is reasonable - overcrowding is bad, of course. Public transit should be mandatory and either free or cheap, as should some system that helps as many people as possible relocate to a living space that is close to their workplace, which could also be funded by the money saved in fuel use. And once again, food production should be started up right at the edge of the cities.

In any event, make a choice: rural life or urban/town life.

The national rail system - the most efficient method of moving bulk freight and passengers over distance on land (the only method of moving bulk that's more efficient is water transport) - should be refurbished and rebuilt immediately, while air transport should be curtailed except for essential items (as it will be anyway as jet fuel gets very expensive - actually, as it is already, with airlines going Chapter 11 and cancelling dozens of flights).

And frankly, the accumulation of massive amounts of wealth into the hands of very few is incompatible with not only the root ideals of the United States, the idea that we are One Nation, Indivisible, where everyone supports everyone else to all our greater good.

These are major changes, and would not only be very painful, but would require the full cooperation of everyone, plus a whole lot of government Marshall Planning. They are also draconian and highly socialist in nature. I'm not advancing them as solutions I personally think are great, but just as kind of dispassionate "engineer-think," as in "here are a set of problems, these are a set of possibly ideal solutions to investigate." Kind of like "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Well, don't do that!"

If any of this happens at all, it will most likely be extremely slow. No "free market" is going to drive these necessities, and certainly nobody really has the political will. It is actually possible for all of us to step up to efforts like this; humans are extraordinarily adaptable, and personally I think some really smart things can be done that don't inflict any actual harm on the people as they are "displaced" into a somewhat different existence.

For myself, an apartment-dwelling city person who lives 10 miles from work in the next city over... well, I'd happily trade my apartment for an equivalent one that's in walking or bicycle distance from my workplace. To do this right now, without some major plan in place to subsidize that move, my rent would double, which I can't afford even if I get rid of all my fuel-powered vehicles. If such a plan came up, I'd gladly buy in and give up owning a car. (I'd want to keep my motorcycle though. *sigh*) I'm willing to make changes in my life to help people - the hackneyed phrase "My fellow Americans" comes to mind, but I actually mean it - out in the boonies that I'll never meet - heh, well actually, I lived out in the boonies, so I'd be helping some lifelong friends, too.

How about the rest of you? Any of you rural dwellers willing to give up your 40 acres, your mile-long driveway and your SUV, and move into town? To help everyone you know, and a few hundred million more you don't? Probably a few.

Most everybody would rather hold on to what they've got right now, even if it makes no sense many other people have to suffer to support it. We don't have anything even close to a national identity in the respect of Americans supporting ALL other Americans, and that is going to be no end of trouble.

Our individualistic culture has been taken to a dangerous extreme. America has become all too divisible, and thus cannot stand as it has been.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:53 PM on October 4, 2005


Golly, I really do pontificate don't I. *sigh* I don't really mean to, but I don't realize I'm doing it until after the fact. Sorry... :\
posted by zoogleplex at 5:18 PM on October 4, 2005


RedEmma: "and even in your urban area, jonmc, i have a real hard time believing there aren't community gardens near you, or neglected space that couldn't be transformed into such... one can grow all kinds of things on fire escapes and on balconies and on roofs."

That kind of agriculture is only supportable via transporting growable soil into the city from outside, at this point. Not saying it can't be done, of course, and it would certainly be possible for people to compost right there in the city to fertilize and maintain the soil, given a true community effort.

I'm sure greenhouses could be built too, perhaps on rooftops, so vegetables could be grown even in winter, but they are fairly energy-intensive even with their innate heat-maintaining qualities.

Whether that sort of community effort is possible... I'm a bit pessimistic that the concept of "urban kollektiv" will go over well.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:46 PM on October 4, 2005


I think I've been coming back to this thread periodically for an hour, trying to figure out what to say. I'm just flabbergasted, although I suppose I shouldn't be.

See, the thing is, unlike a lot of you guys, I actually know these people. I spent seven years in a poor rural school system. My mom and dad still live there. Hell, my dad grew up in an even poorer area, lived the goddamned American dream some of you choose to malign, and then moved back to a small community. Somehow or other, I managed to become a liberal-minded person, living within driving distance of the fucking KKK.

Look, I don't expect everyone to know, understand, or like rural life. I really don't. But the thing is this -- if we are supposed to be the liberals that Kennedy talked about, the group that ". . . looks ahead and not behind, . . . welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, . . . cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- . . . believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad. . ." (and at home, for that matter), then we don't have the luxury of our small mad moment. Because that moment isn't just small in the sense that it isn't very long; it's small in that people who purport to be the "good guys" should be better than that.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:17 PM on October 4, 2005


I agree.

The fact that Kennedy was quite possibly killed because he advocated these thoughts as well as some pretty serious changes in the way America works only furthers my doubts that this mess will work out, I'm afraid.

While I was born and now live as a city kid, I lived in extremely rural Downeast Maine for many years, so I understand how it works, and how bad things are going for rural Americans. My mom still lives there as well as several lifelong friends, and they're all feeling the pinch, even those who live in town.

Our present American way of life - rural, suburban, or urban - simply is not sustainable without cheap motor fuels, so if those are no longer possible, our way will have to change. It can happen with relative smoothness, or stark brutality. I'm guessing it will be more the latter, and a lot of places will revert to around the 1900-1910 era, while hopefully keeping 21st century telecom access. :\
posted by zoogleplex at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2005


zoogleplex
I've been reading what you've been posting on this thread and I think you're one of the most sane and reasonable ones here. You've articulated a lot of similar thoughts I've been having over the years.
I also used to live 'out in the sticks' so can relate to the hell that the rural poor are going through now. It's certainly not just a big-city issue in 'the projects'.

I just hope that the clear thinking spreads and catches on. But I doubt it. . . I think this is a country that is in the process of imploding on itself.

Great Spaghetti Monster help us all in our time of need.
posted by mk1gti at 7:52 PM on October 4, 2005


Whether that sort of community effort is possible... I'm a bit pessimistic that the concept of "urban kollektiv" will go over well.

zoogleplex, i don't necessarily think it will "go over well." i doubt that there will be much that matches the ugliness of 'mericans when they've been deprived of the comforts to which they've grown accustomed.

however, i do think that when faced with reality, people will do what they have to. they will learn to share transport, because they won't have any other choice. and they will learn to grow food, or they will finally learn what the poor mean when they speak of going hungry. luckily, for many rural or semi-rural folks, subsistence gardening isn't that far into the distant past. they will remember. and they'll learn from the neighbors who never forgot.
posted by RedEmma at 9:04 PM on October 4, 2005


mk1gti, thanks. I hope people can drop their egos for a while and work together, but the psychological inertia of 300 million people is a formidable force, and not easily deflected, even with a good percentage of dedicated people.

Emma, there's certainly hope, and the good news is that there are already people who are trying to address these problems in a cooperative way. Not many yet, but some. Hopefully they will be successful and an example to others.

I just know how good people are at deceiving themselves and hoping for miraculous delivery from troubles... there will be some who refuse to adapt.
posted by zoogleplex at 9:33 PM on October 4, 2005


Welcome to the new polis. Same as the old polis. Although I agree that we are not actually any of us improving the lot of the disadvantage through our discussions here, perhaps through our discussions answers will arise from the contentious and opposing positions.

I was struck by the reasoning of the woman in the original article who was already losing money to drive to her job at some distance. Dunno about you folks, but part of the problem is that if you spend more than you make, you can't keep going--exceptions of course abound for the species of fattus cattus. So, if I were the woman in question, I would certainly check to see if I could find a local job where I would at least not be worse off given the time and expense to commute. I have read some amazing stories about people commuting 2-3 hours each way in California because they can't afford to live nearer their jobs.

I question though the "affordability." Is it because they want the 3000 square foot house, and thought that living in Gilroy and commuting to San Jose was "affordable"?

Everybody's right to choose, of course. But there are solutions. In my quite unaffordable town, there are no fewer than eight cooperative developments of 150+ living units, most of them at least 25 years old, and within the last 10 years, two co-housing developments have sprung up.

In the area that klngston refers to his aunt & cousin living in, sustainable organic agriculture has become the big business. Anytime you buy Organic Valley Brand products, you are supporting hundreds if not thousands of independent farm families. Their closest town, when flooded out by a 100-years-flood (in its way the equivalent of Katrina; admittedly a much smaller scale but two whole towns were wiped off the map) they rebuilt using passive and active solar power.

Imagination and grassroots initiatives are what is needed, not acrimony and retribution. Whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, libertarian or rastafarian, we are all the same. It feels good to say "I told you so" for a minute, but it gets in the way of working toward the solutions.

Yes, I get pissed off when I see someone driving an Urban Assault Vehicle, but I'm not going to change their minds by yelling at them. Instead, I'm trying to educate the kids around me to work for the common good, to get involved in their community and make it the place they want it to be--and most of that has little to do with whether gas is $1.29 or $3.29. There's a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth right now, but as far as petroleum fuel goes, we're a bunch of alcoholics: we're gonna have to hit bottom before we go for the cure.

And what is the cure? Well, my ideas run toward taking speculation out of the mix, but I'm sure that there are plenty who disagree. So, now, in the marketplace of ideas, let's discuss.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:46 PM on October 4, 2005


I think an important basis for thoughts about fixes is to consider how each segment of population - urban, suburban, rural - can shift something that they have as an advantage to one of the other segments as a "first stage" solution. What I mean is, making a change of reduction/sacrifice in one place that becomes an addition/helper in another, and then finding something that works the same in reverse.

For instance, making a serious, mandatory shift from private car commuting to public transit and telecommuting within the bounds of an urban area would free up fuel that could be used to help the people who live out in the boonies in their effort to relocate and consolidate to town centers - the fuel would be used for temporary transport support and to apply to the necessary construction projects. All the (non-public) vehicle maintenance infrastructure and resources in car-choked cities could be repurposed and spread out to where they'd be needed.

Something would have to be sacrificed on the boonie end that would benefit the urban dwellers... I don't know what. Water rights? Dedicate land to growing food that would go to the cities, with people put to work part-time as agricultural workers? Send topsoil and agricultural specialists to help set up inside-city and edge-of-city food production?

And what do the suburbs have to offer in trade to both? Suburbs are essentially parasitical on rural and urban areas alike, so this is murky to me. I guess that dismantling suburban homes in the process of consolidation would free up a lot of salvageable materials, from building materials to the copper electrical and communications wiring, piping, even the pavement and traffic lights and such. All those resources we've dumped into creating the suburbs could be recovered, at least in part.

The idea is to work out how everyone would have to give up something, but gain something different. It could and should start slowly, a little bit at a time - try to keep the shifts from being too abrupt.

Just doing the shift within the cities, trading people's living spaces so people are moved as close to their workplace as possible, would be a monumental undertaking, what with all the privately-owned dwellings. Some method of valuation, fair compensation and distribution would need to be set up.

And of course, none of this jives at all with the Capitalist Ownership Society, making it all that much harder.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:03 PM on October 4, 2005


Maybe, but um, the prices are still pretty much controled by the market. --delmoi

Except for the fact that oil companies have deliberately and successfully decreased refining capacity by closing refineries in order to increase gas prices and their own profits.
posted by goethean at 9:58 AM on October 5, 2005


it's small in that people who purport to be the "good guys" should be better than that.

you don't seem to understand. liberals are the bad guys -- we root for the terrorists. liberals are dangerous for America. liberals want Americans to die. don't you watch tv or read the warblogs? no Instapundit for you?

I mean, Bin Laden himself rooted for Kerry. the third most powerful man in America said so. where have you been these last four years?

since we're so evil, why should liberals be supposed to care much about the Bush-Cheney truck driver gentleman who really likes the capitalist free-market until he finds out he doesn't have money for gas? does he care much for, say, the urban poor (especially those who are richer in melanin?)


and, JFK wasn't the farmer's favorite candidate anyway in 1960. they really liked Nixon
posted by matteo at 12:35 PM on October 5, 2005


zoogleplex
I've been reading what you've been posting on this thread and I think you're one of the most sane and reasonable ones here.


At the root, however, he's still saying the same thing that all the "assholes" are: Make your rural home self-sustainable, or get thee to a town. I've been thinking about it quite a bit, and I truly can't see any other way (aside from miraculous energy discoveries, which are surely *possible*).
posted by mrgrimm at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2005


mrgrimm, actually the assholes seem to be saying more like "you voted for this, you asked for this, now deal with it, and we're not going to help you, screw you." I'm coming from the standpoint of okay, there are some major problems we need to deal with, and everyone should be working on it.

As the problem applies to the FPP article folks in Siskiyou County - my fellow Californians - it's just kind of a stark fact that living on 40 acres (or whatever) of unproductive land 40 miles from the nearest actual town is not sustainable without cheap motor fuels and vehicles. Since the cheap fuel is going away, there really isn't much choice, they will either have to abandon the land and the long drive and move closer to a place they can work, or turn the land into productive use, whether just for their own self-sustainability or for selling stuff they make or grow. A service industry salary clearly is already not enough to support many of these folks's lifestyles with a long commute thrown in.

The same problem applies differently to suburban and urban people. Suburban dwellers are going to see their commute costs skyrocketing, and even grocery trips will become a problem. No more soccer-moming all over the place, probably. Urban dwellers might not be directly affected as far as driving, but everything we buy will just flat out get more expensive from transport costs, especially food.

The problem hits each of us differently, but for far-flung rural communities, the only really effective answer - barring some miraculous energy discovery - is to consolidate.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2005


goethean: "Except for the fact that oil companies have deliberately and successfully decreased refining capacity by closing refineries in order to increase gas prices and their own profits."

And the fact that they've decreased refining capacity is the one thing that just screams to me that Peak Oil is real and happening now. The oil companies are the only ones who really have any actual idea of how much oil is left. If they were confident that there would be no shortage of crude oil, they would still be increasing refining capacity. Instead some of them are trying to close refineries that are still making a profit - as Chevron attempted here in California (and we stopped them).

It sure smells to me like they know what's coming, and are not wasting money building new refineries because they know there won't be enough crude available to run through them. The whole "environmentalists won't let us build new ones" thing has been debunked in other threads, by the way.

I don't mean this as a derail, either, because this bears directly on the severity of the problem we're discussing. If the price really is never going back down, and gasoline will be getting scarcer and more expensive every year, then these folks will need help starting right now, we need to start addressing all the potential fallout right now.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2005


I had a kooky great Uncle (Grandfather's brother), who proclaimed peek oil back in the 60's (he was over 40 at the time) and until he was in his 80's farmed at least some of his land with Mules and Horses. I always thought he was a bit off, now I wonder how much of his equipment still works in case the peak oil thing happens in my lifetime. Thankfully, I learned how to use most of that old stuff, unfortunately he has passed along with his animals, so I'll have to find some horses I guess.

One thing that he always told me is that farmers are the original environmentalists. Which always struck me as funny considering how much he didn't like "those tree-hugging hippies". I think his point was that farmers really care a lot about the environment in the sense that it directly impacts their way of life and they wish to control/subdue it.

One newer thing that many folks out in the great plains are doing to address some of the problems with oil prices and environmental change (they've had above normal temps and below normal rain for a bit over a decade now) is no-till farming. The idea is somewhat simple in that the only time you run equipment in a field is to plant, spray, or harvest. No more plowing and cultivating (which uses up a lot of fuel and dries out the soil). The trick here is that it requires some spraying of nasty herbicides and bio-engineer crops (like round up ready). However, long-term studies seem to indicate that fields that remain no-till for 5 years or more require little or no herbicide and less fertilizer. I think that might help reduce the pain, but it will take time and there is a lot of resistance to the evils of the system (herbicide and mutant crops).
posted by Numenorian at 2:54 PM on October 5, 2005


This is so late to the thread that I doubt anyone will see it, but here goes...

No one is entitled to a specific way of life. If the crop you grow does not fetch a good price - grow a different crop. If you cannot make enough money farming to survive, move to the city. Thems is the breaks. The world does not owe you a living doing a certain particular thing in a certain particular place. You have to adapt to the economy, not the other way around.

I know people hate change and no one likes to leave their home but - come on, when is the wakeup call going to come? Everyone else has to deal with the system as it is given to them, too. Yes, it sucks. We set up everything we have now on the back of cheap oil and it's over. That ship has sailed.

Personally I think it's going to take riots of painfully destitute people before the government does something. And what they will do is put them in camps and feed them as though they were refugees in a foreign land or something. It's not going to be pretty.

I hope I'm wrong.
posted by beth at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2005


We can debate all day along about whether or not it is fair to ask these rural poor to abandon their way of life, but when Peak Oil hits, it will hit hard and price caps aren't going to do a damn thing. Contrary to other here, I believe the people in rural American will probably be better off than their gentrified counterparts. They are much more likely to have the know how, tools, and land to fend for themselves while the cities infrastructure collapses and start to burn. Apocalyptic? Yes. But when you start to think how deep the oil dependancy goes, you start to realize how bad this is going to get. And the real problem here is that the people portrayed in this article do not yet understand the root of their problems, and are still fighting tooth and nail against the only people that are trying to save us all.
posted by sophist at 10:54 PM on October 8, 2005


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