Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peak Oil Glasses

(I wrote most of this in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul, beginning at 12:06 pm. It's important to know that to fully appreciate the post.)

I find myself in a place that would strike any Minneapolitan as strange: St. Paul. I moved to Mpls. in the hope of acquiring a social life, if by no other means than sheer osmosis. But Mpls. is not that happenin'. It only seems that way because St. Paul is dead. I'll give St. Paul one thing though. It has held onto much more of its old buildings, making it far more architecturally appealing than downtown Mpls.

I'm forced to wonder what will happen to these buildings if our society collapses, mainly in the sense of resimplifying, not necessarily falling apart. I look at most places through these Peak Oil Glasses, trying to peer into a future of energy descent.

There was a little girl whom I thought might be waving at me. It turned out she was waving bye-bye to a pigeon. They'd had some good times together. The bronze girl standing in the fountain is skinny, but she's got a nice rack. Sculptors sometimes neglect the rack. Or they just have bad taste in models. Threatening clouds are rollin' in. The Landmark Center's clock tower is facing me. Consequently, I'm instantly aware of the time. I like that. Now I don't even hafta reach into my pocket.

Peak Oil Glasses are the opposite of Rose-Colored Glasses. It's a lot like Life After People, that History Channel miniseries. I see abandoned buildings overrun with weeds and vines, trees growing in parking lots, streets filled with bikes and stripped-down cars rusting on the shoulder. I'd guess within a decade the ratio of bikes to cars on the streets of Uptown will have reversed itself.

It's not a pretty picture (except for the bikes), but we'll at least get a chance to redeem ourselves for the monumental waste of abundant energy and resources in the 20th Century. We had the power to make almost anything, and we chose to produce continents of crap, mountains of manure, oceans of offal. What will our descendants think of a civilization that churned out enough disposable goods to inundate every home on the planet with useless bric-a-brac? I only wish every Fortune 500 CEO had the foresight (or the sense of shame) to meditate on that before they invent another emotional need for us to fill with stuff.

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