James Howard Kunstler Is Kind Of A Dick

Whether you read the profile of our nation’s leading doomsayer in the New Yorker this week (print only) or in The Morning News, you’ve got to acknowledge he’s a man of his moment.

Of course, he was also a man of the Y2K moment, but we’ll ignore that for the moment.

He’s right about a lot of things: Big-box stores are ugly. Suburbia as currently constructed is probably unsustainable. Oil won’t cost $40 a barrel forever, and if it does, we’ll really screw the climate.

On the other hand, he’s also pretty smug about all of those things. He’s pretty sure that society as we know it is headed for collapse in the next 2 years, and that nobody is doing anything about it. I’m pretty sure he’s wrong there. Oil will get more expensive, but it’s not like we’re not developing sustainable initiatives: Better batteries. Better solar. Better hydrogen production. The public transit funding in Obama’s stimulus plan is less than I would like, but it’s not exactly small change either.

Kunstler is basically the sort of curmudgeon who writes those semi-humorous rants in the Sunday paper that mix some important issues with others that are far less germane. The problem is that he hasn’t got the self-awareness to recognize it. He doesn’t understand the difference between oil and climate on the one hand, and the insidious nature of electronic devices and the poor quality of contemporary American architecture on the other. Oh, the kids these days, with their drywall and their iPods and their interstate highway system!

He’s basically confusing global ethics and personal taste, and insisting that everyone who doesn’t share his taste is profoundly unethical. And then he wonders why people don’t take him seriously.

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