9/24/10 --- LessWaiting.com recently conducted an exclusive interview with author and artist James Howard Kunstler regarding his latest book "The Witch of Hebron" and related issues...
LWC: Your new book "The Witch of Hebron" is a sequel to the original "World Made By Hand". Do you feel that it's important for people to have read "World Made By Hand" first?
JHK: "The Witch of Hebron" was designed to work as a stand-alone story, but it sure wouldn't hurt an interested reader to visit the opening "template" of "World Made By Hand." They would learn about the setting of the upper Hudson Valley in detail, and become acquainted with some interesting characters -- including a few who get bumped off before the end of the book. In the sequel I avoided any-and-all unnecessary tedious explaining of what had happened to collapse the American economy and government. The new book is thus largely composed of dramatic scenes, with carefully calibrated velocity pushing the story forward as dynamically as possible.
LWC: What are you doing to prepare for changes such as those described in "The Witch of Hebron", and what do you think is the most important thing people can do to get ready?
JHK: I probably made my most important personal decision thirty years ago when I re-settled in a small "main street" town in upstate New York. Choosing where to ride out the social storms of the near future is the most critical thing.
LWC: Last year you appeared on a nationwide television program called "Earth 2100", which also offered a vision of the future involving difficult changes. What are your thoughts on this program?
JHK: Ha! That's a riot -- because the night that show was aired here by our local ABC affiliate station out of Albany, New York, there was some screw-up with the national "feed" and the program was broadcast without sound! I kid you not. I called up the station and -- of course -- the phone was answered by a robot, and I never did get to talk to a live human being. The whole exercise was a perfect illustration of exactly the kind of stupid investments in hyper-complexity that are putting us out-of-business as a viable advanced society. Bottom line, I saw much of the program without sound and eventually gave up on it. It certainly reinforced some of my ideas about the extreme fecklessness of our culture.
LWC: How significant do you think overpopulation is to the problems we face, and could non-coercive measures (such as changing the tax code) do much to limit population growth?
JHK: The problem of what some of us call population "overshoot" is surely central to the issue of whether we can carry on with industrial civilization. What we've overshot, of course is the "carrying capacity" of our ecology, the planet Earth. Personally, I'm persuaded that we're not going to do anything about it -- certainly not in the USA, anyway -- except perhaps severely restricting immigration at some point. But there will be no birth control policies or protocols. Instead, the usual suspects will take charge of the problem: starvation, poverty, disease, violence.
LWC: Professor James Lovelock once said that humans aren't intelligent enough to stop climate change. Do you agree with this, and is it too late to stop climate change regardless of how smart we are?
JHK: I don't consider myself an expert on climate change -- despite having written about it some -- but based on what I have learned, I suspect that a set of feedback loops is already operating that are unlikely to be mitigated by human policy. However, there are plenty of interesting natural mechanisms that are also coming into play that may affect the outcome. These included solar cycles of increasing sunspot activity and terrestrial cycles of volcanic activity. For example, just one major volcanic eruption in a given year can put enough particles in the atmosphere to measurably cool down the planet -- such as the famous "year without summer" in 1816. I do not really know where this is taking us, frankly. But we can be sure it is a very dynamic process and it may lead to strange outcomes.
LWC: Thank you.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of "The Long Emergency" and "The Geography of Nowhere", among others. His latest book "The Witch of Hebron" is available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. Visit Kunstler.com for his weekly blog, the "Eyesore of the Month", and more.