Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Infrastructure

It's no secret that the physical infrastructure of the United States is in bad shape. Recent predictions about global climate change show that even if it was up to par it would still be inadequate. Meanwhile, the president is pushing a jobs bill that would, in part, spend money on rebuilding the infrastructure which, like the economy it was designed to support, depends on cheap access to fossil fuels and other oil derivatives. Unfortunately, peak oil is here, which makes that dependency problematic.

Clearly, any efforts to build infrastructure must take into account the new reality we've created: one of scarcity and unpredictability as blowback from our sabotage of natural and cultural systems for short-term gains in personal happiness. This means not only assessing the impact on our current way of life, but having an honest, nationwide reassessment of our basic values and the kind of lifestyle that can support whatever we decide. The result of that assessment can be used to drive the design of the new infrastructure.

If we value life, including the community of other species that keeps our world habitable, we will favor a culture and an infrastructure with no negative ecological impact. This would require that we all at least become knowledgeable about the basics of how the natural world works, especially in our own regions. We must also work to understand and respect each other and other species, with a concentration on enabling all of us to meet our basic needs. Our physical infrastructure may become almost indistinguishable from the rest of Nature (and certainly usable by it, while we are using it or afterwards).

To the extent we don't value life, we will have to learn to deal with the consequences, which we will be doing in the extreme if we keep on our present course. Anything we build will need to survive worst-case conditions whose magnitude and probability have been completely and honestly anticipated.

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