In the words of Jim Anchower, I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. I have many photos to sort out and things to think about — and whether I’ll write more than two sentences about these things. In the meantime, here’s a short series from Bushwick, Brooklyn. I took these the night of the Bushwick Open Studios Music Festival many weeks ago. A few may be pleased or dismayed to learn that photos of people are coming.
Matt Dillon nailed Charles Bukowski in the movie Factotum. He never smiles and got the cadence just right. Someone should cast him again in another Bukowski / Chinaski novel turned movie. Mickey Rourke missed in Barfly.
There’s a man playing a lonely trumpet outside. I turn on WNYC and listen to the talk radio people go on and on about the G20potentates on parade. Saturday Night Live will do something clever with this.
Watching Ben Kingsley muddle his way through Elegy, I thought of The Dean’s December by Saul Bellow. They were both long falling moments when a couple of my heroes got really ugly. They stumble out at the end a ready-made baptism. (Both are fictions.)
Read a piece in the March 08 Harper’s entitled “Fear of Fallowing: The Specter of a No-Growth World” (normally a subscription is required but it’s available here in PDF) by historical analyst, Steven Stoll. It’s a review of three books on the economy published last year. Economic growth as we know it is impossible.
Our trouble lies in a simple confusion, ont to which economists have been prone since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Growth and ecology operate by different rules. Economists tend to assume that everyday problems of scarcity can be solved by subsititution, by replacing tuna with tilapia, without factoring in the long-term environmental implications of either. But whereas economies might expand, ecosystems do not. They change–pines give way to oak, coyotes arrive in New England–and they reproduce themeselves but they do not increase in extent or abundance year after year. Most economists think of scarcity as a larger labor problem, imagining that only energy and technology place limits on production. To harvest more wood build a better chainsaw; to pump more oil, drill more wells; to get more food, invent more pest-resistant plants.
That logic thrived on new frontiers and more intensive production, and it held off the prophets of scarcity–from Thomas Robert Malthus to Paul Ehrlich–whose predictions of famine and shortage have not come to pass. The Agricultual Revolution that began in 17th C. England radically increaased the amount of food that could be grown on an acre of land and the same happened in the 1960s and 1970s, when fertilizer and hybridized seeds arrived in India and Mexico. But the picture looks entirely different when we change the scale. Industrial society is roughly 250 years old; make the last ten thousand years equal to twenty-four hours, and we have been producing consumer goods and CO2 for only the last thirty-six minutes. Do the same for 1 million years of human evolution, and everything from the steam engine to the search engine fits into the past 21 seconds. If we are not careful, hunting and gathering will look like a far more successful strategy for survival than economic growth. The latter has changed so much about the earth and human societies in so little time that it makes sense to be cautious than triumphant.
The whole piece is a useful church key to think about our present times. There is hope if you continue reading…