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Why America Won’t Starve

It’s a wintry day here in the usually overly sunny Southland. It feels very cold to SoCal native Hawks like the two Pauls and Shawn, and like a hint of real winter to Minnesotan Hawk Rob W. The snow level is thrillingly low in the San Gabriels to the north.

We’re cozy in our Northeast Los Angeles houses, working on songs and recordings, making ginger chocolate chip cookies, drinking hot tea and whiskey. Our hearts and good wishes go out to our fellow Americans entering a winter of real cold, or real economic peril, or both. The rest of the globe is far deeper in crisis, but our hearts and imagination aren’t big enough to embrace them. We’ve got enough troubles here at home.

Perhaps enough troubles to start minding our own business, bringing our troops home from U.S. military bases that occupy almost every time zone around the globe. Obama’s talking war in Afghanistan, but he might not be able to afford it. Dire economic trends might unleash the pacifist lurking inside the tough talking neo-JFK.Another strange silver lining: the crash in oil prices has suspended environmental wreckage in some of the last unspoiled places on earth: oil shale territory in Colorado and Wisconsin, coal tar operations in the Canadian wilderness. These desperate scarrings of earth are only profitable when oil’s above $50 a barrel. May their operations, heavy equipment, and rigs rust forever.

There might be quite a bit of rust in our collective future. And a reacquaintance with dirt and real physical labor. Our children may look back on the period from 1950 to 2008 as a time of mad excess, when humans thought they’d have big fast cars, big houses, comfy jobs, and 24 hour entertainment forever.A few nights ago, at the Westfield Century City Mall, Paul L and his brother Anthony, nephew Emilio, and friend William glided on a cloud of outdoor heaters, giant video billboard dream images, Leonidas dark chocolate and ultrafrappucinos, wandering gleaming labyrinths of Apple, Bloomingdale’s, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. The air was balmy and perfect, and so were our lives. Ron Howard’s “Nixon/Frost” somehow found the sweet side of Nixon’s carpet bombing of Cambodia. Even these sardonic mall wanderers were seduced and sedated. Never were four humans more comfy, not in the history of the globe.

Is this dream over? What do you think? Wethinks yes. 2012 doesn’t need an ancient prophecy. The Idiocracy scenario is far too optimistic. The black and towering storm clouds approaching may look worse than they are. But we can’t count on it.Can we remain calm as our physical assets diminish and our lifestyles collapse or get a little more real? We must. We must remain calm. Some of the Hawks, take your guess which, welcome a collapse. We picture days on the back porch, TVs somehow silenced, picking our guitars as neighbors come over to share turnips from their backyards. We are naive enough to wish for this, just as we were naive enough to believe that all would continue as it has for our entire lives.

We have wishes for our culture, hope for collateral damage: goodbye to celebrity worship, day trading, Hummers and their mysteriously prosperous owners, the paving over of hills and farms so that we can enjoy free junk from China in pastel junk mansions that are going to collapse in 50 years anyway, the smugness of Fox News and NPR, and the worst decades of music and song in the history of popular music. We’ve been far too proud of far too little. What have we doing with our lives? Where’s the drama, the struggle to survive that’s a given for the Plant and Animal Kingdoms? An ill defined injustice haunts our years of too much stuff. Something’s got to give. But it could be a little bit of all right. There are reasons for calm. America is a vast and heavily armed fortress that can only be conquered from within.

The Animal Kingdom needs food and water. We’ve got plenty of it. We waste most of it. The big change will be ending waste. McDonalds, Starbucks, blueberries from Argentina, driving 20 miles to sample the new cutting edge Euro/Thai bistro, jumping in the Volvo for an impulsive brew and bagel–these may end. But if we let a thousand farmer’s markets bloom, make meat eating a limited and special occasion, grow graywater backyard veggies, and stay calm–we’ll make it through these times.

Here’s a bright and shiny glimpse of the new paradigm, coming to an exurb, suburb, or urban plot near you:The Audacity of Parkland, by Alan Farago, in the latest counterpunch.com