We may be entering a time of greater economic hardship than many have known in their lives. The great age of mass consumption, non-returnables, and disposable goods may have peaked.  Boarding the Hummer or the Escalade to drive 5 miles to buy cigarettes and a Big Gulp may be a thing of the past for a greater number of citizens. Americans will have to adopt a lifestyle much more akin to Europe or Japan- reduced living space and reduced (kg of crap)/(person year), reduced portion sizes, more walking, local shopping, and increased use of rail transportation.

The Oil Shock of Summer 2008 snagged the suspenders of this nation of hydrocarbon addicts, sending us reeling into the election/market crash machinery like a drunken farmer pulled into the thresher. Out the back end of this nightmare comes the bloody oat chaff to hint that something horrific happened. Reality strikes, then … silence.

In spite of the plurality of media outlet channels into our collective consciousness, few infotainers are drilling into the core of the problem. The pace and timing of commercial media sets the rhythm of infotainment metered to the masses. Photogenic talking heads selected for their appeal read predigested content for broadcast to attention deficit channel surfers. People dulled by the sheer magnitude of content-dilute information streams and dazzled by the production value of infotainment are compelled to switch on HBO and hide from the world.

Here is what we must do. We must see to it that better questions are being investigated. Instead of asking about the replacement for gasoline, we must ask for a frank disclosure on the sustainability of high consumption. Instead of asking for better or hybrid automobiles, we must frame questions around the concept of a mass transportation network. How can we get intercity rail up and running? How can the Detroit automobile manufactures be cajoled into entering the rail infrastructure business? Where is the hydrogen going to come from to fuel the hydrogen economy? Does it make sense to consume energy to generate hydrogen and then turn around and burn it for propulsion?

The best answers come from the best questions.