An article on the Daily Yonder website suggests that in the U.S. rising energy prices will have a disproportionate impact on rural communities. The article's author, Penn State geographer Amy Glasmeier, states that:
. . .for rural residents, high energy prices unleash a cascade of bad news that ripples through everyday life. Compared with urban areas, residents of rural areas are more dependent on oil for everything, from transportation to heating to making a living.Though I agree with Glasmeier's argument, I wonder if the intensity of these problems is not unique to the structure of the U.S. socio-natural landscape.
Rural residents tend to drive longer distances to access basic goods and services – including health care – and they have fewer transportation alternatives such as public transportation.
Obviously, rural areas in Japan are being impacted in similar ways by the rising cost of energy--some places more than others (particularly fishing communities)--but as I look out at the Otaki landscape, I wonder if rising fuel costs really pose such a serious threat.
Oil is a post-war phenomenon here in Otaki, and most older residents recall the days when wood was cut for fuel and walking was the main mode of transport. People enjoy the convenience of automobiles, but also recall with fondness the free forest railway system that once provided transportation to the nearest sizable town.
So, if all the cars stopped, how would Otaki fair? Many homes here still use wood-burning stoves--no problem. There is an ample amount of food being produced locally; so much, in fact, that most people don't know what to do with it all. Various game animals roam the hills. Anyway, I don't want to belabor the point: I think the residents of Otaki would be fine. The one resource that is in short supply: environmental knowledge. A vast amount of detailed information about the natural environment here in Otaki is being lost as older residents pass away, while younger people flee to urban areas.
This knowledge is Otaki's most valuable resource. Oil, I think, can come an go.
I'd like to hear other people's opinions concerning the resilience or robustness of their own communities in the face of a changing energy economy.