Revitalization

Jeff Rubin in Spectator

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 16, 2009

Yesterday's Hamilton Spectator carried a longish feature on Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist of CIBC World Markets and author of a new book titled Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller.

Rubin, one of the early mainstream advocates of peak oil theory, left his job at CIBC World Markets to publish and promote his book, which warns that the pattern of economic globalization that has characterized the past few decades is about to go into reverse as persistent declines in oil production render global trade unaffordable.

Of particular interest to Hamilton is the following:

"People in Hamilton understand how quickly the steel industry went south, or east. It can go west just as quickly."

In Rubin's world, mothballed factories will start to hum again, farmers' markets and back-yard gardens will boom, the 100-mile diet will be the new way of eating, people will exchange car keys for transit passes and walking shoes.

[...]

Rubin wants the billions going into shoring up carmakers to be pumped into transit systems.

"The autoworkers could be making subway cars, streetcars, light-rail. We need those, not SUVs," Rubin said.

(h/t to hunter for pointing this out in an RTH comment.)

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:21:43

"In Rubin's world, mothballed factories will start to hum again, farmers' markets and back-yard gardens will boom, the 100-mile diet will be the new way of eating, people will exchange car keys for transit passes and walking shoes."

Does Rubin's work also include unicorns and leprechaun?

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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:37:25

My wife and I attended Rubin's talk at the Burlington Central Library the other night, and despite the $10 admission, it was standing room only. As I watched the brisk sale of his book, all I could think of was how much of a shame it is that our Hamilton City Councillors do not seem to read books. If they did, at the very least they would be armed with a countervailing perspective as they pursue with unabated enthusiasm the development of the aerotropis, something that will have very limited utility in the world of triple-digit prices for a barrel of oil. (Oil closed at about $72 yesterday. What will it be when the worst recession in many decades is over?)

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By Peter Ormond (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 14:10:05

I also attended Jeff Rubin's presentation in Burlington. Wow. His clear forecast is unfolding each day. He certainly is an effective speaker and bringing a popular theme to more Canadians.

True, councillors - like many of the population - are overwhelmed, and too busy to comprehend messages in these books enough to understand the links between today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

Hamilton's aerotropolis sprawl project, as an example, is unbelievably out of tune with the times. Especially when small local airports are destined to be ghost towns - very soon. As expected, Air Canada is floundering again overhead.

Similarly, the nuclear legacy re-invents itself at the federal level. Check out the film "Battle of Chernobyl" and the simply local job-creating options of renewable energy and conservation become alot more sexy.

Brilliantly predictable, despite many options before us. Can one step aside and begin a new path, or at least stop to take a breath and acknowledge the realities of the situation with an open mind?

Just that makes the world a whole lot smaller.

Peter

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 15:40:01

Lorne,

Most Hamilton city councillors are too wrapped up in Walmarts and Coyotes to have time to read something to change their world views or even want to know a different way.

There has been lots of talk about a change in council - a tough task - but possibly one of the most important things we all can do to bring real change to this community.

If only they walked down the street from their Mall offices to see the many positive changes taking place despite their horrible decisions.


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By jason (registered) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 18:16:32

hmag, you must mean 'drive down the street'.

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By yeabut (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2009 at 17:00:38

I think we're already seeing the effect of peak oil with this recession. It is constantly fluctuating fuel prices, low when the economy tanks, skyrocketing when it looks like things might be entering recovery, touching off another dip in the economy and lower oil prices. If the city wants to develop its airport transportation it must shift fuels for public transit and automobiles, freeing up oil reserves for aviation fuel stability.

I think we're already seeing local factories refilling with workers, but they are not the kind of manufacturing jobs we've known in the past with few companies employing a large number of employees in mass production. That manufacturing has left town and if it ever returns it will hire few, relying upon automation instead. But our old plants have already begun to hum with smaller companies providing local services, each employing far fewer people. Possibly employing as few as one: a visual artist, using technology and to minimize tooling costs and producing for one-of-a-kind and niche markets. Arts and communications are information-age manufacturers.

I think bringing the Coyotes to Hamilton isn't so much about having a hockey team as securing content for hand-held media, providing work for creative and digital technologists. The Phoenix Coyotes are about trying to bend an old national mass medium to build a non-existent local market, just as that medium is losing some of its mass. The Hamilton Coyotes are about a newer, growing medium. RIM has already said it wants to expand its content beyond business. This also explains the desire to manage other HECFI facilities. Further, think the Teds, Turner & Rogers, who have sports teams to provide content for their media empires. Think of Ken Sobel, who used to own the Forum and Hamilton Red Wings. Think of the state of CHCH and Global now. Hockey in Hamilton, owned by the Blackberry media mogul, should be transformative for the city, unless all the creative production goes to Waterloo. It will still be good for Hamilton then, just not transformative.

I think when people are uncertain of the future they look to the past for reassuring solutions. What is studied in MBA schools? Business case histories. That explains both Mike Harris and Hamilton city council, mostly.

I think Friday's "Make It 7" rally was amateurish. Should have been held in a high-school gym. Heard from the principal, the coach and the cheerleaders. One band. One tune. Whoo whoo!

Then again, I think I'm a raving genius.

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