Transcript: KunstlerCast: S-Town


The following is a transcript of a bonus episode of the KunstlerCast released on May 31, 2017. In this installment, KunstlerCast creator and former host Duncan Crary reunites on the mic with James Howard Kunstler five years after their final episode together for a special conversation about the podcast sensation S-Town. This is a nearly verbatim transcript with only the slightest edits to remove verbal ticks and redundant utterances. 

[Intro music]

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER (as host): Hello and welcome to this bonus edition of the KunstlerCast. Some time ago the folks who bring you This American Life produced a strange (seven) part podcast called S-Town, short for Shittown, which was based on the misadventures of a character named John B. McLemore. It wasn’t brought to my attention until some time after the series was produced and it was out, but as it happens I had a correspondence and quite a few telephone conversations with the subject of that podcast: John B McLemore, who lived in a town called Woodstock, Alabama and who unfortunately committed suicide before the recording of that series was over. My web site manager and old podcasts sidekick Duncan Crary thought listeners might be interested in some background about John B McLemore and how he got in touch with me and the kind of things we talked about. So without further ado here’s Duncan Crary and me talking about S-Town.

DUNCAN CRARY:  Jim it’s great to see ya down here in Troy.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: It was a long journey from the deep north but I got here — my reindeer are parked out in front of the office building, here.

DUNCAN CRARY: I was listening to a podcast the other day and it’s becoming, like, an Internet phenomenon. And I had to talk to you about it. It’s called S-Town.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yes. And we know what that means.

DUNCAN CRARY: The — it’s produced by This American Life. And it’s sort of like an offshoot of Serial and This American Life. The subject is John McLemore, John B. McLemore. He is a Southern eccentric who refers to his hometown as “Shit Town.” So that’s where they got the title of the show. But before we get into this conversation, though, Jim I do need to warn your listeners, this conversation will include many spoilers.


DUNCAN CRARY: So if anyone out there, you know — if you haven’t listened to S-town yet I highly recommend it. But listen to it before you hear what Jim and I are (crosstalk) going to talk about.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Do you remember the name of the correspondent who actually did it?

DUNCAN CRARY: OK so the correspondent who produced the show is Brian Reed. And if anyone — if you want to find it folks listening just go to or you can search for it in iTunes. So Jim the reason why I want to talk to you as soon as I started listening to this show I recognized the main subject, he was using a lot of your phraseology, like I could tell that he’d been reading your work. OK so let me just play a couple a couple of clips, like here’s this one right here:

[ Audio clip: S-Town Ch. II ]

JOHN B. McLEMORE: I’m trying to think of a snappy comeback to that

BRIAN REED: ‘Cause what is it if not progress?

JOHN B. McLEMORE: Oh Lord, it’s just a clusterfuck of sorrow.

BRIAN REED: A clusterfuck of sorrow.

[End Clip]

DUNCAN CRARY:Clusterfuck Nation” is the title of your blog, of course. You didn’t coin the term, but we’re just getting started. Check out the language in this next clip:

[ Audio Clip: S-Town Ch. III ]

BRIAN REED: On Sunday night. He wrote me as he was listening telling me how disgusted he was with the police abuses I was reporting about, how our country wasn’t worth defending. How he would let his mother lay over and die before he called his local police. And then he sent me an email titled collapse list which is the email that I saw come in. [/end clip]

DUNCAN CRARY: OK so right there “a country not worth defending.” That’s what you said in your TED talk.


DUNCAN CRARY: I mean that’s one of the, like, oft quoted lines from your TED talk, is:

[Audio clip: TED2004: “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs”]

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: We have about 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today when we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending. And I want you to think about that when you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq spilling their blood in the sand. And ask yourself what is their last thought of home. I hope it’s not the curb cut between the Chuck E. Cheese and the Target store ‘cause that’s not good enough for Americans… to be spilling their blood for. We need better places in this country. (crowd applause) [/end clip]

DUNCAN CRARY: This clip right here kind of sums up your Geography of Nowhere, suburban sprawl, built environment commentary …

[Audio Clip: S-Town Ch. I]

BRIAN REED: Later, John will take me on a tour of Bibb County, and this worldview will be on full display. He’ll rattle off a constant stream of grievances as we go. Historic buildings are being demolished overnight. Dollar Generals and Wal-marts are popping up in their stead, serving a populace that is getting fatter and more tattooed by the day.

[/end clip]

DUNCAN CRARY: That last little bit about tattoos, this is a big part of the John B. McLemore story… his obsession with tattoos.

[Audio Clip: S-Town Ch. II]

BRIAN REED: John’s motivation was especially bewildering to Bubba, because John had made it clear almost every time he came in the shop how deeply he despised tattoos.

BUBBA: If you got a tattoo on you, he’d tell you you wasn’t shit. You’re a low life. You shouldn’t have that on you.

[/end clip]

KunstlerTattoosEyesore2008DUNCAN CRARY: He’s telling everyone in town how horrible tattoos are and of course you originally wrote an “Eyesore of the Month” about a tattoo parlor on Main Street in Saratoga Springs.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Oh well I was also inveighing against the tattooed savages that we see every day, you know, in the gym and elsewhere.

DUNCAN CRARY: Right, And then you and I —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: That was a theme.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah and then you… So first it was an Eyesore of the Month, then you mentioned it in your blog then you and I did a whole podcast episode about it…

[Audio Clip: KunstlerCast #24:Tattoos ] [Transcript ]

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: You know it’s historically been the domain of cannibals whores and sailors. So it’s disappointing to see it on Main Street. You know, I really started to develop an attitude — a bad attitude — about tattoos since I have been going to a particular gym in town and there are all these you know muscle heads there and weight trainer guys who have — are covered with tattoos and there are more and more of them every week including many females. And some of the tattoos I’m seeing these days are just so alarming there like guys have flames tattooed coming up their necks. You know. I saw this one kid on the street actually in front of the tattoo parlor on our main drag and he had a dotted line tattooed on his neck with a pair of scissors tattooed on one end and the words “cut here” tattooed on the other end. And it was just sickening to see that, you know, a young man had such a desperate and depraved view of his own value that he thought that — he was advertising someone to cut his head off. He was just — you know, it was appalling. So I, you know, I think we — again, this is an attempt for the marginal to invade the center and I’m all for keeping the marginal on the margins.

[/End clip]

DUNCAN CRARY: You broke the Internet for a week with your rant on tattoos. OK, but clearly that sank through into this man’s worldview.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: This southern eccentric gentleman.

DUNCAN CRARY: So it’s a — it’s a sad situation, though. You find out in Episode II that McLemore committed suicide by drinking cyanide.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah which he had used — well, it’s a long story and you’ll find out if you do listen to S-Town that he was kind of a genius repairer of antique clocks and, you know, he’s a renowned expert the world over and people used to send him very complex jobs which sometimes involved re-plating of gold components. And he had a very primitive set up in his home for re-plating gold using cyanide as a catalyst. And so he did keep the stuff around.

DUNCAN CRARY: So you find out an Episode II that he committed suicide but then the show goes on because there’s so much more to learn about this man and —


DUNCAN CRARY: And his town. OK he’s very concerned with all the issues that you write about: climate change, economic collapse —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Fossil fuel depletion. You know, the whole scene.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. The entire thing. And you find out in the final episode, they read a snippet of his manifesto, or basically his suicide note.


DUNCAN CRARY: And it mentions you. And it mentions Christopher Hitchens and it mentions John —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: John Michael Greer, another blogger.

DUNCAN CRARY: And it mentions —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Heinberg, Richard Heinberg.

DUNCAN CRARY: And it mentions Richard Heinberg, yeah, among a few other authors. So clearly clearly he’s been reading —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah he was reading the literature of economic collapse.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. So I called you to tell you about this and then you sort of recognized the whole sign off, the S-Town thing, Shit Town. And it turns out you had been corresponding with him. So can you tell us —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: And talking to him. Yeah, and I was totally unaware that there was this podcast about S-Town. And I just didn’t know it.

I actually didn’t know that the guy had passed away and in fact, in a synchronous sort of way I had just been wondering in the previous few days whatever happened to him and why I hadn’t heard from him anymore.

So yeah pretty weird.

DUNCAN CRARY: Tell me a little bit more about this because you did inform your blog readers you had a little note at the end of one of your posts about this. But I want to hear a little bit more about your interactions with him so … you told me you’d found, like, only one email of his that you still have in your possession.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah I had — unfortunately, I had cleaned out my Mac Mail archives a few months earlier in an attempt to sort of streamline my computer. I hadn’t heard from him in a while and I didn’t know what happened to him and, you know, I mean he was an interesting character but I didn’t think he was going to burst forth in the ether of Internet reportage. So I deleted his emails. I found one in a different folder for some reason because he sometimes used different email signatures.

In any case, yeah, so I heard from John B McLemore of Woodstock, Alabama for the first time somewhere around 2010, maybe, something like that, or 2009 — I’m not really sure. He sent me e-mails, and they were interesting e-mails. You know, they were obviously from somebody who was a fairly erudite person who was interested in the things I’d been writing about in The Long Emergency and subsequently the book Too Much Magic, which I was just then developing. I finished that in 2011 and (it) didn’t come out until 2012. We had this correspondence and then he started calling me.


JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: And he was a particularly interesting guy. First of all he had this very flamboyant mode of presentation. You know, he was like a character out of Tennessee Williams meets Bizarro World. You know, he was flamboyantly Southern and he sort of played up on it. And I enjoyed talking to him.

And, you know, we would mostly talk at first about world issues and economic issues and markets and commodities and oil and natural gas and, you know, all this stuff that I was writing about. But eventually he started talking to me about the town itself that he was living in and how he called it “Shit Town.” And how everything in it was busted, rusted, shot up, broken, deformed, messed up, ruined. You know, in some way that everything including the human personalities and families and relations in the town were all in some kind of terrible condition. And it all seemed kind of emblematic of the ruined condition of the fly over heartland of America that ended up voting for Trump, right?

So it was certainly an interesting relationship. I do correspond with a number of people. A few of them are outright cranks and, you know, I try to minimize those relationships. And there’s kind of a gradient of people who are dead serious or interesting or, you know, real healthy, psychologically healthy people going across the spectrum to the people who are obviously psychologically in trouble.

DUNCAN CRARY: So where did McLemore fall on that spectrum?

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: I would put him about three quarters of the way up towards the disturbed section.

But he — you know, he was coherent enough and he was interesting enough because he told me so much about his town and his situation. He actually talked to me as much about his home situation and his falling-apart house and his taking care of his elderly mother. And the way things tended is that, I started to try to suggest to him “Well, you know, maybe you should move away from this terrible place if it’s so awful.

If it’s if it’s ruining your life.” You know, and I said that with the full recognition that people’s home places are very important to them even if they have an extremely destructive neurotic relationship with their home place and all the people in it. They don’t give those things up easily.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: And you know I talked to him about — you know, I suggested that there were other parts of the country that he could go to, if he, you know, if Shit Town was too much for him and —

DUNCAN CRARY: Like where? Where’d you suggest?

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well I mean everything from, you know, Montpelier, Vermont to, you know, to Ouray, Colorado. You know, there are small towns all over America that are much more civilized than the place that he lived in.

DUNCAN CRARY: According to him, though, too right because —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Of course. I mean this is — you know, to some extent when you develop that kind of weird correspondence and relationship over the phone with a stranger, you’re buying into their fantasy of whatever they’re telling you about their life.


JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: And, you sort of have to accept it at face value. Now, in my own defense, I did not get so involved with this guy’s life that it took more than 20 minutes every two weeks for me to talk to him and I mean I didn’t — I wasn’t suffering. I understood that he was suffering. But I didn’t get hyper-involved with him. I just understood that he was an unhappy person of—with some talent and some brains who lived a distance from me in a terrible place.

DUNCAN CRARY: Now, you say like your conversations only lasted 20 minutes because the one thing that Brian Reed mentions in the show is that you know no one had, like, a short conversation.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: No, yeah — I said 20 minutes, but you know some of them might have gone for an hour and 10 minutes and some of them might have gone for ten minutes. You know there are a lot of people who call me out of the blue and I’m in motion a lot. You know, I got a lot to do so you know sometimes I have to tell them that I just got to go you know I got things I got to do so. So it wasn’t it wasn’t such a big deal to me. But I was interested in the guy. I sympathized with him. There was an awful lot I didn’t know about him — A lot of the relationships that subsequently were unearthed by Brian on the podcast.

He did confess to me that he was a homosexual but he didn’t tell me anything about his homosexual activities. And he did talk a lot about thinking about killing himself. And, I’m very attuned to relationship rackets that people construct and I recognized that as a possible racket, you know, just a way for him to hook me into, you know, caretaking him psychologically and I really didn’t see that as my role. So I attempted to kind of minimize that. And I just didn’t really buy into it too heavily. I know I suggested to him that it might not be a good idea and that there might be reasons for him to keep on living.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well, did he ment— like, I don’t think the show even gets into why did he want to kill himself, though? What —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well, no it does get into some elements of it. But a lot of it has to do with the chemicals that he was keeping around. And I think what Brian ascertained, or at least what he tried to put out as a kind of a hypothesis, was that John McLemore had been using these gold plating chemicals, including a lot of mercury, for many years and that he might have been suffering from mercury poisoning, which you know would make a person somewhat psychotic and delusional. And that’s what accounted for his strange thinking, for John’s thought problems and eventually for you know the way the thought is the father of the deed, thought problems may lead to behavior problems. And obviously they led to a pretty bad one with him: he killed himself.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah, I mean, in the show they surmise or some people guessed that he had, like, Mad Hatter’s disease.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah. Because back in the 19th century the people who made hats in Britain especially used all kinds of heavy metals and Mercury in particular to process the furs that were felted and then turned into certain shapes. And so The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland is modeled on the kind of occupational disease.

DUNCAN CRARY: OK but was it also, though — So that might have amplified his feelings—

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: However, you know I got to say that yeah they might have amplified his feelings but on the whole he came off as fairly lucid. You know, he didn’t seem like that much of a crazy person other than the fact that he sometimes talked about killing himself. And frankly, you know, I drew the conclusion that he felt like killing himself because he was deeply unhappy so that you know there was some logic to what he was doing and that’s probably why I tried to get across the possibility of the idea that: You don’t necessarily have to be this unhappy. You can move to a place that doesn’t make you so unhappy. So —

DUNCAN CRARY: OK. But here’s what I wanted to speak to you specifically about today. So, I don’t know — over 200 episodes ago, I think it was show number 70 [correction: KunstlerCast #71: Doomers | Transcript ], we did a topic called “Doomers.” You and I talked about “doomers” and this whole “Doomer” label.


DUNCAN CRARY: And kind of so-called Doomer culture of studying about peak oil and scary things — climate change and economic collapse, and then a lot of people go online and then they share their thoughts with each other. And it can get really scary and depressing. These are not, these aren’t fun topics.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: No although, you know, I have to add that I was not depressed by them. First of all they were ideas that had been rattling around my head for decades before I wrote The Long Emergency. There are all kinds of intimations of it in The Geography of Nowhere which was published in 1993. And a lot of it really has to do not with just the potential for destruction in the way we live or our economy but the fact that we’re dwelling in this kind of awful machine of a civilization and culture which some people really feel needs to sort of stop. You need to, in the phrase of Mario Savio the orator of the Berkeley campus back in the 60s who started the Free Speech Movement, you know, sometimes the machine that you’re caught up in is so odious that you just have to stop it. And I think there are a lot of people who feel that way about this whirling diabolical machine of modernity that’s just crushing the human race.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. And if anyone listening, if you haven’t heard the old shows look up “Doomers” it’s number [71]. Jim, you make this reference in that show to, like, the way New York City used to feel when you were a kid after a rain.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: No, after — I think after a blizzard. Yeah the fact that how delightful, wonderful, and clarifying it felt when everything just sort of stopped.


JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: You know when the giant mechanical maw of Manhattan just ground to a halt and you were in a state of stillness for once, and it was such a wonderful magic moment. So, I think a lot of what is often labeled as Doomerism or the Doomer psychology is a wish to get to some kind of civilizational serenity or stillness that, you know, where you don’t feel like you’re assaulted and bedeviled and beset all the time by all this stuff. You know, by everything from the phone ringing to the idiocies of robot business transactions.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. So that — you see that longing… It’s like longing for a reset almost.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well, yeah. And that’s why I called it that in my books. I’m convinced that we are headed for a reset of the terms of civilization. And I think an awful lot of people would feel that they would like that, that they would like to be in a civilization that wasn’t so cruel and oppressive to them and I don’t even mean in the crudest political terms. I mean in the sense of all the everyday crap that we’re burdened by.

DUNCAN CRARY: I was going through your — all of your blog posts and your iTunes reviews. I was looking for —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: That’s more than I do because I never read that shit.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well, you read some of it, but not, you —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: I read the comments on the blog. That’s all.

DUNCAN CRARY: Right. Well what I was doing is I was scouring the Internet for comments by John McLemore.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Oh. I wouldn’t even know how to do that.

DUNCAN CRARY: He would write under his real name, but he would also write under screen names and other things. And I was looking for comments on your blog. I actually didn’t find too many because I don’t know when he started following your online activities. But nevertheless here’s what I did come across. This is not John B. McLemore by the way, I can verify that. This is a review of your podcast in the iTunes store. It was posted on Dec. 23, 2014 and it’s by a person using the handle “Marlowinc.” I don’t know if that’s like a reference to Marlow from the Joseph —


DUNCAN CRARY: The Joseph Conrad writings. Yeah.


DUNCAN CRARY: Anyway the title is “My back-handed review” and this person gave you four stars out of five. Not bad. All right:


I always like to read & hear what JK has to write & say, but MAN can his stuff be frickin' depressing! And his guests just add fuel to the flames of hopelessness. The one I just heard with John Greer made me want to put a bullet in my head! Every time I think of myself as well-informed, versed —even hardened—to the inevitable decay of our culture & society, along comes the things I hear on this podcast. Thanks for the bleak and meaningless future of existence, guys! I believe I have my cyanide capsules ready. Greer’s chuckling about our downward spiral into a savage, barbaric culture made me physically ill. I'm no defender about the current global situation. I'm not naive about the uncertain years ahead, but give us a morsel of optimism to chew on here! Even if it's meek and minuscule. Geez! Is there a reasonable alternative? A Robert E. Howard nightmare realm of  “Only the strong survive” is unacceptable. If  “living by the sword” is the only option, I'm gonna go commit hari kari right now. Thanks for cheering me up! Looking forward to the next podcast! (Gunshot. Thud.)

I always like to read & hear what JK has to write & say, but MAN can his stuff be frickin’ depressing! And his guests just add fuel to the flames of hopelessness. The one I just heard with John Greer made me want to put a bullet in my head! Every time I think of myself as well-informed, versed —even hardened—to the inevitable decay of our culture & society, along comes the things I hear on this podcast. Thanks for the bleak and meaningless future of existence, guys! I believe I have my cyanide capsules ready. Greer’s chuckling about our downward spiral into a savage, barbaric culture made me physically ill. I’m no defender about the current global situation. I’m not naive about the uncertain years ahead, but give us a morsel of optimism to chew on here! Even if it’s meek and minuscule. Geez! Is there a reasonable alternative? A Robert E. Howard nightmare realm of “Only the strong survive” is unacceptable. If “living by the sword” is the only option, I’m gonna go commit hari kari right now. Thanks for cheering me up! Looking forward to the next podcast! (Gunshot. Thud.)

I mean, so now, the person has a sense of humor. Also, I looked it up, I found a blog out there that’s still being published by Marlowinc, so…

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well, just for the record, this Marlow person seems to have overlooked the fact that I spent about seven years writing four novels under the World Made By Hand banner. And that, you know, a lot of the point of those novels was to depict the aftermath of an economic collapse in a way that would make people feel OK and hopeful about whatever reset we moved into. So I feel a little bit like I’m being falsely accused of being a merchant of doom when in fact, both in my artistic life and my personal life, I’m not at all without hope and cheer. It’s just … I think that what this guy said represents what a lot of people really secretly feel, which is: it’s not so much about the world changing or moving on. It’s about their grief about losing the techno industrial paradigm. And I kind of believe that we are going to leave that behind but I don’t feel bad about what that represents. I’m not — I don’t feel hopeless and bereft and depressed about that. But I don’t really see that we’re going to be able to continue living in though in the way that we have and it’s as simple as that.

DUNCAN CRARY: So do you have a message out there for people who are discovering The Long Emergency and they’re reading Heinberg and they’re reading John Michael (Greer)—

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah, if they’re feeling hopeless, there’s a reason I wrote those four World Made By Hand books. You know, it occupied a considerable part of my lifetime. And I recommend they read them. And they’ll get a picture of a world that has changed, in which not everything is changed for the worse. There are a lot of compensations for living in a world without commuting and a world without — where you have nothing but canned entertainment to fill your idle hours. There’s a lot in there and it was presented that way for a purpose, so that people would feel a little more courageous about entering that new paradigm when the current one kind of loses its mojo.

DUNCAN CRARY: I have two more questions before we wrap this up, Jim. I gotta talk to you about the tattoos again in this. So you have this whole famous take on tattoos.


DUNCAN CRARY: And it seems like John B. McLemore, absorbed that into his worldview.


DUNCAN CRARY: And then all of a sudden…

[ Audio Clip: S-Town Ch. II ]

BRIAN REED: So as shocking as it was to me when John lifted up his shirt to show me all his tattoos, it was far more shocking to Bubba when John strolled in one day at the age of 47 and asked him to start putting them there.

BUBBA: I thought he was going to commit suicide. You know, that’s what I thought in my mind.


BUBBA: This is something you’re completely against. You think fucking failures have tattoos, you know what I’m saying? Why in the fuck would you just start tattooing your whole upper body like that, you know what I mean? And around your neck — pistons. Tattooing pistons on him, you know? Redneck-ass tattoos, you know?

[/End clip]

DUNCAN CRARY: He’s going and getting himself covered completely in tattoos.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well, he wasn’t covered completely but he got a lot of tattoos in places that people weren’t likely to see them when he was wearing clothing.

DUNCAN CRARY: Right now in the —.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: But you know there are a bunch of characters in the S-Town podcast whose lives revolve around a tattoo parlor. And, you know, they’re a bunch of kind of, you know, Southern redneck Yahoo types and John B McLemore was very involved with them emotionally. One of them in particular who was kind of a lost soul young man who he apparently wanted to save or rescue. Which of course is very ironic because John B. McLemore himself was very much in need of being rescued. But anyway one of the things that he apparently did was that he hung out in the tattoo shop with these guys and got himself tattooed. Now Brian Reed’s interpretation of that, if I remember correctly, was that he might have done that just so that he could spend more time with these guys and make them feel like he was one of them. Which he obviously wasn’t.

DUNCAN CRARY: And also, though, even they surmised that he was trying to pay — he wanted to pay the guy who ran the parlor to basically give him money without giving him a handout.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Give him business. You know, this was the guy’s business. He was a kind of a pathetic character in a pathetic economy in a pathetic region of the country.

DUNCAN CRARY: And John somehow had money — nobody knows exactly how much — because he was un-banked. So, he might have had gold buried all over his land from his watch —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: And of course a big part of the S-Town podcast is this treasure hunt that occurs after his death and all kinds of people are going around his property. You know, he lived on this — he was what they call land poor. He came from a fairly well-to-do old family who had run through all their money and they had nothing left but the property. And one of the things that he talked about to me a lot was the fact that he could never sell his property because of the terrible condition of the town that surrounded him and how awful, what an awful place it was and nobody would want to live there and nobody would want to buy this, you know, old Southern mansion that he lived in on what had been some kind of a farm or maybe a plantation even 150 years ago.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. But getting back to the tattoos, so yeah there was that, he might have had money … But he was also getting, like, really painful nipple tattoos and it seemed to be —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: No, rings. Nipple rings, piercings.

DUNCAN CRARY: And then I thought were — it seemed painful whatever, whatever. I like, I don’t have any ink or any piercings but it’s whatever it seemed to be a —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well, look he was a psychologically unwell person so you know God knows what might have motivated him to subject himself to pain. Look, there are an awful lot of people out there who do that now and the only conclusion I can draw is that they lead painful lives and maybe they feel that they have to express that themselves and contribute to their own pain. I really don’t know. There’s some kind of a dynamic there. I haven’t thought a whole lot about it maybe if I did I’d come to a better conclusion.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well I would just, I don’t know. Obviously, you don’t have the answers. I remember — three years ago I deliberately got rid of my car, so I live a car-free lifestyle. And I’ve always been kind of anti-automobile dependency. But I remember I was in Los Angeles, like 10 years ago, and they gave me like a convertible Mustang for the car rental and I went nuts. I just was driving over these like environmentally sensitive — .

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Fun fun fun til Daddy takes a T-bird away. That’s Los Angeles.

DUNCAN CRARY: But I just swung to the complete opposite end, you know.


DUNCAN CRARY: So it just seemed wild that this guy was kind of repeating your thoughts on tattoos and then suddenly got himself all tatted up.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well I mean one conclusion you could draw is that it has an awful lot to do with self-hatred. You know, that he became the thing that he publicly reviled.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well that seems to happen. That’s not like —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: He’s a little bit like a character out of a Thomas Harris novel, the guy who wrote Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. After hearing about his death, frankly I was less surprised that they didn’t find buried gold and more surprised that they didn’t find some teenagers buried in his basement. A grim thought, perhaps.

DUNCAN CRARY: That’s a little harsh.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: But, you know, there you have it.

DUNCAN CRARY: So Jim final question about all this. Because this was such a big Internet sensation, I mean this podcast broke all sorts of records. I mean people really consumed the story. Is there — do you feel like there’s something you wish you had said or was there something further you would have said to him?

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Not really. You know, I was quite sympathetic with him. I made an effort to be a good listener. I gave him the feedback that I could. I didn’t not try to tell him anything that might be helpful. I didn’t go overboard on it. I did what I could. And, you know, you can’t save everybody especially people who don’t live anywhere near you and, you know, who are just, you know, connected by some thread of electronics.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well, but it is — being an author and then being a podcaster, I mean, it’s kind of a — it’s an intimate interaction with strangers.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah and I did what I could to have a relationship with a reader at a distance and I had no idea that he’d killed himself. You know … he didn’t talk about it so much, he didn’t talk about suicide so much that I concluded that he was going to do it at any moment. You know, he never sounded desperate about it. He was actually rather jocular about it. That’s how it rolled. And I’m sorry to hear that. He had other options and those were the choices that poor John B McLemore made.


JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: May he rest in peace.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. Well I’ve been thinking that, so the 258 podcast episodes that you and I did together — which, you were working out some of your thoughts on Too Much Magic while you and I were doing the show for five years.

I kind of feel like, so that …. those years on the podcast and then the podcast book that I put out, based on it, that’s kind of the prequel to S-town.

So if anyone’s really interested in learning more about this character John B. McLemore you can kind of get into his head a little bit more if you —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah, he’s not in those podcasts, but it might serve as a background to, you know, the kind of thoughts and issues that he may have been immersed in.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah because we even we had Heinberg on the show, we had Greer… we had the other authors on it. So I’m not trying — that sounds a little more morbid than I want it to be. It’s not like if you listen to the show you’ll end up drawing the same conclusion.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: But the S-Town story is a morbid story. But, you know, let’s face it we’re living in a kind of a morbid culture and that’s the sad hard truth of the matter. I personally try to remain, you know, cheerful and un-morbid and lead an upright life and but I can’t behave for all the other people in my country.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. Well I mean, I certainly feel you know a lot has changed in this small city that I live in, in the last 10 years .

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah, we’re recording in Troy New York.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. And I feel a lot happier now that our downtown is more healthy. There’s more activity there’s more people, you know, striving for a future .

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Yeah, a more normal transactional social life right.

DUNCAN CRARY: Right. Whereas, you know, 15 years ago when I moved here people were telling me I was crazy and there were a lot of people really depressed about this place and they felt like it was a Shit City.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Well one of the things that that says is that people actually have to do things to make things better. You know, you can’t just think about stuff there’s a big difference between thinking about stuff and stewing about stuff and actually making things happen. And you know I’ve been convinced my whole adult life that the most crucial thing for a person who is feeling bad in one way or another about their situation is to take action and to learn the difference between between thought and action.

And you know taking care of business is what you got to do.

DUNCAN CRARY: Well, Jim thanks a lot for yakkin’ with me, I enjoyed —

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: Hey it was fun getting back to the old motif here. Despite some of the technical difficulties we had because it’s been such a long time since we put the headphones on.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yeah. Listeners don’t know but I couldn’t remember how to put any of the equipment together and I couldn’t get any of the software working.

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: OK Duncan Well let’s wrap up some mugs and T-shirts and send them out to our Patreon people.

DUNCAN CRARY: Yep. You betcha. All right thanks a lot, Jim.



KunstlerCast #201: Listener Mailbag

Light Pollution, the Printed Page v. the Screen & More

Released: April 12, 2012

JHK fields listeners calls about the healthcare industry and its future in the Long Emergency, the validity of peak oil, cognitive ability to retain information from a computer screen vs. the printed page, and light pollution.

Direct Download:
(25 MB | 25:36 mins.)

Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


The Heirloom

The Heirloom,” by Richard Davies, explores a post peak world where a group of Native Americans comes to terms with a dangerous and chaotic world. Guy McPherson, of Nature Bats Last, says, “Ultimately, The Heirloom is a wide-ranging tale about the human experience. It is about life, love, death, honor, and people struggling to make their way in a world not of their choosing.”

Part one of a trilogy, “The Heirloom” is available through Amazon in both paperback and eBook. The second book in the trilogy will be available late Summer 2012. Visit:

KunstlerCast #192: Arthur E. Berman, Petroleum Geologist

Magical Thinking and Fracking

Released: Feb. 2, 2012

Arthur E. Berman

Arthur E. Berman

James Howard Kunstler speaks by phone with Arthur E. Berman, who is a petroleum geologist and consultant to the energy sector; editorial board member of The Oil Drum; associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin; director of The Association for the Study of Peak Oil. Berman has published more than 100 articles on petroleum geology and technology and has made more than 50 presentations in the last year to professional societies, investment conferences and companies. He speaks to Jim tonight about the history of shale gas “fracking” and a lot of the “magical thinking” surrounding the prospects of America becoming “energy dependent” through fracking.


Petroleum Truth Report (Arthur E. Berman’s blog)

Direct Download:
(51 MB | 58:02 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free



Join CNU in West Palm Beach, FL this year May 9-12, for the 20th anniversary event of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Confirmed speakers include Richard Florida, Sprawl Repair Manual author Galina Tachieva, retail guru Robert Gibbs, Fighting Traffic author Peter Norton, Peter Calthorpe, Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Jaime Correa, Andres Duany and many more speakers being added every day.

Go to and register now to take advantage of early registration rates.

CNU 20

KunstlerCast #188: Forecast 2012

JHK’s New Year’s Resolution

Released: Jan. 5, 2012

JHK discusses his 2012 Annual Forecast. He thinks this may be the year that we discover that shale gas and oil is just another bubble, simply a destination for hot money to make returns in a financial landscape that doesn’t offer many. He also mentions a recent encounter with Noam Chomsky.
Lastly, Jim shares his resolution for the new year


Dmitry Orlov on Noam Chomsky interview (with link to media file)

Direct Download:
(33 MB | 38:58 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


KunstlerCast #186: John Michael Greer

Apocalypse Not, Green Wizardry and Techno-Narcissism

Released: Dec. 22, 2011

Apocalypse Not, by John Michael Greer

Apocalypse Not, by John Michael Greer

John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent, The Wealth of Nature and, most recently, Apocalypse Not, joins JHK and Duncan by phone to speak about 2012 apocalypse scenarios, Green Wizardry, politics and techno narcissism. Greer explains how the 1970s were the last time that America was confronted by a major disruption in its energy supply. At the time, many Americans began exploring renewable energy and more modest living arrangements that require less energy. But that was the road not taken. And now we face what he describes as a “stairstep collapse,” like many other civilizations that have overshot their resource base. Other topics include: our modern delusions about technology, the re-enchantment of our worldview, and the potential resurgence of fraternal orders which once served as the foundation of public life in America.


The Arch Druid Report, official blog of John Michael Greer

Direct Download:
(40 MB | 50:01 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


KunstlerCast #185: Duncan on Relocalize Vermont

A Chat With the KunstlerCast Host

Released: Dec. 15, 2011

In this episode, Duncan appears solo on a radio program called Relocalizing Vermont  to talk about The KunstlerCast book and podcast and the influence that James Howard Kunstler has had on him. In this half-hour interview by Carl Etnier asks Duncan about the KunstlerCast came to be, why JHK always seems to rip on Amory Lovins, the Y2K thing, and other topics. A caller from Britain asks about the prospects of “re-villaging” suburbia.


Relocalizing Vermont
Thursdays 8:30 – 10:00 am
Exploring energy, food, and the local economy at the end of the age of oil
WGDR Plainfield 91.1 FM
WGDH Hardwick 91.7 FM
streaming at

Direct Download:
(24 MB | 31:51 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


KunstlerCast #181: A Collegiate Discussion of World Made By Hand

KunstlerCast in English Class

Released: Nov. 17, 2011

JHK takes questions from the students in a college English class who have just completed reading “World Made By Hand,” a post-peak oil novel. These highly intelligent questions range in topic from the role of religion, violence, and narrative strategy of Wold Made By Hand. Jim also reveals his true feelings about George Lucas and his thoughts about making revisions to novels.

Note: This episode contains cursewords.

Direct Download:
(38 MB | 44:57 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free



If books were made out of Cheez Doodles this is what they would look like: bright orange, bite size, leaves a tasty residue on those who touch it.

KunstlerCast #179: The Long Emergency vs. NYC’s Resurgency

JHK Debates Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White

Released: Nov. 3, 2011

In this special episode we listen to a recording from: “The Long Emergency vs. NYC’s Resurgency: A Debate about the Future of Cities” featuring Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White and author James Howard Kunstler. Jeff Olson of Alta Planning & Design moderates before an audience at Skidmore College. Organized by Kim Marsella, professor of the Skidmore Environmental Studies Department.

Description: “We live in a time of either the collapse of our society or the emergence of innovative solutions. This discussion will feature two of America’s most interesting voices: Kunstler, whose book The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, is an apocalyptic vision of a post-oil future, and White of Transportation Alternatives, a leader who is helping to transform New York City into a livable metropolis. Both speakers share a common vision of the need for a sustainable future – the debate will focus on whether or not change is possible in light of our modern condition. ”


Direct Download:
(61 MB | 75 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free



  • Transportation Alternatives
    Transportation Alternatives’s mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile, and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives.
  • Alta Planning & Design
    Alta’s mission is to create active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, and fun.
  • Jeffrey S. Olson
    Jeff Olson is an architect and planner who has been involved in greenways, open space, active living and alternative transportation projects for more than 20 years.
  • Kim Marsella
    Senior Teaching Associate, Department of Geosciences, Skidmore College


KunstlerCast #177: JHK Addresses Preservationists

Not All Buildings Are Worth Saving

Released: Oct. 21, 2011

Jim and Duncan talk about Historic Preservation on their return drive from the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, held in Buffalo this week. This show includes an excerpt from the keynote address Jim gave to kick off the conference. During the talk JHK explained to preservationists that not all buildings are worth saving — particularly the modernist architectural abortions of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Note: This episode contains cursewords

Direct Download:
(44 MB | 53:25 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Watch JHK’s full talk to the National Trust for Historic Preservation here:

Video streaming by Ustream


KunstlerCast Book Release Party
Nov. 1, 2011
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Daisy Bakers, Troy NY

Books Available for Purchase via website next week!

KunstlerCast #176: Listener Mailbag

JHK Answers Questions From Listener Callers

Released: Oct. 13, 2011

JHK and Duncan get caught up on listener calls. Question topics include: Phoenix vs. Georgia; repealing the gas tax, The Long Descent, the downgrading of America and why aren’t there any African-American characters in Jim’s World Made By Hand novels. One listener also shares a bizarre and raunchy consipiracy theory.

Note: This episode contains cursewords

Direct Download:
(37 MB | 44:24 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


KunstlerCast Get together in Buffalo
October 19, 2011
8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Pearl Street Grille and Brewery
67 Pearl St., Buffalo, NY
Cost: Free
In conjunction with a party hosted by the Buffalo Young Preservationists. For info and to RSVP: click here.
During National Preservation Conference

KunstlerCast Book Release Party
Nov. 1, 2011
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Daisy Bakers, Troy NY

KunstlerCast #171: The End of Growth – Part 2

JHK Speaks to Richard Heinberg

Released: Sept. 1, 2011

In the conclusion of this one-hour conversation, Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything, The Party’s Over and the newly published The End of Growth joins James Howard Kunstler by phone to talk about peak oil, financial dysfunction, techno-grandiosity, the fate of industrial aggriculture and the suburban living arrangement. Heinberg also reacts to being labeled a “Doomer.”

Buy full one-hour audio (.mp3) interview – $1

(Note: Parts 1 & 2 are now avaialble for free. But you can still buy the full interview in one file if you’d like.)

Buy Transcript (.pdf) – $1

Buy Transcript on Kindle – $1

KunstlerCast #170: The End of Growth – Part 1

JHK Speaks to Richard Heinberg

Released: Aug. 25, 2011

In part one of this one-hour conversation, Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything, The Party’s Over and the newly published The End of Growth joins James Howard Kunstler by phone to talk about peak oil, financial dysfunction, political convulsions and generational conflict.

*If you can’t wait to hear the exciting conclusion of this conversation, you can download the entire interview and/or purchase a transcript now.

Buy full one-hour audio (.mp3) interview – $1

Buy Transcript (.pdf) – $1

Buy Transcript on Kindle – $1

(Note: the price has already dropped to $1)

KunstlerCast #169: Will TLE Put an End to Spontaneous Behavior?

Car Dependency and the American National Character

Released: Aug. 18, 2011

A listener asks if American’s cherished value of spontaneity is inextricably bound to car dependency. JHK shares his thoughts on the American National Character and how it may change during The Long Emergency. Topics include: Alexis de Tocqueville, Carmageddon, Convenience, Car Sharing.

Direct Download:
(31 MB | 37:11 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Next Week: Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg’s Author Page at Amazon

Visit Audible for a free Audio Book of Richard Heinberg’s “Peak Everything”


KunstlerCast #154: Q & A with JHK

At The Sanctuary for Independent Media

Released: April 28, 2011

JHK and Duncan visit The Sanctuary for Independent Media, an old church in North Central Troy NY which has been repurposed as community media space. After a public lecture, JHK takes questions from the audience on a variety of urban planning and energy topics.

Direct Download:
(20 MB | 26:24 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


This week’s sponsor is The Congress for the New Urbanism, the nation’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.

KunstlerCast #152: Is Peak Oil a Conspiracy Theory?

The Dependency-enabling Relationship Between Govt. & The U.S. People

Released: April 14, 2011

James Howard Kunstler has said many times that he’s allergic to conspiracy theories. Yet his own ideas about peak oil sort of sound like a conspiracy theory since he believes that the U.S. government has a dependency-enabling relationship with the American public regarding our energy consumption habits and reality. JHK concedes that there may be a “soft conspiracy” at play.

Direct Download:
(14 MB | 16:06 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Buy the Music, Support the Podcast

When you make any purchase after clicking the links below, you will earn sales referral fees for The KunstlerCast.

Deadmalls & Nightfalls by Frontier Ruckus

Deadmalls and Nightfalls - Frontier Ruckus

KunstlerCast #151: Energy Delusions

Fantasies About Our Oil Dependency

Released: April 7, 2011

James Howard Kunstler believes Americans and their leaders are lying to themselves about our current energy predicament. There is a tremendous body of fantasy about how much energy Americans can harvest from shale gas, shale oil, tar sands, running the American truck fleet on natural gas and other forms of alternative fuel for motoring. There is even one fantasy that an endless supply of abiotic oil is located in the earth’s core. Kunstler runs down the list and gives us the score.

[Note: This episode contains cursewords.]

Direct Download:
(18 MB | 23:23 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Buy the Music, Support the Podcast

When you make any purchase after clicking the links below, you will earn sales referral fees for The KunstlerCast.

Deadmalls & Nightfalls by Frontier Ruckus Deadmalls and Nightfalls - Frontier Ruckus

KunstlerCast #145: Listener Mailbag

JHK Takes Questions from the Audience

Released: Feb. 24, 2011

JHK and Duncan get caught up on questions from listener callers. Topics include post-petroleum education, the homogenization of America, Vancouver and light pollution.

Note: This episode includes one curseword.

Direct Download:
(31 MB | 44:17 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


This week’s sponsor is, offering online courses that prepare you for a post-peak world. Enroll now in the UnCrash Course, Sustainable Post-Peak Livelihoods, Navigating the Coming Chaos, Introduction to Sustainable Gardening or Chickens 101. Find out more at:

KunstlerCast #144: American Jitney

Slugging and Couch Surfing in the USA

Released: Feb. 17, 2011

JHK discusses slugging and couch surfing and other casual self-organizing transportation and lodging systems that are emerging under new terms of existence in a less affluent USA.

Note: This episode contains explicit language

Direct Download:
(24 MB | 34:39 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

KunstlerCast #142: Forecast 2011

Time for a Reset

Released: Jan. 27, 2011

James Howard Kunstler speaks about his annual forecast for 2011. Although there are a lot of people out there cheering for a “recovery,” JHK believes it’s time for a reset. He foresees food shortages, financial strain and political troubles ahead.

Read Jim’s Forecast 2011.

Note: This episode contains explicit language

Direct Download:
(20 MB | 28:18 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

KunstlerCast #126: The Disservice Industry & The Next Manhattan Project

Will Boomers Answer the Call?

Released: Sept. 23, 2010

James Howard Kunstler joins Duncan by phone from his hotel room in New Orleans. Their conversation moves from Dearborn, Michigan (2:49 – 5:13 mins) to the failings of the airline industry (5:13 – 14:30 mins), to Burlington, Vt. (14:30 – 22:45 mins), to the potential of Thorium, the so-called “green” nuclear energy source (22:45 – 26:50 mins), to the Boomer generation’s parting gift to future generations (26:50 – 40:06 mins).

Check out JHK’s Book Tour Schedule”

Direct Download:
(19 MB | 40:06 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Support this podcast by ordering The Witch of Hebron today on Amazon.

World Made By Hand is now available as an audio book. Visit to get your copy for FREE today.

KunstlerCast #125: Cassandra, A Thought Experiment

JHK Travels Back in Time to Warn The American People of the Future that Awaits Them

Released: Sept. 16, 2010.

Duncan asks JHK what he would say to the American people of 1946 if he had the means to travel back in time. What would Kunstler tell them about the suburban dream as promised to them? Would they listen?

Check out JHK’s Book Tour Schedule”

Direct Download:
(26 MB | 56:18 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free

Support this podcast by ordering The Witch of Hebron today on Amazon.

World Made By Hand is now available as an audio book. Visit to get your copy for FREE today.



KunstlerCast #123: The Witch of Hebron

In-Depth Interview by Peter Golden

Released: Aug. 26, 2010.

Journalist/Author Peter Golden interviews James Howard Kunstler about The Witch of Hebron (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010), the second novel in Kunstler’s World Made By Hand series. Without giving away any important plot points, Golden explores the major themes in this autumn story set in a world after the lights have flickered out and the oil has dried up. Topics include: the rule of law, the importance of ritual holidays, and the role of religion in a tight-knit community. In this novel, Kunstler has revealed more about the circumstances that have placed his characters in a world without modernity. Golden ask if Kunstler believes that people are happier in this imagined future than they are in today’s high tech world.

Music: “Be Thou My Vision,” performed by Ed Lowman & John Kirk, recorded specially for the World Made By Hand series.



Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


Direct Download:
(27 MBB | 39:35 mins.)



Chapter Readings

The Witch of Hebron, Chapter One

Jasper and Ned spy on The Hermit

James Howard Kunstler reads the first chapter of his post-oil novel The Witch of Hebron (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010).

Music: “McCully’s Waltz,” performed by Ed Lowman & John Kirk, recorded specially for the World Made By Hand series.

Direct Download:

(9.2 MB | 13:11 mins.)



The Witch of Hebron, Chapter Thirteen
Brother Jobe meets Billy Bones

James Howard Kunstler reads Chapter 13 from his post-oil novel The Witch of Hebron (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010).

Music: “Duck River,” performed by Matt Brown. Used by permission. Available for purchase through 5-String Productions.

Direct Download:
(5 MB | 7:01 mins)



The Witch of Hebron, Chapter Thirty-Eight

Brother Jobe and the Queen Bee

Author James Howard Kunstler reads Chapter Thirty-Eight from his post-oil novel, The Witch of Hebron (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010).

Music: “Sweet Rosy Cheeks,” performed by Ed Lowman & John Kirk, recorded specially for the World Made By Hand series.

Direct Download:

(3.6 MB | 5:09 mins)


KunstlerCast #116: Deep Water Horizon

Oil Spill Adds to the Converging Crises

Released: June 17, 2010.

JHK examines the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the fog of incomplete information that surrounds it. Kunstler sees this incident as further proof that the peak oil story is real. Now that the low hanging fruit of our oil resources has been plucked, the paradigms of our car-dependent society are forcing us to drill under difficult conditions that are hard to control. The return of $4 gallons of gasoline is not far around the next corner and the trauma from this event is already provoking strange emotional outbursts and pockets of denial from the public who do not want to get off the path of Happy Motoring. JHK also believes that the escalating and increasing failures of liberal democracy in the U.S. are getting to the point where American people don’t trust the government to be competent anymore. Ecological disasters are amplifying economic disasters, which are feeding a political disaster. In the end, this event may accelerate the process of America rethinking how its living and whether in fact maybe what we’re doing is insane, especially this campaign to sustain the unsustainable which is underway.

Direct Download:
(21 MB | 32:50 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


Support for the KunstlerCast comes from Post Carbon Institute, the world’s leading think tank dedicated to getting society off fossil fuels fast. PCI is proud to have James Howard Kunstler as a valued advisor–joining Richard Heinberg, Bill McKibben, Majora Carter, Rob Hopkins and 25 other Fellows in leading the transition to a more resilient world. Learn more at

KunstlerCast #114: Agrarian Urbanism

The New New Urbanism?

Released: May 27, 2010.

James Howard Kunstler recently returned from the 18th Annual Congress for the New Urbanism. Agrarian urbanism was a hot topic among many New Urbanists at the Congress and in this episode Kunstler takes the time to explore the topic of food production in cities. Rising energy prices and poor growing weather may lead to global food shortages, but JHK believes that the idea of feeding the U.S. population with rooftop gardens and skyscraper terrariums is absurd. Gardening and even raising certain animals in the city was a normal part of urban life before World War II and we may see a return of some of those practices. But Kunstler believes that it is important to cut through some of the fantasies to figure out what’s really possible. We must also be careful not to confuse the urban with the rural.

Direct Download:
(15 MB | 23:21 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


Support for the KunstlerCast comes from The Law Office of Paul C. Rapp … Specializing in intellectual property law including copyright, trademark, Internet, art and entertainment matters. Paul Rapp is licensed in New York and Massachusetts. For information visit:



KunstlerCast #95: Where We’re At ’09

The Context of Current Events

Released: Dec. 31, 2009.

James Howard Kunstler takes a moment to examine where we’re at as a culture at the end of 2009. JHK shares his thought process leading up to his 2010 Forecast. Topics include healthcare, economics and foreign affairs.

[Note: This podcast contains some cursewords.]

Direct Download:
(23 MB | 37:46 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free


There will be a staged-reading of James Howard Kunstler’s play, “Big Slide” this Jan. 9 at the Multi-use Community Cultural Center in Rochester NY. The playwright will introduce the show, which begins a 7:30 p.m. Admission is pay what you can. For information, visit:

KunstlerCast #92: Long Emergency US Tour -Part 2

How Things Might Go Down As Energy Becomes Scarce

Released: Dec. 10, 2009.

The Long EmergencyIn this in part two of this discussion, James Howard Kunstler predicts how various regions of the United States will fare during the coming energy crisis that he anticipates. Kunstler refers to the coming crisis as “The Long Emergency.” In this half of the discussion, Kunstler discusses: the Great Plains, the Upper Midwest, the Mid Atlantic and New England. He also talks about issues with fresh water scarcity.


Direct Download:
(24 MB | 30:10 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free



This week’s sponsor is, offering online courses that prepare you for a post-peak world. Enroll now in our new e-learning course, or our 6-week, instructor led Un-Crash Course. Find out more at:

KunstlerCast #91: Long Emergency US Tour -Part 1

How Things Might Go Down As Energy Becomes Scarce

Released: Dec. 10, 2009.

The Long EmergencyIn this in installment, James Howard Kunstler predicts how various regions of the United States will fare during the coming energy crisis that he anticipates. Kunstler refers to the coming crisis as “The Long Emergency.” In the first part of this discussion, Kunstler discusses: the Southern States, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies. A listener call reacts to the Happy Motoring podcast and Duncan closes the show with the Esso Happy Motoring song.


Direct Download:
(19 MB | 23:22 mins.)
Listener Caller Line:
1-(866) 924-9499 toll-free



This week’s sponsor is Chelsea Green, publisher of Waiting on a Train by James McCommons, with forward by James Howard Kunstler. Waiting on a Train is a critical look at the embattled future of passenger rail service, told by a journalist who spent one year traveling across America by train in 2008. Look for “Waiting on a Train” at your local bookstore, or visit: .

KunstlerCast #90: The Demise of Happy Motoring

Cruising Toward Collapse with a Stunning Stupidity

Released: Nov. 26, 2009.

Happy MotoringJames Howard Kunstler believes that the Happy Motoring project is running out of time. Peak Oil and problems with alternative energy aren’t the only issues facing future motorists. He thinks that car ownership will become less democratic in the future as cars become too expensive to buy without the current financing options. Kunstler dismisses Christopher Steiner’s “$20 Per Gallon” book for assuming that an orderly procession of events will take us from $3 per gallon to $20. The conversation naturally leads to a discussion of NASCAR, which Kunstler views as a particularly pathetic reincarnation of Roman chariot races that serve to preoccupy the masses as the American empire declines. Lastly, Kunstler addresses a recent International Energy Agency scandal to coverup the reality of dwindling oil supplies.


Direct Download:
(35 MB | 43:31 mins.)
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This week’s sponsor is Chelsea Green, publisher of Waiting on a Train by James McCommons, with forward by James Howard Kunstler. Waiting on a Train is a critical look at the embattled future of passenger rail service, told by a journalist who spent one year traveling across America by train in 2008. Look for “Waiting on a Train” at your local bookstore, or visit:

Additional support for this program comes from Additional support for this podcast comes from, offering online courses that prepare you for a post-peak world. Find out more at:




KunstlerCast #85: Is NYC The Green Metropolis?

The Last Major Renovation of Manhattan

Released: Oct. 22, 2009.

Inspired by David Owen’s book “Green Metropolis,” James Howard Kunstler examines the idea of Manhattan as a “green” city. Kunstler believes that, during his lifetime, New York has never been in as good shape as it is now. But he also thinks it will never be in as good shape again. Financial and energy problems in the future may turn our newest skyscrapers into one-generation buildings, outlandish monuments built during the twilight of an empire. Of all the boroughs, Kunstler thinks Brooklyn may fare the best because of its higher quality urban fabric.

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(35 MB | 30:53 mins.)

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This week’s sponsor is Grinning Planet, providing real news in a free weekly mp3 format. Grinning Planet compiles the best audio news coverage of the week on a single page to save you time and cut through the mainstream propaganda. Listen at:

KunstlerCast #82: Food in a World Made By Hand

Beyond Fast Food Nation

Released: Oct. 1, 2009.

In this week’s episode, listener Frank Aragona of the Agroinnovations Podcast asks James Howard Kunstler to talk about the role of food in Jim’s post-peak oil novel World Made By Hand. Although the characters in the novel must overcome many obstacles, the food that they eat is delicious in general and is a vast improvement to the current American diet. Aragona thinks that perhaps food is the triumphant element in the novel. Kunstler talks about how horrendous spectacl and the tragic results that the fast food nation has brought about. He also speaks about the lost ceremony of eating with family and friends. Listeners also comment on the recent podcasts about Los Angeles and white rooftops.

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(29 MB | 30:57 mins.)



This week’s sponsor is The Agroinnovations Podcast, covering all things related to sustainable agriculture and the world-wide local food movement. Featuring interivews on fair trade, conservation, permaculture, and healthy alternatives to factory farming. Learn more and listen at

KunstlerCast #74: Electric Society

The Quest For An Electric Vehicle Nirvana

Released: August 6, 2009.

James Howard Kunstler explores the possibility of transitioning our society from fossil fuels to one that runs on electricity. This discussion is based on ideas presented in an episode of NOVA titled “Car of the Future” (Season 33, Episode 3). You can watch the entire NOVA program below.

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(31 MB | 34:04 mins.)



This week’s sponsor is The Stakeholders, Inc., inviting you to attend a Sept. 24 talk in Albany NY by urban theorist Richard Florida, author of “Who’s Your City?”

KunstlerCast #71: Doomers

Waiting for the Storm After the Fossil Fuel Fiesta

Released: July 16, 2009.

James Howard Kunstler and other commentators are often called “doomers” for their seemingly bleak outlook for modern society after the peak of oil production. Kunstler gives a brief introduction to other “doomer” authors, including Dmitri Orlov, John Michael Greer, Jay Hanson, and James Lovelock . Though Kunstler rejects the doomer label, he does believe that we are involved in a human system that needs to be severely pruned. He believes that resurrection and redemption are great themes in the human story and that civilization has a few more cycles to go.


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(29 MB | 31:15 mins.)


This week’s sponsor is, offering online courses that prepare you for the post peak oil world. Use “KunstlerCast” as your discount code.

KunstlerCast #67: Jaime Correa & The 40 Percent Plan

Planning for Peak Oil

Released: June 4, 2009.

New Urbanist Planner and Author Jaime Correa speaks about urban planning in the peak oil era. KunstlerCast Host Duncan Crary recorded Correa’s talk on May 28 at the Albany Roundtable in Albany, N.Y. Correa speaks about how the end of cheap oil will affect communities in the future. He describes his peak oil action plan, which he calls The 40 Percent Plan. As urban communities begin to contract in the future, Correa has some ideas about what people need to do to successfully prepare for the future. James Howard Kunstler introduces Correa and chats with Crary about the role that Correa has played in the New Urbanism. Kunstler also responds to a question posed to him by Correa about his preparations for peak oil.

Note: Curse words and adult language occur at 27:30, 27:37 and 30:17

Websites: The Correa Report (Jaime’s blog) | Correa And Associates | Albany Roundtable

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(36.2 MB | 39:21 mins.)


This week’s sponsor is, offering online courses that prepare you for the post peak oil world.

KunstlerCast #48: From Suburbia to Peak Oil

Fossil Fuels and Our Built Environment

Released: January 22, 2009.

James Howard Kunstler tells the story of how he came to learn about peak oil while writing about suburban sprawl. Topics include The Yom Kippur War, The Hubbert’s Curve, the New Urbanists and the strong relationship between suburban sprawl and diminishing supplies of cheap fossil fuel. Kunstler explains the chronology and relationship between all four of his nonfiction books.

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( 27 MB | 29:32 mins.)

KunstlerCast #44: Forecast 2009

Remembering Y2K

Released: Dec. 25, 2008

Every year James Howard Kunstler publishes his annual forecast on his popular blog. For this installment of the KunstlerCast, Jim gives us a sneak preview of some of his predictions for 2009. Topics in this show include: phony baloney money, new economies, home deliveries, oil shortages and price increases. Kunstler also talks about his 1999 predictions and thoughts about Y2K.

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( 21 MB | 26:23 mins.)

Promo music featured in this episode courtesy of IODA Promonet:

Highlife TimeOpotopo
“Belama” (mp3)
from “Highlife Time”
(Vampi Soul / Light In The Attic)

More On This Album

KunstlerCast #34: On Hope and Despair

How not to be a crybaby, clown or passive consumer of hope

Released: Oct. 9, 2008.

James Howard Kunstler is not a hope dispenser to passive consumers of hope. But ultimately he believes that life is moving into a more favorable phase, even if it will be difficult to get there. In this show Kunstler responds to a listener call about our moral responsibility to do the right thing and fix our country. He talks about the importance of cultivating joy in one’s life and doing meaningful work. He also shares his thoughts on Sen. Barack Obama’s hopeful message and discusses how his own mood has changed since he first wrote The Geography of Nowhere.

Direct Download:
( 16 MB | 22:51 mins.)

Promo music featured in this episode courtesy of iodaPromonet:

Highlife TimeOpotopo
“Belama” (mp3)
from “Highlife Time”
(Vampi Soul / Light In The Attic)

More On This Album

Young MountainThis Will Destroy You
“Quiet” (mp3)
from “Young Mountain”
(Magic Bullet)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

More info about the KunstlerCast theme music

KunstlerCast #28: The Pickens Plan

Can natural gas and electricity replace gasoline and diesel fuel?

Released: Aug. 21, 2008.

This July, oilman T. Boone Pickens told Congress that James Howard Kunstler is worth listening to and that he’s right on about the mistakes we’ve made in America regarding our use of cheap oil. In this program, Kunstler discusses the “Pickens Plan” to use wind energy and natural gas to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil. Other topics include Shai Agassi’s Better Place plan to make electric cars viable. Kunstler also answers a listener’s question about purchasing a new car. 

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( 23 MB | 32:00 mins.)


KunstlerCast #19: Wishful Thinking

Jiminy Cricket, Cargo Cults, Prayer & Other Ways to Get Something for Nothing

Released: June 19, 2008.

Religious activists are praying at Washington DC gas stations for cheaper fuel. James Howard Kunstler says that type of neurotic behavior isn’t much different than the behavior of cargo cults in the South Pacific. The concept of getting something for nothing is widely accepted by American culture, and religion, too. But Jim feels spirituality in America might one day evolve into something worthy of more respect than the Jiminy Cricket, consumerist culture of today’s suburban mega churches.

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(14 MB | 20 mins.)

KunstlerCast #16: Peak Oil New Zealand

What awaits the Kiwis as the oil runs out?

Released: May 29, 2008.

A listener from New Zealand asks James Howard Kunstler what peak oil holds in store for his island nation. The picture isn’t pretty. Kunstler says the Kiwis better watch their backs. China, Japan and even Australia could all pose threats to New Zealand as they face shortages in the new energy future. At the end of the program, a cast of listeners sounds off. We hear from a black man in Queens who is not African-American, a former Long Island nanny, and an urban planner from Canada who asks Jim to lay off the planners, dude.

Direct Download:
( 10 MB |15 mins.)

KunstlerCast #7: Fate of Flagstaff & Hydrogen Cars

Arizona after cheap oil + alternative fuel fantasies

Released: March 27, 2008.

A listener from Flagstaff, Ariz. wants to know what fate awaits his town in the post oil future. The verdict from Jim? At least it’s not Phoenix, but most of Flagstaff looks like the service road around Newark Airport. The caller also asks about the new Honda hydrogen fuel cell car, which reminds Jim to bash so-called environmentalist Amory Lovins’ fantasy to keep the motoring scene going at all costs.

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(7 MB | 14:52 mins.)

KunstlerCast #03: World Made By Hand

A post-oil novel

Released: Feb. 28, 2008.

James Howard Kunstler reads from World Made By Hand, his new novel based on the post-oil future. Published by The Atlantic Monthly Press, World Made By Hand is set in upstate New York in the not distant future. It is a fictional account of the ideas based in Kunstler’s nonfiction book, The Long Emergency.

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Direct Download:
(7 MB | 15: 07)


World Made By Hand Book Cover