This old regionalism ended with the coming of the Industrial Age. Under the banner of the "conquest of nature", the industrial system relentlessly set about creating a globally uniform man made environment. Unlike the pre-industrial attempts at super-regionalism which had preceded it, industrial technology is indeed capable of making the same building equally habitable in the Mediterranean and the north of France. But one hundred years later, the ecological bill is coming due. The limitations of the industrial system is not its inability to provide a high level of utility and comfort, but that it requires an enormous level of waste and destruction to do so. And even that is not entirely true. Industrial technology is intrinsically capable of much greater efficiency in the use of resources and energy, but the economics of the industrial enterprise mitigate against this in the interest of maximizing short-term profit. Technology, after all, is as much a political and economic system as a physical one.


In theory, in a free market economic system, intrinsically better ideas - meaning more efficient, therefore more potentially profitable - will prevail. But in reality, the forces of vested interest are almost always ranged against change. In a democratic free market consumer-driven system, the force of popular opinion, particularly if it is expressed in effective political and economic terms - voting and buying - can effect change. But resistance to change is not based solely on rational assessments of political and economic benefit. In fact, the most stubborn resistance to change is often cultural, just because it is irrational. The appeal of certain comforts, habits, products and lifestyles, and the reluctance to give them up, even if reason dictates otherwise, is a more powerful factor in the resistance to change than either economic or political decisions. Most Americans, for instance, express a great concern about global environmental degradation, but confronted with the idea of changing their lifestyle choices - driving a smaller, more fuel efficient car, or living on more densely planned communities with more compact infrastructures, for instance - will rationalize and resist against making even small sacrifices. In this respect. Americans are probably no different from the rest of humanity.

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