"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Ruins of the Unsustainable

"The ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century's frontier."
- Bruce Stirling

There's a fascinating bit of futurism at worldchanging.org .

Commenting on recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, business pundit Paul Kedrosky writes, "the U.S. currently has enough surplus housing to put the entire population of the U.K., with room left over for Israel." Given the enormous amount of embedded energy that this existing development represents, our best bet is put these buildings to good use.


guthrie said...

I think the point made abotu re-using many buildings, filling in the gaps where they can when the location warrants it, etc is fine.

What I do see though is something that I have noticed on other occaisions. It is glossed over how fiddly it can be to change buildings or indeed how much use having a local community with its own workshop etc is. The way I see it is that if things fall apart, eg the financial system hadn't been bailed out, then all the rules go out the window because the economy isn't working at all. But if that hasn't happened and all the usual rules and regulations are in place, then doing things the way the visionaries think of it is much, much harder. Partly because of the rules and regulations, and partly because the necessity is not there because the economy etc is still functioning.

John Mashey said...

I posted this over there, but might as well here also:

I'd strongly recommend Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth fame), How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built (1994). Get one used for about $10 total.

This is still quite relevant, especially to anyone thinking of adapting old spaces, or building anything new (that will get adapted).

Bryan Lawrence said...

Intriguing stuff indeed. However, the headline quote from Kedrosky you pulled out is over the top!

Regardless whether you believe the 18 million house figure or not (and there is dissension in the comments), Kedrosky chose to multiply that number by 4. Why 4? Clearly his own figures don't support 4 people per house in the US (nope 130 million x 4 is rather more than there are Americans, and so is (130-18)x4. Perhaps he just assumes we Europeans like to live in each other's pockets? Nope, as someone pointed out, it's 2.8 and going down in the UK ...

... although to be fair, that 18 million x 2.8 is in the ball park, and that was his point, but, why, oh why did he need to embellish it with such hyperbole (add an emotive nation state).