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Shelter 2009
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Shelter, Sustainability, Poverty and Peace

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When the techniques are well known, and material costs are a minor component given reality by extensive labor, it is entirely reasonable to propose a rapid increase in architecturally beautiful and functional shelter for the rural poor. Techniques for this type of structure are similar to smearing mud on sticks, known as mud and wattle. Materials are organic fibers used to reinforce concrete mixed with acrylic. Concrete is most often used in large masses and is thus sometimes known as an environmentally unfriendly building material. In this case, the concrete is as thin as skin and replaces wood which in some areas is harvested in a manner destructive to the habitat of endangered species. Structures made from, for example, bamboo, burlap, cement and acrylic are completely impermeable to water, do not decompose in sunlight, are not subject to rot or insect infestation, and are as easily repaired as fiberglass.



While it is true that urbanization has accompanied and contributed to the flowering of modern civilization, large urban areas are also a primary source of pollution and global warming. Both of these problems are indicators of a rapidly approaching crises, which will require great genius and hitherto unknown cooperation to avoid. We can appreciate museums, modern government and production centers, universities, rapid transit and grand architecture and still recognize a need for significant systemic adjustments is required to create a sustainable culture.

The human economy exists within the closed and finite limits of earth. This statement, though obvious, is a mathematical fundamental necessary to understanding the current predicament facing unsustainable cultures. Life on earth exists in a closed system which receives outside solar energy at a given rate. Human life utilizes low entropy resources and the solar budget to satisfy life’s necessities. As science progresses, by-products which are returned to the environment in the form of high entropy waste and pollution have an increasing probability to be realized as toxic. Chemical burdens from these by-products are now measurable in living cells in concentrations of very low parts per trillion. We do not know what all the chemical compositions of pollution baking in solar radiation are, but we do know that these now ubiquitous pollutants define the limitations of quantitative economic growth with confusing and often unpleasant health effects. All present human cultures and economies are founded on the premise of continuous quantitative compound growth, forever, within the closed and finite planetary environment.

Anyone who does not feel frustration before the unbreachable limit presented by living in a culture attempting to grow faster and faster forever, quantitatively, either does not fully understand the paradox or chooses to ignore it and simply hope for the best. Fortunately there is an as yet largely untapped wellspring of surprising opportunity within the huge reserve of human imagination lying dormant in the rural poor. It is possible that, starting from dirt floors and little sanitation, a qualitative growth model for a sustainable human culture can develop and then reveal a hybrid economy capable of providing down to earth necessities, enjoyment of life’s pleasures and the tools needed to reach the stars.

Reliance upon the poor and forgotten among humanity seems to be an odd idea. Everyone hopes the more advanced societies will find a way to stave off impending climatic and chemical disasters and, at the same time, learn to operate on a planet where the easiest to find resources have already been used. Yet even a cursory inspection of the industrialized economy stretching across central north America reveals millions in the southern area who air condition then reheat the air to dry clothes indoors, while the sun is blazing outside. Other millions in the northern tier of states heat winter cold and then refrigerate it to preserve their food. These millions upon millions are not stupid or evil destroyers of all life, they are simply trapped in a system of organization leading to disaster.