Built to last

Frith-Sphinx

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Pyramid#/media/File:Frith-Sphinx.png; public domain

After Hurricane Michael, there was only one house on Mexico Beach, Florida that barely got touched.  The full story, for those of who don’t know it,  is here.  The upshot is that someone built a house far in excess of what was required, and it was one of the few to survive the storm.  While showing that it can be done, a house like that cost double the amount of money for a comparable house.  And as much as the house survived this incredible storm, it was built in an area that will be soon experiencing sea level rise, like the rest of the region, and no house can survive the rising ocean (except, perhaps, a houseboat).

Building something to last like that takes resources, and yes, it can be done. However, building something to last can be useless, if it is surrounded by other things that don’t, or if it requires lots of inputs to keep it timeless (or at the very least, looking timeless).  Classic cars remind me of this. Yes, you can keep a fifty year old car in pristine condition, but it takes a great deal of work, a good source of parts,  a nice garage, and again – a hefty budget.

Even if something lasts, then what? If your house survives a catastrophic hurricane, what about your neighbors, infrastructure, supply chains, and so on?   When people in higher altitude places (say, a mere 50 to 100 feet above sea level) in a suburban coastal area say they’ll be fine when sea level rises, they are generally forgetting about all the rest of the infrastructure (from airports, to the city downtown at sea level, to the transit system) will be gone.  In the above example of the car – a pristine car is useless without fuel, good roads, and places to go.

A thought here, about all of this – If we have to make things that last, what not make them ideas?

Questions:

  • What is built to last in our world these days?   Are these questions being asked?  The Long Now Foundation is building a 10,000 year clock with these questions in mind.
  • What things should be built to last?  Libraries come to mind as things that should last a good long time.  What else?
  • What ideas do you want to last?
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