Building in Owned Space – Limits to Growth

Construction in America today has taken the form a highly specialized guild. Permission to install a bay window requires multiple trips to the county building department, cross referencing city ordinances, and ensuring that your window’s R-value has a high enough insulation strength to meet state energy conservation rules. Performing anything more complicated such as electrical or plumbing as a home owner is allowed, but doing this work for a client is prohibited unless you have passed state-sanctioned electrician, plumbing, or HVAC certifications which typically require multi-year apprenticeships. The end result is the cost of installing something as simple a length of plastic drain pipe can cost on the order of $1000. It wasn’t always like this.

Historically, construction was performed to meet certain basic needs – shelter from the elements, protection from animals and bandits, storage of foodstuffs for the winter. In hunter-gather societies such as the North American plains Indians or the herders of central Asia, buildings were often so simple as to be transportable on horseback. The Mongols were thought to even force their people to remain itinerant as to stave off the complacency and softness they associated with the stationary agricultural peoples they were conquering. Clearly their construction codes were of a different sort – one that emphasized simplicity, speed, and portability. Even in the agricultural steppes or farmlands of the river valley civilizations, the basic peasantry were left to gather materials on their own and typically did so for expediency and out of poverty, erecting wooden and stone walls with straw thatched roofs. No one cared what they did unless there was a shortage of materials, in which cases the king would typically designate common woodlots for construction.

In ancient civilizations, great monuments were often commissioned by kings and emperors to inspire awe or religious devotion, the designs for which were only given to highly specialized engineers and architects that were tied exclusively to the king’s court. The mathematics were sometimes advanced, but rarely moved past the realm of geometry. Electricity and computers were non-existent, and power was limited to that of animals and humans – often slaves. Mechanical innovations such as the wheel and pulley enabled multiplication effects of input to output power, but the speed of construction was still very slow. In Medieval Europe, for example, cathedrals often took centuries to complete. Stone and glass work were given to highly specialized guilds such as the stonemasons that were entrusted with the detailed work that go into the delicate balancing of strength, beauty, and structural integrity that go into million-ton works of rock that form castles and Gothic churches such as Notre Dame.

As population pressures in Europe got to the point where the King of England had to give special authority of tree cutting to a priestly class of arborists who would meticulously catalog oak trees so that they could be planted and cut according to 400 year cycles dictated by the rate of dry rot, the resource limitations inspired a generation of explorers to go to the high seas. With the (re)discovery of the New World in 1492, the rush to colonize and build empire was as much as a search for gold as it was for land to plant sugar in the Caribbean and for vast untouched forest lands to harvest in North America. As the United States took hold, the vast westward expansion once again propelled by population pressure and pulled by promises of untouched wilderness resources was encouraged by the American government though their acquisitions of territory through purchase and plunder, the literal giving away of land with the Homestead Act, and their funding of the Transcontinental Railroad. Manifest Destiny was as much about rapid development and resource extraction as it was about creating a myth to bind the barbarians of this new country together. For a time, a unique and truly wondrous time, man could set out with a family in tow, stake a claim, clear a forest, build a homestead all with the tools on his wagon and declare himself king.

As the frontier closed and industrialization began poisoning land and waterways to the point where the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, population pressure once again asserted itself in America. The densely packed urban landscapes that once were so rare now rivaled the old world in terms of the Los Angeles basin footprint and sheer vertical scale of New York. The term ‘Skyscraper’ became synonymous with American cities. With such density, great firestorms in cities such as Chicago and San Francisco were accelerated by breaks in natural gas lines and faulty electrical wiring. The potential for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and the most unnatural of disasters of all – nuclear Armageddon – spurred on a series of new building codes for protection of the continuity of the great commercial empire as much as for the individual. With the oil crisis of the 1970s spurring further restrictions on the use of energy-inefficient building patterns and forced rationing of gasoline, the American promise of freedom seemed little more than a historical echo, if not a complete myth.

As we make our way further into the 21st century, the planet as a whole faces a crossroads. Seven billion people, unprecedented in human history, by necessity calls out for an unparalleled logistics and trade network to feed, clothe, and sustain itself. Industrial agriculture with its petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic engineering, once merely a movement incentivized by profit, now seems necessary to grow the food for the largest population ever to exist. The cries of climate change and global warming seem to demand a global solution, and our globalist elite, as they meet high atop the winter retreat of Davos, Switzerland every year, have a ready-made 21st century solution for us: Agenda 21. As it stipulates – the (over)population of Earth is unsustainable, and in order to meet the challenges of this century, governments worldwide need to encourage the migration of populations into cities and out of rural areas. There they can be monitored, taxed, and controlled, leaving the automated farmlands and wilderness areas unto their own in order to be healed – and fully managed just as the King of England inventoried his every last oak tree.

Whether Agenda 21 is a fact or a conspiracy theory – the trend is clear – cities worldwide are becoming ever more crowded, expensive, and meticulously regulated and electronically surveilled. There still exist counties in America that have no building codes – and despite all the media pressure to live among the cosmopolitans of the great urban centers – the last few remaining regions of freedom beckon those that decide to live as the last great American generation did. These are the areas the system wishes you did not occupy, hoping you die in a controlled environment of a modern day nurse home occupied by one of the last wave of people that still remembers a day before the internet. Yet owning space, answering the call of the wild, and creating a world off the grid may ultimately prove the only way you can truly live.

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