Not Unsustainable, Exactly

Today I was thinking about the myriad of weird things people do that are not necessarily unsustainable (I’m not talking about environmental issues), but very difficult to sustain. Part of this, I’m sure, is related to starting to read Walden, but in large part too it is because of nosing around the promotional site for The World Without Us, another book I’d like to read soon. I especially recommend the “Did you know?” section, although it makes me wonder what is left to be written about in the book.

The page points out how many of our human activities are dependent on extremely complex systems. Without people, it would take only two days for the New York subway system to flood completely. Two days! It amazes me to imagine the amount of work that goes into keeping the trains underground.

Walden hits on similar themes. Thoreau points out the way in which, as man became more “civilized,” his comforts increased gradually while the work necessary to maintain them increased drastically. I’ve heard the same in an anthropology course; We “developed” nations are slightly more comfortable then hunting and gathering tribes (and in some ways much worse off), but they only work something like the equivilent of two days a week.

Frankly, it seems to me to be a bum deal. Foraging might be better, if any of us knew how to do it anymore. That said, I couldn’t be writing this if things were different, so, I wont complain too much.

Also, I can only begin to guess how this might work, but it is apparently a NASA concept for a new “rover,” if it can be called that. Anyway, very cool. Here is a video of an actual prototype, albeit a much simpler one.


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