Friday, September 25, 2009

There have been many stories written about a future without mankind. What will cities look like after the last humans have left? The stories usually portray a gradual erosion of buildings and roads. I have seen how it will really happen. Long periods without change will be punctuated by the abrupt collapse of buildings, utility poles, the sudden washing away of roads, and breakage of pipes and conduits. Time will gradually weaken structures, but it will be storms that knock it all down.

Imagine 36 hours of one-inch-per-hour rains, flowing over hard desert soils. A river of mud and debris will take out strings of power poles, float boats out of storage yards and pile them up on roads, wash cars into the sea. Drainage courses in the desert are dry so much of the time, that people build their houses, put up walls and fences right in or across them, as if they were a mere dip in the landscape and nothing to be concerned about. But walls become dams, and when they are knocked over, the resulting flood can be devastating. And when water and mud flow in under doors it can be terrifying.

Hurricane Jimena never officially touched the mainland in the Guaymas area, but it parked itself in the middle of the Gulf of California for a day and a half, and the sustained heavy rains cut roads in half and washed whole houses away, especially in poor areas. Two weeks later we have electricity and water again, but thousands are homeless, there is still debris on the roads and detours around the washed out sections. Everything will eventually be restored, but the breakdown from a single, if rare, storm is immense. This is how it will all happen when we finally leave this planet, or when, like the Mayans, we abandon our cities and our civilisation and return to a stone age culture. Hopefully that time is a long way off.

Meanwhile, life goes on in San Carlos. I for one am still acclimating to the humid heat after a wonderful five weeks in Ontario. If there is anyone who doubts the effect of humidity on the sensation of heat, or cold for that matter, think of it in terms of conductivity. Moisture in the air is like metal in the hand, versus something less conductive, like wood or plastic. And humid heat is unrelieved by sweat, which clings to clothing and skin, instead of evaporating and cooling the body. As much as I love my life here, I long for the cool fresh air of a Canadian summer and fall.

Lorena and I are considering spending more time in Canada. Since we migrate north every summer, we might as well stay longer, and make some money. This way we can avoid the extremes of temperature in both countries, and enjoy the best of what they have to offer. The tricky part is to find seasonal work so that we can come back to it every summer, and always have the job waiting for us.

Wish us luck.


1 comment:

  1. Or for a different version, try New Orleans after Katrina. Technological Obsolescence, chaos and mayhem are not nearly as far away as we think.