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On Balance

Nature abhors a vacuum - another way of saying natures loves balance. This beautiful, simple concept is on display at every level from the molecular to the planetary and drives many of the essential processes of life like osmosis. But is it reasonable to extend nature's laws to seemingly random and often catastrophic events like hurricane damage to seaside development? Hurricanes rage whether we are in their path or not so perhaps it is unreasonable to assign blame to natural order. But consistent with our real concerns about sustainable living, we might do well to consider our built environment from a global perspective. And by extension, to the extent we are thinking globally, we can use natural laws as at least guidelines to help navigate through the complex calculus of where and how to build.

It is no surprise that as the human population explodes we are stretching the limits of natural balance. The implications of this imbalance are not subject to national boundaries. The resulting signs: pollution, scarcity of resources, shifting weather patterns, species extinctions, etc. are a source of alarm and tension. For complex reasons, the earth's surface is comprised of many zones whose standard conditions can be roughly established. While these standards vary radically over wide time horizons, and all zones are subject to anomalous events, for a few lifetimes we can be relatively certain of natural patterns. Desert areas remain dry, flood zones flood, windy places are windy and so on. For the better part of mankind's existence we were at earth's mercy in these regards. Like all things earthbound, we were kept in balance by famine, flood, disease, war and more. But we crossed some threshold of capability that led us to a relative dominance manifested by an extraordinary capacity to unbalance natural order. We are quickly coming to recognize the effects of those imbalances as we struggle with natural fury in many realms like drought, forest fires, hurricanes, tsunamis and so on which wreak havoc seemingly somewhere every day. Surely there is a way for the planet to accommodate the billions of people who now (suddenly) inhabit it.