Thursday, 2 September 2010

How fragile we are

Got into a minor spat over the impact mankind has on the planet over on James Delingpoles blog this morning. I made the comment that if Mankind were to disappear tomorrow, you'd be hard pushed to find we'd been here within five decades. All right, at the time I was indulging in a little hyperbole. Fifty years does sound a bit too close to home. Then again I thought about it and plundered the archives of my memory and my recollection of old derelict buildings, and thought; "Hold on. Maybe the fifty years figure isn't all that far off."

My family have been in property for generations, so I was brought up learning about the importance of regular property maintenance. External painting kept the pests and leaks out. Clearing the gutters every fall (Autumn) kept damp off the walls. Checking the roof for loose tiles ensures no nasty damp patches indoors. Regular small bits of gardening kept the weeds and pests at bay, and thus out of the house.

Neglect the aforementioned for more than five years and the pests get in. Wasps and other creepy crawlies invade. Small pests follow bringing seeds and spores indoors. Woodwork gets infected, and only hard aged oak can tolerate woodworm for more than five years. Tiles are shifted by storms, letting rain into the roof void, wet or dry Rot sets in and begins to eat joists and floors within five or ten years. By the time ten years have passed, you'll have a lexicon of property woes to write a book about. Another ten and the likelihood is the rot will be in the walls and floors. Another five and there will be holes everywhere. Another five and the floors and ceilings will in all probability be gone. Window frames will be glassless because the sealant has dried and fallen out. Damp will be in the walls, which will begin to sag. The whole building will be weed ridden and sagging. Forty years and collapse becomes likely. By the time forty five years is up, the neglected property is an overgrown heap of wood and bricks. Fifty years and times up. What house? A row of neglected properties will go even faster. Storm and fire can ravage even brickwork and leave nothing more than hummocks of rubble. A summer lightning storm setting fire to a tree will catch on to uncleared underbrush and then the entire neighbourhood can go up in smoke, and the number of lightning started woodland fires, even in well managed places like the UK is surprising. The result is the same. To expect a house to remain untrammelled after fifty years is pure wishful thinking.

Even in relatively temperate climates the erosive power of nature is quite staggering, especially if left unfixed. Where storms abound, like in the South East and central USA whole suburbs can still be wiped off the map, property maintenance or no. A 'Pineapple Express' or one of the regular Winter storms up here on the Island can pry a couple of shingles loose to let the elements in and begin the time lapse of decay. Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse.

So if mankind did disappear, the natural process of rot and erosion would be as devastating to man made structures as a major Earthquake, Storm or Tsunami. Our legacy would be mere archaeology before fifty years was out. For all mankinds achievements, it just goes to show that we will always be running to catch up against the natural world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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The STANDS4 team

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