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The Future of the World, Underground Houses and Elaphe

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Posted by: richardwells at Mon Jan 24 17:26:04 2005  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by richardwells ]  


I certainly agree about the dying art of's appalling what most publishers no peddle as binding, although their standards are perfectly in keeping with most other aspects of human endeavour now I'm afraid. Your comments in regards to Buckey's work are deserved too. You may be interested to know that my latest activity is the design and construction of underground (ie earth-covered) housing. It's virtually sent me (temporarily) broke, and distracted me from herpetology of late (which will send anyone broke), but I hope to have a few successes on the board soon. Here in Australia, as elsewhere, land is being gobbled up for urbanization at a frantic pace. What's left is now largely rural or bushland sites, and these have major bushfire and biodiversity conservation issues that impact upon housing development pretty severely in places - and rightly so in most cases I think. However, the march of population growth is merciless, so unless we start to be proactive and build accordingly our whole planet is going to go down the gurgler and take us all with it. One strategy that I feel can work towards a more sustainable civilization concerns the modification of our housing choices. In effect, I am convinced that earth-covered reinforced concrete (and its various permutations) type of buildings are a viable alternative to the present highly destructive surface suburbia that we have created. I am one, like most, who has lived amid the sea of brick veneer (or venereal) houses in Australia, and I have seen and experienced their failures as living spaces up close. The wonderful thing I find about earth-covered housing, is simply the fact that when it comes to biodiversity, you can have your cake without having to eat it too! When finished, underground house are covered with living creatures, there is virtually no maintenance required, and if soundly built they can last for centuries - not a merely a few years like our modern brick boxes. Further more, they are energy efficient, secure and virtually natural disaster proof - they can provide effective protection against earthquakes, bushfires, tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes and a whole range of other nuisances - such as noise pollution. When one takes an honest and open look at the way we have treated the surface of this planet, one must come to the conclusion that it is a path to destruction of our species and virtually everything else as well. I believe that we should in fact be bulldozing whole cities into rubble - suburb by suburb - and rebuilding underground. Our transport networks should be similarly modified by earth-covered tunnels at least every few kilometres to reconnect vast areas of the land surface that have been isolated and fragmented by our roads and railway lines. Building inhabitable spaces beneath the sea has also been touted as a viable future strategy for human population - and indeed this is likely correct - but the technical problems are at present so vast and costly per head of population, that I believe it can't be done in time to save us. For those who think that all is well with our existing cities and housing choices, I would say that they should just look at the need for, and potential costs associated with, the maintenance of our existing structures. Everything is virtually falling down around our ears as it is, and in the case of a large mega-city like Sydney or worse - New York - that there may no longer be sufficient quantities of the resources needed just to provide such repairs! A study undertaken on base metal reserves some years ago now but still relevant, concluded that if New York city were to be destroyed in a nuclear attack, there is probably insufficient accessable world reserves of copper left just to replace the wiring and other copper-based components in that city. Let's get with the program people and build a sustainable world before the few people that can make it happen die off and leave the world to its fate.
On Elaphe, I can chase up some info for you, but that group is somewhat outside my experience, although I have worked with some at Taronga Zoo years ago. I will say however, that I have seen various opinions on the relationships of the group in recent times, that are often quite contradictory and so lead me away from any interest in unraveling the mess. There seems to me to have been some pretty slick big-time science involved in formulating some of these opinions, and some of this work has often has been at the expense of, or in opposition to, basic morphology and ecology - which after all, with all its faults, still stacks up pretty well when the the group is considered in relation to the habitats in which they live. While not wanting to encite a mass attack amongst some workers on Elaphe, I just can't resist saying that I feel the genus "Elaphe" overall is probably less the catch-all genus that some would prefer it to be, and more likely, an amalgum of several genera, that reflect quite distinctive origins in space and time in a more complex manner than some would prefer or accept.

Regards from

Richard Wells


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