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We don’t have history or uninterrupted talks if we are dodging rain drops.  If we want to carry something heavy from building to building we have to keep the ground between buildings dry.  Otherwise our freight sinks in the mud.

Wet things rot, dry things stick around.  It’s why we know so much about Egypt’s history and so little about America’s.

The first thing I wanted to manage in conservation and planning was impervious surface.  Roads, roofs, parking lots, and driveways are all designed to jettison water away from where it splashes.  The house or ground underneath these is meant to stay dry even during the strongest downpours.  Stopping this rushing water before it reaches and ruins a stream is an expensive afterthought.  Often, it does not get stopped.  It rushes into streams and rivers scouring out their banks in novel ways.  The default section of a suburban stream resembles a desert arroyo.  The default section of an urban stream is a pipe.

But I have to give the devil its due. Nature rots, and civilization stays dry.  If something decomposes, we have no proof that it existed.  If something can stand the test of centuries, then we can piece together history.  Everything you read or see is the story of dryness as much as it is the story of the past.  The computer I am typing this on and the books on my shelves depend on the roof of my house for their existence.  Rains would have made them unusable long ago if not for the impervious surfaces above them.

It is easier to do things when dry.  Mammals have oils in their fur to shed water, but those only last so long with continued downpours, and they have to hunker down.  Meanwhile, we can continue busily on our way, making things, doing things, meeting people, conversing.


Formerly Death Avenue, NYC