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Move or Stay Where You Are?

Are You Thinking of Moving Out To the Country?
Think Again.

    Although I've never had this conversation with environmental experts, I have somehow arrived at my opinion over the years that new construction, even if it's environmentally responsible, needs to be avoided if possible. A few reading suggestions for you: A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander et al, and How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand.

    As several people have already noted, we can't all have homes in the country. First, there would be no "country" left if we did, and second, the transportation problem gets worse with every little bit of sprawl. One reason I suggested A Pattern Language is the idea of NOT building in the most beautiful, most pristine place.  Doing so will inevitably destroy what drew you there in the first place.  Certainly you've been on a construction site, and have seen what happens there.



    Instead, find some place that's an ugly mess (or at least is just plain boring), and add beauty and grace by building and planting well.  I've seen or heard of any number of examples - the abandoned meat packing plant that's been remodeled into a thriving macrobiotic restaurant and Montessori school, various remodels of old, rundown buildings, and alternative housing developments built in abandoned gravel pits.  Or the guy who bought that trash filled vacant lot for nothing, cleaned it up, planted well, and built a small, beautiful, well crafted home of largely recycled/reused materials.

    Either building new or remodeling can be a good solution.  Either can also be the wrong answer. But as mentioned earlier, it's not the place, it’s the people networks that really count.  I live in a small intentional community, and though the fishbowl effect can sometimes be a minor annoyance, for the most part it's a very positive experience.  Everyone knows everyone else, kids are safe, lots of waving to the neighbors. You're part of their lives, and they're part of yours, a real extended family.

    We built out on the then-distant edge of town - out in "the country".  Many of us now wish that we were closer in saving the brain numbing commute times, fuel costs, and long trips to the nearest store.  We also wish that all those other developments weren't springing up all around us, devouring "the country" with McMansions.  Remember that you will have little control over what gets built near you - your own experience with the Kmart and Walgreens is a good example of that - so don't expect the open fields to stay open, or the pristine views of the sunrise/set to stay pristine.

    If neighborhood stability is what you're after, you might do better to find a long-lived neighborhood and blend in gently to the existing network.


Bill Christensen

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