#110 November 1997
Section 18.104.22.168.110.of the Artemis Data Book
[Reclamation: rec-la-MAY-shun: 2) turning barren wasteland into something useful and fertile]
[Xity: KSIH-tee: a city that must establish,
and maintain, its own biosphere]
Historical Precursors of Reclamation
There are precursors of reclamation, at least of the con-creation of a settlement's own eco-niche, scattered throughout human history. In many areas throughout the world and throughout history, areas at first unpromising as settlement sites have been transformed by hardworking pioneers into what are now some of the richest, most fertile lands on Earth.
[As we have remarked before, this is an instance of the unsung Beatitude: "Blessed are the Second Best", i.e those unable to compete where life is easy, forced to move to less promising outbacks, left to fall back on their own resourcefulness and to make do with what at first seems less."]
River-hugging farming villages have succeeded in greatly expanded their productive farmlands by reclaiming adjacent expanses of desert through irrigation. Similar villages on narrow plateaus or in narrow valleys have done the same by learning to terrace the surrounding mountain slopes, thus reclaiming them from barren non-productivity.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch have learned to build dikes to tame the tides, then to drain the backwaters and establish fertile non-saline farmlands, called polders*. And so they have reclaimed relatively worthless sea bottom and tidal flats. The dike is the analog of the pressure hull, the polder of the modular (or, someday, monolithic) hullplex that contains the settlement's biosphere. For the Dutch, this ongoing annexation of turf, formerly surf, has continued for centuries. To live is to grow is to keep reclaiming ever more wasteland and transforming it.
The great dike that created the fresh water Zuider Zee from the once saline Isselmer, a bay of the North Sea, is like a giant sun-shading ramada, in that it creates lee space within whose shelter, reclamation can proceed at an even faster pace. The peat mined from the freshly reclaimed sea bottom lands prefigures the solar wind gases to be scavenged from the lunar regolith during site preparation, building materials processing and construction.
Nor do the Dutch toil just to increase their annexed farmlands, they toil to maintain them, even as space pioneers will have to do. Maintenance and growth have to proceed hand in hand. Eco-niche lands won from the sea bottoms, whether of oceans or of space, must be defended ever after. Life always strives against entropy. Rest is fatal. Reclamation is the life of the desert oasis, of the mountain-terrace farming villages, of surface settlements on worlds not blessed with oxygen-sweet atmospheres.
[* More on the Polder Analog: MMM #38 SEP '89 pp. 10-13 "Polders: A Space Colony Model", by Marcia W. Buxton.]Because of this "charter burden" these precursor settlements on Earth might aptly be called "xities" (in so far as they are at least biosphere-challenged in comparison to other, at first glance, more propitiously sited towns). And that should give us all comfort and encouragement, we who would establish "xities" beyond Earth's biosphere altogether, not just beyond its more fertile reaches. There is precedent. We have spiritual ancestors. Their success gives us models to follow. We are not alone. What we would do emerges as a natural extension of what the best of men have tried and succeeded in doing before us.
It is the Epic of Life, in which the hero thread continues to be carried by those "second blessed". We who find ourselves stifled and hamstrung on Earth where life is easy, it is we who hear the call to pioneer where life must be unimaginably harder, where left to our own resourcefulness, we have a chance of living a life more satisfying than any we could hope to live here in any of the genteel soft-edged "Baltimores" of Old Earth.
Space pioneers will learn to reclaim the sea bottoms of space, i.e. the vacuum-washed surfaces of barren worlds like the Moon, annexing areas bit by bit into growing pressurized modular mazes. Herein they will not have simply enhanced a local portion of a given common biosphere, but created a biosphere from scratch, where not even the seeds of one existed beforehand. As the settlement grows, as more and more of the space sea washed surface is incorporated into it, won from the sterile vacuum and turned into verdant farms and luxuriantly green villages, the infant biosphere will grow in mass, in reserves, in diversity, in resiliency, and in the satisfactions of life it affords its toiling inhabitants. Reclamation is the xity's job, and the xity will thrive as long as it continues to pursue this goal.
Under the aegis of "reclamation" will fall all the major manpower using tasks of the Xity, at least in an oversight capacity:
Reclamation is appropriate in all parts of the Solar System beyond Earth's sweet atmosphere, in free space itself, on Mars and among the asteroids, on Europa and Titan, and wherever human resourcefulness will find a way to establish viable biospheres in which we can live and grow.
Perhaps many a reader has found the name of our society esoteric: The
Lunar Reclamation Society. If "Communities Beyond Earth" are our common
goal, then it should now be clear that LRS is right on target in defining
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