[just heard on the radio that igloos now have internet access and
one distance learning course offered to inhabitants of these dwellings
about polar living. in any case, a forward from NewsScan, info below]
WORTH THINKING ABOUT: OUR THROWAWAY AGE
Journalist Howard Mansfield thinks about preservation in the modern
"Back when I went to school, there was an administrator, a
vice-president of something or other, who was given to rough-hewn
statements, the kind of homilies that were meant to show his populist
stuff. He was particularly set on tearing down the wooden houses on campus.
They just weren't practical.
"We said: They can be repaired. There are wooden houses that have
stood for hundreds of years. And all buildings, no matter the material,
need repair and renewal.
"He said: I know a farmer who says he has had the same ax his whole
life --he only changed the handle three times and the head two times. Does
he have the same ax?
"I did not have a good reply then. But in the twenty years since,
talking with preservationists, carpenters, and architects, I have come to
realize that so many controversies about saving and rebuilding are to be
found in this one old joke. The debates about the restoration of the
Parthenon or about the vinyl siding your neighbor has put on his 1789 house
come down to this one question:
"Do we have the same ax?
"I would answer
"'What's the oldest unchanged house in the world?
"Hint: It is made of a common material and lasts only a season.
"It is a house of water.'
"Igloos, a form unchanged for 50,000 years, are said to be the oldest
shelter known. Each single igloo was a perishable item, but represented a
"It is not the same igloo, not the same ax, but it is the life of the
ax, igloo that continues. Each time we renew the meetinghouse steeple,
replant a forest, heal an injured animal, teach someone to read, each time
we do this we are restoring the life, the best in us, as well. We focus too
often on the finished object, not on the craft to restore it.
"As for that college administrator, he went on bulldozing and
leveling houses. He only understood the lessons of commodities in a
throwaway age. He would have long ago thrown away that ax for a chainsaw."
Howard Mansfield's "The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a
Throwaway Age" -- or look for it in your favorite library. (We donate all
revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy action programs.)
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