Dutch have, over centuries, reclaimed a considerable amount of
low-lying land from the encroaching ocean and seas, particularly in the
Zuider Zee. Land lost to the ocean is drained and kept water free and
now supports settlements and agriculture.
paradigm, we draw these parallels: on the Moon we need to reclaim land
washed by vacuum and the vagaries of cosmic weather. The pressure hulls of lunar settlement structures that will contain breathable atmosphere and become home to humans, plants, and some animals, are like the Dutch Polder Dikes
that hold back the sea. Land once considered "wasteland" is reclaimed
from the domination of raw exposure to space and becomes part of a
modular biosphere complex supporting life.
[“Xity”: a city that must establish its own biosphere]Historical Precursors of Reclamation
“Reclamation” is a Xity’s Charter Function
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
[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 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
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
It is the Epic of Life, in which
the hero thread continues to be carried by the 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: new expansive
construction, using export production byproducts for that purpose,
pressurization maintenance and repairs, air and water recycling and
refreshening, and the food cycle that is part and parcel of those two
tasks. It is the indivisibility of its biosphere that gives the
xity a charter monopoly on these reclamation tasks.
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. But if “Communities Beyond
Earth” are our common goal, then it should now be clear that LRS is
right on target in defining the challenges.
<MMM / LRS>