Emergency to Emergence

In wake of the fires, now is the time to create lasting change

Last month’s fires present us an opportunity for real transformation rather than minor, piecemeal change. We need to change on every level.

It’s time to break the pattern. Painful as it is, homes lost in the fire were temporary housing, but the-build-and-burn cycle can stop here. Building for a thousand years, as in Europe, is well within our capability, if we’re not stopped by building-material-supplier lobbyists and antiquated code restrictions.

It’s time to go from wood-framed homes (built the same way for centuries) with highly flammable oil-composition roofs, to healthy mineraled cement and 3D-printed homes. Earthquakes are not an if but a when, and naturally resilient materials and forms can survive quakes, fires, storms and floods. A 3D-printed house can be created in a few days at about $34 per square foot. And they are available now. Earthbag, cob and magnesium-based-cement homes sequester carbon and actually support our health. Look them up.

We need to move from unnecessarily large to smaller, better designed homes. We must transition from “boxes” to more rounded and organic shapes that are more beautiful and far more able to withstand the elements. Let’s replace fire-vulnerable wood fences with masonry structures.

From water wastage to water wisdom, we need to rethink our infrastructure systems. Graywater is not only good for plants, it’s a fire deterrent too. We need energy-neutral and carbon-sequestering buildings, as well, along with more gardens.

Living in intentional communities offers resiliency from natural and manmade disasters through healthy social relations that will help us evolve from isolated units back into a community.

We must go from construction on scraped, decimated land, to being respectful inhabitants and stewards of the natural world.

None of these changes is “up to code”; they are beyond code. For decades, we’ve been precluded from progress by varying elements of the status quo. We know how to do this. “Code” is largely legislated lobbying by the building materials and insurance industries.

Let’s use the disastrous fires to welcome a new, better world.

Judith Iam is a longtime Sonoma County resident, teacher, producer and community builder.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].