There is no phrase more dreadful to a home-owner. It’s a terrible verdict—an indictment which carries a sentence of severe financial and emotional penalties.
‘Dry Rot’, also known as ‘Brown Rot Decay’ (Link), is a fungal infection of wood which eats away at the parts which give the wood its strength and stability. It starts as a simple spore. But exposed to sufficient moisture, the spores grow and spread, infesting the wood and eventually flowering to produce new spores. The infection only grows from there—compromising the integrity of the wood and causing significant problems for the longevity of even the best built houses.
The funny things about Dry Rot, and that which it shares with so many other potentially catastrophic conditions, is that for the most part it’s pretty easy to ignore. When it’s merely a collection of spores, it can appear as a collection of fine orange dust. Sweep it away, and go about your day.
As the spores grow, they will take on the appearance of fine white strands, stretching over the surface as they continue to spread the infection. But this too can be passed off—rationalized as spider webs, dust, or a litany of other excuses which don’t require significant financial investment to address.
It’s no different from a chest pain passed off as gas, or an engine rattle excused as debris.
…Or overwhelming scientific evidence of ‘Global Climate Change’ passed off as liberal hysteria.
The thing is, it’s an easy urge to understand; among the easiest. When faced with something too big to comprehend or too threatening to deal with, our first and most natural inclination is denial. After all, why stress over some distant potentiality when it can as easily be brushed off with a flippant ‘it’ll be ok’.
With Dry Rot, this can be a fatal mistake.
Often considered a cancer to buildings, if left untreated, Dry Rot spreads rapidly through timber, eating it away until it is deteriorated to the point of crumbling between the fingers. For a building, this clearly can cause significant problems. With sufficient warning and proper treatment, the infection can be isolated and cured. But if the Dry Rot makes its way to structurally integral wood, the entire building may be lost.
The prognosis then is simple—act fast to fix the problem, or risk having nowhere to live.
For any informed decision-making adult, the choice is abundantly clear. It seems almost self-evident that when faced with a choice between an untimely demise (or in this case, homelessness), or an admittedly costly investment, there should be little choice remaining—take the hit, but save the whole.
But even in the case of illness, humans have a way of rationalizing away what’s important in defense of what’s comfortable. We ignore the complaints of an ailing body, but lament when we learn our neglect has caused greater harm.
We see the same thing with our world. As technology has grown and society has evolved, so too have the conditions to which we’ve exposed this planet of ours. Just like a home-owner ignoring the damp, dark places of his house, we’ve gone on our merry way, oblivious to the potential effects as our lifestyles have caused sky-rocketing atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels.
Now, the evidence is irrefutable (Source). The climate is changing. The ice caps are melting (Source). Even if most of us have not yet detected the rust-like dust of its impending arrival, the inevitable decree of an environment neglected for too long is slowly making itself known. The rot has set in!
Yet still, denial is omnipresent. Even when we’re rational enough to admit something is wrong, we eschew any responsibility, choosing instead to bury our heads in the sand. In a disturbing instance of this ‘Wait and See’ mentality, the US Senate recently acknowledged that the climate is changing, but fell short of acknowledging that humans are responsible. (Source). In doing so, they served also to rule out the logical conclusion that humans must start working on a solution.
But this is still among the better reactions. Far more depressing, there are countless sources (most of them supported by big oil, or other environmentally destructive enterprise—Source) clamouring to attribute the rumbling of disaster to mere myth. With a glib grin they point to a snowy field, overwhelming proof in their simple minds of the misguided nature of such ‘sci-fi’ notions.
But this is tantamount to the homeowner wrapping a fist against his kitchen counter to prove that Dry Rot has not infested his foundation. It’s an ignorant knee-jerk reaction at best. At worst, it is an intentional misdirection motivated strictly by greed. In the case of climate change, I’m inclined to suspect the latter.
In truth, we’ve waited far too long already. The rot has set in, and the question is no longer whether this might be a threat, but rather how bad it is, and more importantly, what our prospects are from here.
Ultimately, we don’t know. A good guess would be: ‘bad’, but guesses aren’t worth much in a scenario like this. Action is what counts. The first action—as with any well-implemented endeavour—is to understand fully the extent and prognosis of the problem itself. To this end we must turn to science. Instead of trying to shirk responsibility for this impending travesty—although there is certainly much blame to be placed—we should be investing research dollars into finding real solutions.
It’s time to take a good look at this home of ours, and start a discussion about how to salvage it. This will require immediate and likely extreme changes—not limited to the consideration of seeking resources elsewhere in the universe. It is an expensive notion, no doubt, but the alternative is to let the foundation crumble to the rot; which would mean finding ourselves homeless in a universe that is exceptionally inhospitable to such arrangements.
-Brad OH Inc.