Habitability: A House with 45 Windows

by Christian Pleijel

Habitability is like a house with 45 windows. Whatever window you choose to open, you peek into the same house. If you are curious enough to open all the windows, you will get a clear view of what is going on inside.

The house of habitability stands on four cornerstones:

The first cornerstone is the islanders themselves and their ability to be their own researchers, their own consultants. This is what is called citizen science. It gives us access to data otherwise unaccounted for, and allows us to have a bottom-up perspective.

The second cornerstone is about distance and what distance does to an island whether it is the real distance, the perceived distance, the political distance, the cultural distance, the energy spent on overcoming distance, the vast marine environment, the social distance, or the uniqueness and beauty of being something distant.

The third cornerstone is cracked in two. It’s about islands being one place in winter and another, very different place in summer. One might even call an island a schizotope, to put a name on the schizofrenic, multiple persona of islands, having one character in low season and another one in high season. These two sides of an island are in conflict with each other and seriously affect its economic, social and environmental sanity.

The last cornerstone is the local economy of an island. It is important to calculate its GLP –gross local product – and how much money is leaking from the island to the mainland. What about affordable housing, the local business ecosystem, the labour market and the cost of living? Is the island just as a lovely place to visit, or is it known as good place for humans to live. Is it habitable?

Be curious. Open all the 45 windows to see what you didn’t know about your own island.

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