The Nakagin Capsule Tower Complex in Japan. Photography by Noritaka Minami

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As a sociopath, I guess you could lace the water supply with chemicals and involuntarily sterilize everyone in your area, so that there are fewer humans and more room for your family’s chateau in the countryside.

Jokes aside, I’ve gotten into arguments with my hippie friends, who don’t like it when I point out that if everyone went ‘back to nature’ the way they have or want to, there wouldn’t be much nature left. Low-density housing is far harder on the environment on a per-capita basis than dense urban areas, particularly if we’re talking about wells and septic tank systems. You can have fewer people. Japan as a society, inadvertently or not, has been doing a really good job of that… and many of their leaders are terrified of the demographic and economic implications.

I look around the suburban neighborhood my wife and kid and I live in, where the exterior can be ‘craftsman’ or ‘Tuscan’ style, the exterior painted in one of six HOA-approved colors, and fencing stained in one of four approved shades, and I see far less individuality than the interiors of the capsules in the links in this post show. Admittedly, I couldn’t fathom living in one of those capsules unless I was single.

I went to see the area in rural Oregon where I grew up. Our old house on the cherry orchard is still there, but much of the land around it has been divided up into 5 and 10 acre plots, on which old couples build 5,000+ sq ft mansions, with 5+ bedrooms, to house their kids and grandkids when they visit… one or twice a year… for a few years, before the couples become too old and have to sell and move into an assisted living place. I think that’s stupid. Growing up there as a kid before all that ‘exurban’ development was idyllic in some ways, such as being able to wander around the woods and experience nature directly, but mostly I remember it being really, really lonely.

Before our kid was born, my wife and I lived on a sailboat for four years. Including the enclosed cockpit on deck, it came out to be about 700 sq feet. We moved back on land to have our baby when we saw other couples in the marina struggling with the laundry and safety issues of raising a toddler on board. We were far happier there than any other place we’ve lived, and we still miss it terribly nearly a decade later.

tl;dr: one man’s castle is another man’s tiny prison cell, and vice versa.

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