I am a Master of Science in Sustainable Design thesis candidate. I am completing my thesis. My paper is about designing sustainable means of living that are readily adoptable by vast numbers of people.

I have studied a sinkhole condition in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (MASS) that is causing the city to sink. The condition can be summarized as follows:

San Salvador, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, is the capital of El Salvador. Rapid growth, volcanic soil conditions, natural and human made hydrological systems, seismic activity and aging infrastructure contribute to an endemic sinkhole problem that is consuming the city. Pre-settlement geological and hydrological conditions allowed storm water to flow in braided rivers that changed course throughout the rainy and dry seasons. Human development in San Salvador increased impermeable surfaces, decreased flexibility in surface water ways and created human-made, underground water systems. These systems are the pipes that carry water to and remove water from buildings. The current social practice of using water in buildings is causing the city to sink.

I am looking at the sinkholes in MASS, the people who live with them and the stakeholders who deal with them in order to learn about sustainable design. I believe people who are faced with a real and present danger, such as the earth dropping away beneath their streets, are more likely to adopt sustainable practices than those of us who are not faced with a present danger. How can we learn from Salvadorans in order to live more sustainable lives in places that are not faced with such a dramatic condition?

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