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In the near future, we've decided to send a permanent colony to Planet W. In my story, this planet has ankle-deep freshwater covering the surface. The 'surface' underneath this ankle-deep water varies from smooth stones and clear water, to an organic, murky mud or clay, to sparkling sandy beach: all just below the surface.

It is earth-like, although there is no moon, and calm weather moderated by the water (so it rarely freezes up north, and peaks at about 35°C around the equator). Oh also, it's almost perfectly flat, under 10cm of water.

The cross-section of 25,000 humans from several nationalities and age groups have brought small plants, seeds, and a few small grazing animals (freshwater plants, trees and weeds will quickly grow in the organic soil areas). They are skilled, educated scientists and engineers, and should do well. They can even create 'land' by dredging and filling.

Setting aside logistics, how will this cross-section of humans adapt to life culturally on this strange, but beautiful new world?

Note: I will ask about logistics later, but wanted to ask "about humans as we know them, their physiology, politics, society and goals."

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  • $\begingroup$ How about life? Trees in particular? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jul 23 '15 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. - just people. In my story, plants (and seeds) are brought along and do fine with the organic soils. If they need to be above water, the settlers dredge and fill, making hills above water and grow the trees; if they're like pond sea-weed, and freshwater cyprus trees, they can just 'grow' right there. This question is about humans. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jul 23 '15 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ I think your question is too broad and might generate many different good answers so I vote it to be classified as "Idea generation". $\endgroup$ – Ephasme Jul 23 '15 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Ephasme - somewhat agreed. It's very difficult to ask a question concerning this fortnightly topic challenge (humans) without being too broad. I tried to focus it as much as possible. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jul 23 '15 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ Wellington boot manufacturers would become richer than kings. $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Jul 23 '15 at 10:26
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One of the key issues that will affect the people will be sanitation. If the surface water is the only source of water(or even if it's not) there will be a huge movement to have sanitation factories/jobs and proper ways to dispose of waste (in all of its forms). The water will also pose a health risk as the water is covering everything which allows disease/germs/bacteria to spread quickly. The constant presence of water will mean higher humidity/moisture which can cause food to spoil faster or elements to degrade (wood-rot, metal-rust). From these I believe there will be a high demand for health, sanitation, and construction workers.

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    $\begingroup$ I had not thought of that - - and I'm an Urban Planner! $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jul 23 '15 at 22:46
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Frankly, I'm not too optimistic about the ability of a flat planet to support life and to maintain a calm, pleasant climate.

On Earth, there are two spheroidal segments that lack any land above sea level: The Arctic Sea between latitude 83°40′N and the North Pole, and the Antarctic Sea between latitudes 56°32′16″S and 63°12′48″S (though the latter is interrupted by a few islands).

Both places are rather windy (Northern Polar Vortex, Roaring Forties, Antarctic Circumpolar Current), as there are few landmasses that serve as windbreaks. They go from West to East as a consequence of Earth's rotation and other factors.

On a flat planet, these conditions would happen through the whole planet, without windbreaks that prevent strong winds anywhere. A shallow level of water would not last long, being pushed away by the strong winds, thus exposing the surface. We would end up with a planet-wide dust bowl with extreme weather conditions.

You're probably right on the prevailing temperature, which in this case would be moderated by atmospheric humidity. Although there's also the potential of a greenhouse scenario...

Also, there's the issue of a lack of plate tectonics and volcanic activity, which means that such a planet wouldn't have the benefits of heat and nutrient release that come with volcanism. Not only you have a dust bowl, you have a pretty much sterile dust bowl.

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Take the stones from one square mile of rocky ground and carry them to another square mile of rocks. Fill the gaps with sand. Pile mud on top. Live on the island.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why not have the colonists slip up the entire water then you will have an entire continent instead! Lol $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jul 23 '15 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ He did not ask about terraforming he asked about culture. I'm pretty sure your right saying it's unavoidable to create artificial land though. $\endgroup$ – Ephasme Jul 23 '15 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760, drinking all that water is obviously impossible. Piling up earth and rock into mounds sounds possible. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_dwelling_hill $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jul 23 '15 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ If water is just ankle-deep, creating land must be easy. $\endgroup$ – Pere Dec 24 '16 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Pere, that was just my point. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 25 '16 at 8:41
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I think you might end up with something like Planet Netherlands. The Dutch have a history of land reclamation dating back nearly a millennium and nearly 1/5th of the country's land mass is reclaimed land, which is maintained through an elaborate system (The American Society of Civil Engineers considers it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World) of dikes, dams, canals, pumping stations, etc.

I would think towards a very high population density for your colony (as obtaining new land to build on or farm on is going to be laborious and require continuous maintenance to keep it from returning to the sea) and possibly look towards the Dutch water boards for inspiration on how the government might structure itself.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that looking at the dutch culture might be interesting inspiration for how this planet will affect your settler's culture. The dutch are very orderly, very educated, and quite communally oriented. Things are very well kept (like houses, which are immaculate, and lawns, each tiny one is considered by their owner as an expression of their artistic gardening abilities). I think it's because of a) the high population density, combined with b) centuries of taming the sea. Broken dikes are a major natural disaster. They require 1) massive resources to create and maintain,... $\endgroup$ – Patches Nov 19 '15 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ ...2) excellent engineering and advanced technologies (the classic dutch windmills proliferated to pump water out; they're an engineering marvel. And subsequently useful for other things, like grinding grain, but especially sawing wood. Those sawmills is what made them a shipbuilding powerhouse.), and 3) a high level of social cohesion to support #1 & #2. The result is a pretty awesome culture I like to sum up as "really tall hobbits". If only they had hills, and lived in them, and the picture would be complete. :-D:-D:-D $\endgroup$ – Patches Nov 19 '15 at 20:03
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As we can see from the taking of the west, or current cultures in the rainforest, the people of this world will adapt nature to suit them, and not so much the other way around.

They will almost immediately form cliques, castes, and other hierarchical social strata. From what you mentioned, it’ll probably be the scientists and engineers at the "top" since they are more educated and they “deserve it” or whatever. Then you'll have the blue-collar technical people, like construction workers, architects, masons, mechanics, etc.. The bottom will go to the laborers and least-skilled positions.

These settlers won't have institutionalized schooling at first, and so children will probably assume family jobs. This will drive even stronger wedges into the social strata’s. The "top-tier" people will work on building fancy cities made of stone, with supports and levies and such. Once the initial city is built, the lower strata people will be graced with tenement housing. They will slowly migrate away from the city, following (or perhaps they are) the surveyors as they find more (and more valuable) resources. New cities’ will be built anywhere that has resources, like malleable stone, prerequisite materials for concrete, etc.. Since hard stone / foundation materials will be extremely valuable.

The lower castes will of course lay these foundations will their blood, sweat, and tears at first. Eventually they will be driven out by the elite, their fields dredged, and their hovels preserved as "historical" sites.

Once serious amounts of scarcity sets in, you will see nation-states emerge. Some cities will have strong trade alliances, and will band together against "the others" to get access to their resources. You will start to see battles, spies, wars, etc.. Basically all the same crap they left Earth to escape.

But they will never escape their humanity.

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  • $\begingroup$ All the forces at play lead to the exact opposite - it wouldn't divide them, it would unify them. 1) those settlers would have been chosen for their ability to work together. Anything less makes the immense expense of flying light years through space senseless. 2) the constant threat of environment, and the need to carve out livable land, promotes social cohesion. See the dutch answer. 3) It's absurd to think that people capable of traveling through space wouldn't educate their children. It doesn't have to be "institutionalized" to be good. $\endgroup$ – Patches Nov 19 '15 at 20:16
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I believe this new culture would inherit a lot of aspects of their home countries and As most of them are scientists and engineers their society would value study and research so they would probably encourage people to research and learn about this new world. I don't know if democracy would work in the early stages of development of this settlement so maybe a military government would be the first form of official government but it depends on how your story begins.

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