Prior to the discovery of Blue Coal's levitational properties and the birth of the Floating Machines, society was largely local due to the impediments to travel. We now know that it is the scattered deposits of rare elements in general, and Entropium (aka Red Coal), that produced waterway roundabouts and the instability of water sheds. By and large, our water ways extend no more than 50 miles and frequently less than two before they meet with a roundabout in which the direction of the waterflow alternates. This produces a grid of waterways joined by dangerous and unstable rotating bodies of waters and the inability to use boats to travel across continental bodies. In fact, we were not aware of the continental nature of our geography until we took flight. Prior to that the places where our land met the apparently endless body of water we know as he surrounding sea was simply known as the "beach."
Some social scientists also attribute our non-traveling to the tall wooden shoes and a reluctance to take long walks.
But, for what ever reason, we where organized as isolated local communities connected only infrequently by visits and PigeonPost?
c.f. The PropertiesOfGasses?
and the GreatBalloonTragedy?
Burning of blue coal produces a "upward suction."