Nina Munteanu's blog from Canada: THE ALIEN NEXT DOOR
ON POLAR CITIES
In The Revenge of Gaia (2006), James Lovelock describes a dark future when heating suddenly escalates because of positive feedback. Says reviewer, Richard Mabey of the Times: “At the current rate, global temperatures will rise by nearly three degrees in the next 50 years. At this point, the rainforests begin to die, releasing vast new amounts of carbon dioxide. Algae fail in the ocean and stop generating cooling clouds and absorbing carbon. The Greenland glacier goes into meltdown, releasing enough water to flood many of the world’s cities. Crop failures, human migrations, the emergence of “brutal war-lords” follow. We know the story, but not in our “real world” minds. Global heating is not yet part of our collective unconscious in the way the bomb was.” At some point in his dissertation, Lovelock describes the ragtag journey to and survival of a few humans in the Arctic, the last hospitable place on the planet.
But, as they make their journey there, what do they see? Clusters of modular Polar Cities, designed for this very catastrophe, nestled in the natural fabric of the arctic’s environment. Someone was prepared!
For my Friday Feature here, I explore the concept of “Polar Cities” with Danny Bloom, director of the Polar Cities Research Institute in Taiwan. In January, 2007, Bloom’s started assembling a team of architects, civil engineers, industrial engineers, urban planners and scientists to set up the Polar City Project to design and build a model polar city. The city will be built in Longyearbyen, Norway, in 2012and will be ready for its first volunteer residents by 2015. The project will house up to 100 volunteer residents with the ability to expand. Funding will come from sources in the UK, Japan and Dubai, and the government of Norway, if all goes according to plan.
Bloom, a 60-year-old American (give or take a few years here and there), lives in Taiwan, where he teaches English and has served in the past as a reporter, editor and author in the USA and Japan. He credits his idea for polar cities on the writings of -- and a Financial Times interview by Fiona Harvey with -- James Lovelock, who claimed that global heating was likely to produce an apocalyptic six-degree C. rise in the global average temperature before the end of the century. Fired with a mission to educate at the least and prepare us at the most, Bloom is currently assembling his international team and has begun to design in earnest, commissioning some interesting illustrations of various aspects such as living quarters, recreational centre, eateries, etc., pictured throughout this post.
Bloom was lately featured in Gizmodo.com, one of the top 10 blogs (by Technorati authority), who called Bloom a “visionary futurist” then went on to say that his idea all sounded a little Dr. Evil or just plain far-fetched. Polar cities is an idea many climate change experts refuse to consider, saying that to imagine such a future was not productive when humanity needs to focus on “how the world can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Bloom insists that he is not a doomsayer or a gloom-and-doom survivalist, but rather “an eternal optimist who cares about the future of humankind.” Bloom confided in Stephen Leahy at IPSNews that “I’m going to spend the last years of my life pushing this idea of polar cities to wake people up. I don’t care if people don't understand the method in my madness.”
One of those people might be Franklyn Griffiths. Referring to Lovelock’s Revenge of Gaia (2006), Griffiths laments the use of clever technology and new-science to solve global warming without an associated paradigm change: “To think of [preserving] civilization [as we know it] in the Arctic is to have learned nothing. It is to dwell on hard science when it is humanity, its practices, and how to alter them that should have first claim on our attention. The new prevailing narrative ought to be one … in which we treat nature with renewed respect and, in so doing, see whether we might reinvent what it means to be civilized.”
Bloom wasn’t the first person to conceive of polar cities. In January 25, 1959 the Chicago Tribune ran this picture of the “Polar City of the Future” as part of the Closer Than We Think! Series. Said the Tribune: “…How would isolated polar cities ringed by icebergs and mountains be supplied? Our armed forces have a solution—the dirigible. Recently the Navy told how its blimp Z PG-2 successfully flew food and other supplies to an ice island team of scientists only 500 miles from the North Pole.”
Key words: arctic, Dan Bloom, Franklyn Griffiths, Gizmodo, global warming, james lovelock, polar cities