Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Polar Cities: Will the Future be Secured?

Nina Munteanu's blog from Canada: THE ALIEN NEXT DOOR


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, 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



Greg says

"Interesting idea: While more conservative groups are po-pooing the idea of global
warming -the militaries of the world are coming up with plans to control the flood of refugees from heat devastated countries into better areas- especially africa in Europe."


Just to show you how some media reporters react to this polar cities idea...

A reporter for Reuters emails me today, rejection letter:

"Thanks for the mails and for all the interesting updates about
your "polar cities" concept -- one of my colleagues is up in svalbard norway today
looking at the seed vault that will open tomorrow.

Sorry but ... I'm not sold on the idea of the polar
cities as story for us: I feel it would have to get beyond speculation
(even with Lovelock's blessing and comment)...if you had some funding for the idea,
i.e. from a top research organisation or government agency, to promote
"polar cities" as an educational tool to shock the world into action,
etc, it would help make it into a good news story. But for now, I must pass. Good luck with it."


I read something recently in which the author's position was that the entire world economy was built around supporting a comfortable life for only a relatively few number of people - some 500 million live comfortable lives at the expense of 6 billion who are used mercilessly to support that way of life by supplying cheap labour, goods, and natural resources so that we in the Empire can relax in front of our TVs and PCs in the evening, eat our organic foods (many of which which are exported from those that need it to those who can afford it), talk on our mobile phones, drive our petrol-consuming vehicles, invest in pension plans that are funded by the returns on investments in the removal of food and natural resources across the globe to continue the ever-growing, ever greedy way of life we few live at terrible expense to others.

Most of us don't even realise the impact our way of life has on others the world over. We don't realise because we have become unconnected. We are unconnected with the hunt for water. We simply turn on the tap expecting water, not realising what it takes to capture and produce that flow, or how our bottled water we are so fond of is being stolen from many who desperately need it or from resources which cannot replace it, or how heavy industry uses and pollutes enormous amounts of it at the expense of others to supply us with our daily needs.

We are unconnected with the land. We simply go to the supermarket for our food, not understanding how the arable soil across the world is being permanently depleted and sterilised by fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides, or salinised by the large-scale agriculture industry or washed away by poor land management in the name of profit.

We are unconnected with people. We've lost any understanding of how very connected and interdependent we really are with people we have never seen or known through global commerce. We don't understand that how we live is literally taking food, and water, and shelter and health services away from others so far away. We don't realise how our governments and our multi-national corporate Empires are raping other countries with our "defensive" armies and weapons in pursuit of the protection of the resources that feed our unending hunger. We don't see how families are blown apart by our bombs from so high or so far away we can't even see the targets. We can't see how we act in the interests of our multinational corporations to put unbearable pressures upon smaller, less powerful national governments to reduce their social services, open their markets to our predatory economic and environmental practices and destroy and denigrate the lives of so many in such need - all in the name me.....our children....our jobs....our security...our wasteful and careless lives.

Instead of re-connecting ourselves to the reality of our way of life and the need to live in harmony with nature and its creatures, we are instead, as a society, planning more runways, more roads, more supermarkets, more shopping centres, more armies, more weapons, more flights, more holidays. Those of us with a degree of insight and social concern are wondering how we can make use of alternative sources of energy and new technologies to essentially sustain this way of life into the future - more railways and public transport, greener power stations, more efficient homes and autos and businesses, local sourced food and goods. Greener, but more of the same.

We think there is a green revival taking place slowly throughout the world, a great awakening perhaps leading to a new beginning. It might take decades to get ourselves out of this current mess we have created over the millennia. It might take a few years for change to begin taking hold. But it will come. We are confident. We have huge faith in man's ability and creativity - it has saved us so many times before, hasn't it? Technology will save us. The free market will save us. Educating folks in the ways of green will save us. Growing organic food will save us. Our lives will not change. We will live like this, somehow, some way into the undefinable future. Our children will not suffer. Our civilisation will survive - not only survive, it will prosper. To think anything else is unbearable and smacks of futility and hopelessness. We must be positive, mustn't we.

I don't think we have decades. We don't even have five years. Forces have been unleashed in nature, in the social structure and in the financial world that will certainly seriously impact our civilisation and our way of life - not slowly, gradually but rapidly and cataclysmically. I have no illusions that we will somehow find a way. But rather than search out ways to survive, we instead find ways to...continue. Rather than use our remaining energies to develop the means to deal with the nightmare to come, we blindly pursue a dawn that just might never arrive.

Man is the only creature with a choice how to live with the natural world. We could have lived a totally sustainable hunter/gatherer existence in harmony with the land. Indeed many did just that (some continue to - though we are trying to pull them out of that) - the American Indian, the Inuits, indigenous folks on all the continents. All maintained a spiritual harmony with the world around them. They never expected anything else. The concept of "rights" to anything never occurred to them. They had instead, responsibilities. Resonsibility to the Land, and the Water, to the other creatures of the world. Life was hard. Often fatal. But always accepted.

The rise of Empire man took all that "connectedness" away over time, starting with agriculture and city-building, disconnecting man from his food source and the land. Empire man has no responsibilities, only rights. Rights to the destroy the land in wasteful production of food, rights to all the fresh water, rights to deplete its resources for weapons and transport, the right to remove the trees for homes and fire - in short, to dominate the earth in a destructive and prideful manner and to provide the means to grow its population to a level requiring more and more of the same - a veritable cancer on the face of the earth. It was a losing battle with nature from the beginning - we just didn't see that for the greed shining in our eyes.

And now it's come time to pay. And nature will extract all payment due. If we are wise, we will fast make our peace with her.