Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Come Hell and High Water: -- How I Became James Lovelock's Accidental Student

Come Hell and High Water: -- How I Became James Lovelock's Accidental Student

American climate provocateur Danny Bloom explains how he became a
climate activist calling
for Polar Cities to house Dr Lovelock's "Breeding Pairs in the Arctic"
in the Far
Distant Future

I've often been asked by inquiring journalists
overseas how I came to
be "James Lovelock's Accidental Student".

Let me explain: Two years ago I read an
interview in the Guardian with Dr Lovelock where he talked about his
vision of survivors of future global warming as being
"breeding pairs in the Arctic". I kept thinking
about those words for a few months over and over and finally, I asked
myself, where
will these "breeding pairs" live?

I mean, what kind of settlements
will they be housed in, and where will these settlements be located?
And" who will govern these settlements, and who will be
allowed in, or who will get in, and will they survive the long long
Long Emergency that will be happeneing then?

I envisioned settlements I called "polar cities" for
these breeding pairs in Lovelock's Arctic. That's how the term ''polar
cities'' was born. And that is how I became James Lovelock's Accidental

This was also around the same time as the IPCC report was
coming out in February 2007 to great media fanfare, and there were
headlines every day in my local English newspaper in Taiwan. As a result, I was
obsessing with the issues of climate change and global warming for the
first time in my life -- in my late 50s.

I knew I needed to put this idea of polar cities for breeding
pairs into some kind of visual showcase, because when I first started
blogging about my polar cities idea, the response was basically, well, no
response at all. The words themselves -- polar cities for survivors of
global warming in the year 2500 or so -- just did not wake people up
and attract interest from readers or reporters or bloggers. So I knew
I needed some kind of visual to show what I was talking about.

Near my home in Taiwan, there is a small advertising agency run by a friendly,
pontailed man named Deng Cheng-hong. I rode my bicycle over to his
shop one Sunday afternoon and asked him if he could illustrate my
polar cities idea with some hand-drawn art or some computer-generated

I showed him some very rough sketches I had done up
in pencil and crayon on paper. He took these sketches and 8
weeks later came back with some futuristic color illustrasrtions of
what a polar city might look like in, say, 2500 AD.

Voila! Mr Deng had given life to my vision, which I gotten directly from
Dr Lovelock's interviews and books and speeches.

When I showed Mr Deng's images to reporters in the USA -- and to Dr
Lovelock himself by email -- the response was very positive.
The New York Times science blog Dot Earth, written by veteran science reporter
Andrew C. Revkin, wrote about polar cities and Dr Lovelock, with Mr
Deng's images printed
on the blog as well.

The response was immediate,
both pro and con. I decided to spend
the rest of my life promoting and talking about polar cities, come
hell and high water.

But this was not part of my life plan before 2006. But after I read Lovelock's
words about "breeding pairs in the Arctic" I became haunted, obsessed,
with those words. And here I am, age 60, James Lovelock's Accidental
Student. I have no PHD, no academic sponors, no credibility at all.
This is my life's work

I care
about the future. I care about what life will be like on Earth
30 generations down the road, in 2500 or so. Polar cities might save
us -- Lovelock's breeding pairs -- from extinction.

I have never met or spoken with Dr Lovelock but I did send him the
images of Deng's polar city designs
and he replied: "Thanks, for showing
me those images. It may very well happen, and soon!"

I plan to keep promoting the concept of polar cities, what I
also call climate retreats for climate refugees. Let me explain one
more thing: These polar cities will be not be at the poles per se.
They will
be in northern and southern regions of the world, from Tasmania and
New Zealand and Patagonia and Antarctica in the southern hemisphere to
Alaska and Canada and Russia and Greenland and Iceland and Norway in
the north.

These polar cities are where Lovelock's breeding pairs will
live. We need to think hard about who will get in, who will govern
them, who will administer them, and what life inside will be like.
That's my brief.

Dr Lovelock gave this brief to me. He does not know it, but he gave it to
me, or I should say: I took the brief from him. I am using my
out-of-the-box thinking to create an important

All all this is not something that makes me
happy, and it's not a pretty picture. We are talking about some very
dark times coming down the road in 30 generations or so. I don't get
enjoyment out of this work. But I do get a sense of doing something
positive and important.

And I remain an optimist, despite what it
might seem. I am an eternal optimist. That is why I envisioned polar
cities to save humanity from extinction in some future time when
global warming's major impact events have reduced the human tribe to
just 200,000 men, women and children barely surviving -- but
surviving, yes! -- in polar cities scattered around the world.

As Dr Lovelock's accidental student,
without a phd or an academic backing, I plan to keep talking about
polar cities an important adaptation idea for the future.

It's not easy catching the attention of the news media or reporters
around the world. Although it's easy to get a mention or two about
polar cities on blogs and websites, it's almost impossible to get a
story about my work in a print publication anywhere in the world.

In fact, this essay is the first to ever appear in print, and I thank
the editors for publishing this.

Just the other day, a reporter for a major wire news
service in Europe told me in an email, explaining why
he could not write about polar cities for his
agency or interview me for a story: "I appreciate the originality of
your idea of polar cities, and your enthusiasm, and
your independence. I really do. But unless you are a scientist or
engineer, or your idea has gotten some serious traction somewhere, I
cannot justify doing a piece on you and your work."

And he added: "Interesting
coincidence: I spent an hour in conversation with Dr.
Lovelock yesterday."

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