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Matthew Spencer (M, 35)
Anacortes, US
Immortal since Jan 15, 2008
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    Polar Cities


    If there was something that you really believed and knew that if acted upon it could save humanity, what would it look like to dedicate your life to this cause? What if you were wrong? What if people criticized you for it? Would it still matter? You would never know whether you were right until you knew. Over the past week I've been thinking a lot about climate change. What sparked this current thread was a news story I read about Dan Bloom and his plan for the climate crisis. He has dedicated himself to this project in a vulnerable and uninhibited way. Dan Bloom's idea is to prepare for the looming climate disaster by building Polar Cities. I totally geeked out on the idea of Polar Cities and I was able to interview Dan Bloom about himself and his plans.

    Tell me a little about yourself. How did you become interested in climate change and polar cities?

    I was interested in climate change and global warming before 2007, in other words from 1971 to 2006, just as a normal newspaper reader, aware of the situation, but not deeply aware, nor very concerned, just normal low-frequency awareness from newspaper and magazine articles I had read from college graduation in 1971 to life in the real world of the early 21st Century. THEN one day, I read two articles in the newspaper here in Taiwan: one was about the upcoming IPCC report on climate change, released in February 2007, and then two was an interview with James Lovelock the UK scientist who said that in his view in the future, there might be only "breeding pairs in the Arctic" to continue the human species after global warming "events" cause mass migration north and mass die offs of humans, from a population of 10 billion to maybe just 200,000 left. When I read this, I had a eureka moment, I woke up at the moment. At first I was depressed. I wrote a long essay on my blog about how things are really screwed. But after re-reading what I wrote, which was basically depressing and sad writing, I woke up again and said to myself: Hey, you can't go around moping about and feeling sad for the world, try to do something positive, something to give you and others hope. So I visualized humans living in polar cities in the northern areas in the year 2500 or so, and that is how I began this quixotic adventure. Via the blogosphere. And 12 months later I found an artist, in Taiwan, where I live, Deng Cheng-hong, who agreed to make some illustrations for me, on commission. I paid him for his work and two months later he gave me these amazing illustrations. He is genius. In fact, his visual images have made this project leap off the page and into people's imaginations, so all credit goes to him. James Lovelock has seen these images and said to me via email: "It may very well happen and soon."

    Are polar cities your response to the climate crisis?

    Yes, this project is my personal response to the climate crisis, my small contribution to the ongoing global discussion. It's my way of taking part in what I think is a positive way in the debate.

    Are the aims of polar cities to accommodate a lucky few or all of humanity?

    The aim of the polar cities project is to accommodate all of surviving humanity, in an open democratic humanitarian way. These cities are not just for the lucky few or the rich or the powerful. My philosophy and aim is to start planning for these adaptation cities now, in 2008, so that by the time we need them, humankind has figured out how to make them open and democratic. But if things get really bad in the future, out of a world population of maybe 15 billion people in 2500, there might be only 200,000 survivors. In that case, these people will be the lucky few. Or unlucky few, some might say. But they will be the breeding pairs who keep the human species alive for many generations inside these polar cities and then come out and repopulate the Earth again when the time is right. The polar city era might last 100 years or 1000 years or even 10,000 years. So these polar cities are lifeboats for humankind, for the human species, not just for the lucky few. I have no children, so there is no personal intent here for me. I am doing this because I have compassion for the future. A deep compassion for the future, and this is now my life's work. Unpaid. On my own time. On my own dime. My contribution, in a small minor way, to the ongoing debate, pro and con, about climate change.

    In a recent Guardian article, James Lovelock is quoted as saying "Enjoy life while you can" in regards to the climate crisis. Do you see ideas like recycling and carbon offsetting as useless?

    Lovelock is my mentor in all this, and that recent Guardian interview was very insightful, I thought. I agree with him on many of the things he said. However, he is 88 and I am 58, so being 30 years younger I still have more hope and optimism that we can solve this climate crisis problem with real solutions. So yes, recycling and carbon offsetting are important ideas and I agree we should implement them as best we can, and do all we can NOW to try to mitigate global warming in the here and now. I have not given up hope. I still think we can solve this Long Emergency, but there will have to be some sacrifices.

    Is technology part of the problem?

    It is a part of the problem and a possible solution to the problem, too. My fingers are crossed. I hope someone can come up with a technological fix for the climate crisis. That is where my hope lies. Yes, but in the case that worst come to worst, I feel that polar cities can be our lifeboats to get us through a long period of northern life, maybe for 30 generations of humans.

    The polar cities have been likened to fallout shelters, how would you respond to this?

    I never thought of polar cities as fallout shelters. But we could call them global warming shelters. Lifeboats. I see them more as lifeboats. The cold war mentality of fallout shelters is not really appropriate for polar cities. But headline writers have wild imaginations and I appreciate all headline writers attempts to grapple with these issues.

    Do we need a sense of impending disaster to give ourselves something to work towards?

    You are right. Yes, we need a real deep sense of impending disaster to wake us up. Lovelock and Hansen and others are important in issuing wake up calls to humanity. I am just a soldier in the trenches launching my polar cities idea as a non-threatening thought experiment to wake people up in another way, visually. I remain an eternal optimist and I wake up every day full of energy to fight this climate crisis. This IS the fight of humanity, all humanity. We need all the ideas we can get.

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    Comments:


    LED     Sun, Apr 27, 2008  Permanent link
    Hi there!

    Do you know IPY? They have a such important work around the world and I would love to work with them, but unfortunately in Brazil the project is tied to University and scientists.
    Anyway I'm joined to their Google Group.

    http://www.ipy.org/

    Cheers!
    Cynthia
    meika     Mon, Apr 28, 2008  Permanent link
    Reminds me of The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica.
    openartist     Mon, Apr 28, 2008  Permanent link
    I wouldn't be surprised if a micronation would try and take a stake at one of the poles and create a new nation. Great article and work.
    meganmay     Fri, May 2, 2008  Permanent link
    the micronation of Space Collective!
    LED     Sun, May 4, 2008  Permanent link
    Hi Matthew! Yesterday when I was posting that artwork from Lucy and Jorge, I remind this post from you. Pretty good!
    LED     Sun, Jun 22, 2008  Permanent link
    I was reading the Unthinkable Futures (a small game Brian Eno and Kevin Kelly played to loosen up our expectations of what might happen in the near future) and see this "Conceptual Trend" by Brian Eno:

    "Traveling as a process enjoys a revival. People abandon the idea of "getting from A to B" and begin to develop (or re-discover) a culture of traveling: semi-nomadism. Lots of people acquire super new faxed-and-modemed versions of the mobile home. It becomes distinctly "lower-class" to live in a fixed location. Fast forms of transport come to be viewed like fast food is viewed now — tacky, undesirable, fake."
     
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