Okay, call me Noah or call me Jonah, or just call me a blooming idiot, but I must tell you before I depart these shores that I am embarked on a one-man campaign to get people to seriously consider a worst-case prediction of the British chemist and inventor James Lovelock: life in “polar cities” arrayed around the shores of an ice-free Arctic Ocean in a greenhouse-warmed world.
Lovelock, who in 1972 conceived of Earth’s crust, climate and veneer of life as a unified self-sustaining entity, Gaia, foresees humanity in full pole-bound retreat within a century as areas around the tropics roast — a scenario far outside even the worst-case projections of climate scientists.
After reading a newspaper column in which Lovelock predicted disastrous warming, I teamed up with Deng Cheng-hong, a Taiwanese artist, and set up some websites showing designs for self-sufficient Arctic communities.
My intent is just to conduct a thought experiment that might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate — which remains, for many, a someday, somewhere issue.
Lovelock has an optimistic view that humans will somehow muddle through the current Long Emergency, albeit with a greatly reduced population.
I am also an optimist.
Lovelock believes taht we must learn how to retreat from the world that we’re in. Planning a good retreat is always a good measure of generalship.
The retreat, he insists, will be toward the poles. Therefore: polar cities?
As you know, there is already an intensifying push to develop Arctic resources and test shipping routes that could soon become practical should the floating sea ice in the Arctic routinely vanish in summers. Sensing the shift, the U.S. Coast Guard has proposed establishing its first permanent Arctic presence, a helicopter station in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. It’s not a stretch to think of Barrow as a hub for expanding commercial fishing and trade through the Bering Strait.
The strategic significance of an opening Arctic has also made the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine, in an article by Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer who is now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.
So even if humanity isn’t driven to Arctic shores by climate calamity at lower latitudes, it’s a sure bet that the far north will be an ever busier place. Urban planners, get out your mukluks. In the meantime, scientists, marathon runners, and others are already making the North Pole a busy place.
And I am calling for the immediate construction of 144 polar cities across the northern regions of our planet. I hope I am wrong, but just in case,
Lovelock is right, we just might need polar cities.