Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guardian reports that polar cities are closer than we think

by Ian Foster


-- I'm flying over the Pacific on a fuel-guzzling CO2 emitting 747 from Los Angeles to Taipei on my way to meet an American climate activist who claims that climate change is already so embedded in humankind's future that only so-called "polar cities" will be able to save the human species from extinction.

That's a pretty tall order, and from the looks of things, I am about to get an earful.

Meet Danny Bloom, erstwhile climate envisionary, non-scientist, blogger, doomsayer with a sense of humor.

"I'm not a doomsayer, " he insists. "I am an optimist, like my teacher James Lovelock, and if anything, I am a Bloomsayer, not a doomsayer at all. Please don't say I am a doomsayer. I'm not."

"Yes, I see dead people," the non-doomsayer says over coffee at a local cafe in southern Taiwan where I've come to spend a few days getting to know this eccentric man who calls himself "James Lovelock's accidental student." More on that later.

It's an interesting conversation, and he's not the least bit loony or insane. What Bloom says makes perfect sense, with a few grains of salt added in, of course. He believes that we are doomed, doomed, and that major climate chaos events in the future will doom humankind to fleeing north to find refuge in what he has dubbed as polar cities, even though this abodes will not be the poles per see and they won't be cities, either.

"More like Mel Gibson's 'Mad Max' franchise meets Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'," he says, smiling. Bloom seems to be always smiling, and he comes across as a very friendly and down to earth person.

"I don't have a PHD, and I am not a scientist," he admits and says he welcomes criticism of his polar cities ideas and does not take any of the negative comments that come his way personally.

"People have their own opinions and I respect them all," he says. "I don't expect people to agree with me or even see my point. But I know I am on the right path, and Lovelock has seen the polar cities designs and concepts and told me by email that it's good and worthwhile, if only it gets people to think outside the box."

"I see dead people," he repeats, "massive die-offs of humans, ten billion dead people in the next 300 to 500 years, perhaps sooner, and it won't be a pretty picture at all. More like hell on Earth."

Bloom says he gets his inspiration for polar cities not only from Lovelock, but also from Mark Lynas and Tim Flannery and James Hansen and Al Gore. "Come hell and high water, humanity is in for the ride of our lives in the coming centuries. We might make it through to the other side, and we might not make it at all as species, this might spell the end of the humans on Earth. Of course, I am hoping we can find ways to stop this all before it comes to that. I remain optimistic."

So what are polar cities all about? I ask the Bloomsayer.

"Survival," he says, "survival. Polar cities will serve as climate refgues for climate refugees in the future. Not now, but later. But it's time to start thinking and planning them now, just in case. I am sure the CIA and the Homeland Security Agency in the USA and similar departments in other countries are planning such polar settlements even now, on paper. There are meetings go on as we speak, all over the world, pre-planning and pre-siting these 'cities.'"

I ask why he is doing this, a seemingly quixotic quest that nobody is taking seriously in the early decades of the 21st Century.

"Good question," he replies. "I care. That's all. I care about not only today, where I lead a wonderful, happy, fulfilled life on Planet Earth, but I also care about a possibly dystopic future that we might be headed in if we do not tackle global warming and climate change issues at their core. I am worried that we won't do enough, and it won't be done on time, and that we are headed for a lemming-like disaster of unspeakable proportions. But I don't want polar cities to ever come to be, I don't want my work on polar cities to ever come to fruition. I don't want to see this denouement we seem to be headed in. So my work with polar cities is both a wake up call and a cri de coeur -- and also at the same time a kind of vision of what we just might need in the future to get through a warmed-up world."

"I am not a prophet," Bloom, 63, says. "And I am not a visionary. I'm just a normal bloke who cares about the future, not the near future so much as the distant future. I am a kind of an empath. I care about things most people don't really care about, and this future I imagine seems to far away and unreal. So I understand why so few scientists or climate activists take my polar cities ideas seriously. But Lovelock does, and Lovelock is my teacher here. He is the one who spoke of 'breeding pairs in the Arctic' back in 2006. I designed polar cities as places where these Lovelockian breeding pairs of humans can survive during a long period of northern life when the tropical and temperate parts of the globe will be uninhabitable."

I ask Bloom what the timeline is.

"In about 100 years, from 100 to 500 years. It will unfold slowly, it will happen slowly. It won't happen overnight, and it won't impact humankind until at least 100 years from now, and mostly not for another 500 to even 1000 years. But we are headed, not to the stars, but to polar cities, for sure. Northern settlements of millions of climate refugees on an Earth in a deep funk. We did this to ourselves. Global warming is a man-made phenomenon, and anyone who says otherwise is dreaming. So it's time to wake up, everyone, and there's still time. That's my message: there is still time. And the time is now to start planning actions to stop C02 in its track, and get off oil and coal use now, soon, today!"

I sense that Bloom is not finished yet, and at the same time, I can't help but think that he's on to something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Physics Nobel winner Richard Feynman:

"It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period."

The Obama presidency, and his campaign presentation - aka, his State of the Union Speech - clarifies further what has been so wrong these past three years, in science, and in general. I am not sure the Republicans offer any better, but they could hardly be any worse.

A do-nothing (good) president trying to run against a do-nothing congress (who did nothing because Harry Reid wanted it that way.)

Anyone but Obama in 2012!