Friday, January 4, 2008

Are there 'polar cities' in our distant future?

An interview with an American blogger promoting the idea of sustainable polar cities for possible survivors of global warming in the far distant future of the year 2121.

Webposted: January 6, 2008, Lucknow, INDIA


Are polar cities a good vision for the future in regard to global warming or is the idea just a 'non-threatening thought experiment'? Indian journalist Shadab Husain interviews American global warming blogger Dan Bloom about his concept of polar cities for the far distant future in face of climate change.

[Editor's note: Shadab Husain, 21, is a freelance journalist in Lucknow, India, whose writing career is beginning to get off the ground now, and this interview is a good link on his growing resume. Mr Husain, who is blind, says he became interested in global warming because the issue concerned and troubled him, and he found that writing about climate change is a good outlet for his concerns. His dream is to become a full-time feature writer for newswpapers and magazines in his native India and at online websites around the world.]

Shadab Husain: What motivated you to create the idea of polar cities to house survivors of global warming in the year 2121?

Dan Bloom: I was reading an interview with the British scientist James Lovelock in which he remarked that if the world did not get climate change andglobal warming under control soon the future might be such that only ahandful of "breeding pairs in the Arctic" would ensure that the humanspecies would continue after the Earth cooled down again. His remark made me think that there would have to be some kind of towns or cities for these survivors of global warming to live in, and the idea of"polar cities" popped into my mind. I wrote some letters-to-the-editor to several newspapers mentioning the idea of polar cities and linking readers to a blog I created about them.

Shadab Husain: What is your background or expertise in this field?

Dan Bloom: I am not an expert in the climate change field, nor am I scientist ora meteorologist. I do not have a PhD or an MA. I am a freelance reporter and editor, with a college degree from Tufts University thatI obtained in 1971. So I have no scientic or expert background at all in this field of climate change. I am a mere observer of what I have been reading inthe newspapers about global warming for the past few years. But I have always enjoyed envisioning the future of humankind, and my mind is very flexible and quirky. Envisioning polar cities was very easy forme to do. Once I did it, I couldn't keep quiet about what I had envisioned, so I created a blog and began a global public relations campaign to drum up support for the discussion of polar cities. And step by step, it's working. I am satisfied with the progress my little blog has been making in the world of climate change protaganists and denialists. The responses so far have been very interesting. A reporter in Canada, Stephen Leahy, recently interviewed me for the IPS news service, and his report was very well-written and balanced.

Shadab Husain: How long have you been doing research into climate change and global warming?

Dan Bloom: I had been aware of the issues of global warming and climate change for the past 10 years, but I never took it very seriously until I read an article in the Guardian newspaper in Britain in January 2007, just before the first IPCC report came out in February 2007, that explained how global warming was most likely caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. That's when I had what I call my "Eureka!Moment". That's when I began formulating the concept of polar citiesfor survivors of global warming in 2500, if worst comes to worst. It'sjust an idea of mine, what I like to call and what I hope is taken as a "non-threatening thought experiment". Hopefully, mankind will never need polar cities. But one never knows. And why not just think about them now, discuss them, maybe even plan them and design them and evenlocate where they might be situated in the far distant future. Maybe we should even build a model polar city in the coming years so people can "visualize" what one might look like, if worst comes to worst.

Shadab Husain: In your opinion, sir, what causes global warming -- humans or the sun?

Dan Bloom: Humans. We have created a culture that depends on the burning of fossil fuel for energy and the resulting CO2 emissions in the air are a major problem. Yes, I believe global warming is caused 99 percent now by human activity.

Shadab Husain: Did James Lovelock influence you?

Dan Bloom: Very much so. His books, interviews I have read with him in magazines and newspapers. Definitely. He directly influenced my concept of polar cities. In fact, in January of 2008, I emailed him some images of polar cities from my blogsite, and he wrote back the same day, saying, in just a two sentence note: "Thanks, Danny, for those images. It may very well come to that, and soon!"

Shadab Husain: How many polar cities will there be in the future year of 2500?

Dan Bloom: I have no idea. Again, I am not an expert or an urban planner. Myguess is that there might be about 2 million people left on Earth inthe year 2500 and that maybe 200,000 of them will be admitted asresidents of polar cities. It's not a pretty picture at all.

Shadab Husain: Are you trying to scare people with your idea of polar cities?

Dan Bloom: Yes, in a way, I hope that publicity about polar cities will shocksome people, who still need shocking, into taking action about globalwarming. My idea is a kind of theatrical device to frighten people insuch a way that they realize humanity is in deep trouble now and thatmajor changes in our lifestyles must be undertaken now, or else -- orelse polar cities might very well become a reality by the year 2500. So yes, there is an element of "shock theater" in my concept andblogging efforts.

Shadab Husain: Where will the polar cities be located?

Dan Bloom: In Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden,Russia. Perhaps there might be a few in Antarctica, too, along theVinson Masiff mountain range there.

Shadab Husain: Who will govern the polar cities and who will be allowed in as residents?

Dan Bloom: Good question. A very complex question. I don't know the answer, and I am looking to experts to fill us in on this. It could be the UN, itcould be individual governments that own the land the cities are sitedon. It could be a new world government in 2500. It's a very goodquestion.

Shadab Husain: Is it fair to say that your idea a kind of non-threatening thoughtexperiment totry to wake people up today regarding the very harsh reality of whatglobal warming might look like 50 or 100 years from now?

Dan Bloom: Yes. My main goal is to wake people up, wake up those people who needwaking up. And my second goal is to, at the same time, begin makingplans for such so-called polar cities. We have 500 years to preparefor the worst-case-scenario. So let's just prepare, just to be safe.But the main goal, now, is to wake people up. I hope my proposal isseen as alarming, but not as alarmist. I am an optimist. I believehumankind will survive into the far distant future. I remain aneternal optimist, although things look very very bad right now.

Shadab Husain: Thank you, Mr Bloom for taking the time to answer my questions. Your responses are very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Good luck to you in your work on this.

Dan Bloom: And thank you, Mr Husain, for your interest in my work on polar cities. And thank you for your time, too. Good luck with your work, too, as a reporter and observer of world events.


(c) 2008