Polar Cities and You

When readers request a specific blog post, I try to be responsive. For instance, when Ron Paul supporters wanted to see more information about his environmental beliefs, I obliged. On several occasions I have received comments from one reader requesting a blog entry on "Polar Cities." So this one is for him.

Polar Cities are the brainchild of Dr. James Lovelock, a scientist and author. One of his largest accomplishments was the creation of the Electron Capture Detector, a device that brought about our knowledge of CFC's and their impact on the Earth's atmosphere. Dr. Lovelock has long supported the idea that the earth is less a giant floating piece of space dust and more a super-organism that is made up of its living and non-living parts. This "Gaia hypothesis" is the basis of Dr. Lovelock's view of our atmosphere and its impact on the earth's sustainability.

All of these viewpoints inform Dr. Lovelock's fear that billions of people will die as a result of unsustainable global temperature increases from carbon emissions into the Earth's atmosphere. This brings us to the concept of Polar Cities. Dr. Lovelock has suggested that those people who do survive the temperature increases will be the ones who flock to the arctic regions of the planet and establish communities there.

To many, this concept begins to border on science fiction. The very idea of a snowy cluster of people from different nations attempting to survive in a currently uninhabitable part of the planet will probably put conservative global-warming-doubters in a tizzy. Obviously, this is an idea that is looking many centuries down the road and doesn't take into account the possibility that humans develop a system for slowing and reversing the effects of global warming.

Regardless, its an interesting hypothesis to consider. If you're curious what a Polar City might look like, Dan Bloom has created a series of illustrations that paint a completely internalized world of tunnels, tubes, and cubes. You can check them out HERE.

Now I have to get back to life in my "Bi-Polar City" of Washington, DC.


  1. Thanks for this polar cities post, good analysis and introduction. Yes, thanks to James Lovelock for the concept. Long may he live! 88 going on 18! A great great man.

    You knowm, I had thought of calling them bipolar cities, too, but you beat me to the punch. Humor does help.

    Will we need polar cities? I hope not. should we maybe plan for them just in case? I think so.

    I like to call my polar cities blog and images a non threatening thought experiment. There are many avenues to explore here.

    Who gets in, who governs, them, who guards them, how to fuel them, how to feed them, etc. Six months of darkness, six months of sunlight. 500 years down the road, will we need them? Anybody's guess.

    Your posting on this is very much appreciated. THe more people who think about this, the better. The New York Times recently interviwed me by email, 5 questions, and they are planning to post a brief story about polar cities there too. I am hoping the Wash Post will do so too. A reporter there named Doug Struck, based in Canada, knows about polar cities now, and thinking about how to report on this off the wall idea. Might take some time before the concept gathers enough steam to make it into mainstream media newspapers. But for now, the blogosphere is helping to spread the word, from A CHANGE IN THE WIND to your blog here. Thanks. Keep in touch. We are all in this together, come what may...

    Hey, I used to live in DC too, worked at the AFI at the Kennedy Center as a ticket seller and usher, 1975. Lived on East Capital Street near the Supreme Court. Drank good beer at the Dew Drop Inn.

  2. http://llkc101.blogspot.com/

    Kevin Conrad: A page to offer him your congratulations!

    Kevin Conrad, a young Harvard business school graduate, born and
    raised in Papua, New Guinea, made headlines on the last day of the
    Bali climate change conference when he spoke truth to power. Mr Conrad
    works in New York City, I believe, for the Rainforest Coalition. One
    newspaper story said he was a US citizen. But other newspapers said he
    was from PNG.

    "We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing
    to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."

    During the contentious last-minute climate talks, Conrad's blunt
    declaration was met with applause.


    1:56 p.m. - Speakers from countries including Brazil and South Africa
    then make pleas on behalf of the developing countries. And neither
    Australia nor Japan side with USA rep Dobriansky. Papua New Guinea
    delegate Kevin Conrad wins wild applause by addressing Dobriansky and
    saying: "We ask for your leadership, we seek your leadership ... if
    you can't give us what we want, please get out of the way."

    2:19 p.m. - Dobriansky backs down, saying "We will go forward and join
    consensus," triggering applause.

    This miniblog is a place where Internet users around the world can
    leave a congratulatory comment directly meant for Kevin Conrad's eyes
    (and ears), to give him the kudos and plaudits he so richly deserves
    for speaking up so forcefully and poetically at this global forum.
    Leave your comments in the comments section

  3. FYI

    Kevin Conrad

    Kevin Conrad focuses on developing proactive strategies toward climate stability, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development through improved rainforest stewardship. He directs the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a part of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, which seeks to better align market incentives with sustainable outcomes in tropical forests. The Coalition currently includes Bolivia, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Congo, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Fiji, Gabon, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, Panama, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

    He has advised domestic and international companies as well as academic institutions in global strategy and strategic alliances and has experience in private equity, mergers and acquisitions, joint-ventures, new venture startups, hostile takeovers, divestitures, and distressed assets. Conrad also has extensive business investment and operational experience within developing nations and has advised governments in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific on economic reform, investment incentive programs, sustainable development, agriculture, energy, fisheries, forestry and mining.

  4. CLIMATE CHANGE: Northward Ho?
    Inter Press Service

    These polar cities may be "humankind's only chance for survival if global warming really turns into a worldwide catastrophe in the far distant future," ...

    semi-URGENT news: global warming news article ...

    January 3, 3008 AD

    Dear climate change specialists, scientists and experts in the field,

    A recent news article about my blog concept of "polar cities" for
    survivors of global warming IN THE FAR DISTANT FUTURE, not now, is
    online here:


    Written by environment reporter Stephen Leahy in Toronto, for a global
    news agency called InterPress Service (IPS). There's a blueprint image
    of a future polar city in the year 2500 for your viewing pleasure as
    well. Would love to hear your reax and comments and feedback, pro or
    con. One scientist wrote me today:

    ["Dear Dan,
    Your concern is that the climate crisis is drastic enough that we should
    plan for polar cities. I take a more moderate stance in two respects. I
    think the time line for disruptive effects of the kind you worry about is
    longer than you seem to think. And I also think that, for better or worse,
    places like North America and Europe will be able to afford moving
    population centers in land, changing agriculture and the like. (I take this
    line from Thomas Schelling.)"]

    Please feel free to email me here, and know that your private emails
    to me are just that, PRIVATE. I will never release your comments to
    the media. However, if you ever do want to be quoted, pro or con, on
    this polar cities idea, do let me know. Also, if you have any news
    tips about your own current research, you might want to contact Mr
    Leahy in Toronto. He is an ace reporter. His email? Ask me.


    Dan Bloom
    Tufts 1971

  5. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/earthfrenzyradio/blog/2008/01/16/Climate-Change-A-Blueprint-for-Survival

  6. In the midst of doing some reading online the other day, a certain
    phrase popped out at me from a press release from an Australian green
    group that spoke about a "safe-climate future" in an article by Ryan
    King headlined "Scientists target safe-climate future".

    The term SAFE CLIMATE jumped out at me, as I saw its similarities to
    SAFE SEX as a PR catchword, so I began to try to formulate a way to use
    this in a good way for climate activists. I came up with the concept
    of "safe-climate lifestyle" as a term to mean living a lifestyle that
    recognizes that global warming is real and trying to leave as small a
    carbon footprint as possible and working in whatever ways one feels
    are important to help mitigate the problems we are now facing.

    So a question to those reading this blogpost: for feedback. Does this have a good ring
    to it, sound good, should we try to make this term popular among green
    activists and the media?

    As in: "Local citizens gather to discuss
    safe-climate lifestyles" (as a headline in a local newspaper in
    Anytown, USA).

    I like it. What do you think? COMMENTS BELOW APPRECIATED OR EMAIL ME at danbloom {one word, no space) in the GMAIL place. You know how that works. Go!

    -- Danny Bloom



  7. Andrew Revkin at DOT EARTH did a blog about polar cities today here:


    Polar Cities a Haven in Warming World?

    By Andrew C. Revkin

    March 29, 3008

    One vision of a “polar city” in an overheated world. (Illustration by Deng Cheng-hong)Danny Bloom, a freelance writer, translator and editor living in Taiwan, is 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.
    Dr. 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 Dr. Lovelock predicted disastrous warming, Mr. Bloom (a frequent comment poster on Dot Earth these days) teamed up with Deng Cheng-hong, a Taiwanese artist, and set up Web sites showing designs for self-sufficient Arctic communities.
    Mr. Bloom told me his intent was to conduct a thought experiment that might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate — which remains, for many, a someday, somewhere issue.
    I interviewed Dr. Lovelock two years ago on his dire climate forecast and prescriptions — and also his ultimately optimistic view that humans will muddle through, albeit with a greatly reduced population. There’s a video of my chat with Dr. Lovelock here.
    “At six going on eight billion people,” Dr. Lovelock told me, “the idea of any further development is almost obscene. We’ve got to 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.
    It’s a dubious scenario, particularly on time scales shorter than centuries. But — as we’ve written extensively in recent years — 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 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 recently made the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine, in an article by one of my longtime sources on this issue, Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer who is now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.
    “It is no longer a matter of if, but when, the Arctic Ocean will open to regular marine transportation and exploration of its lucrative natural-resource deposits,” he wrote.
    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.