Domed habitats - a reply to Scientists Warning .org

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This week, ScientistsWarning.org (who I talked about in the previous blog) emailed me and asked if I had anything to contribute to their cause. I don't think they were emailing me specifically, but it seemed a good opportunity to talk to them about our future on this planet, now that climate change is accelerating. I wanted particularly to put forward ideas of how to deal with our stormy future, and how to survive it. Here's my email to them:

Hello,

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Thank you for emailing me, asking for my feedback. Yes, I would like to contribute. I am a writer and illustrator, and I’ve been doing my best, for over a decade, to educate people on the critical issue of climate change. I’ve also tried to combine humour and facts to get the message across. For example, in 2012, I warned about arctic methane and pointed out to readers of my website that the climate would get so bad that we’d all have to end up being troglodytes or cave-dwellers. I came up with the slogan shown.

Unfortunately. I think we are now too far down the climate-catastrophe path for amusing slogans, media campaigns, political lobbying on renewables and suchlike. The tipping points have been passed and it’s clear the fossil-fuel banking system has adopted a ‘business as usual until martial law is declared’ approach.

Instead, I think we need to start planning how some of us are going to survive beyond 2100. The only communities that will survive on Earth in the next century will be ones either living underground or in domed habitats. Therefore, it is vital that we begin a process of making sure that there are domed habitats to move into.

One plan would be to amass funding and build a domed habitat somewhere remote, from scratch, and gather together a crowd of dedicated souls to move into it, but I think this is an unwise strategy. Previous experiments in sealed-habitat life have shown that feuding, resource management problems and isolation can have a crippling effect on the success of such a project. It could easily be seen as a naive, white elephant, suffer internal feuding and collapse, which would do no one any good.

Perhaps a better approach is to do the process in stages, starting with a normal farm development, then developing it, in phases, into a domed habitat, keeping ahead of the climate breakdown.

The Staged Development of a Climate-Resistant Habitat

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The project would consist of the following steps:

1) Establish a group or organisation to organise and implement the project. Let’s call it SWH.

2) SWH finds a large farm that is already investing in protecting its crops against climate change through the construction of protecting structures (domes, greenhouses etc) and buys it through a funding campaign. The farm’s location would ideally be above an aquifer, to guarantee a water supply, close to limestone or sandstone escarpments/cliffs that could be hollowed out, and away from areas likely to flood in a warmer world. It would also need to be in a region that is unlikely to suffer extreme heat increases in the future. It would also be wise for the farm to be hundreds of miles from any city or major military base. It would also be useful for it to be in a country that was relatively stable. There’d be little point developing a site and then getting massacred by local bandits or a drugs warlord. It would also be sensible for the site to be in a naturally unappealing area; this would act as a useful filter, weeding out any prospective members who just want to work ‘somewhere pretty’. SITE’s members would definitely be people who treasured nature but the whole idea of the project would be to develop a site, knowing that the landscape around it would probably, eventually, become a scorched desert.

3) SWH runs the farm as a normal commercial operation but also begins developing future-proof facilities, such as more resilient domes, renewable power, reliable water supply, etc, with the plan of making it entirely self-sufficient as soon as possible. The SWH habitat should be regarded as a commercial operation on private land and as a science base, rather than a spiritual retreat or hippy-eco colony.

4) SWH begins building a camp/village on the farm site that dedicated supporters of SWH can move into. Again, this would not be a ‘spiritual retreat’ but a hard-working, technically skilled community focussing on keeping the site working, expanding it and preparing for the next stage of development.

5) As the years go by, the SWH village would anticipate climate changes and augment the site to protect against these predicted dangers. It would be fine for the community to expand and allow in more members, but only if the increase in population could be contained within the protected structures present on the site, or what structures SWH believed they could build to keep pace with the worsening climate.

6) It is highly likely that as the climate worsened, there would be widespread social breakdown, wars and refugees. If the SWH project has proceeded as planned, its village/farm/domed habitat would be seen as a haven and/or a prize. Unfortunately, practicing an open-door policy to anyone reaching the habitat could easily result in it being overwhelmed with too many people, thereby tipping it into a collapse. Placing the site in a relatively remote location could reduce this problem. Also, if the habitat was able to expand its functional acreage from year to year, this would give its members an opportunity to allow in new members and thereby save some of the people outside the site from the ravages of climate breakdown.

7) For the habitat to succeed, it would need to adopt a sound, long-term psychological approach, a culture created by its members, that would increase its chances of success. To do this, its people would need to be inclusive, ethical and treasure nature. What would not help would be any creed or belief that insists upon a patriarchy, is homophobic, sexist or condones violence. Such attitudes are partly the reason we’ve got climate change.

8) The habitat would, for many years, before civilisation broke down, be practically operating as just another town on our planet. It would therefore have money, laws and be subservient to the laws of the country in which it existed. This subservience could create problems, particularly in SITE’s ability to decide what happens in the habitat, and who moves in to it. One way to minimise unwanted guests would be to make the habitat unappealing to an average person. If life in the habitat had little in the way of consumer goods, had no alcohol or caffeine, existed in a tough landscape, had members who followed a nutritious but restricted diet and was a place that only had accommodation for people with required technical skills, its members would have little need to turn away tourists, freeloaders or dilettantes; they simply would not want to live in it in the first place.

9) The habitat’s members would need to converse with each other, and so English would be a logical first language, but its members would be strongly encouraged to be bi-lingual, either before they joined or eventually through study and practice at the site.

That’s probably enough points for now; they give a good description of the project.

I know that such a project might be seen by some as giving up on saving the planet, or creating a freakish retreat for doom-mongers, but logically and scientifically, I think it is the only rational thing to do at the moment. We have a stark choice; we can continue demonstrating against a vastly powerful establishment who have no plans to save the vast majority of us, and wring our hands at the injustice of it all, or we can actually get together and do something to save some of the human race.

Best Regards,

Adrian Ellis
adrianellis.net