Are Floating Cities The Future Of Human Civilization?

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


The quote in the sub-headline was said by a British artist who traveled to Mexico and created an artificial island where mangroves thrive on it and floats on plastic bottles bundled together by bags. Within the context that he said that, he was discussing trying to find a way to find other uses for plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable garbage that usually pollute the planet.

I would expect that there would be more experimental projects like this brought to a million-dollar scale, in order to deal with climate change, specifically the rising sea levels which already affect people living in the Pacific Ocean. It would have to be the case that floating cities would become more instrumental to humanity’s survival.

There would be no other way to confront rising sea levels, considering how the economic and human costs will only increase so long as more people continue to live in coastal cities, with an average of 7,508 people dying from floods every year and $19.2 billion in damages; and the floods becoming more intense and frequent.

While it might appear reasonable to build sea walls in order to resist rising sea levels, they only have short-term benefits. The dikes would disrupt the sedimentation process in the coastal plains, meaning that the sediments picked up by waves end up being landed on the coasts. Coupling that with the land being drained for agriculture, it would subside, thus making the habitations near the coast even more vulnerable to floods.

Already, there exists the Seasteading Institute, which is an organization that seeks to create floating cities by working alongside the Tahitian government in order to make this happen. This project is being assisted by the support by Marc Collins, who is the former government minister of French Polynesia. This idea of floating cities already have the attention of governments in the Pacific Ocean, so it would mean that there would be more cooperation and eventual creation of floating cities in the future.

There are current architectural trends that incline towards floating cities. It would not be impossible for plenty of first world countries to immediately start innovating new ways of enduring climate change–if they cannot reverse it.

To understand the future is to look back at the past, for there might be clues as to how successful these floating cities would become should they become a more accepted form of mainstream scientific inquiry. As it turns out, creating pieces of land that occupies a specific niche on water is not as unusual as it seems. The Aztecs were known to have raised their crops on what are called “chinampas,” or artificial islands made from mud excavated from the bottom of canals. In fact, the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was itself an island where 2,500 acres of cityscape circled around it.

Would it be possible for any of us to live in a thalassopolis–as I would coin a “city on the sea?” Whether it would be hearing from an eccentric artist or innovative research teams and their investors, this idea of living on water is an attractive field appealing to people diverse in occupations. What originally started as eccentric experiments have now become considered as serious innovations as there is a future age of thalassopoles.

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