Oceans of Opportunity

Rising Seas – where should we go?

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael Lombardi

The September 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine includes a beautifully developed and presented feature about ‘Rising Seas’ – the imminent threat of sea-level rise due to a variety of factors.

The cover page includes a series of questions addressed in the article which read as follows:

1. What will we protect?

2. What will we abandon?

3. How will we face the danger?

All terrific questions to guide thought and discussion on the subject, though I will argue that one critical question was not asked:

WHERE SHOULD WE GO?

It’s been seven years since Al Gore’s controversial film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘, got a considerable portion of the population thinking about global warming, climate change more broadly, and within that the fact that sea levels are on the rise. Major storms in recent years including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy elevated attention on developed coastal areas and their assets. It’s all very real, and there was no better time for NG to run the piece. Now that we’ve wrapped our heads around the facts we’re up against, I believe it’s time to start thinking ahead again – WHERE SHOULD WE GO?

It’s a serious question. Billions of people stand to be impacted over the next 100 years as major coastal infrastructure and resources are virtually decimated with the rising tide. Couple that with a human population on the rise and we have a recipe for disaster – big-time.

Bottom line is that we live in a closed sphere, with finite resources, including inhabitable space. The balance of exploitable resources – farms, rainforests, fresh water, with inhabitable space is going to shift in a dangerous way, and pressures on our planet’s natural resources will be pressed like never before. We, humans, will be affected. In fact, this may very well be a tipping point in our own sustainable presence here on Earth. Very, very scary – and very, very real.

So, where do we go? Well, the visionary big picture to preserve humanity might very well be to colonize an Earth like planet or moon – the theory of panspermia – quite possibly how life was seeded on Earth billions of years ago. But let’s not lose sight of a smaller step – take advantage of overlooked space here on Earth – beneath the waves.

I’ve written numerous times about undersea habitation and ‘settlement’. Proponents of both concepts have struggled immensely with justifying the massive financial investment that would be required to do so with any permanence. Well, here you go. Life here on terra firma is ‘Hot, Flat, & Crowded’ as Thomas Friedman would say. In oceana incognita it’s a blank slate. From my vantage point, we will be hugely irresponsible to not act on taking advantage of this massive space right here on Earth. That evolutionary step – to a life aquatic – would provide all of the knowledge we need to take another step towards extra-planetary colonization.

This may be thinking big right now, but its frankly very much thinking about preserving our future, and an essential next step.

What can we do? Well, look to the horizon and see new frontiers there for the taking. They do indeed exist – I’ve seen them firsthand.

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