Posts tagged with "floating islands":

Seasteaders to bring a libertarian floating community to the South Pacific

Right now, engineers, scientists, and officials from one country in the South Pacific are hashing out a seastead. The movement is an ambitious experiment in aquatic living that’s shaped by libertarian dreams, a pragmatic response to climate change, and a novel architectural experiment.

“Seasteaders want voluntary societies based on choice, not force,” said Joe Quirk, Seasteading Institute communications director and author, in a YouTube video on the subject. The San Francisco-based organization is on the front lines of the seasteading movement, a Libertarian-influenced crusade that borrows from the language of the American frontier to frame its freewheeling settlement at sea. Decentralized dwelling, the thinking goes, permits members to join or leave the autonomous association at will by simply detaching their dwellings and floating off, literally voting with their sea legs to leave. If this sounds far-fetched, well, the first seasteaders may hit the water in just a few years.

The community could be afloat soon—like, 2020 soon. The Floating Islands Project, as it is officially known, will be built with emerging floating-construction technology and is meant to attract investment to French Polynesia. Its sheer novelty has already garnered extensive media coverage. But will it work?

Although seasteaders can theoretically float anywhere, the Institute found a partner in French Polynesia, an island country in the South Pacific. This January, French Polynesia signed a memorandum of understanding with the Seasteading Institute in San Francisco to build a floating island prototype. The project, off the coast of Tahiti, has to demonstrate it won’t adversely impact the environment, and show what it will contribute to the island’s economy, and then the nation will establish an offshore economic zone for the seasteaders.

Although seasteading’s libertarian ideals perhaps make French Polynesia—well, any nation—an unlikely partner, the government views seasteading technology as a potential Hail Mary in the anthropocene. Many of the country’s thousands of islands are flat and narrow, a topographic combination that is particularly susceptible to climate change. Floating islands could be a vital survival strategy if (but really, when) the seas rise. In turn, the area’s shallow water and ocean conditions that don’t include high waves make the current technology—which has been pioneered on flat water—more adaptable to ocean conditions.

By the end of this year, the Institute, which was founded in 2008 by libertarian activist Patri Friedman, is working with French Polynesian officials to pass a seazone act. If the rules pass, the group will head to Tahiti to develop a pilot program. So who are the architects of the seastead?

This is certainly not the first architecture at sea, nor the first time the island-platform technology’s been used. In 2011, a series of floating islands opened in the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, while French architect Jacques Rougerie has designed a floating, partially submerged city shaped like a manta ray. As far back as 700 AD, people have been living for long periods of time on the ocean.

For the seasteaders, Dutch firm DeltaSync has built a prototype on a lake in Rotterdam. The Floating Pavilion Research suggests that buildings up to 164 feet (15 stories) tall can be built on the seas and are able to withstand storms and choppy waters. Four years ago, DeltaSync debuted a preliminary plan which estimated that a series of platforms for 20 to 30 people would cost around $15 million. With one-fifth of the space reserved for open greenery, the firm estimates living space would cost about $500 per square foot, which is just over half as much as the average price per square foot in New York City (and less than a third of the price of Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side). (Neither the Seasteading Institute nor marine engineering firm Blue 21, an offshoot of DeltaSync that’s working on the Tahiti project, could be reached for comment on these latest plans.)

It’s no surprise that the project has—or had—high-profile fans in Silicon Valley. Gawker shutter-downer and Trump supporter Peter Thiel funneled a cool 1.7 million dollars into the initiative, but has since dismissed the concept as “not quite feasible.”

But despite its ostensible freedom at sea, the project can’t escape from social concerns. By comparing themselves to American frontiersmen, seasteaders (a term derived from “homesteaders”) invoke the same tabula rasa colonialism that Europeans used to justify the wholesale genocide of indigenous people in the Americas and elsewhere. Is libertarianism, in this case, an aegis for clueless Silicon Valley tech-bro optimism?

Quirk and others at the Institute have a new company, Blue Frontiers, whose mission is to develop and build the floating seabeds, so it’s only a matter of time before these questions are answered. 

Vives les Plages! Paris Rethinks its Riverbanks by Banishing Cars

The "reconquest" of the Seine's riverside expressways will be ushered in by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, following a long battle with Nicolas Sarkozy's recently ousted right-wing government. Continuous two-lane motorways have severed Paris from the banks of the Seine, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, since Georges Pompidou opened them in 1967 under the slogan “Paris must adapt to the car.” Delanoë has made it his mission to reverse Paris' auto-centric planning mentality, increasing the number of bicycle and bus lanes in the city while implementing bike- and electric car-share schemes. The pedestrianization of the Seine also follows Delanoë’s Paris-Plages program, started in 2002, that transforms small stretches of riverbank into sand-covered beaches complete with palm trees and deckchairs for one month each summer. Starting next month, a stretch of road on the Right Bank starting at the Hôtel de Ville and running eastward a little more than half a mile will be narrowed and additional speed-controlling traffic lights and pedestrian crossings will be installed. Pedestrian corridors and bicycle lanes will be added to the road, along with bars and cafes (some of them on floating barges and islands). The next stage, to be unveiled next spring, will replace the road completely for a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Left Bank between the Musée d’Orsay and the Pont de l’Alma, creating an 11-acre park with volleyball courts, sundecks, and floating gardens. This corridor will be connected to the Right Bank by new pedestrian crossings at Debilly (adjacent the Eiffel Tower) and Jardins des Tuileries (adjacent the Louvre). It is expected these modifications will add only six minutes to the average commute while restoring access to the riverfront to Parisians and tourists alike.

Tiny Islands to Clean the Cuyahoga

Hey, remember that time that stretch of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire? That wasn't so great. Things have gotten better since then. We now have the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, Superfund and lots of other pollution control and remediation tools. Things have gotten better along the Cuyahoga too. One segment of the river remains persistently sick though, the one mile stetch, lined with steel bulkheads, that runs through to downtown. Planners are trying a new method to reintroduce a softer edge--with plants and the attendant microrganisms and fish--while preserving the areas still active industrial and shipping character: floating artificial islands. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission is testing a number of small floating islands of various designs to see if they can survive in the area's cold climate and polluted conditions. "If we can do this here--bring plant, bug and fish life back to a dead part of the river--it can have an impact on other places in the Great Lakes region," Christopher Alvarado, an associate senior planner at the commission, told the Plain Dealer.