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You’ve seen the headlines:

“UN Urges People to Eat Insects to Fight World Hunger”

“9 Popular Cities Losing War with Rising Seas”

“Amsterdam Has Officially Run Out of Spaces to Park Its Bicycles”

The fallout of overpopulation and climate change is everywhere. Could underwater cities be a realistic strategy for controlling (or even reversing) the damage?

A look at history reveals many cities that met their end at the hands of the sea. Rising sea levels are pushing places like London, Maldives, New Orleans, Bangkok, and Shanghai toward a similar fate. Google even came up with a simulation showing floods in various cities Your Home Under Water – Google Street View Mod Hits Us With Global Warming Message Your Home Under Water – Google Street View Mod Hits Us With Global Warming Message June 5th is World Environment Day. The focus as always is on the impact of global warming. World Under Water is a Google Street View simulation that hopes to bring the message closer to home. Read More . It isn’t the most conventional way to go green 5 Sites and Tips on How to Go Green and Save Money 5 Sites and Tips on How to Go Green and Save Money Read More , but in light of such scary scenarios, the idea of exploring the oceans as a potential housing option looks a lot more reasonable.

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But can we adapt the earth’s water bodies for longterm living? The designers of various underwater inhabitation projects are putting in plenty of hard work to prove we can.

Why Underwater Cities?

Here are some of the “on-land” problems that scientists, futurists, and architects hope to address with their plans for underwater colonies:

There are other emerging technologies Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day. Learn a little bit about these 10 emerging technologies that could directly affect your life within the next few years. Read More aimed at tackling such problems. But the vast potential of oceanic resources promises to provide more sustainable solutions. We will need some technological advances for tasks like building emergency evacuation systems and optimizing the impact of natural sunlight beneath the water’s surface.

under-water

Let’s take a look at some of the designs for underwater cities that are making waves (excuse the pun). As far-fetched as it sounds, we could be living in cities like these in the future.

Blue Garden

The Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation has proposed the world’s first underwater city, christened Blue Garden. It will be enclosed in a transparent dome placed atop a 9-mile-long spiral connected to the ocean floor. The city will house a 5000-strong community amid a network of residential zones, hotels, and business structures. The entire city setup, also known as Ocean Spiral, will be self-sustaining, with plans in place for:

  • Generating power, by utilizing the variations in the temperature of the ocean water
  • Producing potable water, by using the hydraulic pressure for desalination
  • Reducing the harmful effects of CO2, by harnessing the ability of micro-organisms to convert CO2 to methane
  • Aquaculture, farming the sea for nutrients and material resources

Along the spiral there will be multiple submersible hubs of activity. These will monitor the marine environment, mine materials from the ocean floor, supply water and electricity to the dome, etc. Most of the time, the city will stay only half-submerged to maximize the use of sunlight. But, when bad weather conditions strike, the entire dome will be pulled under the waves.

The project will no doubt be expensive, and will take five years to reach completion. But if things go as planned, you (well, someone) will get to live in Blue Garden as early as 2030.

Water-Scraper

 

Sarly Adre Bin Sarkum from Malaysia designed Water-Scraper, a self-sufficient inverted skyscraper that reaches into the depths of the ocean. His creation earned him a special mention at the eVolo 2010 Skyscraper Competition.

“We envision a future where land as a resource will be scarce; it is only natural progression that we create our own. Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is ocean, even more if climate change has its way, hence it is only natural progression that we will populate the seas someday. We picture a new metapolis, created from a collection of hO2+ scrapers,   as a city that does not consume nature but creates and produces nature.  In the end becoming H2O+ Cities.”

~ Water-Scraper: Underwater Architecture, eVolo 2010 Skyscraper Competition

Capped with a small forest, the structure is capable of holding several thousands of people in its depths. Said people can live, work, and play as usual, while their home takes care of everything from generating electricity, to growing food, to managing waste. A combination of ballasts and man-made tentacles keeps the building upright. The components of Water-Scraper are arranged to optimize their use of external resources such as wind power.

Sub-Biosphere 2

Sub-Biosphere 2, a network of eight spherical pods designed for underwater living, is the brain child of British futurologist and concept designer Philip Pauley. The pods are set up in a circular fashion, and controlled by a central pod that ensures the supply of air, electricity, food, and water to them. What’s interesting is that different pods mimic the environmental states of different climatic zones on earth. For example, there’s an “Arctic” pod and an “Antarctic” pod.

The structure is capable of accommodating a hundred people. It’s designed to traverse vertically, enabling it to be shifted below the waves during extreme weather conditions like storms. Pauley calls his creation the “original self-sustainable underwater habitat”. It won him a Green GOOD DESIGN award in 2014.

As part of his efforts to raise funds for and awareness about this project as well as longterm underwater living, Pauley has created a sci-fi book series for young adults, titled Moral Order.

When Will Underwater Cities Become Reality?

There already are functioning research facilities, resorts, and hotels based inside seas and oceans. But the idea of underwater buildings as permanent residential facilities is yet to catch on. Projects based on this concept, being complex, unconventional, and expensive, lack the kind of support and funding they need to come to fruition. Their success seems to hinge on our collective will to move things forward.

“I was 27 when I went on my first long, deep dive, and I’m now 74 years old. I’ve spent 40-something years trying to unlock the idea of living under the sea. The only real motivation is if we destroyed the air environment up here and were forced to leave because we couldn’t live in it. Or if we started picking up gold nuggets from the bottom. Then it would be done in a heartbeat.”

~ Ian Koblick, Founder of the Marine Resources Development Foundation (MRDF), Will we ever… live in underwater cities?

Our living conditions are headed in an unfavorable direction, and sooner or later we will need to consider the oceans as a serious housing option. For our own sake, let’s hope underwater cities turn out to be a viable, scalable solution. But we must take care not to treat the oceans as we have been treating the earth – carelessly.

Does the idea of an underwater city fascinate you or freak you out? Do you see yourself living in an underwater city in your lifetime? Share your thoughts below.

  1. Ken Wells
    October 24, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I would love to live and work in an undersea city, all of the technology is available right now. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created, and if people are living under the sea, then there is an opportunity to do maintenence above ground too, modernise the roads, lay fibre optic cables, demolish entire cities and build them up again from modern materials. I think it would be extremely beneficial. And the atmosphere of living under the sea would be fantastic. Also conservation and breeding programmes could be done in our rain forests etc, Deserts could be irrigated, we can move back into fantastic cities, with new homes, all fururistic, all energy efficient, all with solar cells and advanced waste management systems. IMHO!

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      October 25, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      That sounds great and I hope we have something like that in our future, Ken. But there's a cynical part of me that insists on asking my idealistic self, "Haven't you realized by now that yours is a trash-and-move-on species?" :(

  2. Jason
    March 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    The economics of an underwater city just sound ludicrous to me. Wouldn't it be far more economical to terraform desert than to build a city underwater? I mean, at this point, we can't even seem to find the will to desalinate water for drought ridden coastal regions like California, which has one of the biggest economies in the world, so where are we going to get the financial will to build cities underwater? And isn't it mostly economics that have us building where we are, not so much technological ability?

    • Akshata
      March 20, 2015 at 7:02 am

      I agree with you, Jason. Technological advances are happening, but our financial priorities are mixed up.

  3. PlaGeRaN
    March 17, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Humans cause the biggest amount of damage and we are basically parasites. taking without giving back, most of us in any case.

  4. Seth
    March 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    While it is true that land and proposed water cities would have the same overpopulation problems there are also many alternatives to deal with such a problem. I'm sure, by the time this idea becomes mainstream, we will have thought of many solutions.

    Although, the biggest problem for me is if space internet becomes mainstream will water currents disrupt their frequencies and distort our ability to communicate effectively?

  5. dragonmouth
    March 16, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    "The fallout of overpopulation and climate change is everywhere. "
    Underwater cities will not solve the overpopulation problem, they will only add to it. It is a truism that Nature abhors vacuum. Underwater cities will have the same problems as on-land cities. It is as easy to overpopulate a city underwater as it is on land unless strict limits are established and enforced.

    "Rising sea levels are pushing places like ..... New Orleans.......toward a similar fate."
    To say that New Orleans is threatened by rising sea levels is disingenuous. Over the years (probably at least the last 150) most of New Orleans has been built below sea level. Of course a city is going to be threatened by "rising sea levels" when it is built below sea level by design.

    "The Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation has proposed the world’s first underwater city, christened Blue Garden. "
    At 5,000 inhabitants it sounds more like a "village" than a "city."

    "Reducing the harmful effects of CO2, by harnessing the ability of micro-organisms to convert CO2 to methane"
    Hopefully that methane will be contained and used for the city's needs, not released. Methane is ten times as bad as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

    Just two countries, China and India are home to more than 30% of world's population. China just abolished its "one child per family" rule. India has no population control rules.

    We don't need MORE cities (underwater or on-land), we need LESS people. Actually, what we need is to globally change the attitude that breeding like rabbits is desirable or even acceptable. Whether population growth is desirable for political or socio-economic reasons, that attitude must to change. Unless population growth is controlled, it will grow faster than the underwater cities can be built. With the world's population expected to increase by a Billion in the near future and with each of the underwater cities being able to house only a few thousand inhabitants, there would be a need for couple of hundred of thousands of these cities. What country in the world has the technological and. more importantly, the financial resources to build more than a few of these cities??? Because nowhere in the article was there any mention of the cost of building an underwater city.

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      The bit that would worry me (I can't believe I'm agreeing with Dragonmouth about something), is the fact that typically wherever there are a lot of humans, there's a lot of waste left around. Unless these cities force an amazing cultural change for its citizens as far as reusing/recycling and reducing waste, I can only imagine an underwater city that is encircled with debris, just as our very Earth is encircled with debris in orbit. It's very sad that we can't live alongside nature, rather than in spite of her.

    • dragonmouth
      March 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      "just as our very Earth is encircled with debris in orbit."
      I wonder what the laws say about ownership of that junk. Does it still belong to various countries or do salvage rights apply? I know just the people who can clean up that stuff. The towns in my area have bulk pickup once a month. Guys in big landscaping trucks troll the towns, picking up anything made of metal, then selling the metal to scrap yards. Put these guys in orbit and they will have all the space junk cleaned up in couple of months.

    • Akshata
      March 17, 2015 at 3:34 am

      I'm freaked out by the idea of underwater cities becoming mainstream. To me it would mean that we're ready to single-mindedly ravage another part of nature instead of trying to restore and nourish what we have destroyed.

  6. Ryan Dube
    March 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I would LOVE to live in an underwater city! Just imagine the amazing views...

    • dragonmouth
      March 16, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      How far can one see underwater off the coast of Maine? :P

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      I meant amazing views of lobster scurrying around. :-)

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