Speaking of marine conservation…

Tom James @ 27-08-2009

garbage_in_ocean…as we were, here is news of the first incursion into the collossal garbage patch that has collected in the Pacific Ocean:

Scientists surveyed plastic distribution and abundance, taking samples for analysis in the lab and assessing the impacts of debris on marine life.

Before this research, little was known about the size of the “garbage patch” and the threats it poses to marine life and the gyre’s biological environment.

On August 11th, the researchers encountered a large net entwined with plastic and various marine organisms; they also recovered several plastic bottles covered with ocean animals, including large barnacles.

“Finding so much plastic there was shocking,” said Goldstein. “How could there be this much plastic floating in a random patch of ocean–a thousand miles from land?”

This reminds me of the great junk armada depicted in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

[via Physorg][image from Physorg]


A life on the ocean wave: more seasteading concepts

Paul Raven @ 26-05-2009

Opinions differ as to whether seasteading is a plausible libertarian utopia or an unfeasible dream aimed at prising investment out of those whose desire to escape government control isn’t tempered by political realism, or something in between the two.

But one thing’s for sure – it’s an idea that catches people’s imaginations. National Geographic has images of the five winning entries of the Seasteading Institute’s design competition, and all of them have that science fictional *snap* – they look cool, futuristic and (most importantly) plausible, even though they are not intended as actual blueprint designs. This one is titled “Rendering Freedom”, by Brazilian architecture student Anthony Ling:

"Rendering Freedom" seasteading concept

Leaving political and logistical realism aside for a moment, wouldn’t it be awesome living on that thing? For a month or two, at least… until the first big storm brews up, inundating you with rain for weeks on end and keeping the supply ships from coming near enough to deliver food that isn’t fish…

Sarcasm aside, I expect sea-borne micronations are something of an inevitablity – though I doubt they’ll be luxuriously purpose-built and instigated by successful businessmen like the Seasteading Institute imagines them. I think they’re more likely to form themselves out of groups of nomads and refugees, and to use hardware that’s already available – abandoned oil rigs or tankers, for example, or lashed-up flotillas of smaller vessels floating Sargasso-like in regions with little legitimate traffic. To be honest, I’d not be at all surprised to find there are a few of them already. [via grinding.be; image by Anthony Ling courtesy of Seasteading Institute, ganked from linked NatGeog article and published here under Fair Use terms, contact if take-down required, etc.]


Oil-rig hotels could become Dubai on the high seas

Paul Raven @ 18-02-2009

If you found the recent post on seasteading a bit intriguing, but decided that either it looked too spartan for you or that you didn’t fancy turning your back on solid ground forever, you may be in luck. An LA-based architectural outfit has come up with a prize-winning design concept that sees decommissioned oil-rigs turned into luxury hotels, complete with prefabbed rooms that can be sailed out as a package the size of a standard shipping container.

oil-rig hotel conversion concept

As Morris Architects points out, the Gulf of Mexico alone has over 4,000 oil rigs that are destined for decommissioning over the next century – so why not make them into luxury resorts?

But as Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG notes, that’s rather like the thinking behind Dubai… and look how that’s working out right now:

… if the real Dubai is any model for what might actually happen with such a resort, then we’ll probably see dozens of oil rigs partially converted to luxury hotels only then to be abandoned by their construction crews and investors. As the lands of southern Louisiana continue to disappear into the Gulf, heavily armed refugees on fishing boats will move out to sea, recolonizing the derelict structures. There will be campfires at night, burning driftwood, and speciality gardens.

4,000 of the things, just sat out there rusting away in the Gulf. You could get yourself an entire anarchic archipelago out of that little lot. [image borrowed from Morris Architects]


All at sea – libertarians and the market for governance

JustinP @ 20-05-2008

artist\'s impression large seastead

Last month, PayPal mastermind Peter Thiel pledged $500,000 to The Seasteading Institute. Co-founded by Patri Friedman (grandson of Milton), the Institute‘s official mission is to

Establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems.

In an article for the Wired website, Alexis Madrigal zooms in on the original motivations of the Institute‘s founders;

True to his libertarian leanings, Friedman looks at the situation in market terms: the institute’s modular spar platforms, he argues, would allow for the creation of far cheaper new countries out on the high-seas, driving innovation.

“Government is an industry with a really high barrier to entry,” he said. “You basically need to win an election or a revolution to try a new one. That’s a ridiculous barrier to entry. And it’s got enormous customer lock-in. People complain about their cellphone plans that are like two years, but think of the effort that it takes to change your citizenship.”

While over at the excellent BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh has turned his mind to the potential implications of “seasteading”;

What interests me here, aside from the architectural challenge of erecting a durable, ocean-going metropolis, is the fact that this act of construction – this act of building something – has constitutional implications. That is, architecture here proactively expands the political bounds of recognized sovereignty; architecture becomes declarative.

Sovereignty for sale? Whether you see this as a laudable quest for self-government or – as China Mieville arguesa morally bankrupt flight from responsibility, there are definite echoes of a certain late-80s paperback. But who knows? $500,000 might just be enough to give this scheme some real momentum.

[Image by Valdemar Duran, via Wired]