Thursday, February 8, 2018

Staying dry: why we may need more skyscrapers





Image is not mine and was found here. 

I remember Steve McQueen laying into an architect. Pretty sure it was Paul Newman.

That's it. It was The Towering Inferno. You know, that movie with O.J. Simpson? Anyway, if I recall correctly, McQueen's character, a fire chief, was complaining that he kept giving warnings but architects keep building skyscrapers taller anyway. That was in 1974 and it doesn't sound like anyone listened in 2017. Last year was a record-setter for the number of new skyscrapers completed.

A total of 144 skyscrapers were finished in 2017 and half of them are in China. This is thought to be reflective of the nation's rapid urbanization. Researchers claim that this massive move of the Chinese population to cities represents the largest migration in human history. I wonder, however, if these towering structures might one day be necessary for entirely different reasons.

Bear in mind I'm merely thinking out loud here...

Most of the educated world agrees that climate change is likely to cause a significant rise in sea level due to the melting of polar ice. This means flooding in coastal cities. If populations are hellbent on remaining in these cities, then buildings would have to be taller. The lower sections of these buildings would be waterproofed and not meant for dwelling. Then again it likely wouldn't be stubbornness keeping people in place. It would be inability to move, due to class, race, or intersectionality. Of course those aren't people likely to live in shiny new skyscrapers.

Or much more likely would be what I'll call the Blade Runner rationale for taller buildings. Flooded coastlines mean less room for urban expansion. If you can't spread outward, then the only place to really go is up. Therefore, buildings get even taller, just as depicted in Ridley Scott's film.

No, I'm still stuck on my half-baked notion of giant buildings sticking up out of water. That might be because I'm ruminating on what might be left behind when shorter buildings or the lower levels of older skyscrapers have to be abandoned due to the high waters.

I remember hearing many years ago about a book called Earth After Us. It was written by a geologist who speculated on what might be left behind by humanity after 100,000,000 years. One point that has stuck with me from the review I read is that if sea levels rise fast enough, then coastal cities might be well preserved below the waterline. What would an archaeologist be able to tell about us by that time? What would they find? That might make for an interesting premise for someone's writing.

The cynic in me just imagines finding copious amounts of plastic and Styrofoam floating about like fruit in a Jell-O mold.


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