Floating Architecture: Climate Change Relief for Coastal Slums

One of the most cruelly ironic things about climate change is that the people who have the least to do with causing climate change are those that suffer the worst consequences.  Climate change became a global problem due to the rapid industrialization and competition between capitalists in Western countries.  While the richest areas of the world continue to produce climate change, they outsource not only the production costs of consumer goods, but also the pollution that production creates to the poorest areas of the world.  Without the means to pay their way out of climate-related disasters (as New York did during Hurricane Sandy), the world’s poor suffer the consequences of rising tides without reprieve.



Tuvalu, an island state west of New Guinea, and the Maldives, a tropical island state south of Sri Lanka, are two countries that are currently drowning due to rising sea levels.  Delegates and citizens from each state have been rallying and pleading with Western governments to ratify the Kyoto accord and start making serious moves towards carbon neutrality, with little success.  In fact, their protests and pleas are rarely covered in North American media (quite likely because a disturbingly large number of Americans continue to spend time and money on denying or muddling reports on climate change).

Tuvalu, plea for action on climate change

Tuvalu, plea for action on climate change

If these states go under, as many more are expected to do, what becomes of the residents?  Are they now state-less people? Will they receive asylum, in what countries?  The issue of climate refugees is to become a serious challenge in the near future, outlined in this film: The Refugees of the Blue Planet.  This site lists the top 20 cities set to be hit hardest by rising sea levels, many of which are also in richer developed countries – Bloomberg, Top 20 Cities with Billions at Risk from Climate Change.  The wealthier cities are only regarded as ‘medium risk’, however, because they will have a much greater capacity to pay their way out of imminent disaster.



So what about the coastal slums of the world?  Waterstudio, a company specializing in floating architecture, has started to think about and tackle this issue.  They’ve designed floating urban ‘City Apps’ that can provide space for food, shelter and sanitation in poorer cities and coastal areas.  These apps can easily be moved from city to city, wherever the need is greatest.  They won the 2012 Architecture and Sea Level Rise Award with this project, and are using the prize money to build apps in Korail Wet Slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


While this is an imaginative and helpful mitigation project, and one that is most necessary in poorer areas, the underlying causes of climate change still need to be addressed.  We can’t all rely on floating architecture in the future, but rather need to be acknowledging and responding to the island states’ pleas for action.  This post, ‘Selling Nature to Save It’? The Story of Environmental Change, speaks to the underlying economic causes of climate change that we sorely need to address if we are ever truly going to ‘mitigate’ what is happening with the environment.



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