from the world's big
No food, no utopia: How will floating cities survive?
Global warming and climate change is already reshaping coastlines due to higher waters. Pretty soon our next big cities will have to be at sea. But how will they make sustainable food?
Marc Collins was born in Hawai’i, the son of an American father and Tahitian mother, raised in Mexico City and attended college in the United States. He returned to his mother’s home country of Tahiti, in 1991, where he became involved in the family business of black pearl farming and retailing. He ran a successful chain of Tahitian pearl jewelry boutiques and after 17 years in the business, was invited to join the government as Minister of Tourism from 2007 until 2008.
In 2010, he launched French Polynesia’s first challenger Internet Service Provider, Viti, offering the first wireless 4G network on the island of Tahiti. From March 2012 to March 2013, Marc was the Area Manager, Pacific Islands, for the Hawaiki Submarine Cable, which will soon be connecting New Zealand to Hawaii.
In May 2013, Marc and four other partners launched Tahiti’s first OTT (over the top) entertainment platform, NiuTV. In November 2015, NiuTV became the 3rd licensed Internet Service Provider in French Polynesia, under the brand “Smart Tahiti Networks”.
In 2017, Marc became an Ambassador for The Seasteading Institute, as well as a co-founder and VP of Public Affairs for Blue Frontiers.
Marc Collins: The pilot project is quite modest. So before we go out and build huge floating structures for hundreds and thousands of people we’re building a small pilot which will be about the size if you can imagine a soccer field—It’s around 7500 square meters.
The engineers are saying it shouldn’t be a single platform, it should be multiple smaller platforms. So maybe 12 platforms of 625 square meters. So imagine a platform 25 meters by 25 meters next to another one with connecting bridges.
And the reason for smaller structures is that we’re going to be inside the reef, within the lagoon of an island. And what you don’t want is to cast a shadow on the bottom of the lagoon that will obviously impact photosynthesis which means we’ll have a problem with the environment. So we needed smaller platforms in order for light to penetrate and we need deep lagoons.
So we had to literally do an inventory of all of the depths of the lagoons around the main islands we’re interested in. We found certain lagoons and the engineers are telling us and environmental consultants are saying that between 25 to 30 meters of depth we will be very—we won’t have an impact on the light situation. So that’s one of the elements of location.
Now in terms of size, because it’s a pilot we don’t anticipate being able to be completely self-sustaining on food. We can be completely autonomous on energy, on fresh water, completely recycle our gray and black water, do all of that and deal with our trash.
What we’re not going to be able to do on the pilot is be 100 percent self-sustaining for food. But we do have a food group that’s involved in trying to look at these technologies and what we can do. And we’re looking at all sorts of stuff.
I mean there’s one thing that kind of came out of a laboratory in Hawaii from NEL, the National Energy Laboratory in Hawaii. They call it “cold ag”, cold agriculture.
What it is is you put a pipe, a small pipe maybe 500 to 900 meters deep. You bring in cold, deep ocean water—so it’s similar to the sea water air conditioning systems. There’s been two of them put—the first two have been put into resorts in French Polynesia so those are installed and working.
The difference here is that you run the cold water through copper pipes, so small little capillaries that you bury under soil.
So the air in French Polynesia is very humid and warmer, so when that warm moist air hits these tiny capillaries, even under the ground, what happens is obviously you get condensation and moisture around those tubes.
And what you do then is you plant cold weather plants, you know, fruits, vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, and the roots actually will go down to these tubes and they’ll pick up the moisture.
So you’ve got a system that uses very little energy to create fresh water for your agriculture, and it seems that the vegetables are tricked by the temperature at the root and not the temperature at the leaves.
So you basically get the sunlight from the tropical environment but you get the cold—the fruit, you know, the strawberry thinks it’s in Maine but suddenly it’s producing very quickly. So this is not new technology. This has been tested now for many years. It’s one of the technologies we’re looking at to have some vegetables on the seastead itself.
We’re looking at algae. There’s a number of consumable algae out there. I’m not the expert on our team but we do have a full team of food experts that are trying to see what we’re going to be eating onboard the seastead.
We are not going to be bringing cows and cattle onto the platform. It’s very expensive in terms of real estate. So there’s all sorts of strategies about what exactly could we eat as alternatives to meat. Is it lab grown meat? That’s a huge leap in technology that’s fairly recent where you can grow actual meat. We’re not talking about tofu. Actual meat cells grown in laboratories.
So one of the aspects that I love about this project is exactly that is that it brings a number of experts from diverse fields together on a common project. And the fact that it’s geographically, that it’s real, we can all collaborate in this one place in this one spot for the same goal, I think is a great catalyst for change.
So on the food side I would say that our aim is that once we get past the pilot and we get into bigger size units that we would be completely autonomous.
We have to figure out what do we do for sugars—you know, are we going to be growing beets or sugar cane to get sugar?
The salt, obviously we have no problem. We may have an excess of salt.
Water? Fresh water, we’re in a region that gets very well irrigated, we get a lot of rain so there’s strategies where all the roofs off the seasteads would be used for catchment, so water catchment.
We have technologies also that we’re looking at—very, very innovative brand-new technologies that are still in the lab—for getting, for desal-ing with low energy.
The big cost, of course, is de-sal, and the other issue is brine. If you have a large concentration of very briny liquid, what do you do with it? We cannot possibly just put it back into the lagoon. It would sink and you can literally create these pools of brine at the bottom of a lagoon, which is obviously unacceptable. So we have to figure out how to deal with all of these cycles.
So on food there’s a lot of work to be done. We’ve talked to companies that are doing vertical farming with UV. So they’re saying okay, you’ve got limited space, let’s go vertical.
So I mean we’re talking to companies that have containers that can produce, you know, we’ve heard some figures of a million pounds of food per acre per year. So very innovative stuff. It’s UV lighting at the right wavelength. I’ve heard of some NASA micro, you know, nanotech which you spray on the leaves of whatever you’re growing and they create like microprisms that change the wavelength of the light to match – I mean just some out of the box. This is stuff that NASA’s been using I believe on the space station and things like that.
So the technology is out there, I believe, for us to be able to use the energy from the ocean and nutrients. And don’t forget the oceans are full of nutrients.
But the objective is not that we’re just going to be on board a seastead eating fish all the time. I mean that’s the staple for Polynesians, we’ve been doing this for a thousand years now—I assume our guests and our friends, international friends would like a more varied menu.
So I’m sure we’re going to be looking at some innovations in the food space.
Being able to look into the future is a skill that mankind has dreamed about for thousands of years. But seasteading expert Marc Collins believes that the future lies in floating cities where we'll be able to grow meat in laboratories and drink desalinated sea water. It's not that crazy (at all) to believe that once the sea levels rise far enough that humanity will have to either leave the planet or adapt to the new high waters. Marc Collins is the co-founder of Blue Frontiers, a company that aims to design these cities on the sea.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>