Is the solution to ocean plastic life in an underwater city made of algae and trash?
Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut penned an open letter to the “people of the land,” citing human irresponsibility in the careless “mortgaging the fate of future generations.”
In this note from December 24th, 2065, Callebaut introduces a fictional teenager named Océane, who introduces the world to an underwater farm off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, dubbed Aequorea. (For those of you that don’t already know, Aequorea Victoria is a type of bioluminescent jellyfish that the city’s structures look strikingly similar to.)
“In the 20th Century, every human being was producing up to ten times their weight in garbage annually. Two hundred and sixty-nine million tons of plastic waste with a life expectancy of a thousand years were thus produced every single year, and more than 10 percent of it were ending up in the oceans,” it reads.
“It was indeed located in international waters. Through negligence, no one wanted to commit to cleaning those 27 million tons of plastic waste trapped by the sea currents in the heart of their vortex. The oceans, which cover 71 percent of the surface of our blue planet, had become the dumping ground of humanity.”
The plans to develop this city of futuristic ocean buildings made from 3D-printed plastic waste, at a depth of over 9 football fields below the ocean surface. The 1,000 tower structures are set to feature housing for 20,000 residents, fab labs, offices, co-working spaces, and other workshops. If permaculture and agro-ecology is your thing, residents can expect to have access to sea farms, organic agriculture, community orchards, food gardens, phytopurification lagoons, coral gardens and more.
Callebaut’s Aequorea project is just one aspect of his series of environmentally sustainable conceptual projects, which also include a seaweed-powered transport system as well as “farmscrapers” — buildings covered in plants.
Océane goes on to explain:
Faced with climate change and the rise of water levels, a new civilization emerged: the People of the Seas. Once their lands and islands were underwater and salinized, a large portion of the 250 million climate refugees got involved with interdependent NGOs like the one my grandparents created. Together, they invented new underwater urbanization processes that were energy self-sufficient, recycled all waste, and fought ocean acidification. Indeed, even if the oceans absorbed 22 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every day, mankind with its excesses of CO2 emissions had saturated them, and their pH had destabilized all ecosystems.
The People of the Seas’ objective? To explore the abyssal zones in a respectful way, in order to speed innovation and to democratize new renewable energies — by definition inexhaustible — massively.
So what exactly goes into building this metropolis under the sea?
Callebaut took a note from the infamous Great Pacific garbage patch — a.k.a. the 7th Continent— and placed inspired value on repurposing the hulking petroleum-based mass of waste into “impervious, durable materials.”
In short, seabin and algoplastic would have a huge role in the oceanscraper. Aequorea would be 3D printed from algoplast, a not-yet-invented material made of garbage and algae. Seabin, on the other hand, is a prototype of a floating garbage can that gathers trash, fuel, detergents and other waste that ends up in oceans. It was originally designed to begin clean-up efforts in pollution heavy areas of marinas, ports, and yacht clubs.
Adidas can 3D knit shoes out of ocean plastic. Method developed a way to reuse brittle ocean plastic that naturally washes up in Hawaii. Underwater hotels are hot destinations. So, is Callebaut’s idea really all that far-fetched?