Atlantis, Past and Future

On the shoreline of the Welsh coast near Borth, violent winter storms caused remnants of an ancient kingdom and forest to emerge from the sea, lending some physical evidence to underpin the area’s deluge myth of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a sunken realm and forest long said to lie beneath Cardigan Bay.

The remnants of the Borth forest. Photo: Keith Morris/LNP

The remnants of the Borth forest, preserved for thousands of years beneath layers of peat, sand and saltwater.
Photo: Keith Morris/LNP

The Cantre’r Gwaelod legend says that the low-lying kingdom was lost to floods when a maiden neglected her duties and left a well unwatched. The well overflowed, inundating the land. Another version features a wastrel prince who allowed the floodgates to remain open and the sea to flood the city. It’s said that the watery church bells from the lost city can be heard echoing across the sea in times of danger.

In FutureVoices, a collaboration between climate scientists, game developers and writers, a deluge myth of a different kind is being created. FutureCoast is a part of the project that imagines daily life in a not-too-distant future via ‘geocached’ artifacts called ‘chronofacts’, which contain messages and voicemails from various locations.

A 'chronofact' object. Image: Eric Molinksy/WNYC

A ‘chronofact’ object.
Image: Eric Molinksy/WNYC

A sort of online game/scavenger hunt combination held during a period this spring, FutureCoast alerted participants to the presence of an artifact, and invited those who found the artifacts to make recordings of a standard type of voicemail, but imagining themselves facing daily challenges in a future undergoing major climate change, sometime between 2020 and 2065.

The project aims to inspire people to think about their future selves in a changed world, and to make concrete choices today on improving that world.

In most of our ancient deluge myths such as Cantre’r Gwaelod, the flooding and loss of the kingdom is blamed on humans behaving badly rather than the real culprit: climate change.

Today, current climate change is the result of humans, behaving badly.

FutureCoast is one of many warning bells, one that floats out across future seas.

From an illustrated children's book, Cantre'r Gwaewold. Artist: Sian Lewis

From an illustrated children’s book, Cantre’r Gwaewold.
Artist: Sian Lewis

 

Negating Seasonality

The future, according to Hildebrand's Chocolates in 1900. Roofed cities. Source: PaleoFuture

The future, according to Hildebrand’s Chocolates in 1900.
Roofed cities.
Source: PaleoFuture

When we look into the future, it’s always the same stuff that catches our fancy. Transportation, climate control, surmounting daily inconvenience. The postcards here show a light-hearted vision of life in the year 2000, as illustrated on chocolate boxes circa 1900.

I’ve noticed, however, that older ‘future-visions’ from this era rarely include farming and food supply, maybe because basics of the food infrastructure either didn’t seem like something that needed to change, or it seemed like something unchanging. With the exception of mechanization, farming has been a life constant since human civilization began.

French Victorian postcard. The caption reads: In the year 2000 - the busy farmer. Image: Jean Marc Cote

French Victorian postcard. The caption reads:
In the year 2000 – the busy farmer.
Image: Jean Marc Cote

Our current visions of the future almost always involve the increasingly knotty issue of food production and distribution. Where to grow, how to grow, the shortest distance between growers and consumers. Every conceivable urban space is imagined covered in agriculture, from building walls and roofs to the tops of buses.

A group of entrepreneurial urban farmers have descended into the depths of London’s old WWII bunker system to test out underground farming. Using LED lights and hydroponic growing beds, the new Zero Carbon Food project is intended to create a city farm that is weather-independent, organic and carbon-neutral.

The bunker extends over 2.5 ha (6 acres) and was originally a bomb shelter, a series of tunnels that could hold up to 8000 London residents. For the time being, the farming project is only using a small corner of the bunker, but the group hopes to expand. The temperature can be maintained at 20 C° (68 F°)  for ideal growing, there are no pests (yet), and the water that is usually pumped out of the tunnels could be used to irrigate the farm. The creators say that farming underground negates seasonality, providing an environment that can be constantly controlled.

The underground test farm, lit by LED lights. Source: Zero Carbon Food

The underground test farm, lit by LED lights.
Source: Zero Carbon Food

An interesting notion, putting farms underground. Futuristic scenarios always seem to put the humans either underground, on water or in outer space once Earth’s surface becomes too volatile for our fragile needs. If we can envision farms on space stations, then certainly a London bunker farm seems entirely plausible.

The future, according to Hildebrand's Chocolates in 1900. Vacationing at the North Pole. This one is seeming less far-fetched these days. Source: PaleoFuture

The future, according to Hildebrand’s Chocolates in 1900.
Vacationing at the North Pole. This one is seeming less far-fetched these days.
Source: PaleoFuture