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Floating Cities of the Future: An Interview with Karina Czapiewska

Written by Cory Healy on February 24, 2017

Imagine a world where we have sustainable cities floating on water, producing little to no waste and thriving off clean energy.

A design firm in the Netherlands is ensuring that it becomes a reality, and Phase II of that reality was completed in 2014.

Blue21, a design company in conjunction with the Seasteading Institute have broken ground in making these floating cities come to life, ushering an era where philanthropic technology solves global environmental crises and helps

I had the honor of speaking to Karina Czapiewska, co-founder of Blue21 about the subject. Read the full interview below:

C: Thank you so much for speaking with us! How long has the floating city concept been around, and how did it materialize into what it is now?

K: “We’ve been working on it for 10 years. Some of us also did our master thesis or their PhD on it and have have been working ever since. Our vision from the start has been to create the first self-supporting city in the world—and not just one city, but cities.

“From this vision, we first took a step back and started to look at all the aspects. We noticed there were a lot of knowledge gaps back then on different fields of expertise: on legislation, on who owns the water, how water is managed, and who cleans it. There were knowledge gaps on infrastructure, and whether we make it floating or do we connect back to shore? So we did a lot of urban development and design studies to see if a city on water would have the same look and work the same way, and what material would be most suitable.

“In the last few year, we’ve been focused on the marine environment and maritime. We’re looking at the sea because we notice that people–clients of different sorts—are more interested in sea locations. You have warmer clients, you can have hotels, resorts, so we have people who want to own a home there.”

C: How did your partnership with the Seasteading Institute come into play?

“We met each other quite some time ago at an event here in the Netherlands. We organized to bring together all sorts of companies who are working in the field of water. We came across them a little earlier—I think it was at the end of 2008 or somewhere in the beginning of 2009—and we were really happy that weren’t the only ones with the crazy idea of floating cities! There were neighbors in the US and other companies, there was another institute having the same dream from a different angle. But still, the end goal is the same: we want to create sustainable floating cities for people to live on.

“Back then, we did an assignment for them, but we stay in touch and supported the Seasteading Institute. We’ve been together since then.”

C: How do you feel about the Silicon Valley approach going towards more of a philanthropy approach. Can you speak about the role of tech in climate change and environmental issues?

“I think tech will be and is needed to help out on environmental issues for many reasons. While some island communities have climate and sea-level rise challenges and threats, you can deny it or accept it or do something else. You can also create your own island where you can move the people to in the most extreme case over. That is definitely tech. There are other fields you can think of on how you can treat wastewater, how power can be generated. There's still a lot being developed on generating power from waves and sea energy, that’s still from the ‘kid shoes’—still being developed, still not that large.

“You can use tech on one point of view from resilience, and also from to anticipate on it and decrease the eventual effects. If we’ll all be using clean energy eventually, co2 emissions will downsize and have a positive influence on events happening now. Every point of view from human existence you can think of technology helping out towards our client: energy, food production, waste management, wastewater management, how to protect yourself, how to move and reside in a different option if protection isn’t available anymore.”

C: Since the floating cities are in high impact areas, at the forefronts of the worst environmental impacts and damages, after you address their issues, how do you see the approach expanding all over the world? After focusing on the sites, where do you see expansion efforts for the rest of the world in coastal metro areas or other major areas?

“The potential is huge because there are numerous small island communities all over the world. Even if we only focused on small island communities, they face the same types of challenges as freshwater, such as lack of space, clean energy, waste management, import of goods/food. You have all these different topics that need to be addressed and we have island locations we can test and invest more of these new technologies that can be used all over the world. Tech developed there can be used in the Netherlands or the US coast, for example. We can apply these anywhere there are coasts.”

Want to learn more? Check out this TED talk from Rutger de Graaf at TEDxDelft.

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