April 10, 2013 in Hieroglyph
Students at Arizona State University tackled the concept of a Tall Tower as a design challenge. Here is their take (developed independently of the engineering research Neal Stephenson, Keith Hjelmstad and others have been pursuing) . The text below is from the poster they produced.
For over a century, we have exploited nature and its various resources to our needs. The early 20th century saw the advancement in technology and its exponential growth. This is the progress that we have made at the cost of losing our relationship with nature and only recently have we realized its damage. The two most detrimental consequences of this loss have been ozone layer depletion and global warming. Our partial consideration of the existing systems around us and the conflicted perception of “man over nature” have started showing its impacts in the form of natural disasters, extinction of species and overall effect on our lives.
Since early 20th century, Earth’s mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. The discovery of the annual depletion of ozone above the Antarctic was first announced in a paper by Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin which appeared in Nature in May 1985. The climate system can respond to changes in external forcings. External forcings can “push” the climate in the direction of warming or cooling. The increased concentration of greenhouse gases has caused changes in the atmospheric concentration which has been a cause of rise in temperatures around the world. The impact of global warming can be seen on human systems, natural systems and terrestrial ecosystems. Sea level rise, changes in migratory patterns of various species, widespread decreases in snow and ice extent and ocean acidification are some of the consequences of global climate change. Like global warming, depletion of the ozone layer has raised complex problems of cause and effect that have led to international disagreements over coordinated efforts to reverse the problem. For example, elevated UV levels have been shown to compromise the aquatic food chain, alter plant-insect interactions, change the growth patterns of fungi, and slightly reduce the productivity of agricultural plants.
With the current condition of the climate, severe consequences have been realized. Not only human health but effect on other species has been observed. The population and needs of a civilization are growing everyday and so is the pollution and consequences of exploiting nature. The primary concern of ozone layer depletion has raised many concerns and issues over the last several decades and it needs to be dealt with in a much aggressive manner than before. With that also exists the issues of global warming and even when ozone layer is repaired, this problem remains. Therefore, a system needs to be put in place that monitors, resolves and prevents such climatic scenarios from recurrence.
Scenario 1 – Nature (Year 01-1800 AD) This is a condition where humans have minimal impact on nature and nature continues to function and support life based on cyclic processes. Earth goes through climate changes at a natural pace, giving time for life to evolve, sustain and coexist with the environment. Humans coexist with nature and nature is the dominant force.
Scenario 2 – Humans (Year 1800 AD – 2020 AD) In this scenario, the condition is reversed. Humans start advancing technologically and realize the potential of natural resources, only to exploit them based on certain needs. This starts a cycle of exploitation, depletion and in certain cases exhaustion of resources. Nature now serves as a resource to humans and dominance is the key to progress. This results in various social and environmental issues. This is where the “tower” assumes its role of fixing the major environmental issue (ozone layer depletion) and works towards regeneration of the deteriorating environment.
Scenario 3 – Nature + Humans (beyond 2020 AD) Now that the issue of ozone depletion has been dealt with, the process of environmental cleanup (greenhouse gases) is undertaken to protect the natural systems from increasing pollution and create a healthier environment where nature and humans can begin to create a balance and begin to coexist. The “tower” becomes a machine and a refuge.
As the global climate changes and starts affecting the human and natural processes, a strategy needs to be deployed for these systems to function smoothly and maintain a habitable environment for all. Arising from the need to regenerate the ozone layer, the “tower(s)” is conceived as a ‘city within a machine’ and further as a ‘machine within a city’. The tower(s) is deployed at two locations based around the South Pole, where the 21 million sq.km. ozone hole exists. The tower is primarily formed of three zones. The first is the habitat zone where the researchers, workers and their families live. This zone also serves as space for multidisciplinary research initiatives towards ecological solutions. The second zone is the production zone where the most important element required to regenerate the ozone layer, Oxygen, is produced. This zone uses both mechanical and natural processes to produce oxygen at a scale where the needs for the ozone regeneration and oxygen supply to the rest of the tower are fulfilled. This zone produces supplies and stores oxygen in both liquid and gaseous state. The fundamental functions of ozone regeneration and air purification occur in this zone as well. The third zone is the emissions zone where the produced oxygen is finally released back in the atmosphere through emission stations and stratospheric airships which carry the oxygen in liquid form to the required destination and then released in the atmosphere spending a few hours hovering over the depleted zones.
The designers: Utkarsh Kumar, Violet Whitney, Vineet Bhosle