Climate Changers

United States of America

The Libertarian Answer To Climate Change: Seasteading


It should come as no surprise that Patri Fredman, son of anarcho-capitalist professor David Friedman, and grandson of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, is a guy who prides himself on having innovative and controversial ideas.

The project he's been devoted to for the past year and a half is called the Seasteading Institute, a research center with a mission "to further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous, ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social systems.

"The Institute defines seasteading as creating "permanent dwellings on the ocean—homesteading the high seas."Where did the youngest Friedman get this idea? "I wanted to find other countries that I could possibly settle in," Friedman said.

"After researching places that people have ex-expatriated to like Costa Rica, I realized that no country is better than the USA. So I looked into the idea of forming new nations. The ocean is the best place to do this, because in the ocean you don't have to fight with others as you would have to on land."

Friedman cites Marshall Savage's The Millenial Project: How To Conquer The Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps and Wayne Gramlich, the man who coined the term "seasteading" in the early 80s, as inspirations for his work.

 Friedman embraced Savage's ideas that colonization could be expanded beyond traditional means, but he felt that The Millenial Project's explanation over-simplified the colonization process.

Gramlich, on the other hand, provided practical solutions that were more easily achievable. And he happened to live just two miles from Friedman: The two met and the rest is history, or should I say future.

Friedman hopes to live in a society where he is governed by his own morals. He says that this approach was selfish at first, but he later realized that he could create a movement that is larger than creating his own personal utopia. "Let lots of different groups try out their own ideas about utopia," he said.

"They could vote to have a communist government. Small numbers of people can try a better way to live. A colony could start with about 100 people. They’d have to be dedicated but you don’t have to find that many of them."

But creating utopias wouldn't be the only benefit of seasteading: Friedman believes that mobile, floating societies will be more resistant to climate change than land-based civilizations, particularly when fighting rising sea levels.

"The threat of an ice age is much more disastrous than global warming," he said. And should such an ice age come, Friedman thinks it would be easier to move people toward the equator (to escape the ice) if they lived on seasteads instead of on land.

He said, "Seasteading creates populations that are more resistant to climate change. If you live on a mobile floating city, you don’t get affected by rising oceans."
Seasteads will be powered by many types of alternate energy: Solar, wind, wave, algae, phytoplankton, thermal, and more. Fossil fuels would only serve only as a backup energy source.

Though Friedman received an initial $500k investment from Paypal founder Peter Thiel in 2008, the financial meltdown has crushed his first dreams of creating a luxury hotel/colony off the coast of Southern California in the near future.

And with half of the first round of investment cash gone, Friedman maintains that he will continue the project even if the funding runs out. "We'll pair down to a bare bones operation and a few people will work for free until we raise more money," he says with confidence.

Now Friedman is considering building a smaller prototype seastead that he hopes will be placed in the San Francisco Bay. Though this location would still oblige Friedman to follow American and California laws, it would expose people to a model of his vision, test engineering methods, and start to explore the possibilities of what can happen when various forms of alternate energy are used at sea.

One vocal supporter of the seasteading initiative is Dr. Robert Ballard, who uncovered the wreckage of the Titanic in 1985 and John F. Kennedy's PT-109 in 2002. He recently said, "NASA's [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] annual budget for space exploration could fund NOAA's [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] budget for ocean exploration for 1600 years…

Why are we not looking at moving out onto the sea? Why do we have programs to build a habitation on Mars and we have programs to look at colonizing the Moon but we do not have a program looking at how we colonize our own planet, and the technology is at hand…"

When I asked Friedman if he thinks he'll see these ideas come to fruition in his lifetime, the 33-year-old said, "It won't be for at least another decade, but I have many decades left."

Stephen Robert Morse, a native New Yorker, Morse attended the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and University of East Anglia (MA) before embarking on his Erasmus Mundus odyssey. When his political sitcom “Capitol Punishment” was destroyed by Hollywood, he relocated to San Francisco for its cleaner air and better characters. Now, having decided to make this quest for clean air and great characters a global project, he spends his free time finding fodder for and making people laugh
2009 Erasmus Mundus Masters - Journalism and Media within Globalisation. Learn more at