The month of July 2023 might be remembered as the day humanity realized the terrible effects of its addiction to fossil fuels.
It could be time to think about adaptations like underground living as we get ready to live in a scorching planet with more frequent extreme weather occurrences.
Temperatures can stay much more consistently steady without the need for energy-intensive air conditioning or heating when surrounded by masses of rock and soil that absorb and hold heat.
Not only is it feasible to live underground, but people (and animals, too!) have done so for a very long time.
However, is it a workable answer to the looming climate crisis?
White man in a hole
60 percent of the people in Coober Pedy, South Australia, which is an opal mining town, take advantage of this impact by living underground.
The term “white man in a hole,” or “kupa piti,” is an Aboriginal expression that is the source of the name Coober Pedy.
Their “dugouts” maintain a constant temperature of 23 °C (73 °F) throughout the scorching 52 °C (126 °F) summers and chilly 2 °C (36 °F) winters.
Without this all-natural rock shelter, many people’s summer air conditioning costs would be unaffordable.
The summer heat can cause birds to fall from the skies and electronic devices to cook above ground. However, many people enjoy quite opulent underground accommodations, with plush living rooms, swimming pools, and as much space as they choose to carve out.
To prevent roof collapse, homes must be at least 2.5 meters below the surface. Despite this law, cave-ins do occasionally occur. Locals used explosives and pickaxes to drill holes in the earth during the 1960s and 1970s. Even though they now employ industrial excavating gear, work is occasionally still done by hand. Large rocks can be removed quickly because sandstone and siltstone are so soft that they can be scraped away with a penknife.
A man who was constructing a shower discovered an opal valued at AU$1.5 million (US$980,000), making his renovations profitable.
People occasionally unintentionally enter their neighbors’ homes. However, digging underground generally maximizes privacy.
The lost city of Derinkuyu
A Turkish man who wishes to remain anonymous hit his basement wall with a sledgehammer in 1963 while remodeling his Cappadocian house. He looked into why his chickens kept falling through the hole and found a huge network of tunnels beneath the ground. Derinkuyu, a vanished city, had been discovered.
The 18-story tunnel system, which dates back to 2000 BCE, is 76 meters below the surface and has 15,000 shafts to provide light and ventilation to the maze of churches, stables, warehouses, and homes that were designed to house up to 20,000 people.
Derinkuyu is said to have been utilized as a sanctuary during conflict virtually continuously for thousands of years. However, it was abruptly abandoned in the 1920s as a result of the genocide and the forcible eviction of Greek Orthodox Christians from the nation.
While the outside temperature in Cappadocia varies from 0 °C (32 °F) in the winter to 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer, the temperature in the underground city never rises over 13 °C (55 °F).
Because of this, it is ideal for canning fruits and vegetables. Today, crates of pears, potatoes, lemons, oranges, apples, cabbage, and cauliflower are kept in some of the tunnels.
Similar to Coober Pedy, the granite is pliable, and the earth has little moisture, making tunnel building simple.
While most individuals are willing to temporarily live underground, it is far more difficult for them to accept the thought of doing so permanently.
In many traditions, the underworld is a symbol of death. Fears of poor ventilation and cave-ins can be brought up by being underground in cramped quarters.
“We are not welcome there… According to Will Hunt, the author of Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet, “Our bodies are just not meant for living underground.
People who spend too much time underground and aren’t exposed to sunlight may sleep for up to 30 hours straight. Various health issues can arise when their circadian cycle is disturbed.
Flash flooding is a risk of underground dwelling that should be taken seriously because climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes.
In the tunnels beneath Las Vegas, homeless people have perished on several occasions. Around 1,500 people live in these tunnels, which were designed to transport storm water. They can quickly fill up with water, giving no time for evacuation.
Typically, heavier, more expensive materials that can survive the pressures underneath are needed for subterranean construction. Before digging can start, these forces must also be determined by detailed geological studies.
What happens above ground has an impact on the temperature below.
According to a study of the Chicago Loop business center, temperatures have increased significantly since the 1950s as new heat-generating infrastructure, such as parking garages, railroads, and basements, has been constructed nearby.
The expansion of the ground due to a rise in temperature can cause structural damage to structures over time by up to 12 mm.
People need to feel safe and secure, connected to the outside world, have access to natural light and ventilation, and for underground surroundings to be acceptable.
This goal is best exemplified by the 20-mile-long RÉSO underground metropolis in Montreal. People may escape the below-freezing cold outside thanks to the complex’s connecting structures. Offices, retail, hotels, and schools are mixed together throughout the area and blend in beautifully with the above-ground surroundings.
There are already extremely hot areas of Iran, Pakistan, and India due to climate change. Perhaps we will think about constructing earthscrapers rather than skyscrapers if the world continues to boil?