[Paper]: Islands as refuges for surviving global catastrophes

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Our pa­per “Is­lands as re­fuges for sur­viv­ing global catas­tro­phes” is pub­lished in Fore­sight. The preprint is here.

This ar­ti­cle con­tinues a se­ries of ar­ti­cles which ex­plore the plan B of global risks miti­ga­tion which is an at­tempt to sur­vive a pos­si­ble global catas­tro­phe (where plan A is pre­ven­tion, and plan C is leav­ing a mes­sage to the next civ­i­liza­tion in Earth).

The sur­vival on is­lands is pos­si­ble only in case of a very nar­row range of catas­tro­phes (likely, less 1 per cent of all pos­si­ble catas­tro­phes), but it is still much cheaper than cre­at­ing space re­fuges on Mars or Moon, and more­over, most needed in­fras­truc­ture on is­lands already ex­ists, like re­search sci­en­tific bases on re­mote is­lands, so con­vert­ing them in a catas­trophic shelter will be thou­sands time cheaper than cre­ation of the space re­fuges and could be done much quicker in case of emer­gency.

Differ­ent is­lands may help to sur­vive differ­ent types of catas­tro­phes.

A crite­rion for is­land re­fuge is sug­gested and only a few from mil­lions ex­it­ing is­lands are suit­able as re­fuges. The most suit­able for such re­fuge is Ker­gue­len group of is­lands, as they are very re­mote, don’t have airstrip, could provide food, have moun­tains and small sci­en­tific base.

A com­bi­na­tion of a nu­clear sub­marine con­verted into a re­fuge, an is­land as its base and an un­der­ground bunker on that is­land could provide most di­verse and effec­tive way of sur­vival on Earth (Bran­son, btw, sur­vived hur­ri­cane Irma on a wine cel­lar on his Necker Is­land.)

Ab­stract. Is­lands have long been dis­cussed as re­fuges from global catas­tro­phes; this pa­per will eval­u­ate them sys­tem­at­i­cally, dis­cussing both the pos­i­tives and nega­tives of is­lands as re­fuges. There are ex­am­ples where iso­lated hu­man com­mu­ni­ties have sur­vived for thou­sands of years on places like Easter Is­land. Is­lands could provide pro­tec­tion against many low-level risks, first of all bio-risks. How­ever, they are vuln­er­a­ble to tsunamis, bird trans­mit­ted dis­eases, and other risks. In this ar­ti­cle, we ex­plore how to use the ad­van­tages of is­lands for sur­vival of global catas­tro­phes. The large num­ber of is­lands on Earth, and their di­verse con­di­tions in­crease the chance that one of them will provide pro­tec­tion from a catas­tro­phe. Ad­di­tion­ally, we could in­crease this pro­tec­tion if an is­land were used as a base for a nu­clear sub­marine re­fuge (the “Yel­low sub­marine” pro­ject), and/​or com­bined with un­der­ground bunkers, and/​or ex­tremely long-term data stor­age. We ex­plore the re­quire­ments for sur­vival on is­lands, their vuln­er­a­bil­ities, and ways to miti­gate and adapt to risks. We look at sev­eral ex­ist­ing is­lands, suit­able for the sur­vival of differ­ent risks, timing, and bud­gets. To end, we will com­pare is­lands with differ­ent types of re­fuges, and look for places similar to is­lands, which could also provide pro­tec­tion.

This table from the ar­ti­cle pre­sents the re­la­tion be­tween differ­ent catas­tro­phe sizes and needed re­fuges.

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