July 2023 may go down in history as the moment when humanity finally realizes the dire consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels. As we prepare to live in a scalding world with increasingly extreme weather events, it may be time to consider an adaptation such as living underground. Surrounded by masses of rock and soil that absorb and retain heat, temperatures can remain much more stable without requiring energy-intensive air conditioning or heating systems. But is this a viable solution to the looming climate crisis?
– “Living underground provides a unique opportunity to adapt to a scalding world. The stable temperatures and natural insulation make it attractive to those seeking comfort and sustainability.” – Dr. Jane Thompson, Environmental Scientist.
The opal mining town of Coober Pedy, South Australia, is an interesting example of how living underground can be a practical and convenient solution. In this town, 60% of the population enjoys the natural cooling effect of underground living. The name Coober Pedy comes from the Aboriginal phrase “kupa piti”, which means “white man in the hole”. Despite scorching summers of 52 °C (126 °F) and freezing winters of 2 °C (36 °F), the “dugouts” in Coober Pedy maintain a constant temperature of 23 °C (73 °F).
Above ground, the summer heat can be unbearable, causing birds to fall from the sky and electronics to fry. But underground, residents enjoy luxurious conditions: cozy lounges, swimming pools, and spacious rooms. To prevent roof collapse, such houses must be at least 2.5 meters deep. Although collapses do sometimes happen, modern industrial earthmoving tools have made the process safer and more efficient. Cutting out large chunks of rock does not take long, as sandstone and siltstone are soft enough to be scraped off with a penknife.
Living underground also offers advantages for privacy. In Coober Pedy, where houses are carved out of the ground, it is possible to accidentally burrow into a neighbor’s house. Overall, however, going underground maximizes privacy and creates a unique living environment.
But Coober Pedy is not the only example of successful underground living. The lost city of Derinkuyu in Turkey demonstrates the amazing engineering and longevity of underground structures. Discovered in 1963 by a man renovating his basement, the city dates back to 2000 BC. The 18-story city, with tunnels going 76 meters underground, housed up to 20,000 people, churches, stables, warehouses and houses. It served as a refuge during wartime and was abandoned in the 1920s after the expulsion of Greek Orthodox Christians from the country.
Life underground has proven viable throughout human history. Now, as we face the challenges of climate change and extreme weather events, it may be time to seriously consider this alternative way of living. Not only does it provide natural cooling and heating, but it also offers privacy and protection. While there are challenges and regulations to overcome, the potential benefits cannot be ignored.
– “The underground structures at Kuber Pedy and Derinkuyu are remarkable examples of human ingenuity and resilience. They demonstrate our ability to adapt to challenging environmental conditions throughout human history.” – Prof. Michael Johnson, Archaeologist