Studies: Prometheus Unknown (Resistance)

Concept for Sea Coasts/Terrains at Risk of Global Warming-induced Sea Rise

San Francisco Bay as an Example - 2007


Prometheus Unknown is an examination of two responses, one of "resistance" (shown here), the other of "adaptation," to potential sea level rise caused by global warming. The San Francisco Bay and coast of Central California is used as a case study of this issue. A precedent to the resistance approach can be found in the dikes of the Netherlands, that of adaptation in the strategies of preservation of ancient Egyptian temples, such as Abu Simbel, moved in response to the flooding of the Nile river by the construction of the High Aswan dam and creation of Lake Nasser, in the 1960's.

The resistance response in Prometheus Unknown, as in the Netherlands dike system, takes as it main strategy, the construction of sea walls to resist the incursion of the sea to a possible height of over 50 meters above current sea level across the Golden Gate entrance to the San Francisco Bay and other areas of the coast vulnerable to inundation of that degree. The height is controversial, as there are numerous models of potential sea rise to a maximum of 80 meters if all present day ice sheets of Antarctica, Greenland and other glacial areas were to melt. Many additional issues are involved with a damming of the Golden Gate, including the vast amount of water exiting the bay from California rivers, ecological change resulting from the change from a sea/brackish water to a freshwater environment, fish spawning, the assumed continuation of the bay as a commercial port and the extraordinary sum of money and materials required to build and maintain such a system.



The "adaptation" response looks at a range of current and historical models world wide of living with the sea and sea level change, such as: marinas, floating structures and cites and aquaculture of all kinds. The high cultural value placed on ancient Egyptian temples and temple complexes that determined their worthiness to be rescued from inundation by the filling of Lake Nasser, gives an indication of both the potential and problematic issues surrounding this approach. Like the resistance approach, adaptation is also complex in the changes that could occur to current ecologies, landscapes and infrastructure are potentially extreme and without precedent in human time.

Prometheus Unknown, inspired in part by the Greek myth of Prometheus, Aeschylus' play, Prometheus Bound and Percy Byssche Shelly's poem, Prometheus Unbound, which refers to the gift of fire to humanity by Prometheus and his subsequent punishment by the gods. Prometheus Unknown's ultimate goal is to look beyond given resistance and adaptation scenarios, which it is now studying as a preliminary exercise, towards an unknown assemblage, system or condition somehow at a similar scale of thought, spirit or depth as the problem itself.

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