Problems that might appear during the construction of a 'Noah's Ark'-like survival shelter

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Pablo Edronkin

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If you decide to build a survival retreat, shelter or vessel in the general lines of a "Noah's Ark" in order to gain protection during some sort of apocalyptic event, you will run into some trouble because things are never as easy in practice as in theory.

We have commented in another article called "Is Noah's Ark a realistic, valid survival strategy?" that while the basic concept of a "Noah's Ark" is essentially sound as a survival mechanism for certain types of cataclysmic events, things in practice can be far more complicated than anticipated in theory, considering many different aspects of the problem. However, we can classify these factors in a few, easy-to-understand categories:

Technology: The construction of such a survival system will demand the use of technologies at the level of the threat involved. Building a vessel in a shipyard to survive a massive flood would not be very difficult nowadays, provided that a reasonable budget can be designed and the financial resources obtained, but building a spaceship designed to save the species of the planet and take them to another solar system in case that a black hole passes by and rips our sun apart would not be especially easy. Many of the conceivable global-scale cataclysms would require a significant technological effort - as well as in other departments - whenever it is decided to gamble on some sort of survival strategy.

Budget and resources: Even if the world would come to an end, before that happens and in order to build the ark - be it a floating vessel, an airship, an interplanetary or interstellar spaceship, or a subterranean shelter - it will be necessary to have at hand sufficient financial resources, tools, knowledge and materials to finish the task. It is important to remark that while terminal situations might induce lax behaviour, lack of discipline, and in general terms, a "why bother?" attitude, the construction of something along the lines of Noah's Ark in order to save the living species of the planet would be one of the most important projects ever conceived by humankind. Thus, it would require high quality management, high discipline and abundant resources at hand, administered thorough a sensible, precise budget, expertly made. Such a project would likely be time-constrained, so there will be little or no margin for errors and political squabbling. The problems in this realm that could conceivably appear are, then, lack of resources, distribution and construction delays, as well as an excess of political debate.

Security: During such a project, security should be extensive and intensive as well. Confidentiality and secrecy would have to be maintained right from the inception of the survival system and well into its actual usage, at least until the number of alive people and living things that will necessarily be left outside the ark, diminishes enough as to represent no further danger. This means simply that unless everyone or everything else outside the vessel, shelter or whatever the ark comes to be, is exterminated during the cataclysm, a high level of security would have to be kept in place, and the more limited the resources available for its construction, the bigger the problem. This has not only to do with the fact that it is generally more difficult to maintain a high level of security with a lower budget, but also because with lesser resources, the smaller the ark would be, and in turn, that means that a larger number of people and living beings would have to be left behind. Hence, if a global cataclysm would take place and people realize that fact, as the event approaches, attempts to enter the ark would likely become more frequent, desperate and effective, ranging from simple begging to violent attacks in order to seize it. Forget about the concept of "private property" under such circumstances: an ark that leaves behind others will have to be defended by stealth or by force, and likely, using both methods.

What will be saved, and what will not: As in the case of many emergency situations, in the event that an ark really becomes necessary it would only be reasonable to assume that just a fraction of a whole natural and cultural environment would be saved. Gambling on saving everything would be a sure losing bet in most cases. So the question is to determine what could and should be saved.

For a private ark, saving things like Michelangelo's works of art would be out of scope. How on Earth could a private citizen fetch every valuable cultural artifact from museums and galleries?

A possible solution to this problem is to save information on those artifacts instead of the artifacts themselves. Naturally, it is always desirable to keep the originals, but in those cases in which that would not be advisable or possible, keeping enough information about them might help in their reconstruction afterwards. In fact, this has already happened. For example, the old town of Warsaw was completely destroyed during WWII; no single building could be used again for whatever purpose. Nevertheless, the Polish government made a decades-long effort and eventually reconstructed every building that belonged to the old town based on references and information about the original ones.

Storing information might not be limited just to a traditional database or copies of documents. It is also possible to store DNA samples representing a large number of species, including humankind. Thus, an ark could even be conceived as a pure data bank, a repository of cultural and biological information that could even operate fully automatically, so that even if those humans confronting the apocalypse and designing the ark do not survive, they might be able to keep Earth's life and culture and humanity in a latent state to be recovered whenever possible.

All this might look like pure speculation or science fiction right now, but let's not forget that many things conceived as fantasy one day, end up becoming reality later, and it is always better to think in advance to solve future problems. If an apocalyptic event happens and can be scientifically predicted with enough time to build preservation and survival mechanisms such as an ark, then, whether on planet Earth itself or in some form of spaceship, it might become necessary to actually pack and store life in order to preserve it.



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