Company that builds ‘floating islands’ offers $100,000 bounty to any takers

While still supported by French Polynesia, company launches campaign to persuade governments around the world

An artist’s impression of a floating island, by company Blue Frontiers.
 An artist’s impression of a floating island by company Blue Frontiers. Photograph: Blue Frontiers

A company attempting to build floating man-made islands as a means of adapting to climate change have offered $100,000 to start-ups and entrepreneurs able to convince their government to host a floating island in their seas.

Blue Frontiers had been in discussions with French Polynesia to build a prototype of a floating island in their territory. While the legislation is being worked on and the final site is being worked out, Blue Frontiers is expanding its search.

Now, it has launched a bold global campaign to find another host country that will allow it to build sustainable floating island communities, which it promotes as a solution to urban overcrowding, and a means of mitigating the threat of sea-level rise.

While some have criticized the project as only for rich billionaires Blue Frontiers has yet to see any billionaires participating in its grassroots crowdfunding campaign made up of mostly small investors from all over the world.

The concept and philosophy of the movement has become known as “seasteading”, with the floating communities having a unique form of government, independent of the host nation. Greenhouses, restaurants, homes, hotels and offices would all be built on the islands.

PayPal co-founder and New Zealand citizen Peter Thiel contributed seed funding to the Seasteading Institute, which later launched Blue Frontiers. “Between cyberspace and outer space lies the possibility of settling the oceans,” wrote Thiel in a 2009 essay.

To enter the competition entrepreneurs need to secure “a general letter of invitation from a government official” in their home country, as well as submit photos and videos of the proposed floating island site, and pass a background check.

The top 10 entrepreneurs will visit the company’s base in Rotterdam, before a winner will be chosen “once your host government passes the legislation required to implement the pilot project, you will be awarded 100,000 Varyon [a cryptocurrency] immediately, and $100,000 USD once the pilot is actually built.”

The floating island would bring $60m in investment to the host nation, Blue Frontiers said.

According to the competition website, entrepreneurs who have already entered hail from Vanuatu, Cambodia, the Maldives, Vietnam, Columbia and Mexico, among others. “Seventy per cent of the planet is water, not tamed by civilisation” says the competition video. “Are you ready to build on the next frontier?”

Floating islands have long been discussed as a potential solution to sea-level rise, particularly in the South Pacific Islands.

In 2011 then-president of Kiribati Anote Tong said he was seriously considering moving his country’s entire population of 100,000 people to floating islands resembling oil rigs. “The last time I saw the models, I was like ‘wow it’s like science fiction, almost like something in space. So modern, I don’t know if our people could live on it,” Tong said the the time, addressing the Pacific Islands Forum.

“But what would you do for your grandchildren? If you’re faced with the option of being submerged, with your family, would you jump on an oil rig like that? And [I] think the answer is ‘yes’”

Around the globe, Holland, Japan, Dubai, and Hong Kong have all built artificial islands for airports or new housing.

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