Will there be a permanent population in Antarctica before a semipermanent population on the moon?

Given the rapid advances in polar and space exploration in the 20th century, I can't help but feel kinda disappointed that we've still barely started colonisation of either. But which will turn out to be less disappointingly slow?

Upon discussion in the comments, it has been provisionally agreed that a settlement is semi-permanent once people are living there for at least part of the year with intention to keep doing so, and it's permanent once someone born there and continually a resident has a kid born there too.

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There are already permanent settlements in Antarctica - Villa Las Estrellas, owned by Chile, and Esperanza, owned by Argentina. They're year-round civilian settlements.

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@BrunoParga I was under the impression that, while they have people at all times of year, including the only civilians in the continent (mostly families of troops in the nearby bases), none of those people stay there permanently

Antarctica has no permanent residents. [...] Approximately 12 nations [...] send personnel to perform seasonal (summer) or year-round research on the continent and in its surrounding oceans. [...] The population of people [...] varies from approximately 4,000 in summer to 1,000 in winter. [...] The largest station, McMurdo Station, has a summer population of about 1,000 people and a winter population of about 200.

At least 11 children have been born in Antarctica.


@TheAllMemeingEye https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Las_Estrellas?wprov=sfti1

Villa Las Estrellas (Spanish pronunciation:[ˈbiʝa las esˈtɾeʝas]; Spanish for The Stars Village or Hamlet of the Stars) is a permanently inhabited outpost on King George Island within the Chilean Antarctic claim, the Chilean Antarctic Territory, and also within the Argentine and British Antarctic claims.

@TheAllMemeingEye some residents stay there over the winter.

It is unclear to me how to make a principled distinction between those places and a clearly inhabited place like Longyearbyen in Svalbard.

@TheAllMemeingEye Maybe if you specify what you mean by permanent?

@JaimeSantaCruz Damn, I guess this is a Wikipediarbitration opportunity I didn't notice lol. Personally I feel like to be a truly permanent settlement it has to be intended that people will be able to live their entire lives there (i.e. be born, go through education, work, retire, and die), whereas I was perhaps falsely under the impression that the closest we have is troops and their families staying there for maybe a couple of years tops while they are stationed at that base.

@TheAllMemeingEye I think your concept is okay in the abstract, but it gets very fuzzy when you look at places like Longyearbyen and probably others in similarly extreme locations.

@BrunoParga What if, for objectivity, we make it a requirement for someone to have actually done it i.e. officially being a resident their entire life

@TheAllMemeingEye then I think you'll disqualify places that you probably shouldn't. (I keep mentioning Longyearbyen because it's a fascinating place that I hope to visit one day.) Especially since, like, you probably want to disregard instances when "their entire life" meant only a couple years or weeks or hours. But then again, think of a city like Brasília; it was founded in 1960. Was it only "inhabited" once someone who was born there lived a close-to-average lifespan and then died?

I hope you'll understand that I'm not saying all of this to poke holes in your idea - it is a genuinely hard question to define an "inhabited place" by defining a criterion and still have that include everything we want to include and exclude everything we want to exclude.

@TheAllMemeingEye that being said, I thought of something that might be an objective criterion (although I have no idea how good a criterion it is).

A place is permanently inhabited if:

  • there is someone living there who makes enough money to sustain themselves and/or doesn't live with their parents;

  • this person was born there, or like was conceived there, born somewhere else and then moved back there as a baby;

  • their parents arrived there as children, at the latest (i.e. the parents themselves didn't choose to make the move there). Obviously it counts if the parents were born there. However, the parents must have lived most of their lives there

In short, "permanent population" means you have second-generation independent adults living there.

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@TheAllMemeingEye @BrunoParga You won’t get permanent residents in places where you can‘t autonomously obtain resources for living.

@JaimeSantaCruz what does that mean, exactly? Can New Yorkers "autonomously obtain resources for living" like food?

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@BrunoParga You can beg in the streets, go dumpster diving, go to some kind of shelter, steal food. I’m thinking if you’re left alone on an empty island you could fish, build some kind of shelter, etc. Not the case on the moon or Antarctica. Or maybe yes?

@JaimeSantaCruz I'm not sure I get your comment. The food eaten by beggars/dumpster divers/food thiefs/people at soup kitchens comes from the same source as people who buy their own food - the vast majority of it comes from outside of New York. Same for construction materials to build the buildings everyone uses. In that sense of depending on the outside world for the things they need, New York and Las Estrellas are pretty similar to each other and to most other human settlements. So I'm not clear how this solves our definition problem.

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@BrunoParga In a collapse scenario, while living in the ruins of New York would be extremely challenging, the environment offers more opportunities for long-term subsistence compared to Antarctica, where the extreme climate and lack of basic natural resources present almost insurmountable challenges for survival without external support.

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@JaimeSantaCruz Or if we think of an “empty” Earth, survival will be dependent on environmental factors that in the case of Antarctica make it unsustainable. There’s also the legal framework that would make it illegal to reside there without the consent of the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, and for purposes other than scientific research.

Does this make more sense as a definition? Something like: people won’t survive in x autonomously, so they need the support of y, and are therefore not free to settle, which means there won’t be a “permanent” citizen unless allowed for some reason.

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@JaimeSantaCruz @BrunoParga you both make some interesting points.

I admit I know next to nothing about the permanence status of Longyearbyen, but for Brasilia I might argue that under my proposed definition it was semipermanent but intended permanent until the first full life resident, because if everyone had decided to abandon it and move back to the old capital before that point it would plausibly intuitively fail to have been a truly permanent city.

I'm not personally convinced by the definitions based on second generation independent adults or autonomous survival capability, but it's good to get ideas out there.

The Antarctic treaty forbidding non-scientific residence is a factor I hadn't considered, and might end up being the main deciding factor given how slow international beurocracy is lol.

@JaimeSantaCruz I am not sure I see the relevance of "collapse" scenarios, I personally would prefer to focus on normal scenarios for this question.

As for your proposed definition, I think my very first comment addresses that - Las Estrellas and Esperanza are sanctioned and encouraged by the Chilean and Argentinian governments. I assume they are legal from the point of view of the Treaty because I don't see any other states party complaining about these settlements. And I don't think the "autonomous" part of your definition is clear enough to use here, especially if we're not thinking of "collapse" scenarios.

@TheAllMemeingEye I have a few points here.

  1. The Treaty does not prohibit settlement at all. I've just read it. Basically what the Treaty says is "Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only and there shall be scientific cooperation."

  2. I kinda like the idea of someone living their entire life there, but what "the entire life" means needs to be properly specified so as to exclude people who die too young.

  3. Generally speaking, I think this is a matter of intension vs extension. I think we have an intuitive sense of what "a permanent settlement" means by extension - given a certain settlement, we would likely be able to say whether it's permanent or not. Like, NYC definitely counts, Amundsen-Scott at the South Pole definitely doesn't. In principle, apart from time restrictions, we would be able to enumerate all the permanent settlements humanity lives in. But the problem is with intension: we don't know how to fill out the blank in the sentence "a permanent settlement is one that...". And in order for the intensive definition to be correct, it need not only to sound correct but also to match the extensive one! For anything that's in our list of permanent settlements (our extensive definition), then our intensive definition needs to apply to that item, and it must not apply to anything that's not in the list.

  4. I bring this intension vs extension issue up because of the example of Brasília. The life expectancy in Brazil in 1960 was 52.5. I think it's absurd to say that Brasília only became a permanent settlement in 2012; the intension does not match the extension there. So I don't think the intension is correct.

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@BrunoParga I brought up collapse scenarios because you mentioned the complexity of NY and its reliance on external supplies. I think it makes clear that while Antarctica and NY both rely on external supplies, absent this supplies you can survive in one place and not the other. And I think autonomous survival is key to being able to establish a permanent population. I see that you could establish a permanent populations in places that depend on support systems (like the Chilean State enabling Las Estrellas) but it depends on this system allowing it, not on the population will.

I got a little lost on the intension part, can you elaborate a little?

@JaimeSantaCruz I'm confused, I've never said anything about complexity.

I don't understand where you're getting at with "autonomous" in this context. Maybe you mean that a given place has a carrying capacity greater than 0? If so, I don't see the relevance given that pretty much anywhere today has a population greater than its carrying capacity (which we achieve through trade and specialization and the division of labor).

Regarding intension and extension: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensional_and_intensional_definitions

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@BrunoParga To me it seems slightly more natural to call extensional 'intuitive' or 'subjective' and intensional 'systematic' or 'objective', but I think I get the gist.

Maybe a midpoint between my definition and yours would work i.e. it's permanent once someone born there and continually a resident has a kid born there too. That way we can avoid the fuzziness of whether someone is truly living independently.

Upon reflection I agree that 2012 is probably too late to start calling Brasilia permanent, but it does feel intuitively correct that initially it would've been semipermanent and eventually achieved full permanence. So maybe this midpoint definition that would be achieved sooner (maybe around 25y on average?) would hence fit?

@BrunoParga Thanks, will read. I’m surely using equivocal terms, will try to improve on that too. Very interesting discussion nevertheless.

@JaimeSantaCruz @TheAllMemeingEye I find the terminology really weird as well, but I think it's very well established so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ we more or less "have" to use it.

@TheAllMemeingEye and I like what you said about Brasília and I have thoughts that I'll write here later :)

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