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Hypogeal Lives

Vishal Jayan

After decades of debates and consultations, the world’s global powers failed to come to an agreement on a global climate deal. As a result, the effects of climate change worsened, leading to more frequent extreme storms and droughts. These events caused significant changes to the physical and political landscapes, with coastal cities being submerged and inland areas experiencing desertification. Conflicts over critical resources like minerals, food, and water led to the eventual collapse of many nation-states, and giving rise to smaller, independent regions centered around such resources. One of these vital resources was lithium.
In this new world, humans and robots coexisted and relied on each other to subsist. Robots assisted humans in adapting to the harsh living conditions, while humans took care of robots, prolonging their lifespan. Heavily dependent on lithium for power and energy storage, both humans and robots nurtured their symbiotic relationship on earth.
The underground settlement of Kamativi, had been originally built around a lithium mine, and by 2090 it was one of the regions playing a vital role in sustaining human life. Over the course of 40 years, miners constructed Kamativi into a self-sustaining community of 1,200 people, similar in size to a Manhattan block. Living underground posed unique challenges, but the engineers at Kamativi had developed systems to grow food, recycle water and waste, and purify the air. Due to the scarcity of sunlight, the residents depended heavily on lithium. A daily lithium pill as a mood enhancer and 15 hours a week in underground sunrooms informed the new normal.
“Hypogeal Lives” is a visual narrative that documents the subtleties of subterranean life in a dystopian, climate-ravaged world where dependence on lithium has replaced the primitive reliance on fossil fuels. Beyond the Kamativi mine, we follow Kolo, a resident engineer born and raised there, on his journey to the surface to fulfill his lifelong dream of seeing the last living trees. Three robotic friends accompanied Kolo and together, they traverse a desolate landscape repurposed to harness renewable energy to serve Bikita, a mined landscape ingeniously designed to support life.

When diplomacy fails to make a climate deal and climate change conditions worsen, lithium remains a valuable resource around which collapsed political systems gather. This visual narrative follows a coterie of human and robotic travelers experiencing life outside their underground settlement and seeing how above ground landscapes are purposed for harnessing energy.



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