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In the "Legend" trilogy and its sequel "Rebel", author Marie Lu envisioned a far future where Antarctica is a superpower decades after the United States splintered into two separate countries. The cities are built inside climate-controlled domes and are described as being large enough to hold skyscrapers.

After reading through the book series, I wonder how probable it would be to have Antarctica become an independent country (let's call it the Antarctic Republic) either today or in the near future. For the sake of ignoring the politics of claims, let's just say this country is located in Marie Byrd Land, which is not claimed by any country.

What would their economy be? How likely would other countries trade with the AR? Would it be more practical to have the country live in one combined settlement or multiple? Most of all though, could Antarctica becoming a sovereign nation be possible?

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In order to have a functioning society you ultimately need a reason to cooperate. Unfortunately, Antarctica doesn't have any of those in our timeline.

The primary reason people live in Antarctica today is for scientific research. Antarctica is invaluable for science as a truly pristine wilderness, and its harsh climate gives it relatively unique biodiversity. For example, Antarctic ice cores can show human influence in the environment over time by their lack of pollutants such as lead.

While science is invaluable, the science that comes out of Antarctica is not so valuable that it would support a society that constantly needs outside supplies to survive. The continent has no significant geological or natural resources to exploit (the most prominent are coal and oil), and even if it did those resources would be significantly harder to access than the same resources found elsewhere on Earth. The only economic value that could be produced there would be the value its' citizens create, which again they could do anywhere else on Earth much easier.

All that said, you could easily come up with some in-world reasons to settle Antarctica. Maybe you find a huge meteor strike that's rich in rare metals like platinum, palladium, or gold. Maybe Antarctica is shielded from the worst of the effects of global warming. Maybe there is a society there but they're just a subsistence society who wants to live "off the grid" rather than being a superpower.

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    $\begingroup$ Global warming can actually make at least part of Antarctica suitable for permanent habitation. This can eventually lead to an independent nation, but it's a long, long way. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 19 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander well. We hope it's a long way. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Feb 20 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander There are already multiple permanent settlements on Antarctica. Granted they're mostly inhabited by scientists, but they are permanently inhabited, even in the Antarctic winter. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Feb 20 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Darrel Hoffman permanent yes, settlement no. As far as I know, no one yet lives in Antarctica for the whole life and rises families. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 20 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ oil and oil. you want to be there for oil, and it is habitable becasue of oil caused global warming. $\endgroup$ – meaninglessname Feb 20 at 22:30
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Look at how all countries have become independent over time:

  • they started as a colony of another motherland
  • they managed to build up their economy
  • they managed to have an authority and enforce this authority decisions
  • the gained independence from the mother land

Present Antarctica has reached the first stage, to a certain extent, with the various settlements used for research purposes.

However the present climate prevents any attempt from building up an economy. All resources need to be supplied from outside, making the country utterly dependent from an external entity.

If mining was allowed, the mined resources could be used to trade and slowly build up an internal supply chain: greenhouses for growing crops are the bare minimum you need if you want to be less dependent from foreign trade.

However as long the climate stays the same the internal food production will be the weak point of the country.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure that all countries were initially colonies. $\endgroup$ – user72572 Feb 20 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ @user-1387425094 The ones that aren't are just so old we don't know where they were colonized from. Maybe they predate the concept of countries. Sometimes there were just a group of people who already meet the first 3 criteria and they declare themselves (or are declared as) a country. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Feb 20 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed with user-1387425094. The word "all" here is wildly inaccurate. Maybe "most in the last N-hundred years" would be more accurate. South Sudan certainly doesn't meet the first two criteria and few would argue that it meets the third. East/West Germany, North/South Korea, etc are all products of wars, nothing to do with any four of the bullets. $\endgroup$ – ColonelPanic Feb 20 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @user253751 colonizing is more than just going somewhere and making a country. Many if not most European countries weren't colonized, the same with most SEA countries - even if they were eventually colonized they existed beforehand and that is why there was an attempt to colonize them. Only a handful of current countries seem to follow the pattern (USA, Australia, Canada, other former European colonies), but only if you ignore their history before colonization (eg Singapore, etc). Countries in the modern form are a western idea in the first place. $\endgroup$ – user72572 Feb 21 at 0:56
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To become an independent nation, Antarctica would need to be recognized by some number of existing nations, generally members of the United Nations.

Prequisite to this would be that the aspirant nation have a self-sustaining population and have formed at least an interim government in order to petition the UN.

Antarctica, at present, has no permanent residents (as far as I know) -- everyone on the continent is temporarily stationed there by some existing nation as part of a scientific outpost. While I can't say for certain that there has never been a birth on the continent, there certainly haven't been enough to claim a self-sustaining population. There has never, as far as I'm aware, been any attempt to form an government that would include the entire continent (nor even within an outpost -- such would likely be treated as mutiny by many of the outposts, which are managed by national military organizations).

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Currently the Antarctic treaty system keeps Antarctica from being claimed by any power on earth. Barred extreme circumstances, it's unlikely this will happen.

However. (I've read those books too, they're cool). If everything in the world flips upside down and lot of people, nations or entire continents are fighting among each other as well as each other. What's keeping some people who want no part in the fighting of settling Antarctica? (Except for oppressive regimes keeping people from actually leaving the derelict countries they live in at this point).

Surely this won't be easy. It's inhospitable, cold and there is no day-night cycle other than the seasonal rising and setting of the sun. Which mean you'd have a birthday every antarctic day if you were to follow the polar day-cycle. These issue can be mitigated given sufficient technology and persistence of the people there.

The most difficult thing would be food. There is hardly any accessible biomass available at Antarctica shy from a few hardy animal species living there, which would stave off hunger for a bit, only for the brave colonists to succumb to scurvy.

All in all there are way better locations any sort of society might spring into existence, and if colonists were to settle Antarctica they will have to solve some energy and food issues, or have a damn good idea how to solve this once there. Their community, plans and futures would be inconceivable otherwise.

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    $\begingroup$ I live above 69 North. Resolute, another community in Canada, is a community just below 75 degrees north. This is symmetrical to the southern hemisphere. And trust me, we do have day/night cycles a bit shorter than a year in length in both places. What you've stated is only true for the poles themselves. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 19 at 18:23
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Zombie Armageddon.

Antarctica cannot be reached by land, and the oceans separating it from other land masses are deep and impassable by zombies. Every person arriving is carefully screened for zombie infection and quarantined for a period, and uninvited ships approaching the coast are sunk by the strong military presence. The Antarctic military is comprised of units from many nations who have in common their realization that Antarctica would be a good refuge.

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I agree with the challenges that the other answers have posited.

I worked backward through time to see if I could come up with a reasonable explanation for how the Antarctic Republic came to be a sovereign state. This is my imagining.

  1. Massive deposits of extremely rare, valuable, materials are located under the ice and within rocky mountains of Antarctic. Gold, diamonds, Deuterium, Helium-3, and more.

  2. Economic superpowers, US, EU, Russian, Indian and Chinese, collectively known as the G5, rush to exploit the bonanza, each declaring historic, ethnic, and social claims to the Antarctic continent or regions of the continent. Decades, and centuries-old, grievances between the nations escalate the land grab to be military operations. Air, Land, and Sea units engage in limited combat.

  3. The UN declares the Antarctic region a shared prosperity zone called the Antarctic Economic Region (AER), guaranteeing every nation of a share of the wealth contained in the AER. The G5 build the necessary infrastructure to exploit the AEC. Workforces made up of settlers, economic refugees from other countries, and prison inmates are shipped to AER and put to work extracting the vast wealth of the continent. A period of prosperity blooms for every citizen of the G5 -- guaranteed a share of the AER wealth by UN mandate.

  4. Over a period of decades, the many settlements and mines of the AER become a strong community, with stronger ties to neighbouring facilities than to home nations. The communities try to build their own industries to supply food, clothing, and limited luxury goods, but are consistently suppressed by G5 overlords. The citizens of the AER live lives little better than wage slaves and view the UN and G5 as cruel overlords. They organize themselves to protest their treatment.

  5. Disparate communities of Antarctic Economic Region file grievances with G5 oversight council governing AE. AEC rejects grievances, sighting cost and implicit social justice concerns with granting the petition.

  6. Individual communities of AER combine militias to form Revolutionary Antarctic Warfighting Regulars (RAWR). Fighting breaks out immediately, and G5 security forces and overlords are killed, captured, or driven off the continent.

  7. Under a UN mandate, forces of the G5 invade the Antarctic to suppress the insurgency.

  8. RAWR defeats the G5 Expeditionary Forces at the Battle of Mount Erebus.

  9. UN recognizes independent and sovereign Antarctic Republic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Helium deposits seem like the most likely driver in my opinion. Extremely limited in rest of world, high demand, and a reasonable chance of being imprisoned under ice. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 19 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to believe that the United Nations Organization is quite a bit more than a building in New York where second-rate diplomats from various countries meet to talk about issues which cannot be mentioned in official meetings... Hint: The UN cannot "recognize" a sovereign power, because the UN is not a sovereign power itself. That is why, while you may have heard of somebody being an ambassador to the UN, you have never heard of anybody being an ambassador from the UN. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 19 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, I think my tone makes it very clear that the UN is a mouth piece for the interests of the G5, giving purely political cover and justification for their desired outcomes. Hint: Its a little work of fiction, don’t be uptight. If you have a better answer, submit it, rather than pointless trolling other user’s answers with wrong headed conclusions. $\endgroup$ – EDL Feb 19 at 19:58
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Once Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, reach Antarctica you can witness one of the deadliest war humans ever faced after 'Independence Day' in 1996. The war will result in the evacuation of humans from Antarctica and the formation of Antarctican government lead by President Skipper.

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It would begin with a series of colonies that become a little too successful

The US war of independence could be a partial template for this. The many countries with claims to Antarctica start making lots of money extracting resources from it (probably mining or fossil fuels) leading to permanent settlements. Eventually the permanent residents of these mining settlements (or whatever) feel mistreated and want to keep the profits of their own output, instead of just being a Hinterland for the ruling country. If the profits from resource extraction are high enough for the colony to support itself, it can achieve Independence.

Economics would force the different colonies to unify, either before or after rebelling against their ruling countries. There's no point in the Australian colony rebelling to control their own oil prices if I can just buy it from the Norwegian colony instead and undercut them. They would harmonise prices to get a better deal from the rest of the world, followed by trade deals etc. until eventually unifying into a single country.

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to start a country you need a motivation to get people to move, and you also need the conditions to be livable. We can solve both of these with reckless use of oil and other fossil fuels. As you should know climate change is caused by fossil fuels, and if we continue to use them we will heat the earth up a lot. Antarctica may be completely clear of ice, and allow a landscape hospitable to humans. That solves the livability problem, although what about the motivation? The answer, again, is oil. Antarctica is thought to contain an enormous amount of oil, and if this oil is still being used by the time Antarctica thaws then we will mine the hell out of it. Eventually the oil prospectors could decide that they should turn into a country and more people move in. This country starts of with a large amount of money from its oil and rises to become a superpower.

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