Welcome to the village of Oymyakon, in Russia. It’s the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world.
The average temperature for January? About -50 degrees Celsius (that’s -58 degrees Fahrenheit).
The U.K.’s Daily Mail — that bastion of hard-hitting journalism — has a surprisingly deeper look at Oymyakon, population 500 or so, and it’s quite stunning. Give it a look.
We may cover renewable energy and urban development and technological innovation elsewhere on SmartPlanet, but in Oymyakon, the rules for things like this change dramatically.
In a place like this, you need to live differently. There’s no getting around that.
Warmth? That comes from coal and wood, of course. Water? There’s a thermal spring nearby, thankfully. Agriculture? None to speak of, unless you count reindeer and horses. (Residents eat their meat and drink their milk.) An economy? Hunting, fishing and — for the one shop in town — retail. Education? The schoolhouse stays open until the temps drop to -52 degrees Celsius. Transportation? It’s a two-day drive to Yakutsk, the region’s capital city (pictured above). Just don’t turn your engine off, or it might not return.
What is it like to live in such a place? Pens don’t work — the ink freezes. Glasses are dangerous, because they’ll fuse to your face. Batteries — usually better in cool climates — degrade faster in such extreme conditions. And mobile phones? Forget about it.
I can’t help but think of restrictions when I see a place like this.
The best innovations, it is sometimes said, come from facing hurdles: finding a new way to accomplish a task when the obvious route is blocked. That’s why witty people can be wittier in the 140 characters of a Twitter update; that’s why some of the world’s best athletes come from places where modern athletic shoes can’t be easily had. In the case of Oymyakon, that means figuring out a way to bury the dead when the earth underfoot is frozen solid.
We can take lessons from places like this. Perhaps about resiliency. Perhaps about technology. Which, I’m not sure. Sorry — brain’s frozen.