Life in Australia has been harsh at times, and the area northwest of Adelaide in South Australia can reach temperatures of a hundred twenty degrees during a summer day. The landscape is a forbidding mixture of dust and rock, so it would seem few people would ever want to live there. Yet there is life in this large deserted area of the world, but most of it resides under the surface. Coober Pedy, once home of the largest opal mine complex in the world, has become a destination for habitation.
Opals are found in only a few areas in the world in large concentrations, and this area of the country has long been a good area for miners. They can find large and small veins of this gem even today, so there is reason for many of the residents to remain. Those who came decades ago settled in the area, raised their families and they even passed on their trades to sons and daughters. It might seem ideal, but the summer temperatures make is less than hospitable.
As the years have passed, many of the older opal mines have been closed due to being played out even as new ones were opened in the vicinity. Residents in the area eventually began using them as residence, and some tunneled enough to create their own underground city. The tunnels do not connected every habitation, but they fan out widely to include a church and other amenities of civilization.
Coober Pedy is in the heart of this living revolution, and more than half of its thirty-five hundred residents live under the surface. Their adventures in creative living have drawn them down the path of sustainable life in several different ways. They have managed to expand their town without annexing areas outside it, they have made old mines useful in a new way and they have turned their need for electric power into a sustainable and efficient way of life.
One of the main reasons this area has become a destination for those interested in a better way of life is the ability of local residents to find good ways to wrest a decent life out of the desert. They used to generate all their power with diesel generators, but they have made changes in recent years. Nearly three quarters of the energy they need to run their homes and businesses is now generated through sustainable solar and wind. It is a model of how the technology of the modern world can be used to make almost any part of the planet habitable.
There are plenty of visitors looking at their town today as a model for future building, and there are some who choose to remain after a good look. While the conditions above the hard crust of the desert might not be the most appealing, living under the surface has become a look into the future where comfort and style are combined with modern technology to make sustainable homes in one of the roughest climates of the world.