When green technology delivers decentralized solutions to water and energy – from hi-tech and low maintenance, ultra-effective septic systems to affordable rooftop photovoltaics and electrical storage systems, there are a lot of public works contractors who will be looking for something to do.
|A green mega-project:
High rise agriculture for food & biofuel.
Fortunately, we have the answer: Mega-Projects. Before leveling off in the next couple of generations at approximately 8.0 billion, we will add nearly 2.0 billion more people to the world’s population.
This increase, combined with the well established trend of migration from rural areas to cities, means around the world, mega-cities will be built.
As rural and semi-rural areas transition to off-grid living, conversely, in the mega-cities populations will become more concentrated than ever, and massive infrastructure developments will be necessary to support their water and energy needs.
Further feeding this requirement is the imperative to leave more naturally available water for ecosystems and aquifers, meaning water supplies will have to be found that don’t deplete natural runoff. So if you can’t build the big energy and water grid anymore, but you still want to work, don’t worry. Here are some things to do:
(1) Construct massive desalination plants along ocean coastlines wherever there is an offshore current of 2 sverdrups or more.
(2) Construct solar thermal and nuclear electricity plants (take your choice) to power the desalination plants as well as provide supplemental power to mega-cities.
(3) Engage in massive ecological mitigation projects – for example, divert 10 cubic kilometers of the Ubangi river north per year to refill Lake Chad. For another example, divert 20 cubic kilometers of the Ob-Irtysh river south per year to refill the Aral Sea – you can also divert an equal amount southwest from the Volga into the Aral Basin.
(4) Build mega-structures, with embedded and pervasive, highly efficient energy and water harvesting and recycling systems.
(5) Build high-rise farms to grow food and biofuel, and reforest the tropics from the Amazon to the Congo to Borneo, and everywhere in between.
Today we received the following email:
“I keenly read your article “Let the Volga & Ob Refill the Aral Sea” dated September 27, 2004 by Ed Ring (is this you?). Seeing we are really playing a dangerous game of risk in regard to climate change there’s probably another possible outcome worth mentioning. Although rather an unknown there is also the risk that a continual reduction in the effect of the Atlantic Conveyor could well diminish or even stop the entire oceanic current system and cause the seas to become anoxic. Any levels of reduced oxygen in the oceans would of course cause much extinction to marine live, but even worse than that they could even cause the toxification of the entire atmosphere through mass oceanic hydrogen sulphide release. The world should really help Russia in this great project to dam the Volga and Ob as not only will it definitely restore the Aral which is fantastic, and as you say it would help re-strengthen the already weakening Atlantic Conveyor that brings so much winter mildness to Northern Europe but it just might save the entire world from a terrible catastrophe. How can I get more involved in movements who believe that we must embrace grand engineering projects in order to help solve our current climate problems?”
Reading this email was timely. As we debate land use decisions in the context of high technology obviating the need for many types of public works, it is clear these resources still can be put onto projects of compelling value. Many environmentalists eschew development projects of any kind – but to build the mega-cities of the future, which is necessary to deliver prosperity to a planet soon to have 8.0 billion people, mega-projects will be necessary. The only rational debate should be what to build, not whether to build.
|A green mega-project:
Water from the Volga & Ob-Irtysh refill the Aral Sea