Draining seas, melting the Arctic, rock musicals! Four remarkable geo-engineering projects

1. A Soviet Scheme to melt the north pole

df9e8d1c71597ef2e6e26098c2a60175Many modern proposals for geo-engineering projects aim to prevent the ice caps from melting, but it was not ever thus. In fact, a Russian scientist called Borisov spent his career arguing that melting the Arctic would benefit everyone. His plan was to build a dam across the Bering Straight so that the Arctic would be warmed more by the warmer currents coming in on the jet stream.

His vision wasn’t just an engineering project. Borisov believed that it would be a valuable co-venture between Russia and America. In a 1959 interview he said “When this warming up occurs, and the ice of the cold war melts, broad vistas for teamwork in warming up the eternal ice of the Arctic Ocean will open too.”

This was perhaps prophetic, with the cold war behind us, America and Russia are working together to melt the Arctic. If only unintentionally.

2. A 10,000 kilometer wide illegal plankton bloom

On the other side of the global warming debate, in 2012 a US entrepreneur called Russ George tried to reduce global warming by encouraging the growth of a 10,000 square kilometre plankton bloom off Canada’s west coast. The local indigenous people supported the project because it would increase their fishing stocks. The UN wasn’t so keen. Their concern is that this kind of project could have a long term negative impact on the health of the environment and people in the area.

Only time will tell how projects like this will end up. I suppose we should consider this as an experiment, even if it was potentially an illegal. While we’re waiting to see what the long-term consequences will be, Russ George has produced what could be the world’s first rock musical about plankton ocean fertilisation, called 40 million salmon can’t be wrong.

3. Reclaiming Doggerland

xlg_north_sea_drainageIn September of 1930, there was a ridiculous plan to reclaim the land-bridge between Britain and Europe. This would have created 100,000 square miles of new land, it would also have been thoroughly impossible. It would have involved 450 miles of dams to the north, and they suggested 150 miles of dams in the south, looping around London and Antwerp to keep them open for shipping. River water would have had to be re-routed through a vast canal. This is fortunate for Germany, perhaps as otherwise it’s shipping would have been blocked from the English Channel.

4. Damming the Mediterranean

Weirdly, this project is more reasonable by far than the last one. The plan was the brain child of a german scientist called Herman Sörgel. He was worried that European civilisation would be outperformed by Asia and America, and thought he could avoid this through engineering.

The plan was to build a dam across the straights of Gibralter, harness vast amounts of hydro-electricity, and create 576,000 km squared of new land. The excess water would have been drained into Chad and Congo, and vast hydro-electric dams would have allowed the newly aquatic inhabitants of those countries to produce vast amounts of energy.

Sörgel was an odd man, by modern standards he was a terrible racist, seeing this new land as purely for the benefits of Europe. But he was also a pacifist, and his works were banned by Nazis. On the other hand, in 1938 he did make an attempt to appeal to the Fascist desire for Lebensraum.

The Atlantropa organisation set up to advocate this plan continued to operate until 1960, when it finally disbanded, leaving the Earth’s major landmasses safe from human tempering.

For now, anyway.

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