Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Keep your palms, we have a pearl

I wrote this a couple of years ago and was reminded of it recently by a friend, so I decided to post it in a effort to make up for my lack of blogging and to make up for my otherwise boring econo-blogs.

A friend of mine asked me to describe Bahrain in 200 years time, as a sort of exercise in imagination. The first thing that came to my mind as I drove back that night, was of superconductor highways that crisscrossed over the land and electromagnetically charged vehicles floating along, their speed and course regulated by sophisticated circuitry. The idea had instant appeal, especially as I was cruising along watching complete idiots driving with absolutely no regard for their own or anyone else's lives. My mind was filled with images of fabulous sedans without wheels that hovered down to pick up passengers and then gently and silently rose up and sped away, their on-board computers in complete control of its course and trajectory. ‘Traffic’ computers would control the system and regulate the flow to prevent any form of accidents happening or any horsing around. It was promising. A bit too rigid, but a transportation system was only a beginning anyway.

I began to think on a larger scale and was soon brought to that supreme example of terra-forming, the Palm Islands of the coast of Dubai. Easily visible from space (not saying much though, cause so are the numbers on your credit card), it nonetheless ‘brands’ itself in a copyright-like circle as the land of the Palms (notwithstanding the fact that others might have a greater claim to that title). ** (Keep in mind I wrote this well over two years ago and we now have many similar examples of terraforming in Bahrain.)

However, landfilling and reclamation seems too physical intrusive and extremely damaging to the environment for my taste, but there was a limited amount of land available in Bahrain and with 200 years of population growth, it simply wasn’t enough.

So it had to be out at sea. And I love the sea. So here is my pitch: Build platforms onto the sea rather than bury it away. Keep the marine environment underneath you as it provides a source of food, income and much more. And you can shape them any way you want! My image was of Bahrain as un upside down teardrop, with arches that reached out from Budaiya and Muharraq to create a semi circle that met to create the new Bab to Bahrain. The gleaming metal and plastic superstructures would reflect the sun’s rays and shine like a pearl in the sea.

How would it work, you ask?

Advancing undersea drilling techniques used in building oil rigs to create a stable platform that multi-story structures can be built upon. The basic construction material used in filling out the aluminium (we’ve got tons of it) skeleton would be super toughened see-through plastic resin sheets (I figure with the world’s leading producer of petrochemicals and plastics next door, they’ll come up with this in 200 years time, easy). The overall effect would be of a large collection of shiny boxes built up. The lower levels would be clear and allow the sun light through to heat seawater collected in massive solar powered distillation tanks that could provide clean drinking water as well as using the steam to power turbines that can generate electricity. As one got higher into the heavy traffic areas, the resin sheets would be tinted darker and in a range of colors. This would enable both privacy and personal expression (with photoelectric cells, it could be done at the flick of a switch). Then you’ve got the fish farms to cultivate food and biomass, underwater turbines to generate electricity, and super-sophisticated waste processing plants. We could go on and on and on…..

Unfortunately, the Gulf is too shallow and warm, otherwise, we could really push the boat out and try to tap into cold deep sea currents for energy, horticulture and air-conditioning.

With all due credit to David Wingrove and John Pina Craven (whose ideas this is all based on)


Anonymous said...

This was not meant to just be a solo mental masturbation. Please feel free to add your visions, dreams and imaginings. I would love to know how others see things unfolding....


Mo said...

Quite creative..

What would a feasibility study make of your suggestions, I wonder? No matter, since we're mentally masturbating here then I might as well grab some tissues and give it a go..

I struggle to think of a way to expand the surface area of bahrain without terraforming or your fun little idea of platforms (underwater expansion, perhaps? naah.. too sci-fi) so I'll just dream about other things.

How about teleportation? Its always been one of my dreams to see the invention of teleportation during my lifetime. The trekkie dormant deep within me is just dying to get zapped into a million molecules and beamed across the ether.

A much more realistic outlook is based on harnessing the power of the sun. Step outside on any given day in Bahrain and you can feel the millions of kilojoules of energy bouncing around the place. If we could somehow make solar batteries efficient enough to meet our energy demands, then many avenues of opportunity would open up:

1. No power cuts. You have your own solar energy apparatus on your roof, so it'd be your fault if you don't maintain it and collect enough juice to power the nights and the cloudy days.

2. The end of the line for "mumtaaz" and "jayyid".. the "sun roof" would live up to its name and, along with the rest of the roof, collect enough energy to run your car during the day. Hydrogen cells or H2O fuel would make sure you have some functional wheels for nighttime.

3. A common sight would be large commercial towers outfitted with solar panelling to collect energy for the building and surrounding areas. If you're gonna build huge office and commercial structures with funky designs then they might as well serve a dual purpose and act as collection areas for state-owned and distributed energy.

Just a few ideas.. maybe they'll come into effect.. maybe my great great great grandchildren will all be living in solar panel adorned high-rise buildings on platforms out in the sea.. or maybe (with the way things are going) we'll just mess this planet up so bad that it'll all turn into a nightmare "Waterworld" scenario with a planet full of angry gangs riding sea-doos. That's a depressing thought, and I don't just mean Kevin Costner as the lone surviving hero.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Mo...Love the solar angle and am sure we are only touching the tip of the iceburg(?)here. Would love to hear what an engineer would make of all of this...

To take waterworld scenario is not a far stretch, either...but I see the Gulf being dammed at Hormuz to protect all out little islands from rising water levels. Then you can have all sorts of networks spanning the gulf/dam/lake. Dunno what that would do to marine life, but we need to take our fish farming a bit more seriously by then anyway, so who knows...that's kinda what I enjoy in these exercises anyway, the different tangents you can digress to...

The Bikeshed Bad Boyz

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