|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 5||May, 1999|
Every period in mankind's history has had its share of miracles and wonders that have instilled public imagination and caused hushed awe when first created. No matter if it has been the sheer size and effort Pyramids of Giza or technological miracles of first landing to the Moon, man has always had something great to gaze. 61st century is no exception.
The biggest defining moment in modern human history has been the mini ice age that come and came in third to fifth millennium. It forced whole new lifestyle to billions of people and mixed the existing ethnic groups and ideals as humanity adapted to new kind of grim, dark undercity living.
First answer to glaciers of new ice age was extension of original cities by reinforcing them to withstand the forces of nature. In warmer regions this meant construction of huge cupolas over cities to protect them from destructive winds and bitter cold. However, those cities that were originally close to glaciers chose alternative tactics of burrowing underground.
Vast underground cities were constructed under the existing ones. There were as many size and design of these giant bunkers as there were cities choosing this kind of living. For example in Iceland the Reykjavik chose to build underground complex where heating and power obtained its power >from hot springs while in Moscow the city build cavernous undercity powered with fusion reactors under the original domed overcity.
The expansion and decline of glaciers has always been open to much speculation. During the ice age glaciers expanded at wildly variable rates. Typically these numbers varied from a meter a day all the way to tens of meters a day. These speeds could not be predicted and there has been recorded incidents of extremely high speeds of glacier advancing in past. For example in 1936 the glacier advanced 30 meters a day in Black Rapids Glacier in Alaska.
Ever expanding glaciers forced populations of these underground cities to construct more and more tunnels towards warmer regions in hope that these tunnels could serve as arteries of supply to their besieged cities. They also served as escape routes of people soon leaving these cities to warmer regions and giant exodus left behind a series of underworld ghost cities. In some times these underground tunnels were buries and tens of millions of people could be cut from rest of the world to live in dark bunkers called Arcologies by their occupants. Some called them less enthusiastically aquariums.
In some cities their descendants would see the world when ice withdraw hundreds of years later. Such people had often adapted widely different cultures and lifestyles from what they had had before. However, many cities could not support themselves but would perish and leave only a ruined tomb to rescuers arriving after glaciers had retired. For example in Iceland Reykjavik was isolated and later destroyed when internal strife caused life support systems to collapse. In same island a KNQS-1 -small community close to Vatnajökyl glacier- survived by adopting a culture where everything from childbirth to euthanasia were decided by direct vote.
The vast majority of people did not choose to live in those cities that were overrun by ice. Instead they migrated to warm areas of Earth causing overcrowding. To make things even worse, the ice and snow also covered most of lands that had been breadbaskets before. People needed new lands to build their houses and to raise new crops. The solution was perhaps the biggest feat of engineering in human history.
The expanding ice had already changed sea currents in Northern Hemisphere by moving Gulf Stream more south and closing the Labrador Stream. Essentially this change in sea currents made Newfoundland to Greenland to Iceland to Eire the southern limit of kilometers thick ice in Atlantic Ocean. Thick ice also closed the Bering Sea making Aleutian Island the limit of Ice in Pacific.
The expanding glacier moved Gulf Stream further south bringing warm and wet winds to West Africa causing the desert to withdraw and vegetation flourish in these areas. This was natural product of changing sea currents that also changed climate patterns.
Decision was made to accept the ice age as part of life on Earth. The current ice limit was accepted as natural state of things. This decision was reinforced with several large engineering works.
First, changing river directions in Western Africa created a giant West African Lake. This lake, together with plentiful wet ocean winds brought moisture turned West Africa into the biggest breadbasket in human history. People moved into former desert in large numbers building new cities along coastlines.
Secondly the Mediterranean was cut off. Strait of Gibraltar was closed together with Bosporus connecting to Black Sea. Mediterranean Sea is remarkable ocean in sense that it had not always been a sea. As a matter of fact the Straight of Gibraltar is considered to have been biggest waterfall in human history when it opened up some ten million years ago. The warm climate in surrounding areas also meant that if new water would not be available, it would eventually dry up.
Turning directions of rivers and pumping of water to Atlantic further aggravated drought phenomena. Desalinated water was widely used in agriculture in Africa. For example most of the water in West African Lake originated from Mediterranean. Huge amounts of water were also used in construction of new cities for displaced population. Former desert areas in Sahara soon became massive sprawling cities.
The cutting of Mediterranean did also brought out problems. Black Sea became much as its namesake. Its already sparse ecosystem suffered collapse and it became dumping ground for much of the garbage from new living areas of the world. Same fate waited for Caspian Sea as well. Here the leaks from oil wells and changing of river currents brought turned this giant body of water into dry wasteland of black pollution, salt storms and drought.
Further East things were changed as well. Ambitious series of dam projects led into turning of Siberian rivers of Ob, Lena and Yenisey to south. This age-old dream led into turning of Central Asian deserts and plains into fertile new breadbaskets. The cost of this was increasingly bitter winters and huge chunks of Siberia having covered by permafrost. Those lands that were not covered with ice soon became massive wilderness of huge forests and swamps. Erosion further aggravated this and now unwary traveler might be caught by massive mudslides or perish in endless swamps. On the other hand this mud made Central Asian lands even more fertile.
Problems in Siberian lands did not bother people living in Aral Sea that became perhaps richest and affluent region in Earth. The flourishing sea with huge variety of wildlife soon became exclusive playing ground to those of great wealth and influence and ever since the Aral Sea has gained reputation of being closest thing to heaven both nature and man can offer.
If Aral Sea was the playground of rich and famous, the people with more modest means had to settle for Baltic Lake. Mediterranean had been dry land earlier in history but Baltic Ocean had been a giant lake. Even when it was connected to the North Sea its salt levels had remained quite low due lack of real sea currents and shallow connection to Atlantic in Kattegat. Massive glaciers covering whole Scandinavia and series of underwater construction works finally closed the Baltic Sea turning it into Baltic Lake.
Baltic Lake was biggest lake in 61st century Earth. It was a contrast of climates with northern parts covered with glaciers around the year and southern end of lake enjoying temperate climate with snow covered winters and warm pleasant summers. Baltic Lake became the fishing heaven of the world with large amounts of fish both free and raised in huge fishing farms to hungry mouths on the Mediterranean areas. In addition it remained popular resort for tourism to citizens of Europe and Africa.
The real reason between all these massive construction projects lied ahead. All these efforts and sacrifices were for one reason only. It was to turn the billions of people moving to shores of Mediterranean to live there. Its waters evaporated or were pumped away to Africa or Atlantic or simply used in concrete needed to build housing and construction. Sea level in Mediterranean Sea would drop and eventually it dried out.
The whole process ultimately led into construction of biggest city in human history. This would be known as Rangstadt. This was originally a Dutch term of depicting how urbanization in Netherlands had eventually led into creation of huge circular urban city that grew alongside traffic routes leaving only small rural area in the middle. The fear in 1970's had been of whole country turning into a giant city. The circular construction alongside the waterfront in Mediterranean Sea was eerily similar to those worries in 20th century.
The worries eventually came true. Rangstadt turned whole Mediterranean Plain (the name had been changed when it became apparent that sea would eventually disappear) into a giant city spanning from 20 kilometer thick Gibraltar Dam all the way to slopes of Cyprus.
Rangstadt wasn't the first giant city in human world. There had been such cities before but what was truly miracle was the massive efforts needed to upkeep such a vast area of interconnected urban growth working. Everything was massive.
Rangstadt had unique climate of its own. The city itself was a huge air particle and heat generator. When this heat was met by wet winds from Atlantic the extreme western parts of Rangstadt had almost constant rainfall while most of the city frequently had little or no rain.
The most common denominator in Rangstadt's climate -however- was the heat. This heat came from variable sources from transportation to industry to human dwellings. Rangstadt was essentially built into a massive basin surrounded by high ground stopping winds from flowing freely. Heat led into lack of rainfall, which together with lack of winds turned the whole Mediterranean basin into a giant desert. This effect was further aggravated by lack of natural environment due congested urban conditions. This effect also accelerated the drying up effect in Mediterranean while there still was large bodies of water.
Once Mediterranean dried up, the Rangstadt was always a city where there was exhaustingly hot with little or no rain, nor fresh winds to help. Furthermore, the dried up seabed was also filled up with considerable amounts of salt that desalinated or respired water had left behind. Salty ground could not really support diverse nature and the few remaining open bodies of water with huge salt concentrations looked fairly similar to Dead Sea.
Human civilization creates unwanted products such as ground and air pollution. When high concentrations of pollution (due huge congestion of people and traffic) are combined with basin like geography and lack of wind and dry climate, result is smog. This phenomenon describes situation where air pollution in city reaches high levels and poisoned air cannot move from one or another circumstances. Smog has been a problem especially in end of second millennium. For example Mexico City and Athens have had smog problems due extreme levels of pollution combined with lack of wind blowing it way due geography (both cities have been constructed in a bowl surrounded by mountains).
Similar phenomenon happened in much larger scale in Rangstadt, where heavy clouds of polluted air remain until they eventually reached poisonous levels. Although smog was unforeseen by city planners (yet much warned by its critics) the immediate (and originally considered temporary) solution was found in urban construction methods. Housing became to resemble more like bunkers, where the idea was to isolate people from forces of nature. The irony of protecting against problem created by humans themselves in the first place never seemed to occur to designers.
The Rangstadt construction styles naturally varied wildly. In some eras the dwellings seemed more like bunkers built to last chemical warfare (of smog). In other areas the rapid need for housing led to endless rows of identical concrete skyscrapers. Only thing constant was the huge variety between the construction projects. This effect was blurred by the constantly shifting nature of city itself led to build, tore apart, re-build and ruin city so much that little coherent planning could actually be achieved.
There was -however- one common theme. This was to build large to serve as center for surrounding community. The city planning method used in Rangstadt was to minimize the distances moved. The whole urban sprawl thus turned into series of small communities that were connected with badly overtaxed transportation (both ground and air) system. The large houses turned into community centers and rallying points of the local population.
It is impossible to estimate the number of people who migrated to this huge concrete Hades in chaotic times of the Ice Age. That era marked the collapse and reformation of existing ethnic and cultural communities, groups and values and mixing of human races all kinds. From that era the new order of urban living emerged. Rangstadt was greeted to be melting pot of the human world, at least in theory, but the truth was again more complicated. Variable trends could be identified in new human migration patterns.
First trend was stereotypically mosaic. Here the defining factor was individual. It became impossible to find and identify these people with any specific cultural or ethnic grouping. Nor did that people care of such 'narrow' classifications. These people were true cosmopolitans in the very sense of the word. They often traveled between various cities, communities and occupations in search of individual fulfillment. These are the stereotypical 'new people' who emerged from the Ice Age.
However, the vast majority of people did think themselves as islands but wanted to rely on community for safety and comfort. For them the migration was not opportunity but a disaster. This became the second trend in human migration. Their society was not one of mosaic of individual humans in sea of city. Their society was zebra like. The new society was to be one of small communities of people from their old ethnic and cultural backgrounds huddled together in close proximity. Essentially it was building a new ghetto but in vast scale as billions of people moved to Rangstadt. Small communities rose where people of same ethnic and cultural backgrounds lived next to each other. Naturally their society and values changed when new lifestyles and living conditions were introduced and ethnic groupings were still widely scattered and mixed. These groupings ultimately mutated beyond recognition but retained some vestiges of their formed cultural identities.
The mixing of ethnic groupings does not lead into fighting per se. However, when any society goes through huge change the ruptures are bound to happen, especially when some groups of people see themselves as suffering from unnecessary hardships. This happened also in Rangstadt, where the ice age and migration led to chaotic clashes both internal and external between groups.
These clashes and fights and terrorist bombings would continue from that on turning Rangstadt into humanity's largest and perhaps most dangerous city.
Despite the violence and pollution Rangstadt had its moments as well. Its huge population base made sure it was center of everything in Earth. It was political, cultural, scientific and economical center. Rangstadt remained most important city in human world to the end of colonization, decline and fall of the Human Concordat. When new mighty superpower in form of New Earth Commonwealth emerged, it didn't even think of changing things. As the 61st century unfolds the Rangstadt still remains the true heart of the humanity and wonder of the world.
Welcome to the future.
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 5||May, 1999|
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