We humans. So full of guile and self-importance. All too often it seems like we take our environment for granted. Or bend it to our will. It’s enough to rile up even the most passive tree-hugger.
But Nature doesn’t take this lying down.
For every action there is a reaction. The most recent natural consequence is Fort McMurray’s citywide inferno which, at the time of this writing, continues to ravage the homes of 80,000 residents.
This is, however, not about hand-wringing, chastising, or bemoaning.
This is about moving mountains. And building them.
As reported in The Washington Post
…the UAE is in the early stages of evaluating how a man-made mountain could help maximize rainfall in the country, consulting with experts from the U.S.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to study the idea. “What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be,” Roelof Bruintjes of NCAR told Arabian Business. “We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”
You’re forgiven if that has you staring at the screen in disbelief.
We’ve built many things: rockets to defy gravity, skyscrapers that reach unimaginable heights, the Hadron Collider to find the God particle!
But we’ve never built an ocean, a volcano, or a desert. We’ve generally left natural formations to the pros. That said, I guess a mountain is a good place to turn that around.
What’s the big deal?
Fair question. And, to be clear, the reason to consider building a mountain – rain to help crops and flora grow – is not the issue. Making rain is an age-old challenge to many people across the globe. Some have risen to it and others have succumbed.
It’s also not about how much money it would require. That, not coincidentally, is enormous.
One proposal to build a 1.2-mile-high mountain in the notoriously flat Netherlands was found to be feasible if the mountain were hollow. Estimates for the cost went as high as $230 billion.
The UAE has spent $400,000 investigating the idea. Speaking to Arabian Business, NCAR’s (Roelof) Bruintjes acknowledged that the eventual cost of the project may be too much for the UAE.
“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” he said.”
Even by Dubai’s standards, $230 billion could mean a (ahem) mountain of debt.
The question on earth’s table is whether building a mountain crosses a line.
It’s one thing to help build coral reefs with underwater art (which is marvelous and wholly beneficial.) Isn’t it another to place a manmade mountain on the outskirts of town?
I’ve got questions.
- What happens to the flora and fauna around it? Protected or pummeled?
- Is one mountain sufficient? Or could more be required? In which case, when does it stop?
- Would it be seen as a helpful idiosyncrasy or an unorthodox abomination?
If it produces rain, most will say it’s worth the financial cost. Then what? Will other countries start their mountain-building departments?
Will we re-engineer our topography?!
What will Mama Nature do if her creation gets jerry-rigged?
These are important questions for environmental ethicists. And us couch philosophers, of course.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not sour on the idea.
I applaud the concept.
Because this is a great example of thinking differently about a real problem. It’s visionary. It’s futuristic. It’s never been done and it’s dramatically inventive. It could solve, or minimize, the precipitation problem.
And should this idea become reality, it could be the home to even greater benefits.
They can landscape the mountain to be an extraordinary thing of beauty. Or turn it into a giant work of art. Or make it home to a new generation of herders, farmers, and agriculturalists.
They could call it Billy and Ethel the tree could grow off of its shoulder.
It’s interesting. In Hinduism, there’s a story of Lord Krishna lifting a hill because the people were getting deluged with rain.
This seems like a twisted inversion of that tale, albeit with people acting as gods, creating a really big hill in order to get the rain instead of avoid it. (Monsoons in India are much different than drought in the Middle East, natch.)
Is the world ours to manipulate? Or is it something to revere?
Is this another crazy idea by us small-minded homo sapiens? One with inconceivable consequences destined to occur, both natural and societal?
Or is it ingenuity taken to its fantastic, benefit-to-society conclusion?
Or is it both?
As with most big ideas, monumental potential is balanced by considerable risk.
What’s your take? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.