In the early days of civilization mankind learned to utilize rivers as natural pathways for inland transportation. Thereby the rivers became an infrastructure for transportation. The need was for transportation. By mankind's discovering the means for utilizing the rivers, the rivers became a part of a transportation infrastructure, together with the boat builder, the river navigators, and the supplier of the materials required. The use of this infrastructure gave man increased power to access and develop the available natural resources. This rule applies to the nature of all infrastructures, though the specific needs, and the dimensions, and the nature of the challenges have changed.
In today's world it becomes increasingly important to utilize the unused productive potential of our world. In North America, half the continent falls into this category of "unused productive potential." This unused potential is evident by the non-green part that dominates much of the western USA, Mexico, and some parts of the food producing regions of Canada. The goal therefore is to develop the unused potential. Since this isn't happening on its own, an infrastructure is required that gives us the power to achieve what is logically desired as a means for society to uplift the productive capacity of itself and its territory, and to thereby create a rich world for human living. For this we require infrastructures that enrich the biosphere on which a rich standard of living depends.
A richly productive biosphere is one that is green, not brown and barren. Green is the color of a productive biosphere that is key to the human food chain. Therefore, one of the most fundamental component of the infrastructure for human living is the humble chlorophyll molecule that converts the energy of sunlight into life-energy, thereby powering almost the entire living system on our planet, us included. If we want to eat, we need plants in which the chlorophyll is productively active. Thus, by developing and utilizing agriculture, the chlorophyll has become an infrastructure for us. In order for this infrastructure to become as productive for us as it can be, we provide as much as we can of the inputs it needs, such as water, minerals in the soil, fertilizer, carbon dioxide in the air, and so in.
Then water-supply system become infrastructures in areas where does not exist naturally or is insufficient. The water-supply systems thereby become a requirement for which we need another type of enabling infrastructure. When water needs to be transported to higher altitudes, then we need a power-infrastructure that enables us to facilitate the required process. And in order that make the required power infrastructure possible, we need a scientific and technological infrastructure for developing, producing, and operating nuclear power complexes, and to make that possible we need an education infrastructure, and for this to be efficient we need a social infrastructure with quality housing, health care, cultural pursuits, and quality food.
All of these underlying infrastructures are a part of the larger infrastructure for making the North American Continent efficiently productive. Not a single one of these underlying infrastructures can be left out. Nuclear power is a part the irrigation infrastructure. It is needed to pump-lift most of the water that is needed from its source in low-altitude areas to the higher elevations where the need for water exists. In some areas massive amounts of nuclear power will be needed. This infrastructure presently does not exists, nor the infrastructure to build and operate the plants. Neither does the housing infrastructure exist in the areas that are intended to be made productive. Brand new cities need to be build in theses areas, and for that the infrastructures must be created that enables the building of them, and the building of them so fast and so efficiently in automated processes that they can be provided for free in large quantities in the new areas that are to be brought on line, for which services are also required that people need, and infrastructures must provide, from the baker to the dentist and so on.
All of these challenges can be met. On the road to meeting them new materials, production methods, and power sources are required that meet the criterion of the Least Action Principle that the universe itself utilizes for the efficient fulfillment of its objectives. This means, Free Houses by the Millions.
When one talks about the NAWAPA project (North American Water and Power Alliance) in the modern realistic sense, the higher concept of the North American Water and Power Alliance then comes to light in the form of a conceptual infrastructure for empowering society to up-lift half of the North American continent towards a richer standard of living in a richer biosphere (the two are the same). When this concept of infrastructure unfolds in society's perception, then the concept no longer includes just water-transfer schemes, but a total infrastructure with all supporting infrastructures standing below it, all the way down to an enhanced education-environment for the school kids and a corresponding richer environment for the families, and for individuals, and so on.
Also the scale of the project must match the scale of the challenge. The old NAWAPA project, for example, doesn't begin to cut it in today's world. It envisioned 2,400 cubic meters per second (cm/s) of artic water to be pump-lifted and channeled through the Rocky Mountain Trench into the Northwest US states. and all the way down to Mexico. To date, two thirds of the water that was planned to be diverted is no longer available, as it has been dedicated to the Peace River hydroelectric development project that didn't exist in the 1960s when the NAWAPA project was first envisioned. Nor were the continental needs envisioned as they are envisioned to day. To meet the continental needs, larger sources must be developed.
One might for example build a thousand-mile canal to channel the Mackenzie River that flows into the Arctic Ocean, into the Great Lakes. Such a canal would transfer up to 30,000 cm/s south during the five months of the melting season in the North. The water would then be available for distribution from the Great Lakes to wherever it is needed. For this project the source of the water would be in the 500 to 600 feet range of elevation and the destination at roughly the same altitude. The water could be transferred for such a project in canals 200 meters wide and 50 meters deep, which would in the end yield 8,000 cubic meters per second averaged over the year. This kind of project is physically possible and requires minimal amounts of power to be operated, but would we get a big enough 'bang' for the effort?
The main criterion for every infrastructure project, from water systems all the way down to housing and human development, is to get the biggest 'bang' for the effort required. For the Mackenzie River diversion, the benefit simply wouldn't be worth the effort.
A much simpler and more powerful method for meeting the needs of fresh water across the North American continent would be to build a dam that closes off the North end of James Bay (the lower tip of Hudson Bay) and let the massive inflow of water from the surrounding rivers turn the fenced off portion into a freshwater lake. The supply potential for the continental water requirement would be many times larger than what the Mackenzie River has in store for us. The James Bay water, then, could serve as source for a continent-wide water distribution network, right from the new lake.
Under the Least Action Principle, this option would create a much more acceptable project as relatively little in physical construction would be required (in comparison with the Mackenzie canal.). A nuclear powered pipeline distribution system would then take the water from there. The project would have a significant expansion potential that would meet the continental needs for a few years, especially when the entire Hudson Bay would be 'fenced' off, which is possible for nearly the same effort, which would then yield the greatest freshwater supply system in the world, short of the Amazon. Hudson Bay is a shallow bay, roughly 300 feet deep on average. Damming the bay is achievable. But would such a project be efficient enough? Would it meet the Least Action criterion for the biggest 'bang'?
A more efficient project would be one that develops the Amazon River for world-wide distribution via a network of submerged reservoirs and distribution hoses made of impregnated, woven basalt fibers. No super-strong separation structures are required for transporting water in water. On this platform a worldwide distribution system can be easily built, that takes the outflow of the Amazon River with minimal propulsion needed, to any place in the world, such as to make the Sahara bloom, and Saudi Arabia a garden, and enrich the water-short regions of Russia. With a branch link from the Amazon-supplied Atlantic distribution system, to the southern shores of the USA, near Mexico, and near the U.S. southern deserts where the biggest water requirements are located, the resulting infrastructure would qualify foremost under the Least Action Principle for the biggest 'bang' for the efforts required
The same criterion applies also to houses. Houses can be efficiently produced in automated industrial processes where they are manufactured in complete units from molten basalt, in comparison with houses laborious nailed together board by board with wood cut from trees.
Naturally, the Least Action Principle also reflects itself in cost. When the least-action-to-benefit ratio is high, the cost factor for a project becomes so small that in the case of the automated production of houses, the houses would be given away for free. The would not be counted as a cost item the, not even a low-cost item, but would be counted as a wealth creating item, an infrastructure without which the larger infrastructure complex is in jeopardy.
This is the nature of all infrastructures are built on the human power of creativity and natural ingenuity. Developing the human potential is an infrastructure foundation on with the entire pyramid of larger infrastructures rests, which, thereby is an element that gives the biggest 'bang' for the least effort.
Only one infrastructure is more efficient than that. And this is the humble chlorophyll molecule. It gives the biggest bang of them all, as an infrastructure that supports nearly all life on this planet, and is powered almost entirely by sunlight and principles that utilize the light in creative processes. It is so efficient that its processes take a large portion of their building blocks simply out of the air.
Rolf A. F. Witzsche
The New NAWAPA - part 1 - greening the deserts
The New NAWAPA - part 2 - infrastructures for the Noosphere
NAWAPA - an exploration of the 1960s plan
A NAWAPA dialog - how to raise it to a higher level?
NAWAPA: Wells or FDR - contrasting orientations
Towards a FDR NAWAPA - how would Franklin Delanor Roosevelt have responded to the challenge?
Related supporting articles:
Infrastructures - what increases the power of humanity
Advanced Infrastructures - the power at hand to snub the Ice Age
Age Collapse - a challenge to mankind to raise its humanist power
Published by Cygni Communications Ltd. North Vancouver, BC, Canada - 2010 Rolf A. F. Witzsche