Advanced Infrastructures - Rolf A. F. Witzsche

Infrastructure is where our food comes from

it is called agriculture and happens in the light green areas
but there isn't much of it happening in the world


"Blue Marble" Satellite image by NASA for August

Now image the pressure we face with the world getting drier and browner
and then, when the winter snows no longer melt... 

"Blue Marble" Satellite image by NASA for January

and the global average temperature drops by 15 degrees towards Ice Age conditions

As this change is unfolding 
mankind needs increasingly advanced infrastructures to enable it to provide for its living


The world is already getting dryer. Reports of draught conditions are evermore frequent, interspersed also with unexpected flooding as the weather patterns are changing while the world is getting cooler. Our world has been in a cooling trend since 1998. Nobody knows if the trend will continue towards the already overdue next Ice Age transition, or is just another anomaly as the last Little Ice Age in 1600s and 1700s and things will get back to normal over the next decade. Some credible scientists in high places suggest that the transition could happen any time, and might happen quickly or take half a century to unfold. Others insist that we still have a thousand years left of current interglacial warm climate that has supported agriculture ever since agriculture was developed more than 5,000 years ago. What will happen when the cooling climate no longer offers the needed conditions for agriculture? That's when we need to think of advanced infrastructures. These infrastructures will have to achieve what has not been achieved before.

The first option

The first option for responding to this kind of unfolding situation would have to be to irrigate the Sahara and Saudi Arabia, and develop these into the bread-basket of the world, and also South Africa, and Australia. To develop these presently arid regions, especially the Sahara, would have to become the combined effort of all the northern countries that would be the first to loose their agriculture, including Canada, the USA, Europe, Russia, and China. To develop the Sahara would have to be an industrial enterprise of gigantic proportions. The water for it would have to come from the Amazon and the Congo via an Atlantic distribution system, which is easily possible (see: NAWAPA).

In order to make the needed development possible a floating bridge will likely be build from Florida to Morocco, a bridge across the Mediterranean to Europe, and from Saudi Arabia to China and Australia, thereby putting Africa at the center of the world map. (see: The Intercontinental Bridge )

With this infrastructure in place Africa can be developed with advanced transportation and nuclear power systems. Nuclear power is key to this. It's either nuclear power on a large scale, you mankind won't eat. It takes massive amounts of power to uplift water into the dry regions. The Sahara covers an area 3,000 by 1,200 miles, that is three times larger than the food producing region of the USA. Most of it is covered in sand at elevations ranging from 600 to 1,600 feet, with some plateaus reaching 3,500, similar to the American Great Plains. The transport of water to these elevations, from sea level, is impossible without nuclear power being applied on a massive scale. And even then, turning Africa into a 'garden' is a 'formidable' task, and not likely possible without a concerted world effort. But it is either that or starvation for most of mankind when the Ice Age transition begins and rapidly disables northern agriculture. At this point Africa will become the new home for all the northern populations that the Ice Age climate will increasingly displace. (see: Ice Age collapse)

The second option

And this would likely be a better option in the long run as the northern part of the Sahara is far enough north to be ultimately affected by the cooling climate. A better option would be to develop 'floating gardens' near the equator extending south from the intercontinental bridges. High strength fibers can be extruded from molten basalt. With these, fashioned into thin mats, one kilometer square in size for example, impregnated to become water tight, floating flats can be created (with up-tuned edges), filled with a few inches of sand for drainage and a few feet of top soil, tropical agriculture can be created that no amount of Ice Age cooling can touch, and which would be irrigated from the Atlantic distribution system with just a few inches of uplift required.

This kind of system will most likely be built, because it can be 'easily' created with automated, high temperature industrial processes. In the USA, currently, 1,200,000 square kilometers of land is devoted to agriculture. If half of it would need to be relocated, a mere 600,000 floating flats would do the job nicely. With automated processing this seemingly huge task wouldn't be a big deal. And so, some of that will likely happen.

The third option

The concept for this is indoor agriculture. The concept is not new, but it can yield a highly efficient infrastructure with high-powered high-technology and science input. If one were, for example, create a building one kilometer square 11 stories tall, for indoor agriculture, this facility would yield the equivalent product volume of 10 square kilometers of open farm land. But it doesn't have to stop there. 

In an 100% artificial environment the biological power can most likely be increased, such as with a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. During the age of dinosaurs the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was over 30 times greater than it is today, with correspondingly more-vigorous plant growth that supported the giant colossuses that the dinosaurs became. CO2 has an enormous impact on plant growth. Plants need CO2 to exist. Without it they die. It is unknown what the optimum concentration level is. It might yield a ten times greater. The Earth is presently dangerously leans in CO2. 

The same factor evidently applies also to all the other goodies that a plant needs, from nitrogen to minerals, moisture, temperature, light, and duration of light. For all we know, the combined optimization might give us a 100-fold increase in yield. If this was to be, a single indoor facility might yield us the equivalent output of 1,000 square kilometers of open farmland. In this case 600 facilities would be sufficient to replace half of the U.S. farm output. Nuclear power, of course, would supply the energy for the system, even though the need wouldn't be all that large for running one of these facilities.


Consider the characteristic of the humble chlorophyll

As you can see in the diagram below, the light-energy abortion of chlorophyll is concentrated typically in two narrow bands of the light spectrum. Light energy outside of these bands appears to be largely wasted. With properly tuned light 80% of the input energy might be saved.

Sunlight presently delivers roughly 1 KW of energy per square meter. For the above mentioned 10 story facility 10 MW of electricity would provide the same light energy. A typical nuclear plant of 1GW output would be able to operate 100 such indoor agricultural facilities. As you can see, power wouldn't be a big factor. When the available light-power is concentrated at the spectrum where it is most effective, the power of the biological processes might well be increased significantly, maybe more than we imagine as possible. It appears we have just begun to understand the chlorophyll on which all life-processes ultimately depend. This makes science and technology key elements of advanced agricultural infrastructures.

It has been discovered, for example that chlorophyll is essentially a tiny ring of chlorine atoms with an magnesium ion at the center, and side rings protruding from it that function like tuned antennas for the absorption of certain wavelengths of sunlight. Chlorophyll molecules are specifically arranged in and around pigment protein complexes called photo-systems that contain up to several hundred molecules that absorb light and transfer the light energy by a process of resonance energy transfer to a specific chlorophyll pair in the reaction center of the photo-systems. The function of the reaction center, and the chlorophyll there, is to use the energy absorbed for a process of charge separation in which the chlorophyll donates an electron into a series of molecular intermediates called an electron transport chain, to a process of molecular separation. The complex operation, for example involves the oxidation of water into O2 and H+ through several intermediates. The electron flow produced by the reaction center chlorophyll is used to shuttle H+ ions across a thylakoid membrane, leaving behind free oxygen gas while setting up a chemiosmotic potential for a reduction process that also reduces CO2 into sugars and other biosynthetic products.

The bottom line is, that when the return of the Ice Age hits our planet, and all evidence suggests that it will in the not so distant future, not a single person in the world will need to starve. If the three advanced infrastructures are implemented to some degree, as they most likely will, enough food resources can then be created to keep everybody alive, and in a richer world with a vastly higher standard of living than mankind enjoys toady. 

Today's standard of living is dismal. Over a billion - one sixth of all people on our planet - are forced to live in chronic starvation, and this right now while the world still enjoys its idyllic interglacial warm period, called the Holocene - our holiday from the cold. What prevents us from developing our world sufficiently right now, is not a lack of resources, but mankind's devotion to the insanity of empire and its policies of looting the world and mankind wars for the purposes of looting. Thus the greatest infrastructure that mankind will ever build, should it have the wisdom to do so, is the political infrastructure that banishes empire forever and sets mankind free to develop its creative and productive, and also scientific, potential.


Rolf A. F. Witzsche

Main articles:

NAWAPA: Existentially Critical

The New NAWAPA - part 1 - greening the deserts

The New NAWAPA - part 2 - infrastructures for the Noosphere

Related articles: 

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

Ice Age Collapse - a challenge to mankind to raise its humanist power

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Published by Cygni Communications Ltd. North Vancouver, BC, Canada - 2010  Rolf A. F. Witzsche

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