Fred just shook his head. "You lost me somewhere along the way," he said to Steve.
"Oh yes, nobody can see the reason either why this must be stopped before it gets going," said Steve. "The reason for this is rooted in the Least Action Principle. The NAWAPA project is the greatest civil engineering project ever devised. It is huge. It is massive. It contains over 350 separate large-scale projects. Some of these are enormous by themselves. One on these is a 900-foot high dam across the Yukon River to raise its water level to such a height that the river flows backwards into the mountains and from there to the South. Since this is permafrost country that is frozen for seven months of the year, the construction of this giant dam, and the preparation of the reservoir behind it that will become the largest manmade lake on the planet, will likely take up to 40 years to complete. And that's a relatively small dam. Another dam, a 1,700-foot high dam, is proposed to block off the Copper River and raise its waters likewise high enough so that it will flow backwards into the mountains and to the South. On the way south, the diverted water will be pumped still higher, with the power of six large nuclear power plants, into a high mountain reservoir that will extend for 500 miles along the southern Rocky Mountain Trench all the way to the U.S. border. From there, the water will be pumped up once more - this time with the power of 32 large nuclear power plants, to push it over the hump of the 5,500-foot high Great Desert Basin in Utah and Nevada. From there it will flow into the deserts via aqueducts into the desert regions where it is to be used. Altogether the water will be made to flow overland across more than 2,000 miles of manmade canals, tunnels, lakes, and aqueducts. And when all of this is done after a fifty-year construction period, it will deliver a hundred million acre-feet of water per year."
"What's wrong with that?" Fred interjected.
"What's wrong is that the project is synonymous with flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Tokyo," said Steve. "The project isn't catastrophic because the 500-mile reservoir along the Rocky Mountain Trench will cut off all three of Canada's transcontinental rail lines and add the better part of a thousand miles to Canada's continental rail distance. Nor is the project catastrophic for reasons that the project requires the relocation of a number of entire cities, and a major re-routing of the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline. Nor is the project catastrophic in nature, because its capacity is insufficient for the need, and is not expandable by design for the limits of available waters at the source. Neither is the project catastrophic for the potential that the coming next glaciation cycle of the Ice Age will disable its source waters before the project is completed, or shortly thereafter. Neither is the project catastrophic for the fact that it will drain away a major portion of America's economic and manpower resources for a span of 50 years with almost nothing to show for in the end. While these are all hugely devastating factors in themselves, and more so all of them together, those factor pail in comparison with what their implementation would prevent."
"And that is?" said Fred.
"Oh yes, what is so big that the loss incurred by the project would pail everything into insignificance?" said Steve. "What you would loose is the efficient option. It is a great idea to divert fresh water into the deserts to make them bloom with agriculture for increasing the food supply of the world. It is a great idea too, to divert the waters for this purpose that presently flow unused into the oceans. But for this you don't need a huge project if you implement the Least Action Principle utilizing modern technology. The key here is to utilize nuclear powered high temperature automated manufacturing processes, based on basalt as an input material. As you know, basalt is ten times stronger than steel, is none corrosive, and can be extruded into micro fibers that can be subsequently woven into extremely strong fabrics. One could use these fabrics to manufacture thin-walled hoses a hundred meters in diameter, which one would then lay out into the oceans to convey fresh water through them with almost no effort. One could thereby divert the outflow of major rivers right to the edge of the deserts, where it becomes immediately available for irrigation. Such a system could for example divert a portion of the outflow of the mighty Orinoco River in Venezuela, across the Gulf of Mexico, to the deserts of California and Mexico, and to wherever else irrigation water is needed. Such a system would deliver many times the flow rate that NAWAPA promised, and this in 5 years instead of 50 years, and it would be expandable and not be vulnerable to the coming Ice Age freeze-up in the North. This, Fred, is what you would miss if you go for the NAWAPA project. And this would be just the beginning of what you would miss if you submitted your country to this tragedy.
"If you were to opt for the high-temperature technology route with automated manufacturing in the processing, which enables the water-in-water transfer method," Steve continued, "the same technology would also give you the power to manufacture those urgently needed complete housing units in automated processes that you can produce so inexpensively that they can be given away for free by the millions as an investment by society into itself. And this too, would be just another beginning."
"A beginning for what?" interjected Fred.
"It would stage the beginning for the real thing that mankind absolutely needs to have in the coming Ice Age environment," said Steve. "The large-scale automated manufacturing technology would enable the building of floating bridges spanning the oceans between the continents, like from Florida to Morocco, and from Mexico to China, with branches stretching deep into the tropical waters to support large-scale floating agriculture there. We need this development urgently, because when the Ice Age transition begins it may rapidly disable all of the northern agricultural regions where presently most of the world's food comes from. The floating agriculture can be produced on a large scale, and this quickly enough for it to be ready in time to make up for the big losses in the North that are sure to happen during the potentially near transition towards the next Ice Age. It might become necessary to feed five billion people with the products of this floating agriculture that would be safe in the tropics from the Ice Age climate. Also, the atmosphere over the tropical oceans has the world's highest CO2 concentration, which is a critical factor for plant growth. Plant growth would be two or three times as strong if the world's atmosphere wasn't so critically carbon deficient as it presently is. Our entire biosphere is at a critical CO2 starvation stage. The current CO2 concentration is in the 300 to 400-parts-per-million range. That's dangerously close to the absolute minimum for agriculture to be possible. If it drops below the 200 mark, plant growth grinds to a halt. Ice core readings tell us that the carbon concentration dropped below the 150 mark during parts of the last Ice Age glaciation cycle. This means that the floating agriculture in the tropics will tide us over for a while, maybe for a few hundred years, possibly through the entire transition period. This stop-gap measure will give us a chance to develop the technology and economics for full-scale indoor agriculture with carbon-enriched controlled environments and scientifically optimized lighting and moisture and temperature controls, and so on. Until we get to this point, tropical agriculture will likely be a critical stepping-stone for us into the coming Ice Age world. It might in fact be the most critical factor for mankind's survival in the near term. It is absolutely criminal therefore, to waste the few precious years that we may still have with pursuing the low-tech NAWAPA option that doesn't get us anywhere, which is essentially a dead-end project."
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