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October 4, 2016

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The Desiccation of Franken-Perth

February 12, 2018

 

Some cities in the developed world are manicured to within an inch of life. They have precisely cultivated trees side-lining quiet sidewalks fed by immaculately-timed water sprinklers. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is one such city. It is a suburban utopia of green lawns and clean streets with fresh new cycleways and a light railway to boot. There are plenty of highways and cars and traffic lights in Perth, too, but do not worry, all are well-monitored by a city-wide computer system to keep the cars moving around in an energy-efficient and time-saving manner.

 

The Perth city government also invests resources in educating Perth residents about how to curate their own lawns in an ecofriendly manner, including information regarding the best time of day to water the lawn, so that the water isn’t just heated away by the glaring sunshine, and also what type of grass is more resilient to in the face of domestic use. Perth then publicizes to the world about how Green it is.

 

Perth’s well-kept lawns and suburban roads lie in stark contrast to its long-term future. The Perth climate is getting hotter and drier and the soils thinner and more saline. Heat-waves arrive so often that they become the new normal. To fight against climate change--and make huge amounts of money at the same time--the Western Australian government will probably soon approve the opening up of uranium mines all across the state. The uranium will then be used, they will argue, to power ‘climate-friendly’ nuclear energy stations around the globe.

 

The scenario depicted here is not so optimistic about Western Australia’s uranium future. It suggests that sometime in the late 21st century, one particular uranium mine, hundreds of miles away from the city, ends up having its huge tailings dam breached, thereby contaminating the rivers that flow through Perth with vast amounts of radioactive sludge. Many people in the city are forced to evacuate or choose to leave the city to other towns rather than face the high risk of health problems.

 

Alas, despite this uranium-push, global climate change is not halted and the city of Perth is not only contaminated with long-lived radiation but also ravaged by climate change disasters, including extreme drought, devastating wildfires, and disastrous soil loss. When water comes, it arrives in flash-floods, which not only sweep away homes and roads but they end up washing more contaminated sludge into the city. Any human survivors will have to downscale or de-develop the city and they will have to learn to live on remaining local resources,feral camels included, in order to survive.

 

 
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