Using the tragic forecast of the Frankenstein story, as well as the Literary Method of Urban Design, the Frankencities Project details the worst-case scenarios of the futures of real world cities worldwide. This month, we highlight the future of Timbuktoo.
Some eight-hundred years ago, Timbuktoo was one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, rooted in place in the Sahel grasslands, with grand markets, forested glades, engineered waterways and famous schools of learning. In Western countries it was regarded with mystery but maybe that’s because it was a long way away from the centers of European culture and Christians were generally prohibited from entering the city.
Despite its illustrious past, Timbuktoo nowadays is a city impoverished by climate change; water-poor, baked by a relentless sun, and increasingly difficult to eke out an existence within.
As climate change manifests itself across the globe, I predict various public agencies around the world will soon start to feel that we do not need to ‘give-in’ to climate change but to develop even bigger technologies to deal with it; something called 'geo-engineering'.
And so, by the mid 21st century geo-engineers set out to spray millions of dense plumes of white dust into the global atmosphere, and across vast swathes of barren land, and onto huge zones of polar ice, believing that excess heat energy will be reflected back into space.
By the end of the century, nobody really knows if it has worked or not, the climate disasters of drought and mega-storms still continue but the Dr. Frankenstein-esque geo-engineers assert that the climate change would be even worse if they had not sprayed soot over everything.
However, all this mucking about with the global weather ends up being a cataclysmic disaster for sub-Sahara Africa, including Timbuktoo, since the air there becomes noticeably drier and the rainfall completely absent, impoverishing the people of the area even further. Once upon a time the Sahel grasslands only receded southwards away from the city at a rate of one-quarter mile per year but after all the geoengineering the grassland receded at rates of a dozen miles per year.
By way of an apology, the Franken-engineers decide 'to help' by setting up more bizarre geo-engineering experiments, basing their facilities in Timbuktoo. The people of Timbuktoo are in absolutely no doubt that these promises are completely pointless but they are willing to play along because the project will bring a little money and employment to the people of Timbuktoo.
As the engineers undertake ridiculously expensive and futile mega-projects to make rainclouds in the Sahara or to bury atmospheric carbon dioxide in its rocks, the locals of Timbuktoo quietly continue to grow their crops as best they can in small-scale plots, hoping that one day in the future, at least their children can probably get a well-paid job in another city someday.