Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Environmental No Brainer

I don't normally write about environmental issues. I don't even recycle so I don't have any standing to be pontificating on the virtues of being green.

But a couple of recent inputs came together to generate some thoughts.

I watched a documentary the other day about the Great Migration that takes place in the Serengeti.

"The extraordinary annual Great Migration of wildebeest and other grazing herbivores across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world. Over two million herbivores partake in this journey, with about 200 000 zebra and 500 000 Thomson's gazelle behind the main players... one-and-a-half million wildebeest!"

It was absolutely fascinating. It is the last great migration left on the planet. American Bison used to participate in a similar migration before the Europeans showed up and, well, ya know, killed them all and built all kinds shit like highways, railroads and fences that prevented any mass land migrations by any animals.

Then I saw a news story tonight about plans to build a huge highway straight across the Serengeti to handle commercial mining traffic from newly discovered Rare Earth Element deposits in Tanzania to shipping ports at Lake Victoria.

"REEs are widely used in emerging "Green" technologies. Each hybrid Toyota Prius is reported to contain 66 lbs of REEs. REEs are used in wind turbines, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), flat panel displays, catalytic converters, motors and magnets. Military uses include radar and guidance systems."

So the demand for the natural resources that allow us to be more "Green" threatens to destroy one of the greatest, open ecosystems left on Earth by disrupting their natural migration routes. African wildebeests, zebras and gazelles would suffer the same fate as American possums, skunks and raccoons. Roadkill.

Building a highway across the Serengeti would put in place an incredibly expensive piece of environmentally destructive infrastructure that would need continual maintenance and repair while allowing polluting diesel trucks to belch poison into the fragile ecosystem.

The need to get the REEs from mine to port can be accomplished faster, cheaper and with absolutely no impact on the Great Migration or the Serengeti ecosystem by using cargo airships.

You put an Airship Port at the REE mine.

You put an Airship Port at Lake Victoria.

You transport the REEs across the Serengeti without impacting the environment below. In fact rather than building a drive-through highway for poachers, you could equip the Airships with high-tech surveillance equipment to scan for poachers and serve as wireless communication hubs to link law enforcement and park rangers.

The Airships could be the equivalent of Serengeti AWAC units protecting the area by coordinating government resources.

This is so obvious. Just fucking do it.


emawkc said...

The airships could also be used for tourism. If I recall correctly, airship cruises were quite the rage when XO was a middle-aged man, up until that PR disaster in Lakehurst, NJ a few years ago.

But imagine watching the last great migration from the luxurious window seat of a slow cruising airship! Sign me up!

Xavier Onassis said...

LOL! Yeah, the Hindenburg was a real buzz killer.

But you are absolutely right about the tourism aspect.