First drawn in 1935, Hu Line illustrates persistent demographic split – how Beijing deals with it will determine the country's future.
- In 1935, demographer Hu Huanyong drew a line across a map of China.
- The 'Hu Line' illustrated a remarkable divide in China's population distribution.
- That divide remains relevant, not just for China's present but also for its future.
Consequential feature<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk3ODY0OX0.8-1X8cQiYysVBCN8rHZOAN70tW-TCvhQTjeSwZVqnmY/img.jpg?width=980" id="daaf6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bcfc6ba1b3b3723fa0fb613987f83777" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A woman stands on an embankment of the Amur river, with Chinese town of Heihe seen in the background, in the Russian far-eastern town of Blagoveshchensk, on August 17, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)" data-width="1024" data-height="683" />
A bather in Blagoveshchensk, on the Russian bank of the Amur. Across the river: the Chinese city of Heihe.
Credit: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images<p>The Hu Line is arguably the most consequential feature of China's geography, with demographic, economic, cultural, and political implications for the country's past, present, and future. Yet you won't find it on any official map of China, nor on the actual terrain of the People's Republic itself.</p><p>There are no monuments at its endpoints: not in Heihe in the north, just an icy swim across the Amur from Blagoveshchensk, in Russia's Far East; nor in Tengchong, the subtropical southern city set among the hills rolling into Myanmar. Nor indeed anywhere on the 2,330-mile (3,750-km) diagonal that connects both dots. The Hu Line is as invisible as it is imaginary.</p><p>Yet the point that the Hu Line makes is as relevant as when it was first imagined. Back in 1935, a Chinese demographer called Hu Huanyong used a hand-drawn map of the line to illustrate his article on 'The Distribution of China's Population' in the Chinese Journal of Geography.</p><p>The point of the article, and of the map: China's population is distributed unevenly, and not just a little, but a lot. Like, <em>a lot</em>.</p><ul><li>The area to the west of the line comprised 64 percent of China's territory but contained only 4 percent of the country's population.</li><li>Inversely, 96 percent of the Chinese lived east of the 'geo-demographic demarcation line', as Hu called it, on just 36 percent of the land.</li></ul><p>Much has changed in China in the intervening near-century. The weak post-imperial republic is now a highly centralized world power. Its population has nearly tripled, from around 500 million to almost 1.4 billion. But the fundamentals of the imbalance have remained virtually the same.</p><p>Even if China's territory has not: in 1946, China recognized the independence of Mongolia, shrinking the area west of the Hu Line. Still, in 2015, the distribution was as follows:</p><ul><li>West of the line, 6 percent of the population on 57 percent of the territory (average population density: 39.6 inhabitants per square mile (15.3/km2).</li><li>East of the line, 94 percent of the population on 43 percent of the territory (average population density: 815.3 inhabitants per square mile (314.8/km2).</li></ul>
Persistent dichotomy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDYzMjQwMH0.U6WZlL_YLrj2UWK54XMEszoVri9pW1rCN0k4Tp6uHD8/img.png?width=980" id="263c5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aca8cef9b29d250688bdb0c574339c7e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1500" data-height="1176" />
Hu Huanyong's original hand-drawn map of China, showing population density and the now-famous line (enhanced for visibility).
Credit: Chinese Journal of Geography (1935) – public domain.<p>Why is this demographic dichotomy so persistent? In two words: climate and terrain. East of the line, the land is flatter and wetter, meaning it's easier to farm, hence easier to produce enough food for an ever-larger population. West of the line: deserts, mountains, and plateaus. Much harsher terrain with a drier climate to boot, making it much harder to sustain large amounts of people.</p><p>And where the people are, all the rest follows. East of the line is virtually all of China's infrastructure and economy. At night, satellites see the area to the east twinkle with lantern-like strings of light, while the west is a blanket of near total darkness, only occasionally pierced by signs of life. In China's 'Wild West', per-capita GDP is 15 percent lower on average than in the industrious east.</p><p>An additional factor typifies China's population divide: while the country overall is ethnically very homogenous – 92 percent are Han Chinese – most of the 8 percent that make up China's ethnic minorities live west of the line. This is notably the case in Tibet and Xinjiang, two nominally autonomous regions with non-Han ethnic majorities.</p><p>This combination of economic and ethnic imbalances means the Hu Line is not just a persistent quirk, but a potential problem – at least from Beijing's perspective. Culturally and geographically distant from the country's east, Tibetans and Uyghurs have registered strong opposition to China's centralizing tendencies, often resulting in heavy-handed repression. <br></p>
Long-term strategy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjI2MDM5Nn0.snaVUeTX38-YjR567pzTOSOUKBh320wrSD6mat90R-M/img.jpg?width=980" id="ce6bf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="daeae9f5179eb1de69fd641c3fb5d1cf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="TENGCHONG COUNTY, CHINA - MARCH 12: (CHINA OUT) A woman knits a sweater aside a street at Heshun Township on March 12, 2006 in Tengchong County of Yunnan Province, China. Heshun, the remote town on China's southern border, once had very close contacts with the outside world. Since ancient times, it has been a trade center due to neighboring Myanmar famous for jade. As many overseas Chinese ancestors lived in 600-year-old Heshun, almost every resident in the town has friends and relatives abroad. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)" data-width="1024" data-height="689" />
Street view in Tengchong, on China's border with Myanmar.
Credit: China Photos/Getty Images<p>But repression is not the central government's long-term strategy. Its plan is to pacify by progress. China's 'Manifest Destiny' has a name. In 1999, Jiang Zemin, then Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, launched the 'Develop the West' campaign. The idea behind the slogan retains its political currency. In the last decade, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly urged the country to "break through" the Hu Line, in order to modernize China's western half.</p><p><span></span>The development strategy has an economic angle – adding industry and infrastructure to raise the region's per-capita GDP to the nation's average. But the locals fear that progress will bring population change: an influx of enough internal migrants from the east to tip the local ethnic balance to their disadvantage.</p><p><span></span>China's ethnic minorities are officially recognized and enjoy certain rights; however, if they become minorities in their own regions, those will mean little more than the right to perform folklore songs and dances. The Soviets were past masters in this technique.</p><p>Will China follow the same path? That question will be answered if and when the Hu Line fades from relevance, by how much of the west's ethnic diversity will have been sacrificed for economic progress.</p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1071</strong><br></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em><br></p>
Humans churn out about 30 gigatons (30,000,000,000 tons) of material every year.
- The study compared estimates of the planet's total biomass (the mass of all living things) with anthropogenic mass, which includes all human-made materials.
- Every year, humans are bringing materials into the world at a higher rate.
- Concrete is the single biggest contributor to anthropogenic mass and it's a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions, suggesting that finding more sustainable alternatives could help curb climate change.
The Anthropocene<p>In 2000, the atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen proposed that human activity has ushered us into a new geological epoch.</p><p>An epoch is a subdivision of geologic timescale. These broad categories help scientists think about changes on Earth over long periods of time. Currently, Earth is considered to be in the:</p><ul><li>Cenozoic Era — 66 million years ago</li><li>Quaternary Period — 2.6 million years ago</li><li>Holocene Epoch — 11,650 years ago</li></ul><p>The Holocene Epoch began at about the time when the planet was warming, glaciers were melting, and humans were beginning the agricultural revolution. Scientists like Crutzen argue that it's worth distinguishing the Holocene from our present human-driven epoch, the Anthropocene. (<em>Anthro </em>meaning "human", <em>cene </em>meaning "new".)</p><p>Proponents of the concept note that human activity has caused marked changes and damage to the planet, including <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/117/24/13596#:~:text=The%20ongoing%20sixth%20mass%20species,the%20degradation%20of%20ecosystem%20services." target="_blank">the sixth mass extinction</a>, the pollution of oceans and the atmosphere, and large-scale changes to the planet's terrain through agriculture, dwellings and industry, which currently cover 70 percent of land.</p>
Elhacham et al.<p>Not all scientists agree with the idea, and it hasn't been officially accepted by the geological community. These critics generally argue that while humans have left a mark on the planet, it's not significant or observable enough to warrant the creation of a new epoch. And some take issue with the political motivations that may underlie the concept.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The proliferation of this concept can mainly be traced back to the fact that, under the guise of scientific neutrality, it conveys a message of almost unparalleled moral-political urgency," <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=w65mDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT6&lpg=PT6&dq=%E2%80%9CThe+proliferation+of+this+concept+can+mainly+be+traced+back+to+the+fact+that,+under+the+guise+of+scientific+neutrality,+it+conveys+a+message+of+almost+unparalleled+moral-political+urgency&source=bl&ots=QLcKzXWGx6&sig=ACfU3U2cUDn4VZkKwe64CeAdPJNJm5vhAg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_xI_qyMbtAhVKaM0KHbz8Cp0Q6AEwAnoECAUQAg#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CThe%20proliferation%20of%20this%20concept%20can%20mainly%20be%20traced%20back%20to%20the%20fact%20that%2C%20under%20the%20guise%20of%20scientific%20neutrality%2C%20it%20conveys%20a%20message%20of%20almost%20unparalleled%20moral-political%20urgency&f=false" target="_blank">wrote</a> the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk.</p><p>Still, the researchers behind the recent study said the findings give "a mass-based quantitative and symbolic characterization of the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene."</p>
Concrete<p>But never mind the Anthropocene or Holocene debate: It's clear that humans are producing a ton of stuff, and that stuff eventually becomes waste. So, what are policymakers and scientists supposed to do with this information?</p><p>The recent findings don't necessarily hold an answer, but they do highlight the single largest contributor to total human-made stuff: concrete. It's the most widely used material on Earth, and also one of the main culprits in emissions of greenhouse gas. </p><p>A <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0733-0" target="_blank">2020 study published in Nature</a> found that, in terms of total emissions contributions, concrete production is responsible for "7.8% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 4.8% of sulfur oxide emissions, 5.2% of particulate matter emissions smaller than 10 microns and 6.4% of particulate emissions smaller than 2.5 microns."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If we invented concrete today, nobody would think it was a good idea," said architectural engineer and panel member Michael Ramage, an architectural engineer and member of Architecture of Emergency, at a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tpHi3DLAIk" target="_blank">2019 summit</a>. "We've got this liquid and you need special trucks, and it takes two weeks to get hard. And it doesn't even work if you don't put steel in it."</p><p>In 2018, the Global Cement and Concrete Association issued six <a href="https://gccassociation.org/news/gcca-launches-sustainability-guidelines/" target="_blank">Sustainability Guidelines</a> to encourage better practices for the 30 percent of the cement and concrete production companies it represents. Still, it's unclear the extent to which the industry could make itself more sustainable. </p><p>One sustainable alternative building material to concrete is <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/concrete-climate-change?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2" target="_blank">cross-laminated timber,</a> which is as strong as concrete, but is able to store carbon, which could help lower the carbon footprint of buildings.</p>
Of course, it's all about where you move. The authors argue that it needs to be less populous regions.
- Moving from densely-populated urban regions is more effective in stopping the spreading of disease than closing borders.
- Two researchers from Spain and Italy ran 10,000 simulations to discover that travel bans are ultimately ineffective.
- Smaller cities might suffer high rates of infection, but the nation overall could benefit from this model.
Credit: Alexander Ozerov / Adobe Stock<p>The author realizes this model has limitations. Their focus was purely on population densities. Ideally, mobility during a pandemic coincides with public health measures, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands, and self-quaranting—factors that differ radically depending on what region you happen to be in. </p><p>While their modeling is hypothetical, it does track with real-world migration patterns. A mass exodus has been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/nyregion/nyc-suburbs-housing-demand.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>occurring from New York City</u></a>, for example. The reasons for so many people fleeing are manifold, but the pandemic certainly catalyzed the migration. Similar trends are occurring in <a href="https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/09/23/residents-moving-out-of-california-on-the-rise/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>Los Angeles</u></a> and <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Yes-people-are-leaving-San-Francisco-After-15635160.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>San Francisco</u></a>.</p><p>In their paper, Zanin and Papo wonder if forced relocation, from high-density to low-density regions, could be proactively enforced. Of course, there would be political pushback for initiating such measures, though it appears it could impact the spread of disease as well. </p><p>The authors also note that their model does not take into account the impact on regional health care systems, which, at least in America, are often not equipped to handle population increases. And they recognize the political concern—hypothetical modeling does not necessarily take ethical considerations into question. </p><p>That said, this is and will remain a political issue. As Zanin <a href="https://publishing.aip.org/publications/latest-content/in-a-pandemic-migration-away-from-dense-cities-more-effective-than-closing-borders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>says</u></a>, the success of any pandemic response lies in the cooperation between national and regional governments looking at their country as a whole, as well as considering the impact of their actions on the rest of the planet. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Collaboration between different governments and administrations is an essential ingredient towards controlling a pandemic, and one should consider the possibility of small-scale sacrifices to reach a global benefit."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
'Kanal Istanbul' would create a second Bosporus – and immortalize its creator.
- The Bosporus is three times busier than the Suez Canal, and getting worse.
- To resolve marine congestion, Turkey wants to build a 'second Bosporus'.
- The controversial project would alter local geography – and may have unintended consequences.
Special status<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3MzUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NzQ4NTYwMn0.L8x2jWP6cNEeUJD7JC0SqkeUxFpUC83aFfDAlVlvi9I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b04f2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e0bab0158a3913187365993758813fc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="freighter ship" data-width="1280" data-height="853" />
The freighter Ismael Mehieddine sailing through the Bosporus in 2014, with the Hagia Sophia (left) and the Galata Tower (right) in the background. Heavy traffic and dangerous cargo create the permanent threat of serious accidents in the middle of one the biggest cities on earth – as have happened in the past.
Image: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>"It does not befit Turkey to think small or to act small," Recep Teyyip Erdogan said last December, countering critics of his Istanbul Canal project. On this much at least those critics agree with the Turkish president: 'Kanal Istanbul' will have a huge impact on the megacity. For starters, it will unmoor the historical core of Istanbul from Europe, turning it into an island. </p><p>Whether as Byzantium or Constantinople in previous ages or as Istanbul today, the city on the Bosporus (1) derives its importance from that narrow waterway. The Bosporus separates Europe from Asia and connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Istanbul is the only city in the world that links two continents and two seas. It doesn't get more strategic than that. </p><p>That's reflected by the strait's special status. Signed in 1936, the <a href="http://www.mfa.gov.tr/implementation-of-the-montreux-convention.en.mfa" target="_blank">Montreux Convention</a> gave merchant vessels from any country free passage through the Bosporus. Navy vessels can also pass through, with some very specific restrictions (2). Only in wartime may Turkey pro-actively clamp down on maritime traffic through the strait. </p><p>That makes the Bosporus - at a certain point only 2,300 ft (700 m) wide - the world's narrowest international waterway. Over the decades since Montreux was signed, it's also turned into the busiest. In 1934, about 4,500 vessels crossed the strait. By 2017, that number had increased almost twelve-fold, to 53,000. That's more than three times the number of ships that sailed through the Suez Canal that year (17,000), and more than four times the figure for the Panama Canal (12,000). </p><p>Plus, about one in five ships passing through the Bosporus each year is a tanker carrying hazardous materials. In 2018, that added up to 150 million tons of dangerous cargo.</p>
Currents and curves<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3Mzc2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODY1NDY5MH0.O0XLlytr3Cw875lyNohqCygTpcB1HAsJN5pCfQpwHsE/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b6c4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="324f5304036ab8830bbb98376a7ac759" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Bosphorus" data-width="1000" data-height="1163" />
The Bosporus as seen from the International Space Station, showing coastal waters from the Black Sea carried into the Sea of Marmara.
Image: NASA, Public Domain<p>Considering that average ship size has more than doubled since Montreux, and that the Bosporus is a natural waterway with 13 sharp curves, strong bidirectional currents and heavy traffic, there is always a risk of serious accidents – as shown by past incidents.</p><ul><li>In 1960, a collision of the oil tankers Peter Verovitz (Yugoslavia) and World Harmony (Greece) killed 20 and created a large oil spill.</li><li>In 1966, a collision of two Soviet oil tankers, the Lutsk and the Kransky, led to a huge oil spill and a fire on the Kadiköy Pier, the main ferry pier on the Asiatic side.</li><li>In 1970, the Italian oil tanker Ancona collided with a building on shore, killing five.</li><li>In 1979, an accident with the Romanian oil tanker Independenta killed 51 and its cargo of 95,000 tons of oil caught fire. The blaze burned for a whole month. The wreckage hindered traffic for years afterwards. </li><li>In 2018, the freigther Vitaspirit collided with the historical wooden villa of Hekimbasi Salih Efendi, causing massive damage.</li></ul><p>And the international shipping isn't even half the story, for it doesn't include <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO6XzfKbdM0&ab_channel=MSMarineDiesel" target="_blank">local traffic</a>: almost 2,000 ferry rides carry about 500,000 commuters across the Bosporus every day. </p><p>Smaller accidents happen regularly; to prevent the larger ones, the Turkish government has banned the night passage of tankers longer than 200 meters, among other measures. That doesn't improve the waiting times for ships on either side of the strait, which sometimes have to queue for days before they can cross over.<br></p>
A second Bosporus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3NDAyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTM0OTcxMn0.If0Dd-iFiMSShIfkBtoFJBeBGDie_pKr_MkwHnN46jc/img.jpg?width=980" id="c0f01" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="25dda4d8a5b55b7bf55e3ce43351ca28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Overview of Kanal Istanbul" data-width="766" data-height="556" />
Overview of Kanal Istanbul and some of the surrounding projects, including the already inaugurated new airport (northeast) and the yet to be developed city around the canal (center).
Image: Property Turkey<p>With traffic predicted to hit 86,000 ships by 2070, the evident solution is a new waterway, a second Bosporus: 'Kanal Istanbul'. It must be said that Erdogan's idea is hardly original. The first to float it was Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-22). The idea was subsequently adopted and abandoned by succeeding sultans at the regular rate of once per century: Murad III (16th c.), Mehmed IV (17th c.), Mustafa III (18th c.) and Mahmoud II (19th c.) </p><p><span></span>As if not to break the chain, four-time Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit revived the idea for an electoral campaign in the 1990s. Ideas of such historical persistence have a way of coming back until they are fulfilled (3), and indeed: Ecevit's successor Erdogan, then still prime minister, reanimated the plan in 2011, for yet another electoral campaign.</p><p><span></span>In fact, the canal was one of three 'crazy projects' – Erdogan's own words – designed to raise Turkey's GDP to $2 trillion by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic. The other two were the world's biggest airport, and a superhighway linking it to the city and beyond. The new Istanbul Airport opened last year. However, work on Kanal Istanbul has hit some delays. </p><p><span></span>The canal's final route was announced only in 2018. It will run about 19 miles (30 km) west of the Bosporus, from Lake Küçükçekmece in the south, through the districts of Avcilar and Basaksehir inland, with most of the route carving through Arnavutköy in the north. When finished, the canal will be 28 miles (45 km) long, 69 ft (20.75 m) deep and 1,180 ft (360 m) wide at the surface; 900 ft (275 m) at the bottom. It will be able to accommodate ships of up to 1,150 ft (350 m) long and 160 ft (49 m) wide, with a draft of 58 ft (17 m).</p><p>The cost of the project, estimated initially to be $8-10 billion, has already been revised upward to $16.5 billion. A project this size creates its own weather, so to speak, even before it's under way. Visions of a new city housing half a million people rising up along the canal have sent local real estate prices soaring. But Kanal Istanbul has also run into some tough headwinds: the project has a vocal and powerful opponent in <a href="https://twitter.com/imamoglu_int" target="_blank">Ekrem Imamoglu</a>, who was elected mayor of Istanbul in 2019. <br></p>
But who will pay?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d4b8ac8853629c8284ce80371ea0017b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lq93qFLcv6k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Imamoglu is on record as calling the project a disaster, treason, even "murder" – figuratively, of Istanbul; because the canal threatens between a fifth and a third of the city's fresh water supply (4), places a physical limit on the city's westward expansion, and increases the risk of flooding. In case of a catastrophic earthquake, the canal may make it harder to get help in and evacuees out of the city, which will effectively be an island. Not to mention that building the canal involves the destruction of vast tracts of agriculturally and ecologically valuable land. </p><p><span></span>The mayor seems to have most of his citizens on side, as a poll earlier this indicated 80 percent of Istanbulites are against the canal, with only 8 percent in favor. For Erdogan, that must sound like Gezi Park all over again. In 2013, plans to develop that Istanbul park, one of the relatively few green spaces left in the city, sparked demonstrations that morphed into a nationwide wave of civil unrest, directed against the policies of Erdogan's government. The Kanal Istanbul project contains much of the same socially combustible material. </p><p><span></span>But since Turkey is a highly centralised state, there is very little even the mayor of Istanbul can do against a canal that will radically alter the geography of his city. Work on the canal, which was greenlighted at the start of 2020, will involve up to 800 people at any given time, and up to 10,000 people over the project's entire lifetime. Erdogan has pledged use the national budget and if necessary, the national army to finish the canal. </p><p><span></span>The new canal would have a capacity of about 160 vessels a day, comparable to the Bosporus itself. Interesting for Turkey is that the canal will not be subject to the Montreux Convention, meaning that it will have full control over traffic on the canal – and will also be able to charge a fee. But who will want to pay when free passage via the Bosporus remains an option guaranteed by international treaty? Turkey may bet on shipping companies wanting to minimise delays (5). And if that doesn't work, then perhaps those delays could miraculously start getting longer.</p><p>First, however, the canal needs to be built. As of now, no major excavation work seems to have been undertaken yet. And even when the project gets going, economic problems and/or social unrest may still throw a spanner in the works. But if the canal gets dug, then Erdogan will have succeeded where five sultans have not. And his name will be attached to an accomplishment pharaonic in scale, which may remain relevant when much else that animates this century has faded into history. </p><p>But perhaps Erdogan's name will also be associated with a less flattering consequence of the mega-canal. Among the many objections to the canal that are summarily brushed aside by the proponents of the project, is the warning by marine scientists that Kanal Istanbul would upset the complex correspondence of water flows between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. It could leave the former body of water <em>anoxic</em> – deprived of oxygen. That could mean that large parts of the city will be smelling of hydrogen sulfide – an aroma commonly identified with rotten eggs, and in future perhaps with past presidents. </p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1047</strong><br></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p><p><br></p><ol><li>The literal translation of Bosporus from the ancient Greek is 'cattle strait', or 'oxford'. In Turkish, the preferred term is Istanbul Boğazı, or simply Boğazı, 'the Strait'.</li><li>For some time after WWII, the Soviets tried to pressure Turkey into granting its navy unrestricted access to the Mediterranean. However, the so-called Turkish Straits Crisis backfired on the Soviets: Turkey eventually abandoned its neutrality and joined NATO.</li><li>See for example the idea for the establishment of a brand-new inland capital for Brazil, which predates Brasilia by well over a century – and which led to a map mystery that is explained in #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/brasilia-mystery-map" target="_blank">989</a> and solved in #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/brasilia-mystery-solved" target="_blank">990</a>.</li><li>In 2019, the city of Istanbul consumed about 2.8 million m3 of fresh water per day. That's roughly an Olympic swimming pool per second.</li><li>For a large merchant vessel, 'waiting mode' can cost up to $120,000 a day. </li></ol>
Virtual reality is more than a trick. It's a solution to big problems.
- According to projections shared by the UN, Earth's population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. By the year 2100, that number could increase to 11 billion. Virtual reality will be necessary to reduce the waste of such a large population in industries like transport, retail, and manufacturing.
- As an existing technology, there is a lot that virtual reality can do: rich and immersive environments, heightened storytelling, emotionally resonant experiences, and increased productivity in retail. But it's only in its infancy.
- As the world's population continues to grow, the technology will need to evolve to facilitate a larger network of users, and developers will have to think harder about the technological potential and the ethical, neurological, and emotional side effects.