'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.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3MzUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDQxMzYwMn0.PD8GhSuczGaHXtbeYVu2fflJVb-GEumD2zVp85uxKdM/img.jpg?width=980" id="edc93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e0bab0158a3913187365993758813fc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="freighter ship" />
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" />
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" />
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.
A new study examines the under-researched area of water theft around the world.
- From 30% to 50% of the world's water is illegally or improperly taken.
- Agriculture industries are implicated in the majority of water theft.
- In some areas, it's so normal that it's barely noticed.
Marijuana, strawberries, and cotton<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU4NjM3OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTk3MjQ4OX0.COVxgYW1xJBtbjB3GYPDK3V4tdR_4BLrQtmyU6PO-Is/img.jpg?width=980" id="7732f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c226c5f73629c8d13bf26ec878019023" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="cannabis plant" />
Image source: Ryland zweifel/Shutterstock<p>Agriculture by far consumes most of the world's water, about 70 percent of it. To help better understand the portion of that percentage that may be associated with water theft, the study "provides a conceptual framework and modeling approach designed to improve understanding of both individual and institutional barriers to water theft." The framework is based on examinations of the water use surrounding three crops: marijuana in California, strawberries in Spain, and cotton in Australia.</p><p>The cases have some significant characteristics in common: They're all water-intensive industries in which stealing water is more profitable than adhering to local regulations. Growers in these industries also share an anxiety over future availability of water from rainfall, which may also be a key driver in water theft.</p><p>Underlying non-compliance with local regulations is that some of the growers resent laws that they view as unfairly favoring environmental protections over economic needs, and a general lack of interest in water protection among the public within the growers' region.</p><p><strong>Marijuana</strong></p><p>Lucrative growing of legalized marijuana uses large volumes of water. Some growers in Northern California steal both urban and rural water on the assumption their consumption is likely to go unnoticed by authorities. Many feel that the low odds of detection make water theft a "rational choice," according to the study.</p><p><strong>Strawberries</strong></p><p>Strawberries from the Doñana marshlands in southern Spain are grown in an area of ecological sensitivity. (The marshes are protected by international agreements due to their role as the most important site for migratory birds.) Growers operate under the expectation that even if they're caught pilfering water — and it is likely they will be caught — prosecutions and convictions tend to produce few convictions or consequences.</p><p>Water theft has become so normalized over time in this region that it has lead to violence against authorities attempting to protect the water supply.</p><p><strong>Cotton</strong></p><p>Cotton growers in central Australia's Barwon-Darling River system have been implicated in "several alleged, ongoing and proven cases of non-compliance with water laws." The study mentions one large-scale agricultural water user whose theft involved environmentally-protected water. The study cites some Australian cotton growers who consider themselves to be in competition with an "'illegitimate user," the environment.</p>
What the study recommends<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU4NjQyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTYzMTE0MH0.fF1Z22DnsmvafM4WjwJRb7zh2bFkF21nrlcy3x-5dI0/img.jpg?width=980" id="da795" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5c716fc9c41f615765fba8d17d496e72" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="strawberries" />
Image source: Massimiliano Martini/Unsplash<p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>Our findings suggest that while individuals and companies may be responsible for the act of theft, the phenomenon reflects a systematic failure of arrangements (political, legal, institutional, and so on). In addition, when regulators fail to understand the value of water, inadequate prescribed penalties increase the risk of theft. — Loch, et al</em></p><p>The study asserts that a critical partner in resolving water theft must be the public and their assumption of high compliance, and the expectation of honesty on the part of all stakeholders, both in agriculture and government. Public exposure of non-compliance with water regulations can make water theft less locally acceptable. In Australia, civil-society organizations stepped in to help advocate for the environment with growers.</p><p>Obviously, there can be no substitute for an adequate water supply in the first place, a challenging issue in many places. A <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/ip-sif082420.php" target="_blank">recent study</a> from Virginia Tech of the U.S. water supply found that "nearly one-sixth of U.S. river basins cannot consistently meet society's water demands while also providing sufficient water for the environment. Water scarcity is expected to intensify and spread as populations increase, new water demands emerge, and climate changes."</p><p>The authors of the water-theft study look forward to a technological assist as monitoring and sensors become better able to detect water theft when it occurs. Detection, however, without more robust local enforcement is meaningless. And adequately guarding water supplies that span multiple jurisdictions will require prioritization and stronger cooperation between local governments.</p><p>Preserving local water supplies is more than an academic issue after all — we all need water. Says the study, "Ongoing water shortages occur on all continents, increasingly compounded by climate change. By addressing likely drivers of theft at an individual scale, we may prevent irreversible harm to all water users."</p>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.