One of the more entertaining aspects of history class was the screw-ups. We would read about people doing something disastrous and say, “What a bunch of idiots.” Well, as time marches on, so does idiocy. In 200 years, history students will be looking at 20th and 21st-century activities and say, “What a bunch of idiots.” For examples of what we mean, keep reading.
The Campos Novos and Mosul Dams
Dams are built to produce electricity and keep people from drowning. The builders of the Campos Novos dam in Brazil appear to only know about the first part.
Nothing about building the dam was good for the people in the area. All the residents in the valley below the dam were thrown out, with barely any compensation. Building the dam also destroyed the fishing industry that used to thrive in the river the dam cut off. And worst of all, the dam was built on the not-so-sturdy ground. Dams weigh thousands and thousands of tons. A tunnel inside the dam collapsed under the weight of all that concrete on soft ground. The collapse produced cracks along the face of the dam.
The Mosul, the largest dam in Iraq, is a bigger disaster-in-waiting. The dam is upstream from the city of Mosul on the Tigris River. It’s built on top of gypsum, a soft mineral that is water-soluble. Great place to build a dam, right? Being built on such ground makes it almost certain to collapse eventually. If/when it goes down, Mosul will be 65 feet underwater, and even Baghdad will be 15 feet under.
In 2007, Campos Novos was in a drought. Good thing because the dam’s 150-foot deep basin leaked out in a single day. Otherwise, the ensuing flood would have drowned thousands of people. Enercon, the builders, decided they should do something. They decided to fill the basin back up and deny that anything was wrong. One specialist on the project even said, for the record, “There is no structural damage to the dam, whatsoever.”
In Mosul, a new dam is being built. The doomed dam is being treated with “grout” injected into the base by 24 machines. Whether the dam will collapse is still in question.
Chemical Weapons from the Deep
“Despite their prominence in the U.S.-Middle East wars in the 2000s, “weapons of mass destruction” aren’t new. They have been around for decades. Once they become outdated, they get tossed. Into the ocean. At least that’s what happened from 1946 to 1972. Since the dumping began, over 500 people, mostly fishermen, have been hospitalized after hauling in mustard gas, Sarin (which degrades into arsenic in seawater), and other nasty stuff instead of seafood.
Some countries have maps of the dumpsites. Unfortunately, the accuracy of the maps usually falls somewhere in the range of “We suppose” and “Map drawn by sleep-deprived 3rd grader.” The strategy in Japan is to simply leave the dumps as they are and hope nothing (or no one) gets destroyed by them.
The Island of Tuvalu is Doomed
Tuvalu is a fabulous island paradise, with some caveats. For one, the highest elevation is 15 feet above sea level. Also, the region has been clear-cutting their forests for years to produce fuel. They’re also big fans of using sand for building purposes. This has led to massive beach erosion. To be fair, they aren’t exactly loaded with options.
Combine the erosion shrinking the island with the rising sea levels we discussed earlier, and you have the recipe for Tuvalu disappearing into the Pacific Ocean.