Month: October 2013

Hypothesis 200 m (3)


Most of the coastal metro areas would simply dissapear under water (upper image, Lisbon). For some, the new coastline would be just a handful of islands with no links, but for others (lower image, the Artabrian gulf between La Coruña and Ferrol) the new shore would be even a bit simpler than the existing one. The summits of the coastal hills would remain, not being necesarily the most interesting thing.


Hypothesis 200 m (2)


What would Europe look like under 200 m of water? it is a rather low lying continent, and a large share of what would remain would be mountain ranges, so there would be a clear problem to give shelter to a population the size of the current one and to nourish them, as most of the cereal plains would be wet, but for central Spain and some in current central Europe. Albeit there is another thing to consider: such a rise in the sea level would be simply devastating for the environment; if you liked Fukushima, or even the havoc wrecked by the “toxic soup” of household and industrial chemicals spilled during the Katrina episode in New Orleans, this situation would simply be hell.


Such a sea rise would simply turn upside down the whole world and the whole of Europe. The speed at which such an event could happen would condition the ability to react, albiet probably the situation would be closer to that in the film “On the beach” (Stanley Kramer, 1959) than to a happy ending without casualties. But what I will focus on (as a mere mental exercise, following Saramago’s stone raft…) is how some landscapes would change.


Biblio (64) SDRIF, at last…

The SDRIF (Schéma de Directeur de la Région d’Ile de France, regional planning for the Paris region) has finally been aproved by the region, and should be enacted by the French State Council before the end of the year. You can read about it on

Hypothesis 200 m (1)


Planning is somehow a narrative thing: you have to create a story that can be of interest to your audience, as to make sure they can become involved in a project that, finally, is theirs as they are the ones living there. But it can become a narrative on its own, or just a way to rediscover a space you have known for a long time, just by getting conscious of features are not aparent every day. And this is clear when you talk about large scale planning.

I once read “The stone raft”, by the portuguese Nobel writer José Saramago, a book in which the Iberian Penninsula gets cut from Europe following precisely the political borders to go for walk around the Atlantic: the Pyrennées get sharply cut along the border line, and in a given moment Andalusians flock to Malaga to see Gibraltar Rock pass along, as it keeps in its original place (well, that also happened somehow in “Hector Servadac” by Jules Verne). So I decided to think about a less violent cut (sort of…). I downloaded SRTM elevation data for the Iberian Penninsula and Europe-wide data from the European Environmental Agency. If the whole world was to see a rise in the sea level of 200 m (for whatever reason, be it climate change -whose forecasts are way inferior to this figure- or any other you can think of), the whole of Iberia would be an island… albeit a quite different in outline from what we know now.


Being coherent, this hypethesis means most of Europe would get under the sea. The Netherlands and Denmark would be mere memories, Paris, London, Berlin and Rome would also be under water, the Ruhr valley would be a great lake and most of Hungary would be a large bay.

Eur-postSpain, Switzerland and Austria would be the countries in the least bad situation, as most of their territory would be untouched. What is under the 200 m contour?

Borders (6) Rang St André

This is a spot on the Quebec Province- New York State border line in which apparently you can no longer cross. Funny, the European borders are fully visible on google street view, but the large border facilities on the I-87 (Montreal- New York City) less than a mile to the west can not be seen (there can be many reasons, let me just believe google’s car just had an accident). It must be a quiet border, as they seem to believe that just a fence and a few roadsigns can disuade any eventual tresspaser, or else there are hidden surveillance systems… looking at the enourmous border facilities on the interstate, you can get a clearer measure of what the end of internal borders has been in Europe.

Borders (5) Copacabana

The view of the Bolvia- Peru Border from Peru, an image by Hans Eickerman on Panoramio

You probably have heard about Copacabana beach, in Rio (Brazil). Well, this spot is just some thousands of km to the west. There is indeed also a Copacabana beach here, but it is on the shores of Titicaca Lake. For Spanish observers, a border between south american countries that speak on both sides Spanish seems intuitively like an oddity, but this only comes from the fact that a country is much more than a language, especially when you have different cultural roots on each side of the line (and creating a different culture is just a matter of time, just take a look at north and south Koreans, or east and west Germans, just to name a few countries that indeed had a common cultural basis).

This is just one of these moments in which zooming out on the google maps window can be of interest…

Borders (3) The european inner border

The Géneve- Annemasse border, south of Geneva. Well, here what changes at the border is not language (as french is spoken on both sides) but the fact that you are entering an inland island with its own currency. This is Switzerland, and French, mighty as they could seem in other situations, are here the ones to commute to the neighboring country. Is Switzerland the future or the past of Europe? hard to say, but it is quite related to the present and future of a big bunch of euros… Thank god, a river makes for a natural border.

Borders (2) La Junquera/ Le Perthus

The motorway through higher grounds has allowed turning the old national road that is the main street into a retail strip that is a permanent traffic jam. On the Spanish side, on lower grounds, all kinds of business happen.

Borders (1) Tui/ Valença do Minho

European borders are no longer what they were. No more cops, the same currency, and slight differences between both sides. But tobacco, or gas, or whatever you can name, is always a bit cheaper on the other side… so why not go for a walk. Fortresses are not what they were, now tourists flock to any kind of market, and there are no more soldiers.