Jose Saramago

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.


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?