This would create a huge lake in northwestern Egypt, potentially home for millions. It would also negate one year of climate change induced sea rise, or so I read somewhere.
Map of the potential lake, if brought up to sea level: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression#/media/File...
> it is apparent that the hydro plant alone would be cost effective at an oil price of 34 $/barrel.
The novel hydro-solar scheme is also really interesting but appears not to have gone anywhere; I suspect the economics of the whole thing are now dwarfed by solar, although "use the depression as a pumped storage scheme" plan has some mileage there.
Focusing on power generation misses the big picture for me.
The Boring Company is not the only one using COTS tunneling equipment, nor has any relevant engineering project under it's portfolio. Although it excels at marketing, I fail to see how it should be used as a measuring stick in geothecnical work.
On the factual level, there is very little habitat to destroy there. It's about as lifeless an area as there is on Earth.
Even deserts have ecosystems. See the section on flora and fauna in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atacama_Desert which in parts has been used for a stand-in for Mars.
The Qattara depression doesn't seem to be in the same league as the Atacama, as far as lifelessness goes. I mean, gazelles, cheetahs, vast wetlands?
It would also give millions of people in one of the most densely populated poor countries in the world a new place to live.
To me, that's an easy tradeoff. But I can see the other side of the argument.
These systems, properly designed, create the materials needed to build new copies of themselves. They're (potentially) self-replicating. A bit of labor and a lot of intelligence and we can convert deserts into gardens and food forests. And, given time, they will alter the (micro- then macro-) climate.
(I feel like we have all the technology we need to solve our problems now, but we are distracted and incoherent.)
> The Greening the Desert Project started with the purchase of land about ten years ago, and it expanded slowly until that mounted into exponential growth. Things started at the top, literally, with a large water tank that feeds a shower/toilet block just downhill. The toilets are dry composting, supplying fertilizer for plants on site, and the greywater from the showers and sinks goes to a nearby reed bed. The reed bed, still high in the landscape, is then able to send gravity-fed irrigation to many trees throughout the site. It’s all used onsite for beneficial biological cleaning.
> The food forest with stone walls and earth-backed swales moves through the landscape to rabbit and chicken houses, which combine manures in a system that creates a cubic meter of compost every five weeks. That goes to the main crop garden, a shade-covered kitchen garden. The surplus fertilizer (compost) goes to food forest trees and the nursery. The runoff from the nursery goes through to the kitchen garden. The accommodation building has an office, a classroom, and eight bedrooms. It’s two stories high and made with earth brick and straw bale. The roof has a beautiful garden made up of wicking beds.
There was a company years ago that remodeled/landscaped people's yards into permie gardens and then harvested the crops and distributed them like a CSA. You could integrate a market function into your offering, eh?
†Farms turn forest into desert, while permaculture turns desert into forest!
If you would like to continue the dialog, please email me (andrew at automicrofarm.com) or set up a time to video chat (https://automicrofarm.com/book-an-appointment.html). Thanks, looking forward to it!
If giant techno-farms are more economically efficient they will win out over more ecologically efficient forms, despite being fundamentally less desirable, unless there's some other countervailing "force" or "pressure" (I don't mean physical force).
(Ideally economic and ecologic efficiency would be unified, but we're not quite there yet. Remember that life is four-billion-year-old self-improving nanotechnology, eh?)
So, desert doesn't encroach. Does this imply that de-desertification also doesn't encroach?
I'd like to think that a green vanguard paves the way for further colonizatiin, including by better water retention than sand; and capturing morning dew.
Desertification also can be linked to activities impacting climate - One paper talks about aerosols (likely via coal use in europe in the early 1900's) as a driver to droughts in Sahelian Africa and the Amazon: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.652...
On the contrary, life finds a way. unless an area is nearly 100% devoid of water you're going to find some life there, and if it's rainy, something will certainly be growing.
Is 40 acres big enough?
>"The Desert of Maine is a 40-acre (160,000 m2) tract of exposed glacial silt (a sand-like substance, but finer-grained than sand) surrounded by a pine forest near the town of Freeport, Maine, in the United States. The Desert of Maine is not a true desert, as it receives an abundance of precipitation, and the surrounding vegetation is being allowed to encroach on the barren dunes."
>"The Desert of Maine originated when the Tuttle family purchased and began farming the site beginning in 1797. Failure to rotate their potato crops, combined with land clearance and followed by overgrazing by sheep, led to soil erosion, exposing a dune of sand-like glacial silt. The initially-exposed small patch of sand gradually spread and overtook the entire farm. The Tuttles abandoned the land in 1919 when it was purchased for $300 ($7.50/acre) by Henry Goldrup, who converted it to a tourist attraction in 1925."
> life finds a way
That's not a good reason to screw with it wherever and whenever we can. This is more appropriate to say in the context of humans being gone because otherwise we have so many ways to let life only find the way to extinction.
In fact I’d do some unsustainable agriculture on my sidewalk to stop weeds from growing.
The movie was okay at the beginning, but it got distracted by a bunch of stuff about politics.
- A paper planter with a special coating that lasts for around 2 years. After that the planter will be gone and the plant has roots long enough to get water from the ground.
- The planter also provides warmth at night because the water inside the box get's warm during the day. This is why the condensation happens and also saves little plants from extreme cold.
Every excretion flushed in the city of Chicago ends up as fertilizer on midwest farms. Mostly soybeans, IIRC.
A lot of zoos sell their surplus animal dung in big bags called "zoo poo." It's used in home gardens and small scale community farms.
They also generate 8MW of electricity from burning the methane produced during treatment, which is about a third of their electricity requirement.
Is this meaningfully true? My understanding is that the wastewater is treated and emptied into the Chicago river where it flows toward Missouri. Insofar as that water is rich in organic compounds, it "fertilizes" the fields that draw from that river and its distributaries; however, this model is different than the picture you paint, which sounds more like dumping more-or-less raw sewage directly on fields. If the latter is indeed the case, it's news to me, especially since I understand human sewage fertilizer to be prohibited as a health risk.
My understanding is that the wastewater is treated and emptied into the Chicago river where it flows toward Missouri.
The clean water goes into the Sanitary and Ship Canal. The solids fertilize fields.
“What it does is essentially recovers the phosphorous and the nitrogen in the wastewater at the Stickney plant and coverts that into a high-grade, slow-release fertilizer that can be used for all sorts of agricultural applications.”
It used to be that you couldn't even flush toilet paper in Cyprus - you had to use a separate bin to this side. I expect more sewage reuse in the future. Expect in ~50years time for it to be exceptional to release any sewage into nature.
Apart from sewage being useful for irrigation, it's also a goldmine of minerals, and drugs to reclaim. I expect the same to happen with garbage dumps slowly. We already divert aluminum cans and paper, slowly the rest will be reclaimed too.
Nonetheless it sounds really cool and I hope the sceptics are wrong!
 I found an archived link but I wasn't able to view it for more than a second in the browser. In the end I just curl-ed it to see the source:
500 square miles is 320,000 acres. (500 miles) squared is 160,000,000 acres.
One other place in the body refers to 1,600,000 acres being viable to reforest.
I think it was just a typo for 500 acre.
It's not safe to grow veggies and grains with human manures.
For safety, the human manure should be used as an input feedstock for growing and expanding forest.
Then we use the forest's outputs as feed stock for grains and veggies and fruits and trees.
The forest outputs are leaves and wood, both of which may be processed into composts, or used as mulches for veggies, orchards, and grains.
This is what I practice.
Not true. My wife does research on this and post-sewage treatment dried sludge actually has better values than some of the food the used as reference samples.
This means I simply don't use human manure on my agriculture crops, I use it in my forested areas.
That said, I do use urine in my grass/leaf compost, and recently I started charging biochar with human urine. Urine is much safer that feces.
It's just a superstition but I wouldn't eat veggies grown directly in human manure (although the guy has done and hasn't gotten the sponge-brain: https://humanurehandbook.com/ )
I met someone once who after sinking tons of his own money into projects argued you need poop and some kind of toxins to keep people and their goats away for at least 30-50 years. His experience was that people destroying everything scales much faster than constructive effort. You turn your back and everything is gone.
Of course something is to be said for economically viable greening but if you just want to restore nature you should aim to do just that.
I don't have the numbers here but I found calculating how many large trees you need to sustain 1 human vs how much electrolysis it would take pretty mind boggling.
My understanding is that commercial forests like these don't generally capture the carbon, depending on how the harvested wood is used.
The vast majority of carbon in a tree is from the air, so the sum is a net win. Most wood is also put to long-lasting uses, or made into paper which is eventually buried.
But even burning trees for power, while short-sighted, is net carbon negative, due to the first set of reasons I've mentioned.
Great PR, but in the long term, it’s a lousy idea. We have many decades of knowledge on how salination plays out in desert agriculture.
> 10 miles west of the Suez Canal—you would see bountiful forests of eucalyptus, teak, and mahogany trees limned against the orange sand and blue sky of the Sahara?
I see no reason to use anything but native plants.