Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New-Age Geography

by Richard Crews
When low-lying nations like Seychelles and Tuvalu slip below the rising ocean waves of global warming, will they continue to be sovereign nations? In other words, can a country still be a country if it has no dry land?

This is not a trivial question. Thousands of square miles of rich, shallow fishing reefs and mineral-rich shoals may no longer be protected within any country's territorial waters. (Why does the name Halliburton ring so loudly in my mind?)

In fact, what about national shorelines that recede--such as those of Bangladesh? Do a nation's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones recede as well?

In the 1990s I became aware of a proposed new country named New Utopia which was to be built as three skyscrapers on huge concrete pillars raised over three sea mounts (which were a few feet under water) in the Caribbean Sea well away from any nation's control. The developer was trying to raise a few million dollars seed money. His plan was to make sex, drugs, and gambling a nationally legal way of life, along with off-shore banking and tax havens and major international shipping, not to mention an array of beautiful, artificial sandy beaches and boating inlets, scuba-diving reefs, and luxury hotels. He had audaciously issued passports, printed money, and applied for membership in the United Nations (where he was politely rebuffed).

Some have proposed that the Moon be eternally protected international territory. Other have proposed staking land claims and selling lots there. Similar debates have raged concerning asteroids, alien moons, artificial satellites, and the like. But, with rising oceans, the challenges of new-age geography are, in fact, much closer to home.