Atlantropa, the Messinian salinity crisis, and other Alternative Worlds

Out of this age of crisis, a book has just been published that aims at fully opening the doors of imagination to show how audacious we humans are when in need to restart from scratch:

Alternative Worlds, Blue-Sky thinking since 1900 (R. Vidal & Cornils, eds.; Peter Lang Publishing, Bern, ISSN 3034317875, 9783034317870)

The book includes an article by the editor Ricarda Vidal (King’s College London) giving an updated perspective on the Atlantropa Project (1929). Atlantropa intended to reduce the area of the Mediterranean Sea by 30% by damming the Strait of Gibraltar, allowing natural evaporation to lower the sea level by a couple of hundred meters. With this project, Herman Sörgel sought to control the inflow of Atlantic seawater to generate electricity, to exposing new inhabitable land (former submarine continental shelf), and to use the Nile River to irrigate a vast part of the Sahara Desert.
The project thus aimed at mimicking what nature did 6 million years ago during the Messinian Salinity Crisis, and that's why I coauthor with Vidal a second chapter dealing with what we know about this ancient salinization and desiccation of the Mediterranean from a scientific perspective, and about the footprint this geology left in western culture.
The rest of the volume discusses fascinating Alternative Worlds including seasteads, planned cities, the high-rise age, and the promising worlds-to-be in the outer space.

Part I: Shaping the Earth and Sea
1. Ricarda Vidal: Atlantropa: One of the Missed Opportunities of the Future
2. Daniel Garcia-Castellanos/Ricarda Vidal: Alternative Mediterraneans Six Million Years Ago: A Model for the Future?
3. Philip E. Steinberg/Elizabeth A. Nyman/Mauro J. Caraccioli: Atlas Swam: Freedom, Capital and Floating Sovereignties in the Seasteading Vision

Part II: The 1960s – Building the Future
4. Patricia Silva McNeill: The Last ‘City of the Future’: Brasília and its Representation in Literature and Film
5. Elena Solomides: The Post-War High-Rise: Promise of an Alternative World
6. Christopher Daley: ‘The landscape is coded’: Visual Culture and the Alternative Worlds of J.G. Ballard’s Early Fiction

Part II: Alternative Lives
7. Maya Oppenheimer: Designed Surfaces and the Utopics of Rejuvenation
8. Boukje Cnossen: The Alternative World of Michel Houellebecq
9. Susanne Kord: From the American Myth to the American Dream: Alternative Worlds in Recent Hollywood Westerns
10. Marjolaine Ryley: Growing up in the New Age: A Journey into Wonderland?

Part IV: Outer Space
11. Peter Dickens: Alternative Worlds in the Cosmos
12. Ingo Cornils: Between Bauhaus and Bügeleisen: The Iconic Style of Raumpatrouille (1966)
13. Rachel Steward: Blue Sky Thinking in a Post-Astronautic Present.

  • Alternative Worlds, Blue-Sky thinking since 1900, R. Vidal & Cornils (Peter Lang Publishing, Bern, ISSN 3034317875, 9783034317870).
  • R.B. Cathcart, "What if We Lowered the Mediterranean Sea?", Speculations in Science and Technology, 8: 7-15 (1985).

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