I have been rereading a chapter from Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” titled “The City Without Us”. The chapter opens with a look into what would happen to New York if humans vanished from the planet one day. Under normal circumstances, the subway tunnels in New York are kept dry by constant pumping. Once humans are no longer around to maintain the pumps, the tunnels would fill up quickly, even without flood waters from Sandy’s storm surge. The chapter goes on to illustrate just how delicate New York’s infrastructure is and how much it relies on constant human intervention to keep the large portions of the city from quickly collapsing. With more Irene and Sandy-like storms likely in New York’s future, the chapter is an excellent view in the possibly futile effort to keep New York dry.
The rest of the book is equally fascinating and looks at what happens to several different human creations after we simply vanish. The chapter on our Nuclear Power plants and warheads is applicable for those curious about what happens to all that spent nuclear fuel we have laying around in cooling ponds. Given the fragile state of Fukishima’s cooling ponds, that chapter contains a sobering look at our “Hot Legacy”.
Anyway, I highly recommend the whole book.
UPDATE: Apparently, I missed the fact that the US Army Corps hasn’t received a request to help with subway tunnels. From the look of MTA’s web site, they appear to have things under control. I can only imagine how long it’s going to take to pump all that water out and then inspect the electrical equipment.
I ran across an interesting article in Wired Science about the process of removing flood water from New York’s tunnels. It’s a fascinating short read worth your time. A few highlights: The US Army Corps of Engineers has built up a specialized Task Force for such operations in the years after Katrina. Interestingly enough, they have the people but no equipment on standby. It’s going to take some time since they are waiting for pumps and the dewatering process needs to be done slowly to prevent damage to the tunnels. I also found it interesting that they are focusing on the Brooklyn Battery tunnel for cars first rather than Subway tunnels. MTA’s Subway Recovery Map shows that the Brooklyn Subway lines are all completely cut off from Manhattan. In New York of all places it seems like you’d want to focus on the rail system first, but perhaps there is other damage further up the line or the MTA has things in hand on their own.
It is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies – Anonymous author – “X”
Those fateful words, written in 1947, launched the United States into the Cold War and forever changed how the country viewed itself and pushed its agenda throughout the world. According to Todd S. Purdum of Vanity Fair, “X”, later revealed as George F. Kennan, “had intended to argue for political containment of Soviet ambitions”.
We all know today that the United States pursued much more than political containment. George Kennan passed away in 2005 and was able to witness the transformation of the United States from a relatively weak and isolated country into a dominant super-power, obsessed with national security.
I highly recommend reading Mr. Purdum’s article, One Nation, Under Arms. It’s a fascinating look into how one of the Cold War’s main architects spent the better part of his remaining years expressing regret that his words were used to warp our country into something the founding fathers would not recognize. As with most Vanity Fair articles, it’s long and detailed, but very worth your time.