Stay with me as I explain the connection between our envisioned Great Big Northern project and Saudi Arabia -- a place from which we rarely hear any good news. Indeed, we normally hear just the opposite. For that reason, I begin today's column with a...
To begin with, if you're new to these SOS Memos, the "Great Big Northern" is our envisioned, fully-sustainable, 3,000 mile living corridor that would stretch from Boston To Seattle along the northern border of the USA.
Our vision for that giant mega-city, in a long straight line, began roughly two and a half years ago, on 9-17-18, when my Outcry
co-author, Stuart Scott, and I met for lunch at the Candle Cafe on the upper East side of Manhattan. During our 100% plant-based meal, he asked me what I thought should be done to help prevent Homo sapiens from going extinct before the end of this century.
During the next hour of that warm, late summer day -- while strolling through Central Park, I put into words a concept that I had been thinking about for a few months. Off the cuff, I explained my vision of a transcontinental living corridor -- where up to 90 million people would live, work and play in a magical place that would stretch from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I was envisioning a futuristic mega-city that
I later dubbed GRATOLA.
About a year later, I thought better of the southern location in a world that is rapidly warming. So, I simply moved the envisioned corridor as far north as possible in the lower 48 of the USA and started calling it the Great Big Northern, a name that was inspired by the historic railroad that served that part of the country for many years.
I also tripled the size of that corridor so that, in the interest of time, we could build just a single corridor that would eventually house up to 90% of the USA population. The GBN idea was first introduced in a September 2019 SOS Memo: Why Don't We Dream BIG? Solutions like the GBN?
The good news about the Saudi project: Up until last Thursday, I was thinking that it might take twenty to thirty years before we even had a working prototype of one or two miles of the Great Big Northern and then, it might be another fifty years or more before a majority of Americans could be surviving and thriving in that magical place where ONLY green lifestyle choices would exist.
Why such a long timetable? Four reasons: Vision, Money, Leadership and Political Commitment. And the last one is where the rubber meets the road.
Think about it. Can you imagine our incredibly short-sighted and highly-dysfunctional federal government EVER agreeing on such a complete paradigm shift in every aspect of the way live, work, play, govern and keep score (the economy) in the USA? We can't even agree on universal healthcare.
Can you imagine our federal government ever coming together enough to create and execute a "vision" necessary to give HUGE projects like the GBN a decent chance of success? I have tried to imagine it, but I simply cannot.
Particularly since the mayhem of January 6, I've been depressed just thinking about our almost non-existent chances of ever cooperating enough to get our legislators to even take the idea seriously enough to discuss it -- much less appropriating billions of dollars to actually begin developing a prototype.
Well, now our Congress need not discuss it. Because another country has just beat us to the party. And thank goodness for that.
Last Thursday, while digesting my morning dose of newsy video clips that the friendly robots at YouTube think I might find interesting -- I discovered a new project that left me breathless for a few minutes.
It was all about a futuristic mega-city that is actually breaking ground in Saudi Arabia this month. Similar to the GBN idea, the new city, THE LINE, is a 106-mile living corridor, where approximately one million people will live, work and play.
The big news is this. The chairman of the company that is building this new city is the notorious crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who posted this statement on the company's website.
"I present to you THE LINE, a city of a million residents with a length of 170 km that preserves 95% of nature within NEOM, with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions."
His Royal Highness, Mohammed bin Salman,
Crown Prince and Chairman of the NEOM Company
For the moment, please forget your disdain for MBS and watch two very short videos -- about a minute each. When I first saw them last week, they literally took my breath away when I realized that the leader of a major country was breaking ground on a giant project that was quite similar in many ways to our GBN vision.
This one-minute video, Welcome to THE LINE, can be seen by clicking on this image:
I love the opening remarks in the next short video that follows below. In it, they talk about the fact that the contemporary cities of the world need a FULL re-design -- very similar to our vision of the futuristic, highly efficient living corridor in the USA that we dubbed the Great Big Northern (GBN). The next video begins with a series of big-picture questions:
- What if we removed all the cars?
- What if we got rid of streets?
- What if we innovated in the public space?
- What if we built around nature instead of over it?
- What if everything you needed was within a five minute walk away?
- What if sustainability was not a goal but a given?
- What if we replaced outdated urban services with new services driven by artificial intelligence?
- And finally...What if we built THE LINE - a 170 km revolution in urban living...protecting the Earth's most stunning nature, while creating unmatched livability - a home to all of us?
Do yourself a favor. Watch this short video that includes some great visuals that accompany the questions above.
Click on the image to watch this 75-second video
In the last six days, over a million people have seen one or both of the above videos. Please take two minutes to check them out yourself.
What's so great about THE LINE for us? It will soon provide us with a "free" prototype of the world's most innovative AND most ecologically superior city design EVER. Along with the rest of the world, our U.S. government officials, without having to debate the issues and spend vast sums of money -- will get a free education on what works and what doesn't when it comes to building an innovative, AI-driven, totally new way of living for humans.
Build it and they will come. And if they don't come, they will certainly watch in awe from afar.
From my perspective, the project could save us at least 20 years because it may actually enable us to skip the prototype phase of a similar project in the USA. Almost like a gift from heaven, THE LINE has the potential to jump-start the grand design of a GBN mega-city -- a full two or three decades before we would have ever gotten there on our own.
In the beginning of a project as massive as THE LINE, its chances for success are probably aided by the fact that it is happening in a country that is a monarchy. As such, Mohammed and his family won't waste time arguing about the design -- and they won't have to play the political blame game around the entire funding and design phase of this massive project.
You will want to visit the home page of THE LINE where the tagline is: THE RACE TO A NEW FUTURE IS ON. It contains lots of impressive media, like the chart shown here on the topic of congestion in some of the world's major cities -- as compared to THE LINE.
The Bottom Line. We Homo sapiens appear to have a rapidly approaching expiration date -- and hardly anyone is talking about it. Oh sure, a great many people are talking about climate change. But no one has designed and built a viable, overall system of human residence on this planet that would greatly improve our chances of longterm survival on planet Earth.
I see THE LINE as an opportunity for the entire world to learn about a totally new way of living -- and, from that knowledge, come up with a magnificent human habitat that most would prefer to what we have now.
While learning what works and what doesn't work from the Saudi project, we can be developing our own model that should be based on delivering an exceptional standard of living while taking ALL steps necessary for us to live "green enough" to survive.
In the early years, that will include giving up many of our current habits and luxuries that do not contribute to our ability to live in harmony with the biosphere that gives us life. The good news is that we'll be replacing all of those unsustainable habits with new, exciting lifestyle benefits that we have yet to even imagine.
We begin with a VERY important question. A question that you have seen before in my SOS Memos and/or in our book, Outcry.
I believe it is the most important question in the history of humanity. When we try to imagine how we can learn to live enjoyable lives in a manner that pleases Mother Nature, we must always keep this question in mind -- as we plan our exciting new, biosphere-friendly civilization of the future:
A final word on the Saudis. The Great Big Northern that we wrote about in Outcry is intended to be a humanitarian heaven on Earth where every human being will have access to nutritious food, clean water, shelter and clothing -- along with free healthcare and a chance to lead a dignified life.
The Saudis have no such egalitarian vision in mind and they are definitely NOT talking about an entirely new kind of economy (that we call the score-keeping system) -- that rewards all human efforts to improve the biosphere and punishes those which don't.
To be sure, the Saudi project is not even remotely close to the overall way of living and governing that we envision in Outcry. But it is a great example of the physical design and AI-enabled functionality that the United States and other nations can take to the next level.
I sincerely hope that the USA will emerge as the world's leader when it comes to an exciting new civilization that is totally designed around pleasing Mother Nature. Finally, if we do a good enough job, perhaps she will grant us permission to live here for another few hundred thousand years.
Meanwhile, we should all thank Mohammed for jump-starting the global conversation on this most crucial topic of our longterm survival. The Saudi project will certainly help to launch the all-important "conversation" about what is possible -- using today's technology -- throughout the world.
FYI, we used the word conversation over fifty times in our book, Outcry
, which remains, to our knowledge, the only book ever published that features an envisioned, totally-green, ultra-sustainable, super-desirable habitat for humans -- along with steps for how we might get there as soon as possible.
For more details on THE LINE and a look at an actual linear city that was built in Brazil in the mid twentieth century, check out this 3-3-21 video (15-minutes) that garnered 675,000 views in its first five days.
An aerial view of the Brasilia city plan