Wednesday, June 3, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale VI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold I do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert" -- Isaiah 43:18-19

For the Support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." -- American Declaration of Independence, attributed to Thomas Jefferson

As Joe and Chris had pushed on through the Yukon Territory on A2, they had seen the glimmer of reflected sunlight from Elizabeth's latest initiative... tundra greenhouses. The soil of the tundra had long been known to be extremely fertile but since it was frozen most of the year all that grew there was low scrubby vegetation. Martin pointed out that there was an abundance of geothermal energy in the same vicinity as the fertile tundra. All you had to do was drill for it. With an abundance of oil and gas companies flocking to the region, you simply paid them to sink your wells as a 'side job.' Hot water and steam gushing from deep in the Earth powered turbines to generate electricity, extending the growing season with artificial sunlight. Next it was used to heat the greenhouses and warm the topsoil so it could be cultivated. Finally the cooled water was used to irrigate crops, sinking back into the tundra so the process could be repeated.

Environmental 'protectors' in the lower 48 cried 'foul,' but their own data actually proved you could turn most of Siberia and the Northwest Territories into farms without making a dent in the Earth's temperature balance. The change was not without precedent. In the late Nineteenth Century the American West had been transformed into the breadbasket of the world. Immigrants fleeing famine joined with adventure seekers and restless pioneers to build this new world. Disney's Main Street was but a faint allusion to the energy of these communities as they had faced the frontier with little else than determination and faith. Faith, in the end, was the nutrient that kept them strong. Rupert's shipbuilding friends were happy to fabricate greenhouses fit to withstand the snow loads as his great bridge and the support buildings necessary for it were nearing completion. His Swedish friend followed in the path of Sears Roebuck in providing fine houses for the pioneers. On Martin O'Malley's drawing boards were plans for a new world to take shape in the Twenty-first Century. A world wracked by war and famine eagerly awaited it.

Elizabeth's vision would bring people presently crammed into refugee camps to work the soil inside her greenhouses. The Bering Strait highways would become a conduit for them to feed their homelands. All this would require the participation of thousands of souls who would plant, cultivate, harvest, drive trucks and provide necessary services for those involved in these activities. Coptic Egyptians, now living free of persecution, populated one of the first villages. Their rich Orthodox Church seemed right at home among the vestiges of Russian America. Sumatran Muslims who had made their fortunes working away from home on cruise ships now were able to make a living with their families intact in their own little community.

Elizabeth followed the example of Nineteenth Century America in broadcasting the little groups in such a way that they would need to cooperate with other communities while they enjoyed the familiarity of their own. Perhaps ths sharing in taming hostile wilderness is one of the Divine's greatest gifts to mankind in that they learn to work together. Joe and Chris had stopped to help Abdul change a tire earlier in the day. Men of two different cultures, they were brought together by a common struggle -- the struggle for survival on that hostile road. Chris had never spent time with a Turk before, but Joe remembered when his Grandfather, a NASA engineer in the 1960's had worked with a man from Ankarah named Ali. Ali was the son of Turkish immigrants and was a fellow engineer. Joe's Grandmother had learned what foods to avoid serving as the men shared each other's homes in hospitality.

NASA, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to send Joe's Grandfather and Ali as consultants to the European Space Program. They arrived in Paris during the height of Algerian separation. As tanks rolled through the streets, Joe's Grandfather walked those streets with a man who many mistook for an Algerian! They were very relieved when they moved on to Rome and then to London for the remainder of their work. Abdul was new to the Bering Strait Highway and he was not having a good time of it. He should not have drawn the card of a hazmat load so early in his career, but as all drivers know, these things happen. In addition to increased scrutiny at checkpoints, he had faced mechanical issues with his truck and was woefully behind schedule. Now he'd sat on the side of the road with a blown tire, missing his scheduled insertion into the hazardous materials hours the night before.

A very gracious and hospitable man in his own culture, Abdul was nonetheless impressed by the two American's genuine concern for him. Joe seemed to have put aside his own schedule in his mind as the three men wrestled with the unruly rubber. In fact, the Americans seemed to come from a gracious state of mind that he could relate to. How unlike the television 'cowboy' Americans he had been taught to detest these men were. What lay inside a man like Joe, who in his sixties wielded a tire tool like a twenty year old? He wore the ravages of age and a hard life, yet his eyes were merry with a youthful twinkle. Surely it couldn't be his religion. These crazy Americans had THREE Gods, not one, and they did not submit to the disciplines necessary for a holy life! Indeed, many of Abdul's interactions with European Americans seemed to bear out his prejudices against them. On a few occasions he'd met men like Joe, and they shattered all his theories.

Was it a drug, like the pills most drivers took to stay awake on the endless highways? Surely Joe would acknowledge the harsh reality of life, yet he seemed to live with one foot in another world. Whatever pill Joe was taking, Abdul secretly wanted it. The more Abdul learned about Americans, the more befuddled he became. He was driving for a company that was a competitor to Intercontinental Logistics, who Chris and Joe drove for, yet the two men seemed eager to be his friend. Chris was a deep well of information on how to survive the Bering Highway. He knew what to say (and what NOT to say) at the security checkpoints. He knew that straight-up bribery would land you in the impound lot, but that when they seemed immovable in their inquisition, certain verbal postures and 'friendly gestures' would speed you along. Indeed, the two men seemed genuinely interested in Abdul's success! He'd read of American companies in what seemed like an all-out war for customer base. Then a fire destroys one of them. Where he had been taught to see the judgement of the Almighty, something else took place. The surviving competitor actually made space in his own building for the displaced workers and the competitor he so fiercely had battled with just weeks before.

The man who's company had survived shared his own resources until his competitor was whole again. Then the two companies became two distinct entities again. What most people missed was the friendship of the two men in their professional associations. Like rival quarterbacks in professional football, they publicly sparred while privately they acknowledged some sort of brotherhood. With Americans, like any other people, Abdul concluded; you had to look deep beneath the surface. Understanding these people required a vision of a world unseen.

Greenhouse farms at the Big Diomede Biosphere Interchange. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

(to be continued) [click to read]

Tundra Greenhouse Farm.

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

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