Incredible Islands

One of my favorite documentaries is Man Made: Incredible Islands (and the recycled footage in some other National Geographic Megastructure episodes). I like construction documentaries, and ocean documentaries, so building islands was a perfect combo. National Geographic did me a favor by simply staying on the island building, and about the only thing to be annoyed with were the obnoxious, greedy foreign investors who had far too much money for anyone’s good. (See also: House Hunters International. Great scenery, but I want to beat the people buying a second house with my shoe for their pettiness)

By focusing on the engineering only, National Geographic avoided the three absurdities that really define Dubai: an impossible business model, an unavoidable ecological disaster, and a human rights tragedy.

That Dubai was a bad investment was obvious right away. You’re never going to build a tourist destination somewhere that Sharia law holds. However, this will be the big news for the next couple of days. (Already tonight the NYTimes has a couple of stories on how it was all a mirage)

Building ski slopes and golf courses in the middle of the desert was also crazy, at least with the current generation of solar power options. Warning flags had been raised, but as illustrated by the National Geographic documentaries, mostly ignored. You’ll start to see more ecological warnings as part of the debt coverage.

Dubai’s human rights failings are also well-known. (If you read nothing else on Dubai, read this).  Now that it’s clear the wheels have come off Dubai’s building boom, I think we’ll also start to see more articles like this calling out Dubai for using slave labor.

It’s not like this is the lone holdout of modern-day slavery. Sadly, it took losing a lot of money before the world seemed to notice. Hopefully a few people will read about it before Tiger Woods issues another web release and pushes it off the front page.

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