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Based on newly-released drone footage, it looks as if Saudi Arabia has broken ground on The Line — an insane, $725 billion dollar linear city backed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Line, as it exists in theory, will stretch 170 kilometers from the Red Sea and house nine billion residents in a carbon neutral, climate-controlled glass cage. While this may sound appealing to some, the human cost has already begun — Saudi Arabia recently sentenced three men to death for refusing to leave their tribal land to facilitate The Line’s construction.
The Line is one of the more galling quasi-utopian renderings that have popped up as Big Tech has stumbled its way towards a cohesive vision of climate mitigation. A few years ago architect Bjarke Ingels released a plan for floating cities that would consist of movable hexagons linked together to form small villages. In the renderings, these cities look idyllic — beautiful buildings made of bamboo and glass — but when you read the press materials they grow darker. The cities could be used to house refugees, the company suggests, and can withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
There is no structure that can reliably withstand a Category 5 hurricane and while floating cities could be a useful tool for storm-battered islands in the aftermath of hurricanes, they are not a permanent solution to the growing problem of climate displacement. The Line, similarly, is essentially just a distant, green smokescreen for the Saudi state as it ups oil production.
“Saudi Arabia came under public scrutiny in late 2021 when it was revealed in leaked documents that it had requested scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to delete a conclusion that the energy sector must focus on ‘rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels.’ Nour Ghantous wrote last month in Energy Monitor.
“The kingdom is clear that it wants oil to remain a big part of its economy for the foreseeable future; it is less forthright about its energy transition strategy. [The Line] provides a bold and innovative, yet so far largely intangible, vision for the Gulf’s future. If Saudi Arabia was less protective of fossil fuels and more candid about the energy transition, it would bolster [The Line’s] likelihood of success as a net-zero pioneer.”
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