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The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game
Remember the Sundarbans, that “tapestry of waterways, mudflats, and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal” and home to an unbelievably huge array of endangered species? The Independent reported last month that one of the inhabited islands there, Lohachara, has “disappeared beneath rising seas.”

Lohachara, India

“Eight years ago,” we further learn, “the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.”

So while global warming is uncovering islands elsewhere, it is expected to wipe out about a dozen or so inhabited islands in the Sundarbans in the very near future, resulting in an estimated 70,000 sea level refugees.

The Sundarbans, in other words, couldn't be a more perfect setting for The Army Corps of Engineers: The Game.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

As originally and inadequately fantasized here, you as a game player will be given an island, forested or slightly so, but intentionally inhabited so as to give your choices and actions an element of real consequence.

Without intervention, your tropical paradise will be wholly submerged exactly ten years from the start of play. And lest some bothersome Republican Apologist or a second-rate SF novelist obfuscate the science, the data predicting catastrophic sea level rise is irrefutable, its analysis impeccable and unassailable.

Per island is a lone seaside village. You will notice that its plan closely follows the principles of New Urbanism. This is probably because the principal game designers have read too much Nicolai Ouroussoff and consequently have turned homicidal and, like CIA expert waterboarders to a terror suspect, would like nothing more than to see anything that is quaint and earnest placed under simulated drowning and environmental stress, with the possibility of stylistic expiration or total erasure. That or perhaps they have been proselytised by Andrés Duany enough to have developed a raging hero complex for things wholesome and bourgeois.

But whatever.

The waters are coming, and you are tasked to prevent your assigned island and its village from sinking.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

You will have a budget of $1 trillion, of course, and have all the structures and widgets ever used in the long history of hydroengineering — from the Garden of Eden to the Three Gorges Dam — to choose from: groynes, seawalls, revetments, rip raps, gabions, breakers, levees, dams, canals, bridges, channels, spillways, pumping stations, marram grass, artificial reefs, imported sand and fleets of trailing suction hopper dredgers.

And also these fantastically named concrete blocks: tetrapods, dolosse, akmons, Xblocs and A-jacks.

Et cetera.

As this is being sponsored by IKEA®, the challenge will be in their assembly.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

Since you'll be taking on the role of Chief of Engineers and the rank of lieutenant general, you will command an army of migrant workers from Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent. Choose carefully among the enlisted, since each nationality has been genetically altered to display certain traits.

For instance, the Vietnamese are supremely creative, prone to fits of the imagination. The Thais, meanwhile, are practical and reliable, but there are instances when they get distracted completely. Filipinos are the most collegial and unlikely to disrupt your schedule to air out grievances on their quasi-indentured status. The Laotians are the most hardworking, though sometimes they can be too Western about certain things, namely wages and working conditions. The Indonesians have undertaken the most extensive training, but unfortunately, they lack imagination. The Bangladeshis hate the Indians and vice versa. Everyone dislikes the Pakistanis.

Again, draft wisely, for when the tenth cyclone of the season is on a direct course towards your island, the right mixture of skills and a collaborative team atmosphere will help you weather the flood.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

With the grunt work placed on the shoulders and backs of others, you'll have time to strategize. So if you like, you can invite Cornelia Dean and Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock for a candlelight dinner to gather some pointers and maybe even create a cheat sheet. After dessert and a fine digestif, you hold a seance to channel Arnold de Ville and Salomon de Caus. Alternatively, everyone gathers around the bonfire on the beach and take turns reciting stories from The Deluge.

You could even organize a weekend charette or a hydrologically-themed lecture (and film) series. For something that's a bit more rigidly curated, you can host an international symposium showcasing the latest hydroengineering research by leaders in the field. Perhaps a design competition can coincide with this event. Countless students and emerging young firms — everyone oozing with talent, vigor, and infectious enthusiasm to make even the most cynical archiblogger weep for joy — will all send in wildly radical yet uncannily practical designs. Of course, your chosen jury will unfortunately have decided long before that they will only going to pick the OMAs and the Hadids and the Schwartzes and the Walkers. They'll laugh; so too will the Pritzker Laureates and the FASLAs. (Unless perhaps you're Rem Koolhaas and decide to throw a fucking hissy fit.)

Or at night, with the impending sea softly breaking against the dunes, you reflect upon the monumental task of lifting Venice above the lagoons for inspiration.

And on Dubai.

On New Orleans.

On Tenochtitlan.

On Galveston, Nauru, Rome, the Netherlands, the Thames, the Everglades.

On Atlantis.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

While still clinging on to the pretense that this game is real — and temporarily setting aside the fact that this post wasn't published primarily to point you to The Independent article, but rather to provide a dumping ground for 1) leftover images of TSHDs from this previously mentioned post; 2) some newly collected images of tetrapods; and 3) various links collected last year — here are some prohibitions:

1) You cannot construct wetlands and mangroves.

2) You cannot modify the weather.

3) You cannot use any part of your budget to embark on a worldwide conservation crusade or to fund research into alternative, non-polluting forms of energy.

4) Your island must remain tectonically stationary, as opposed to airborne.

5) You cannot mechanize your island and install too many A.I. systems that it becomes sentient.

6) It goes without saying that a strategy of managed retreat — arguably the most sensible but, inexplicably, rarely implemented planning approach to future coastal disasters — is not allowed, because that would be too easy.

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers

So if this were indeed a real game, whoever keeps their island with roughly the same pre-game acreage above sea level the longest, wins.

That your construction looks like a Rube Goldberg machine or a psychosis-inducing theatrum machinarum will not count against you. In fact, you might be awarded a Jury Prize.

One thing is certain though, like with America's Army: The Rise of the Soldier, you will waste years of your life.

Notes on Some Selections from the Visual Images Database of the Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Anonymous
  • January 22, 2007 at 6:50:00 PM CST
  • f-ing brilliant. profoundly sad. the rules are fair, and the rules are appropriately accurate.

    with the millions you make from selling the rights, just what mountain are you buying?

  • some lo-cale loser
  • January 23, 2007 at 12:21:00 PM CST
  • Trevi:

    This was indeed a brilliant post for many reasons. Among them is a quote destined for the not-yet-released but growing Pruned t-shirt series:

    a raging hero complex for things wholesome and bourgeois

    Print them now, please. I'll take 5.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • January 26, 2007 at 12:14:00 AM CST
  • Anonymous: I think I'd like to buy a river, actually. Then artificially amplify its meanders. And for each loop, create even more meanders.

    Then I'd pour concrete along its banks. Freeze it in time and place for eternity.

    And lo-cale: Maybe I'll do just that, and make a killing at the next ASLA Expo.

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