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Replicant Deserts, Wind-Dammed Canyons and Dune Cities
Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Remember in our post last month about the Tarim Desert Highway when we said it would be worthwhile to track down some of the research that went into protecting the highway from the creeping sand dunes? We've been doing just that since then, though, scientific journals being what they are, we kept stumbling into firewalls after firewalls. In other words, all that we have gathered so far are abstracts, which are perhaps fine for now. They're enough of a fodder for unhinged minds.

One abstract in particular describes an experiment using different kinds of “liquid polymers” to stabilize sand. These were sprayed onto test sandbeds in a wind tunnel and also on a patch of the Taklimakan Desert, where they “produced a strong crust 0.2-0.5 cm thick.” The last sentence reads:

Our results suggest that all the stabilizers exhibited good infiltration, crushing strength, and elasticity, and that they could thus be used to control damage to highways caused by blown sand in the Taklimakan Desert.

Obviously, the most logical next step here is not to do more studies but to give us an oil tankerful of this earth glue. With it, we'll paint the entire desert, thus freezing the landscape in time and space.

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Better yet, how about re-sculpting the Taklimakan to mimic the landforms of, say, the Painted Desert of Arizona. The dramatic, stratified coloring won't be copied, but all its contour lines would be replicated exactly. Of course, in China, simulating exotic terrains isn't new. Remember Huangyangtan?

How about gouging deep canyons, which are graded, arranged, oriented, networked and coated with the binding agent in such a way as to enable strong, steady wind currents flowing through this bifurcated aeolian-shed? These air channels would then be planted with a forest of wind turbines. Or wind-dammed.

How about taking the sand glue to Inner Mongolia? Its desert dunes feed the powerful sandstorms that regularly blanket northern China and choke Beijing in a thick, suffocating fog of pulverized earth. These granular blitzkriegs then cross over high seas to bombard cities in the Koreas and Japan, causing respiratory and eye diseases. With the desertification of the region continuing apace and water resource too scarce to support afforestation, maybe these chemical encrustation will be increasingly considered as a viable solution to a whole list of environmental problems.

And again, instead of spraying it around willy-nilly, how about “stabilizing” a city: a false ruin seemingly long buried in the sand but only just recently revealed by the wind. Hundreds of such cities forming a new Great Wall of China protecting real cities against advancing deserts.

One could even suround Ordos, wherein the lucky owners of one of the 100 boutique cabins can undertake an Antonionian adventure. Their carefully planned disappearance will surely be the talk of the whole village. And everyone will be grateful to you, because what else could be interesting to talk about? For many, “trying” to find you would be good sporting fun in the middle of nowhere. “So Monica Vitti,” one habituĂ© of The Moment Blog will remark.

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