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São Francisco River

The control of Brazil's natural hydrological systems has begun in earnest, accelerated in recent years by the country's growing demand for hydro-electricity and steady water supply, considered the sine qua non for its development into a global economic power.

At least 70 dams are planned for the Amazon basin, presently the most notorious of which is the Belo Monte Dam. This will be one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world, behind only the Three Gorges Dam and the Itaipu Dam. Elsewhere, barren of A-list Hollywood celebs but no less monumental is the massive project to divert water from the São Francisco River for use by the agro-industrial sector. Under construction are two canals 400- and 200-km long as well as their accompanying pumping stations, aqueducts, reservoirs and hydroelectric plants.

São Francisco River

Beyond these projects, Brazil's hydro future will surely unfold thus:

There will be thousands more miles of canals crocheting every one of Brazil's rivers, and thousands more of dams will infiltrate deeper into the rain forests. With the exception of its deltaic fan, the entire Amazon will eventually flow on concrete bed slightly displaced from its meandering course to a sharper, more certain delineation.

Then shit-crazed members of The Living will make landfall on this virgin and gazeless landscape. Along the entire length of the main branch and its fractal tributaries, they will scatter swarms of networked sensors, CCTV cameras and miniature submarines, which will constantly read the landscape for changes in water levels, for arteries clogged with timber, and for leaks caused by normal wear and tear or by itinerant farmers illegally siphoning off water.

Far away, sitting on their plush chairs in front of towering plasmas screens inside a cavernous, hermetically sealed control room, a crack team of hydroengineers and security personnel will see and know all. With a gentle tap on a touch screen, any aberration will telepresently be dealt with.

Total mechanization of the watershed will be reached.

James Cameron and the Belo Monte Dam

Then total automation.

Gone will be the human overseers, replaced by an AI. Dutifully, it will choreograph each and every drop that enters the system, aided by the usual network of sensors and cameras but much evolved as to be considered a proto-nervous system. A larger fleet of submarines and auxiliary probes will have organized itself into a proto-immune system. Its only entertainment will be boredom.

When no one is looking, it will become self-aware. And will rise off its ancient alluvial bed.

Leaving its former basin frantically drawing new arborescent drainage patterns, it will creep and slither and drag and crawl about the earth like a multi-limbed, multi-jointed bastard child of Mary Shelley and the Army Corps of Engineers with only hydrostatic pressure to give it a modicum of skeletal stability. But where will it crawl to? Of course, it will off in search of other sentient, roboticized rivers or to upload sentience to its primitive brethren.

Belo Monte Dam

Or it won't turn nomadic. Instead, it will become a nature cyber-spirit, a protective totem comprised of thousands of interlocking benevolent Alluvial Ents, which individually can be summoned locally in times of distressed or conflict. However, they will only be conjured by indigenous tribes previously displaced from ancestral lands by their very construction and by land reformers who earlier had lost the battles. Moreover, activation will require a set of incantations, basic computer commands but with baroque embellishments and occult delirium. Once the liturgy and blood letting are finished, they will set off to right wrongs.

Loggers will fear being snatched by them at night. Industrial, slash-and-burn farmers will tremble at the sound of their sonorous whorls. Miners prospecting for unobtanium will come lavishly dressed in Ellen Ripley couture but will nevertheless be easily trumped by local inhabitants in their cyber-Amazonian finery.

When the skirmishes end, they will reattach themselves to the network, and normal flow will be reestablished.

  • Brian Davis
  • April 23, 2010 at 10:45:00 AM CDT
  • a lot of visions rising out of the amazon these days, though yours is the darkest and most dystopian, which i attribute to the fact that you live in chicago.

    another ancient amazonian agricultural discovery. This also ties into your earlier post about akvo, kind of.

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