Continuing our theme of lost cities, news editor Ben Ray explores five American cities, which in the distant future could be reclaimed by nature.
The concept of a lost city has always astounded me, not because I don't see how you can simply let a civilization dry up, but because I realize that in several hundred years, there will be anthropologists of that age looking at the ruins of whatever modern encampment didn't quite work out, and asking the same questions we now ask about the Maya, or the Inca, or any other ruins we stumble upon with little explanation.
With that thought in mind, and the coming climate change, what cities are most likely to be abandoned and raising questions?
We may have gotten a preview of the untenable expansion the capital city of the south has undertaken with the drought that dominated 2007, and will be felt through 2008 despite above-average rainfall so far. Being located in an area that is far away from any large water source may eventually force Atlanta to scale back, and climate change, as it takes hold, will only complicate matters, transforming the greenest city in America into a semi-desert environment.
Atlanta won't have enough water – but Miami might be inundated. With much of the city at sea level, and already in a swampy condition with a high water table, the ground is poised to disappear from under the proud home of Crockett and Tubbs if the oceans begin to rise. Of course, this is the sort of phenomenon that normally takes place after endless amounts of time. Everybody will get out, but it's possible that Miami will be a future Atlantis – a legend beneath the sea.
Detroit is the lone city on this list that's already in the process of becoming ruins: over fifty percent of the city's peak population has already moved away, and vast areas of it have been demolished to hide the occupancy issues posed by this economic tragedy. Obviously there's hope in radically paring down and repackaging the city, but the possibility of success is yet to be seen.
2. New Orleans
New Orleans, of course, already had one brush with death, and we know Amsterdam has been fine for centuries while existing below sea level - so why is the Big Easy included on this list? New Orleans, unfortunately, has yet to fully recover from the Katrina-inflicted blows, and the concern here is that if a large-scale disaster were to strike again, the city would simply be left in ruins, tradition and culture or no.
1. Las Vegas
Sin city, the shining beacon of fun (that your mother wouldn't approve of) actually happens to be in the midst of a drought so bad that it makes Atlanta's pale in comparison. The city government is actually paying residents to take grass out of their yards, and writing tickets to people that water their lawn. The Las Vegas aquifer has dried up, and Lake Meade can't support the demand of this tourist-heavy metropolis, leaving it asking very hard questions about sustainability.
If you have any American cities, that you feel could become wastelands in the future, please let us know and we might do a follow-up post.
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