POSTED: 7 FEBRUARY 2006 - 2:30pm HST

Welcome to the Dead Zone

A close up from 40,000 feet over mountainous eastern Afghanistan. Bin Lauden territory

A big part of the Earth looks like Mars!
by Juan Wilson on 7 February 2006

I recently downloaded GoogleEarth for my computer. It is an awesome tool. The God view on your desk. First I started revisiting places I new as a kid. Zooming down to my suburban Levittown childhood home. Somebody put an addition on the back. I checked out Kauai which had not as much detail.

Kalalau Valley looking East-South-East from 10,000 altitude using GoogleEarth

Even so, the terrain was 3D with the aerial photography mapped onto it. Pretty effective, and a really enlightening way to tour the island. Incidentally, this is about the last green place you'll see in this article. Next I visited Honolulu. Jeez, they had modeled the downtown buildings in 3D. You may have seen some of GoogleEarth on CNN covering the War in Iraq.

Honolulu from 3000 feet altitude looking towards Punchbowl with the Ala Muana Marina at left

While exploring this detailed spherical 3D atlas I came across a phenomena I knew about but really did not sense as I do now until I examined it with GoogleEarth. I call it "The Dead Zone". It's a stretch of land that runs across northern Africa, across the Middle East, across the "Stans" (Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan & Kyrgystan) and finally to China and ending in eastern Mongolia. It is many thousands of miles long and a thousand miles wide.

I found four locations from which to view the world looking north from about 250 miles above the earth. These four views spanned the area in question. Going east to west, one was over the center of Saharan Africa; the second was over Afghanistan and spanned the area from Saudi Arabia to Kyrgystan. I found that at that looking north from the center of the African continent you can get this view...

Saharan Africa from 250 miles altitude looking north spanning Morocco to Egypt

This is fairly typical of the Dead Zone. From horizon to horizon, covering hundreds of thousands of square miles IT LOOKS LIKE MARS! No water, no forests, no farming, no civilization. Just sand and rock and wind. That's not to say there are no people down there. There are but in many cases they are subject to great suffering or turmoil.

The Middle east from 250 miles altitude over Saudi Arabia with the Red Sea on the horizon

This area is also the place where most of the oil in the world is buried and most of the greatest armed conflict is occurring. It think the oil the turmoil and the dying landscape all go together. Certainly the desert has grown significantly in Sahara and the Middle East in the last few millennia of human history. Remember, the Garden of Eden was somewhere down there.

The "Stans" from 250 miles over Afghanistan spanning Iran to Kyrgystan

Seems to me while we're worried about where our SUV juice is going to come from and whether we'll be able to read at night in bed when the oil runs out, the fucking planet is dying. Time to get out some sagebrush and thistle seeds and start planting the edges of the Dead Zone.

North Central Asia from 250 miles over Mongolia looking towards Siberia

As one reaches eastern Mongolia the life of the Earth seems not quite extinguished. I do not know enough about climate history on the earth to say that this is a new phenomena related to human activity, or whether the Earth goes through phases of great forestation and desertification. I do know that the rich people, in the green places like Europe and North America, see little of this vast area and don't know how precious and rare are the places they live.


see also:
Island Breath: Twenty Years to Correct Climate Change
Island Breath: Clinton on Global Warming - Dec 2004
Island Breath: God Must Hate Florida - Oct 2004
Island Breath: The Day After Tomorrow - May 2004
Island Breath: A cautionary tale - Mar 2004
Island Breath: Gore on Global Warming Jan - 2004