Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Super Highway Through Nowhere

Mass migration of people has occurred for millennia or longer. Now a Russian railroad official wants to accommodate migration with a superhighway extending from New York to London – not the shortest way, but through Canada, Alaska, Siberia and the full extent of Asia and Europe.

russia-superhighway-trans-eurasian-belt-1Never mind the crisis facing the world with immigration caused by war, drought and sectarian conflict, the Trans-Eurasian Belt Highway – all 8,000 miles or so – will afford the ultimate road trip.

Instead of Cold War adversaries, the United States and Russia would become border buddies. Hope on the superhighway, speed to Nome, cross some kind of land bridge and, viola, you’re in Siberia.

The troubled peoples of the Southern Hemisphere may find this new transportation convenience somewhat inconvenient. But for people accustomed to snow and ice, it would a winter wonderland.

It also presumably would be a boon for the makers of snow tires, SUVs and parkas. But think of the selfies you could take with moose along the roadway.

Vladimir YakuninVladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, is the ironic author of this novel idea. Comparing the superhighway to the Trans-Siberian Railway, Yakunin says matter-of-factly the project will be an “interstate, inter-civilization” undertaking. No kidding.

There are a few kinks to work out, such as how to get from Alaska to Siberia, where to build the McDonald’s and Starbucks and, oh yeah, how to pay for this massive expanse of concrete and steel. Maybe Yakunin could enlist Donald Trump to build it and make Mexico pay for it, too.

Yakunin admits his proposal is futuristic and call on yet-to-be-developed technologies to make it a reality. Think of the project as a land-based moonshot aimed to put a man in a car and drive more than half way around the world on a single highway.

While it is easy to dismiss this ambitious project as a snow dream, there are observers who say Yakunin is a potential successor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his close friend. A Russian president who devoted more energy to building a massive highway instead of sending troops to Ukraine and Syria might be a good thing.

During the gestation period of the Trans-Eurasian Belt Highway, it would be wise to give some immediate attention to other migratory problems, such as the mass of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, not to mention immigrants from Latin America seeking a better life in North America. That would involve a south-north highway, not an west-east-and-further-east highway.

Then there is the reverse migration of people from cold regions in Canada and America to the Caribbean, Central America and Hawaii, as evidenced by episodes of House Hunters on HGTV. The new superhighway won’t be of much use to these modern nomadic sun-seekers either.

Image and information strictly embargoed until 00:01 BST 25/10/07. Please read the terms & conditions of use guidelines provided. One Earth – Runner up Polar bear, off Barentsöya Island, in Svalbard Nikon D2X with AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-5.6D lens at 310mm; 1/180 sec at f5.3; ISO 800.

The potential saving grace of Yakunin’s folly could be climate change. The new Acapulco could be Anchorage, which would make his route a perfect choice to reach a warm paradise in the echo of ice.

Until then, it looks to me like a non-starter, with bungie-jumpers hanging off icebergs, at least until they melt.



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