As flies to wanton boys, we are to rich guys with dubious urban-planning takes and nobody around them willing or able to say “Hey man, that seems dumb to me” for fear of being summarily executed. Eric Cantona said that, more or less. I’m paraphrasing. Anyway Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, wants to build a city in a 170-kilometer straight line.
For the environment! It’s for the environment. For centuries, humanity has destroyed nature by building communities that had three dimensions (length, width, height) when the earth simply cannot spare that many. Therefore it is necessary to return one of those dimensions, to the planet that sustains us. It must be width, the most precious of the spatial dimensions. Thus, and once again for the environment, behold: The Line, the city that is a very long straight line, instead of some other shape.
I defy you to follow the premium cocaine logic of bin Salman’s speech announcing The Line, transcribed below, with some annotations.
Throughout history, cities were built to protect their citizens within confined spaces.
Sure. That is one way to explain why most towns are not straight lines. Another way to explain it would be “Throughout history, people have chosen to build their homes near to each other.”
After the Industrial Revolution, cities prioritized machines, cars, and factories over people.
Yes. A factually upstanding point.
Even in cities that claim to be the world’s most advanced, people spend years of their lives commuting. By 2050, commute durations will double. By 2050, one billion people will be displaced, due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels. 90 percent of people breathe polluted air.
Terrifying and urgent facts. Something must be done. By now it has become clear to you that we can no longer afford communities that are not shaped like spaghetti.
Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents? And why should we accept wasting years of people’s lives commuting?
Why indeed? Our passive acceptance of these grim realities only appears all the more galling when you consider how easy it would be to just line all of our buildings up in a long row, instead. In accordance with nature. Therefore…
Therefore, we need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one. Today, as the chairman of the board of directors of NEOM [a planned development along the borders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt], I present to you The Line. A city of a million residents with a length of 170 kilometers that preserves 95 percent of nature within NEOM. With zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions, you can fulfill all of your daily requirements within a five-minute walk, and you can travel from end to end within 20 minutes.
That’s amazing to imagine. 170 kilometers in 20 minutes, without cars! A feat of engineering. By contrast, imagine how long it would take to travel from one end of The Line to the other if it were shaped like a circle. It would take an infinite amount of time, because it wouldn’t even have ends! For this reason, circles are an environmental apocalypse. Likewise other shapes, for reasons too obvious to go into here, or indeed anywhere.
With 30 percent less infrastructure cost, 30 percent better quality products, and 100 percent renewable energy, The Line is a project that is a civilizational revolution that puts humans first.
Now wait just a minute. It’s a line. Lines do not revolve, man. They do not have revolutions. The Line is more like a civilizational stick (pointing the way to environmental sustainability, and/or whatever natural features are thattaway on the map).
There will be plenty of details that will be unfolded at later stages,
Like, for example: “What.”
but for today we leave you with a brief video about this announcement.
Then there’s a video about how “contemporary cities couldn’t cope with growth,” presumably because they are not straight lines. You may wonder what the growth advantages of a straight-line city might be. You may even think to yourself, Hmm, growing a city in a straight line seems like, even in the most optimistic scenario, eventually it is going to run into an ocean, or complete a very narrow circle of the entire globe in order to fit as many people as an ordinary non-straight-line city, whereas a non-straight-line city can simply shape itself to the landscape in various ways. You may wonder this even after watching the video! That is because you are thinking ahead, envisioning the future, projecting how things will progress and change. In other words you are stealing yet a fourth dimension (time) from the beleaguered planet. You scum. You filth. By God you will pay for this.