Peninsula Europe Part III, 2008

A concept by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison

A proposal for research that would enable the Peninsula Europe High Ground concept to be tested on the ground both as a pure water generator and as a buffer against Global Warming, drain basin by drain basin.

The Synopsis

The goal of the project is to invent a new trans-European forest that can move across the high grounds of the European Peninsula from Portugal and Spain, over the Pyrenees, across the Central Massíf, to the Carpathians and somewhat beyond. The reasons behind inventing a forest is to test a concept. The concept suggests that complex, mixed forests can create a strong enough sponge phenomena in the available earths to replace, in some measure, the waters once supplied to rivers and the lands by slow snow and glacial melt. The forest we envision is not a single forest, but an array of forest types that might live under the new conditions that Global Warming will afford to the high grounds of Europe. Present models indicate a warming and drought trend in Europe that, over the next 50 to 100 years, will move from Spain, across France and the Central Massíf, affecting parts of Germany. Such a drought would obviously negatively impact food production, ecosystemic health and energy production, as well as the social structures that underlie the wellbeing of many.

The research recognizes that the complex weather system at issue is unpredictable in detail, but probable in the outcome, which would be drought moving across parts of Europe. The outcome of drought is the melting of glaciers. The outcome of glacial melt is that water flow in rivers becomes erratic, adding another layer of systemic unpredictability. This work proposes an intervention that has the intention of moving the whole geophysical system toward greater ecological stability, which would in turn enhance cultural stability.

This is a request to bring us together with a small group of very distinguished scientists to produce a working research design that would address trans-European sustainability. The perspective of the work would be maintaining water supply and continuing carbon sequestration and encouraging biodiversity in the face of the stresses of climate change. Our proposal suggests that a large-scale vision, commensurate to the large-scale Global Warming outcomes that are presently predicted, needs to be put in place. It is our intention to generate a design in sufficient detail to warrant a much larger and much more detailed funding request for the actual experimental designs. To generate such a design would require both trans-lattitudinal and paleo botanical research.

At present, the best models that we know suggest drought, erratic weather, intermittent heavy storms with erosion and flooding to be outcomes of the warming phenomena. Although the models appear to change yearly as they are refined, the changes are rarely for the better. The intention of this initial proposal is to explore a methodology that might demonstrate how to buffer, from drought and erratic weather, what amounts to be 1.4 million square kilometers of the high grounds of Europe. (The high ground is defined as the land above the 300-350 meter height, which is where the rivers begin and the shapes of watersheds begin to manifest. See maps.)

The High Ground Shape at 300-350 meters
The High Ground Shape at 300-350 meters

The intention, from an ecological perspective, is to address the Global Warming problem on the scale at which it exists. Work at such a scale has never been conceived, let alone attempted, thus the initial funding request has a “blue sky” aspect, unlike normal requests. Neither we as artists, nor the scientists we will work with, have a clear idea of the answers, although we all have the same belief that the answers in the affirmative are available and the intention is both laudable and workable.

The proposal in its entirety can be found at