It’s a palindrome… get it? Get it?!
But the Panama Canal is so much more than fodder for witty word games – it’s a grand feat of engineering! Man vs. nature! Boys digging holes! A human intervention in sustainability (more on that later)…
Or more specifically, a 77km ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Built between 1904 and 1914, traffic once consisted of approximately 1000 ships annually, and has since increased to over 14,000 ships per year.
Wowsers. At the tolls they’re paying, that’s a lot of dinero (average $54,000 USD) .
Originally conceived by the French, the first attempt to build the canal in 1880 failed after workers succumbed to malaria and yellow fever (lowly paid immigrant labour of course). The United States picked up the project in the 20th Century and managed to score a sweet little deal where they maintained ownership and control (obvi), of the most lucrative shipping passage in the world.
It wasn’t until the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties that a framework was developed to transition control to Panama. And still it took 22 years.
From 1979 to 1999 the canal was under joint U.S.–Panamanian administration, and from December 31 1999, control of the waterway was assumed by the Panama Canal Authority, an agency of the Panamanian government.
But that was nice of ‘Merica, to give it back now, wasn’t it? Maybe it had something do with student protests, UN pressure, ultimately unwarranted deaths, and untenable international optics. Hard to say.
So… since gaining control of their own land (whaa–), Panamanians held a referendum on whether or not to expand the canal, and 73% voted in support of expansion. The new program will construct two new sets of locks – one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the Canal. The program also entails the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels in Gatun Lake and the deepening of Culebra Cut.
And what does this mean for the world? One small disaster.
Traditionally considered environmentally friendly, shipping is growing quickly and maritime emissions are set to leap by 75 percent by 2020. Research suggests that the impact of shipping on climate change has been seriously underestimated and that the industry is currently producing greenhouse gases at nearly twice the rate of aviation.
Awesome. Boating is worse than FLYING. FLYING. How is that even possible?
The good news is that the increasing rate of melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean has led to speculation that the Northwest Passage may become viable for commercial shipping at some point in the future. So perhaps the Panama Canal expansion will become unnecessary if we can speed up this global warming thing!
I, for one, am doing my part by flying around the world as much as possible this year (guilt, guilt, guilt…). Sigh.