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Could a Saharan Super-Skyscraper Be the Future of Urban Living?

How self-contained vertical cities can put our utopian ideals into action.

Artistic rendering on the Sand Tower

Earlier this year, the innovative French architectural design firms Nicholas Laisné Associés and OXO Architectes released conceptual plans for something called La Tour des Sables (The Sand Tower). The proposed project is a massive, self-contained, self-sustaining 1,400-foot tall city-tower to be constructed in the heart of Morocco’s slice of the Sahara desert. A mixture of 600 housing units, an equal amount of public green and recreational space, and even more office units (not to mention the hotel, restaurants, bars, and meteorological observatory on top of the tower), it could contain well over a thousand people. While the Sand Tower may be uniquely ambitious, the concept of a self-contained city-structure is a longtime utopian dream, and one that is becoming increasingly more relevant as the pressures of urbanization and environmental degradation become increasingly dire.

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Ten Other Independence Movements You Should Know About This Fourth of July

Americans are lucky enough to celebrate independence with beer and fireworks, but people around the world are still fighting for their freedom.

This Saturday, countless Americans will flock to parks with burgers and beers to celebrate our nation’s independence. It’s easy for us to celebrate our struggle for freedom in a cheery, light manner today, given how far in the past the Revolutionary War is for us. But that distance also means that it’s easy for us to forget about the many valid, ongoing struggles for freedom around the world. Some of these struggles resonate with our own history, or even greatly surpass the slights Americans suffered under the British. Yet even on independence-sensitive days like the fourth, many of these struggles often go overlooked.

Granted, ever since Scotland’s independence referendum last September, there’s been a renewed interest in separatist movements. Despite Edinburgh’s failure to break away from London, the publicity and success of their campaign had the English quaking and scrambling. And beyond the U.K., the Scottish wave seems to have inspired a number of other separatist movements, from Catalonia in Spain to the Kurds in the heart of the Middle East, to make their own new ripples in the pool of global politics.

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What the Arab Spring Could Mean for Solar in the Sahara

Will the unrest in the Arab world put massive solar projects like Desertec on hold or actually usher in a new era of clean energy?

For the past couple of years, a group called the Desertec Foundation has been ambitiously promoting the potential of harnessing clean, renewable energy—mostly solar power—from the world's vast deserts. "Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year," offers Dr. Gerhard Knies, a German physicist and member of the Desertec's Supervisory Board.

Their most famous proposal is to power most of Europe through captured across northern Africa and the Middle East. Here's a way oversimplified take: high voltage direct current (HVDC) power lines would shuttle the electricity from a network of massive solar installations (mostly concentrated solar plants, which I've described before) across the Sahara and the Middle East to refrigerators and light bulbs and car charging stations in Europe, where demand is massive.

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