Has Dubai Only Watched The First Half of Titanic?
Dubai is like a dachshund. It’s novel, but you have the feeling it wasn’t meant to exist. One of its malls actually has an indoor ski slope. “I broke my leg skiing in the desert” could now be a statement of fact, rather than, say, a Bob Dylan lyric. And soon that mall will be outmalled by the 8 million square foot Tyrannosaurus Mall just announced by U.A.E. Prime Minister Sheik Mohammed: The Mall of The World.
It will be part of a 48 million square foot temperature-controlled “city” with 100 hotels and apartment buildings, a 50,000 car parking lot, and a three million square foot “wellness zone” for medical tourists to treat themselves to ritzy cyst removals and posh colonoscopies.
Sensational construction projects like this are nothing new in Dubai, with its “Chug! Chug! Chug!” development strategy fostered by a lack of any corporate or income taxes and labor regulations that number in the zeroes. But as diamond-encrusted tumbleweed blows through its climate-controlled streets, its gutters fill with the same filth that always accompanies unrestrained capitalism: harsh boom/bust cycles, environmental degradation, organized crime, and that devoted servant of unfettered wealth — slavery.
The Dubai stock market has had eight declines of 20% or more in the past six years, and it just had its worst month since 2008. That crash left unoccupied 300 freshly dredged artificial islands in the shape of a world map, because apparently the Bond villain it was built for went broke. But it would be a minor eyesore compared to a potential 48 million square foot, state-of-the-art bird toilet left by a new crash.
And who gets to build and clean all of Dubai’s absurd real estate? Millions of migrant slaves. Although “slaves” might be a bit harsh. They get plenty of money to burn on bare sustenance, squalid labor camps and debt to crooked employment agents (when they’re not chillaxing in prison). And while we’ve all had our boss “bust our hump” every once in awhile, in Dubai they just happen to do it literally, to their housemaids.
If Dubai’s real estate market is a bubble created with the sudsy sweat of migrants, it’s resting on an environmental bed of nails. And the nails are dry, not sudsy, so that bubble is in a precarious position, in case that metaphor was confusing. Maybe I should have went with a Russian doll metaphor but it’s too late now! Moving on…
Dubai residents have a per capita carbon footprint more than four times the world average, doing their part to hasten the destruction of their artificial islands by a rising sea. One of those islands even has a hotel called Atlantis. That’s like naming your racehorse “Snapped Femur.” It’s beyond tempting fate, it’s crouching down and teabagging it.
It’s not seawater but freshwater that really brings the insanity of Dubai into focus. 98.8% of Dubai’s water comes from desalinization, the Hummer limo of water treatment. But it’s the only option since there is no usable water in Dubai.
THERE IS NO USABLE WATER IN DUBAI.
What’s the point of this doomed snow globe in the middle of the desert? Its usefulness as a playground for the radically rich is clear. But for the rest of us it might serve best as a warning of what happens when you let the free market dominate the economic party planning. You get too many fireworks. Way too many fireworks. Holy shit you guys, dial it back.