If I was in possession of that gizmo that got the cellphone talker back to 1928 to be at Charlie Chaplin’s premier of The Circus, I would be tempted to dial the knob back a bit farther to take a look at Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles when it was still a backwater village. Urban sprawl has transformed what was once a sparsely populated region into a burgeoning megalopolis of over 15 million people. And it all happened in only about a century and a half.
I have a suspicion that if we stop back in and check on things in California in 2160, L.A. will have a new super-sister city 100 miles to the north, centered around what is now the tiny town of Mojave.
Mojave? The next California supercity? That bump in the road? Really?!
Once the western terminus for the twenty-mule team borax wagons coming from Death Valley, Mojave today serves as a graveyard for derelict airliners, and as a fueling stop for drivers motoring to and from Vegas. Its 4000 inhabitants live 25 lonely miles to the north of the “boomburbs” of Lancaster and Palmdale, surrounded by hundreds of square miles of emptiness; a place so sparse that space shuttles have been landing nearby for nearly thirty years.
But I suspect this will be changing soon. Hidden under its desert-brown, shabby exterior, Mojave harbors forces like aerospace and renewable energy that stand ready to change the world over the next century.
Mojave has been involved in aerospace since the earliest days of flight. It was here over the skies of Edwards Air Force Base that Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier and it’s still the place where the Space Shuttle touches down when the weather is bad in Florida. The Mojave airport was home to the Rutan Voyager, the first unrefueled aircraft to fly nonstop around the world, and is today the site of the first inland spaceport in America, where in 2004 SpaceShipOne made the first private spaceflight in history.
Mojave is also a center for renewable energy. On a recent drive through the town, we saw an entire trainload of new propellers pass by on their way to the wind generators that dot the nearby Tehachapi Mountains. And in the surrounding Mojave Desert, limitless sunshine powers some of the world’s largest solar energy plants.
Let’s not forget, Los Angeles only tumored into what it is today in just a few generations. Mojave today has the open space, and the emerging technologies that may soon make the area attractive to millions.
As a fan of the desert, and of open space, I sincerely hope I’m wrong.