Why We Destroyed the World’s 4th Largest Lake

This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn with Brilliant for 20% off by being one of the first 200 people to sign up at Brilliant.org/reallifelore During the time that the British ruled India The British Government became concerned about the number of venomous snakes around Delhi So they began offering a reward for every dead cobra that people brought them. This worked out OK for a time Until smart people began realizing that you could simply breed the snakes in large numbers And turn them all in for a reward When the British found out about this they cancelled the whole program and the snake breeders let their now worthless cobras go and as a result the cobra population actually increased Ever since then whenever somebody tries to solve a problem with a solution that end up making the original problem even worse the situation has been called the cobra effect And one of the worst cobra effects in history took place here in the Soviet Union during the last half of the twentieth century on a lake that used to be called The Aral Sea For all of recorded human history The Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest lake and a vital piece of the local ecosystem that surrounded it. It was roughly the same size as Ireland And supported a thriving community of fishing towns and port cities. And when you look at different world maps over the past few centuries You’ll always see something there and even when you look at pictures taken from airplanes in the 1960’s You can clearly see that it’s there But then compare all of these images with an image taken by NASA just last year This is the same lake in the same place today So, what happened to all of it? Tracing satellite images back from the past few decades can start to unravel part of the mystery These pictures show that the lake began drying up in the 1960’s, when it was last full So, what caused it all to start in the first place? The short answer is Stalin But there’s more behind the story than just that During the soviet unions existence The Aral Sea alone provided 1/6th of all the fish in the country And employed more than 40,000 people but a few poor decisions ended up erasing this entire natural landmark and all of those jobs from the surface of the Earth You see, this guy named Stalin became the leader of the USSR And he believed that his government could transform nature itself to benefit his people There are two rivers that used to feed the Aral Sea The Amu Darya in the south And the Syr Darya in the east Stalin’s plan was to have his engineers divert water from both of these rivers by digging canals towards new fields that would be planted across Uzbekistan That would begin growing cotton The plan was to make cotton a major Soviet export at any cost And little regard was given to what would happen to the Aral and the community surrounding it And for a time, it kind of worked By 1988, Uzbekistan became the world’s largest producer of cotton And the Soviets were exporting it across the world But it was coming at a massive cost Those canals that the Soviets began finishing in the 1960’s were not only taking enormous amounts of water from the lake but they were also insanely inefficient and leaked constantly As a result, the fourth largest lake in the world began steadingly drying up By 1998, it had shrunk to just 60 percent of its original size And by 2004, it was down to only 25 percent of its original size But in addition to this, the other half of the disaster was the rapidly increasing levels of salt that the lake was getting What remained of the lake in 2004 was five times saltier than it was back in the 1960’s Which meant that basically the entire ecosystem and the creatures that once lived in and around it were gone the larges coastal port town named Heralsk That was the center of the lake’s fishing economy was now located over a hundred kilometers away from the water and was surrounded by dried up, worthless land As the lake receded further, it created a new gigantic desert instead, covered in salt that made it worthless for things like agriculture But that’s still not the end of the tragedy Because the lake was often used as a dumping ground for toxic chemicals and weapons for decades, too Now with the lake bed exposed those chemicals and weapons were just sitting out in the open and the winds have began kicking all of this up into huge toxic dust storms that ravage across the landscape Life around the former Aral Sea today, is a harsh one. Infant moratlity is very high, at 75 deaths per 1,000 births If the Aral Sea region were its own country, that would be the fifth worst rate in the world Even worse than countries like Nigeria or Mali The cotton boom that was once exploding in Uzbekistan has been challenged by the rampant dust storms that deposity salt and toxins across their fields Even more water is being used from the Aral Sea rivers to wash away the salt and the lake is just a fraction of what it once was Down to only 10% of its original size now There are plans to revive the lake In both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan but so far the legacy of bad soviet engineering policy still looms high over the lives of those who still live here and haven’t fled from one of the worst cobra effects in history If you want to become an engineer that will hopefully work on more successful projects in the future Two things you absolutely need a solid grasp on are math and physics And Brilliant is a great place to quickly learn about both because their courses breakdown concepts into their intuitive principles and then build them back up so you aren’t simply memorizing things You’re understanding them instead Whether you want help with understanding the way engineers think through courses like calculus, classical mechanics, or you’re interested in other interesting stuff like logic, probablility, computer science, or more They really put a ton of effort into making each and every class as perfect as can be and best of all, you can sign up for brilliant at brilliant.org/RealLifeLore and get access to some courses for free and then, by being one of the first 200 people to use that same link in the description you’ll also get 20% off whenever you upgrade to premium And you’ll also be helping to support RealLifeLore at the same time Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you again next week

  1. "Stalin! The Aral Sea is drying up."
    "But we have cotton."
    "Yeah, but we lost the Aral Sea fisheries."
    "But we have cotton."
    "The land left behind is all salty and worthless."
    "But we have cotton."
    "Also, there's old toxic waste residue."
    "But we have cotton."
    "The wind kicks up enormous toxic dust storms, which endanger the lives of everyone living nearby!"
    "But we have cotton."
    "…Including the cotton, sir."

  2. >it's 1991, ebil sovt ugnion is gone
    >now we can bring environment-friendly capitalism(R)

  3. Why do you show a garter snake and a North American rattlesnake when you are talking about India and their cobras?

  4. 90% of the comments:

    "it wasn't we! It was the soviets!"

    Conveniently forgetting the time lake Erie caught on fire, or any number of other international ecological disasters.
    Typical humans, avoiding blame.

  5. I was thought in Serbia that it was because of climatw change…. which would explain the "we", yk…… HmMmmmMmmmMmm

  6. I hope to be 6 feet under by the time humans lay waste to this beautiful planet. Humans are like maggots on a beautiful piece of delicious healthy fruit.

  7. Hey @RealLifeLore you probably won't see this, but I thought I'd share this with you.  In my composition class at my university, we had to write a research paper on a social/environmental issue and provide potential solutions and thanks to your video, I wrote a 12 page paper on the Aral Sea Crisis and I got an A on it.  So thank you so much for making this video. It truly inspired me!

  8. Just consume some if the salt, get water pumping from the melting ice in the arctic, mineralize the dried dirt, and boom you got a brand new lake

  9. Uzbekistan: Did you make the cannal
    Soviet: Cotten
    Uzbekistan: Its my Money
    Soviets: Screw you Uzbekistan go commit kulak

  10. you all need to stop saying "WE" like this is all inclusive. WE THE PEOPLE didn't have anything to do with this, THOSE IN POWER did this. Nobody voted, we didnt assist, and half the world had no clue and some weren't even born. THEY DESTROYED THE 4TH LARGEST LAKE. WE only deal with the consequences..

  11. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. This video demonstrates why. ALL government eventually does this. It's very dangerous to give a few "brilliant" minds so much power and resources. Such a tragedy. All because Stalin thought it would be a good idea for cotton. How stupid is that!

  12. Why is everyone, under this video, blaming Stalin? All of this mess began happening under Khrushchev and then continued under Brezhnev!

  13. "Let's divert the Aral Sea Rivers" they said…
    "It will be a great Triumph of Soviet Engineering" they said 😀

  14. We….. You mean Soviet Russia.
    No cobra effect, lake is not getting bigger. Your analogy is arse backwards. Soviets tried to make lake smaller by diverting water from it and have succeeded, not made it worse. The intent was never ro make the lake Maintain or grow! And it has not.

  15. WE did not destroy the Aral Sea, the Russian Socialists did and if Democrats are elected AOC will turn us into another socialist utopia. YEA!

  16. Side note on infant mortality: The Nigerian Infant Mortality rate is high, not because the country is poor (It's not that poor), but because the age of consent is 11 and you have children giving birth there. If their government had the good sense to move it up to something like 16, like the UK, or even 14 like in some European and Asian countries.

  17. Yeah, that's the legacy of atheist-communistic Russia in Aral Sea. There's also one in China, their atheist leader, Mao Zedong, deforestrated all of the trees in northern China just to build houses and also for business. They rip what they sow. China is now suffering a massive desert storm because their former deserts became a large deserts. 🙁

  18. Idiots in control, allowed to do whatever by us the people. Ruining everything on earth while we let them, Not caring about the future and the people who will inherit whats left from us. No one gives a shit until if effects them, Thats not good enough in my mind.

  19. 1960: Aral Sea = normal
    Uzbekistan: OH S*** I HAVE COTTON
    1998: Aral Sea = +60% salt level

    2004: Aral Sea? more like Aral Supersalty Sea
    Uzbekistan: HEY WHAT HAPPENED?
    Kazakhstan: Only toxic storms
    Uzbekistan: oh c**p…

  20. Stalin: dries up Aral Sea
    Soviets:Stalin! Everything around us is dying! Even the villagers!
    Stalin: Who cares we have cotton.
    Soviets: Also the cotton is dying.
    Stalin: Code Red everyone!

  21. Seriously killing a bunch of cobras just for a random operation that’s just mean to kill random snakes because of a stupid operation

  22. First "we" no you mean the Soviets and second some guy named Stalin how about the most murderous dictator of all time

  23. Humanity has done a lot of damage to the Aral Sea, but its history is still being written and it's premature to say that we've 'destroyed' it. The northern portion of the Aral sea has recovered significantly since the completion of Kokoral dam, a project that more or less sacrifices the southern portion for the sake of saving the northern portion. This is all complicated by the fact that the Aral sea itself is split between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and the two main rivers flowing into it (and the watershed that those rivers drain) brings in the involvement of essentially all of the central Asian former Soviet republics. These countries in the post-Soviet era have been notoriously at odds with each other, and the leaders of these nations can barely stand in a room together sometimes without fistfights being on the verge of breaking out. This makes any sort of concerted effort to restore or protect the sea very difficult.

    As corrupt, repressive, and poorly governed a nation that Kazakhstan is, Uzbekistan is still even worse. To this day millions of people from all sectors of Uzbek society are more or less forced to work in the fields to help with the cotton harvest every September. It's quite inefficient and damaging to the national economy, to pull doctors and engineers away from their jobs for several weeks or longer, so they can all go and do mostly unskilled, manual labor on a cotton plantation. But Uzbekistan still exports a huge amount of cotton, which earns a lot of money for the corrupt national leaders and their cronies in Uzbekistan.

    To this very day, the Uzbek government probably considers the Aral Sea a fair price to pay in exchange for the cotton plantations, and the corrupt profits they bring. In the eyes of the Soviet government and the modern day Uzbek government, the plan was largely 'successful'. It wasn't that the plan to irrigate the cotton fields failed. Instead, it was just a REALLY stupid and shortsighted plan that mostly worked.

  24. "Stalin, we are diverting too much water from the Aral Sea and it is rapidly disappearing. What should we do?"

    "Get more water."

    "Exactly how are we supposed to do that?"

    "Simple. We release tons of carbon into our atmosphere, raising global temperature a few degrees. This will cause the polar icecaps to melt, raising sea levels…"

    "…and lake levels. You're brilliant, sir."

    "That is correct. There is no problem Stalin can't solve."

  25. People are trying to blame this on the czar of the Russian Empire Federative Socialist Republic (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). They're forgetting that CCCP is the only legitimate government for ALL workers across the world. So if you've ever held a job, then YOU PERSONALLY have a lot of explaining to do for Aral Sea debacle!

  26. ANother "success story" for geoengineering—-upsetting lakes, skies (chemtrails) and many other 'do-gooder' programs insanely bent on saving the earth.

  27. Stalin wasn't trying to do anything to benefit the Russian people- where do you get your information from? it was a total selfish endeavor for the government to benefit from, not the people- idiot…

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