What If Earth Was Split in Two?
Imagine if an impenetrable border existed all along the equator, permanently dividing the north and south hemispheres. Or, in a more extreme example, what if Earth the planet was literally cut in half, with both parts physically separated from each other in space? Thankfully, today’s Earth isn’t ruthlessly broken into sections like this… although it might be said that society is fundamentally split in many ways. Nevertheless, a planet that’s physically divided is an alternate world that conjures up many a bizarre alternate reality.
This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what if Earth were split in two?
In the twenty-first century, it’s often said that technology has brought us closer together than ever before. In just a few clicks, if we want to, we can learn of local news on the other side of the planet. By pressing just a few buttons, we can communicate with people in different countries and on different continents. The physical distances between us and them remain the same. Earth hasn’t literally shrunk. But bridging the gap is now so much easier.
However, while all this technological expansion has taken place, the more traditional talk of geographical borders hasn’t disappeared. In recent times we’ve seen changes across one of Earth’s most significant blocs, the European Union. We’ve seen tensions rise over a suggested wall between the USA and Mexico. And there are border disputes all over the world map. For one reason or another, then, and for better or worse, we can see that humankind does still tend to divide itself. But what would happen if there existed an unprecedented border or gap between us - a sci-fi-style divider - to truly split the world into two? Could we then see two fundamentally different worlds take shape?
Consider the prospect of an equator wall. If there really were such a thing, and allowing for all sci-fi possibilities, then above and below the equator could wind up cut adrift from one another. There’s certainly nothing to match the scale of this in real life, but we do have in history the Berlin Wall cutting through Germany - and we know that, for a variety of political and social reasons, life on either side of that wall was very different. Could we potentially see the same on an international scale?
The statistics, as they are, already suggest some patterns. Take a look at the world map and you’ll notice that there is much more by way of inhabited land in the northern hemisphere than there is in the south. Below the Equator there’s Antarctica yes, but lived-in regions include Australia, southern Africa, and most of South America, only. Meanwhile, in the north, there’s North and Central America, Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. Almost ninety percent of the global population, then, lives in the North. That’s almost 7 billion people, compared to about 800 million people in the South.
More than eighty percent of the southern hemisphere is water, compared to just sixty percent in the northern hemisphere. The north is home to most of the major cities, financial hubs, and industrial ports… but, although the south isn’t quite so busy, that means that it also produces far less localised pollution. There shouldn’t be any major changes in terms of seasonal weather because the seasons work the same in both hemispheres, just in reverse - so northern winter is southern summer, and vice versa. However, while the north has landmasses at more or less every point from the equator to the North Pole, and therefore it experiences a variety of weather conditions and temperatures… most of the inhabited land in the south is closer to the equator, and so “cold places” aren’t quite so common. Apart from on the obvious (and uninhabitable) Antarctica.
So, baring these conditions in mind, what happens to the people of Earth? At present, and unsurprisingly given the stats, most of the world’s most densely populated places are also in the north, whilst the south has all the space per capita. This could well become a point of tension between both sides. Equally, while the south may experience less immediate manmade pollution, unless the Earth’s atmosphere is divided as well, then it’s not as though it would suffer any less from ozone depletion or rising temperatures. Similarly, unless the oceans were somehow dammed so that northern hemisphere water always stayed in the north and southern water always stayed in the south - which in itself would cause a climatological nightmare - then it’s a sure bet that more northern waste would be washing up on southern shores than the other way around.
On the flip side, the north wouldn’t be short on consumers and trade, whilst the south could well struggle here. Not only would there be fewer potential customers for southern businesses, but the lay of the land could prove difficult for commerce, too. While the north has so many easy-access trade routes overland and across just short stretches of the sea, the main landmasses in the south are extremely spread out. Over time, trade links in the south could perhaps grow weak, then, while the north trundles on like a well-oiled machine.
But, still, it’s not as though both sides of the split would need to be totally unaware of one another. And, in fact, life and work along the equator wall would likely be crucial. Perhaps there’d be soldiers manning checkpoints, managing no-fly zones, and preventing breaches. Politicians on both sides probably wouldn’t want to work too far away from the wall, as so many of their policies would be shaped by it. Maybe there’d be reporters trying to get a glimpse of the other side, as well as thrill seekers, adventurers, and down-with-power conspiracy theorists. Because one thing’s for sure, if Earth really were split in two there’d be plenty of people speculating about what life must be like in the hemisphere that’s not their own.
This alternate world is already a fundamentally divided one, then, but there is still another way to look at today’s question. Because, what happens if the planet itself is literally broken apart into two physical pieces? Even in science fiction, it’s difficult to imagine how this might happen. Perhaps via some kind of alien-powered, ultra-advanced cheese wire attack? But, in reality, what would it mean for the two resulting halves of Earth?
In this scenario it’s pretty much death, destruction, and chaos from the outset. There wouldn’t be time to build complex social systems, or to debate the politics of it all… because literally the ground beneath our feet would be failing us. And, while you could rush to the furthest point away from wherever the divide was actually happening, you wouldn’t even be able to find safety underground. In so many other apocalypse scenarios, heading underground is the best course of action - but not this one. So much would, of course, depend on where the physical divide took place, but high ground could also be just as dangerous as anywhere else. Again, watch any disaster movie, and the mantra "head to high ground" usually rings true... but not here. Ultimately, there'd be nowhere where you could truly guarantee your survival.
It’s difficult to imagine the impact that such an event would have on Earth’s orbit, or rotation. The force of gravity could mean that shortly after being cut in two, both sides of the Earth force themselves back together again… for another extremely dangerous planetary event. Or, should the halves be moved far enough away from each other, then our alien overlords could well turn our once relatively peaceful planet into a kind of wild, spinning, binary system.
If we imagine a reality where physics doesn’t exist and the two halves of Earth safely exist side by side, however, the split would then ask the same questions of our species? Would there be equal opportunities on both halves of Earth? Would we co-operate between halves, or live in isolation? And, if it were possible to journey between the two, then how exactly would that happen?
For now, we can be pleased that Earth isn’t divided in either of these ways. If it were literally split into two, then the ensuing apocalypse might well be far too harsh for us to survive. If it were divided by some kind of universal, international border - like the equator wall - then day-to-day life would for sure be drastically different. But, back in the real world, we don’t have to live like this. We can connect with others, help them, and learn from them, even if they’re all the way on the other side of the planet. It’s said that no man is an island, but maybe there’s a similar call for unity at civilization level, as well. Because that’s what would happen if Earth was split in two.