Thursday, April 10, 2014

Apocalyptic Landscapes and Ruin Porn

2 Words:

Ruin porn.

That is all you must know in order to understand what I will be talking about for my upcoming blog posts.  But what is ruin porn you may ask?

Well, it's simple really.  It's ruins, and I mean ruins in terms of buildings, landscapes, vacant lots, and areas of land that are so destroyed, beat, and run down that they are almost beautiful in a sense.  And because they are these 'beautiful' ruins, they gives us this weird sense of satisfaction and gratification that heighten our senses and make us feel alive.  Thus, I give you ruin porn.

I didn't deem the word ruin porn, even though I wish I had because it's sort of genius in a way.  I first heard about this term after being assigned to read the article Ruin Porn: As Dirty As You Need it To Be by Richey Piiparinen for one of my environmental studies classes.  After reading this article, I too, started to notice the trend of journalists taking photos of these run down and abandoned spaces in order to create this grand fascination about them.  Was it laziness?  No, I don't think so.  Even though the article did say that journalists are being criticized for producing these stories on ruin porn.  2 main critiques that the article talked about were the fact that pretty much all of these ruin porn shots had no people in them and that they exploited these cities and people in distress.

Was this their intention?  Not necessarily because I think that what these journalists have been trying to say is that these spaces are fascinating because they mean something greater to us.  They are still a representation of a part of our society and reflect how our systems work, how we have progressed, and what has happened as a result of this progression.  They reflect a part of our history, and I think they need it be seen not as separate entities, but as spaces that we live with and are essential to understanding human patterns and behavior.

For instance, whenever I tell my Mom about a certain environmental documentary or a place that I want to travel to that might show or have a great amount of sadness, poverty, or corruption in it, she immediately turns the other way and says she can't hear about it because it's too sad.  But I try to explain to her that even though these are sad truths, they are our realities, and we can't just ignore them in hopes that they will get better.  It's necessary that we see and understand these things because no matter how privileged we are, we are still connected to these issues.

They matter to us.

Instead of exemplifying these issues and ruined landscapes as some sort of art, there needs to be more of a focus on the conversation around these abandoned spaces and the issues that come along with them.  Discussion is of utmost importance when trying to understand things we can't immediately grasp, but play an important role in the creation and progression of society and humanity.

Detroit is a perfect example of a city that is photographed daily for its vacant spaces and thus highlights the amount of crime that occurs there, how much poverty there is in the city, and so on.  Flint, Michigan is also another site that seems to be dealing with the same issues as Detroit, but at a more rapid decline.

The thing is though, these apocalyptic, barren, and abandoned landscapes that we have created and left to rot are the evidence that we need to show that the apocalypse is happening right before our eyes.  Everything from vacant buildings, to unoccupied roads, rotting wood, trash and other objects piling up in these spaces are just what we need to motivate us to revitalize and re-create these spaces to be the thriving areas that they once were and to help the communities that once flourished there.  Now I'm not saying this is a simple task because there is policy involved, people of different backgrounds, social injustice, and poor economy in these cities, but I believe that they are worth fighting for.

For my project that I'm doing for my Digital Media Prouction class, I wanted to visit some potential sites that are prime examples of the apocalyptic world we are living in today.  Here are some places I'm considering so if anyone has recommendations about where to go, I'd greatly appreciate it!  I'll probably choose 2-3 locations depending on how much material I can gather, but I really want to focus in on these few areas and portray them through the beautiful emptiness that they exhibit.

Here are some places I'm considering to shoot at:

1) Treasure Island

2) Railroad tracks

3) Nike Missile Launch Center

4) Abandoned military sites/hospitals

5) Pier 70

Also, here are 2 great blogs that I have gotten some wonderful inspiration from and that have beautiful shots of abandoned landscapes in both the Bay Area and the greater U.S.

Lastly, here are 2 fantastic articles that were written about ruin porn, in which they talk about what it is, why people are talking about it, and cities that have a great amount of ruin porn to them:

Post-Apocalyptic Survival Skills

Why I'm not concerned with surviving during the actual apocalypse is a good question.

Yes, I understand that because of my faulty efforts of not preparing for this fanatic event, I will most likely die during the apocalypse, thus making all of my efforts pointless in any way, shape, or form.  But just because I might possibly die during the apocalypse doesn't mean that many people won't survive.  They will.  And I want to make sure that what little is left of humanity can survive, and I mean survive in the right way.  To not go back to the old methods, systems, ways, practices, and philosophies that we once had, but to create new ones that will not only harvest a better way of life, but will foster a better environment and a better humanity.  And yes, maybe our environment will be completely destroyed by then and what little hope was left will be lost, but there is still possibility.  Mother Nature always has her way of creeping back in, restoring herself, and giving another chance for life.

It's funny though.  As I mentioned before in my first post, while I don't necessarily believe that the apocalypse is this one big event that will take place, but more of a gradual transformation into a state of emptiness, chaos, and confusion, I consider the 'post-apocalypse' to be the moments right after we become aware and realize that we are already entering into an apocalyptic state.

Once these conditions of confusion and chaos and these feelings of panic overcome us, we are going to need something to keep us sane.  Something to keep us going and believing that we can survive this thing.  That we can make it without all the available technologies and resources that we have today.  So my 'post-apocalyptic' survival skills are ones that you can use now or later, when everything is gone (well not everything), but most of what we value in today's society such as: cellphones, computers, the Internet, conventional grocery stores, water, electricity, clothing, etc.

Because we are so dependent on these items, I believe that it's necessary that we become familiar with more natural ways of human behavior such as learning how to forage, how to cultivate the Earth, where to find water sources, how to start a fire, how to make shelter, and so on.  I'm not saying that progression and creating the society that we have today isn't 'natural' but it's out of touch.

These skills will get us back in touch with the social and communal beings that we are.  We can get back to our roots as hunter-gatherers and create a community space to share food, ideas, opinions, projects, and thoughts about where to go from here; from this post-apocalyptic standpoint.

In many ways, I think the apocalypse is and can be a beautiful thing.  It can open our eyes up to the world and show us that what we are doing, this system of disconnection, isolation, fear, unacceptance, and competitiveness, and our habits of consumerism, ignorance, inconsiderate thoughts, and destruction, is not only wrong, it's not okay.  I repeat, it is NOT OKAY.  We keep balancing these concepts that the world can handle what we put into it and that it will eventually restore itself, but at the rate that we are going, we will deplete our environment of all its resources and destroy humanity because of it.

So finally, here are some tips for surviving the apocalypse while helping others along the way.

How to Survive in a Post-Apocalyptic World:

1) Since we won't have access to electricity, learn how to make/start a fire.  Here is a link for some tips on how to create a fire and a video to see it actually being done (since we have access to the Internet...for now):

2) Learn to gather materials to make cooking utensils, such as old metal goods or scraps, wood, plants, straw, etc.

3) How to find a water source:

4) How to forage:

5) How to farm/garden/cultivate the land:

6) Study herbs and their medicinal properties:

7) How to make things from scratch such as corn tortillas, bread, etc.

8) How to butcher a rabbit, squirrel, or a deer:

9) Read THIS survival guide before the world ends:

10)  How to make shelter:

Now GO survive the apocalypse...Enjoy!

Why Yes, the Apocalypse I'm Afraid

Apocalypse?  What apocalypse?

And if the apocalypse really does exist and could occur at some point in the near future, what are we, humanity as a whole, to do about it?


Now, I don't want to frighten you all or discourage you from reading this post.  So don't assume that it's about some nutty 22 year old who is just panicking about graduating and doesn't know where to go or what's to come for her next step in life as a post-graduate, liberal thinker, free-spirited environmentalist (even though I clearly DID just describe my current state of psyche and life at this very moment in time).  Just because I'm confused about which path to take and where to simply begin doesn't mean that I'm giving up on everything.  I'm not hoping for the apocalypse to happen or mentally becoming unwell by thinking about it just so that I don't have to deal with my reality.

No, no.

To be honest, I'm not really one of those doomsday preppers who has an unlimited supply of canned goods, flashlights, batteries, and water stashed in my closet or better yet, the doomsday cellar that I don't have.  I don't really think its quite necessary to stuff our houses with more consumer products and to prepare for this apocalyptic event in some grandeur way because it's beyond ourselves.  Well maybe not entirely, but as much as we can predict the future, it's still so unpredictable, and knowing that, gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, there is a slight chance of us of fixing our present conditions of life that can help better our future ones.  And not just for each other, but for all existing creatures that rely on us, and us on them, to maintain this circle of life.  And for the environment.  Because without it, we couldn't exist and function in our day to day lives, since trees produce the oxygen we need to breathe, water keeps our vital beings alive, and the fruits of the Earth teach us how to work with Mother Nature instead of against her.

It's hard to think of the apocalypse as some sort of relevant concept that could happen at some point in our near future.

I don't necessarily mean some big explosion that could occur at any moment, but more of a gradual transformation from a thriving society and world, into an empty one.

Even though I know that my apartment may crumble at any moment and all my belongings may be lost in an instant, and even though I'm not 'prepping' like the doomsday folk, it doesn't take away from my obsession and fascination that I have for the apocalypse.

There, I said it.

I'm obsessed with the apocalypse.

I think my obsession stems from the fact that I think we are already living in a time that is gradually getting closer to the apocalypse, with evidence of abandoned landscapes, increasing consumerism, conventional agriculture, the destruction of our environment through unsustainable energy extraction techniques, the allowance of greenhouse gas emissions, overfishing our seas, poisoning and depleting our soil, and so on.  I think that people aren't taking into consideration the fact that we are already living in a sort of semi-apocalyptic era.

It's worth considering, since our lives are the only things we have after all.  And even then, we don't really have them because they aren't stable.  Our lives aren't certain or granted to us because at any moment, one of us could pass tomorrow.

Now, I don't mean to be grim, but the truth is, because we rely on the fact that tomorrow is always guaranteed, we continue to act, think, consume, produce, and be the same as we were yesterday.  But yesterday isn't today and today isn't tomorrow.

Things are always changing.  WE are always changing.  Since I believe that we are ever-evolving human beings, it's important to know that the world we live in is also ever-evolving and adapting to our ways and habits.

That's why I say we must do EVERYTHING we can in order to ensure longer futures, healthier lifestyles, and an overall better planet for the generations of humans and other species and beings to come.  It is our duty to protect not only each other, but the land we live on and the animals that live with us.

So let me just say this...

The blog entries and photos that I post are to contribute to this concept that our world is already in its own mini apocalypse.  With our flawed government systems, unsustainable food industry, finite resources, and societal structures that have created boundaries for our potential as human beings, we are destined towards some great shift that we will never be able to fully grasp until it happens.  The purpose of this blog is to get you to think about the current state of our economy, society, and environment, its grim future, and the last strands of hope and possibility that we have to turn it all around.  And the only way to accomplish any of this, is of course, through discussion.  So please, speak your minds freely.