Mobile phone towers are a fact of our lives and landscapes these days. We have all seen them. An ugly steel antenna towering high above us relaying our intimate texts and personal phone calls across the world. In certain parts of the world however, the powers that be (cell phone companies) have tried to camouflage these monstrosities. We have cataloged some of the incongruous pieces of infrastructure. Many of these giant trees appear somewhat surreal by their total misplacement.
Hanging wall art can be a somewhat safe bet when it comes to brightening up a cafe wall or making that mundane office space a more vibrant one. Providing that little bit of life with a touch more creativity however, always earns at the very least an intriguing second glance. The unconventional approach can often offer a piece of wall art perhaps a little bit of extra depth and soul. Besides being very cool, these pieces can be very simple, yet can leave us thinking – why didn’t I think of that!
Abandoned cities are an unfortunate consequence of life and growth on our planet. The reasons for abandoning a city are as varied as the people who once inhabited their buildings and walked their streets. Many of these cities are forgotten and simply line the pages of history. Some are examples of poor urban planning, some the result of the depletion of natural resources, while others are poignant reminders of the fragility of life in a nuclear world. Below are some striking images of abandoned cities from around the world. Many of these cities have been abandoned for decades, however, due to rapid growth and expansion, particularly in China, we are now in an era of “modern” abandoned cities.
A small, 15-acre rock that protrudes from the ocean off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan known as Hashima Island. This island was once a major coal mining center that thrived for almost a century. The island sits atop a coal deposit that descends deep into the ocean floor beneath. In 1890 the coal was tapped by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation who in turn purchased Hashima from the local families who owned it, and that is when the heyday of Hashima Island began. Rather than ferry the workers needed to mine the coal deposits, Mitsubishi built a city for its workers on the island. At its peak in 1959, Hashima Island was the most densely populated city on Earth, with 5,259 inhabitants. That’s 835 people for every 2.5 acres. By 1974, petroleum had overtaken coal as the world’s preferred energy source, and Mitsubishi revealed the mine would be closed. By April 1974, the last of the island’s residents were ferried onto the mainland, and the island was permanently closed.
In 1970 the Soviet government built an small city for the Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers. The city of Pripyat enjoyed conveniences many other Soviet cities could only envy: high-rise apartment buildings, schools, a cultural center, hospital, swimming pools, theaters, stores, restaurants, cafes, playgrounds, and a stadium. On the morning of April 26 1986, however, this city would be irrevocably changed. On the day following the Chernobyl power plant disaster, as helicopters buzzed overhead and thick smoke billowed from reactor four, the Soviet government issued the immediate evacuation of the city of Pripyat. The residents were told that they had two hours to gather all essential belongings and board a bus for mandatory evacuation. They were informed that their evacuation was only temporary, for perhaps three days at the most, and so the residents left most of their clothing, photographs, toys, and family pets behind. The 50,000 citizens departed Pripyat on a line of Kiev-bound buses that stretched for miles, all of them expecting to see their hometown again in just a few days. They would never return.
Kowloon Walled City was once a densely populated and largely ungoverned settlement in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Dating back to the Song Dynasty it served as a military out-post to defend the area against pirates and to manage the production of Salt before eventually coming under British rule. During Japanese occupation in World War II the population ballooned as thousands of Hong Kong residents sought refuge in the makeshift enclave. Once Japan surrendered from the city, the population dramatically increased again with numerous squatters moving in. By the early 1980s it was notorious haven for criminals and was home to brothels, casinos, cocaine parlours and opium dens. The city eventually became the focus of a diplomatic crisis with both Britain and China refusing to take responsibility. Eventually, both the British and Chinese authorities found the city to be increasingly intolerable, despite lower crime rates in later years. Ungoverned by health and safety regulations or any building codes, the quality of life and sanitary conditions in which the estimated 50,000 inhabitants lived, was cause for much concern and in 1991 the evacuation of the Walled City began. Many residents protested the evacuation and demolition. Despite the protests, the compensation and rehousing of the residents cost the government $2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars, and the last residents left in early 1992. The subsequent years saw the leveling of the entire city and by 1995 the Kowloon Walled City Park was opened on the site where this infamous city once stood.
There are probably more than two dozen other abandoned cities similar to the cities mentioned above, however, as we enter 2013 we are faced with the growing issue of “modern” abandoned cities. This phenomenon is unique as these are cities that were built in anticipation of growth and expansion, but development outpaced the influx of proposed residents. Although this problem can be seen in many countries, such as Ireland, it is in China where this problem can be witnessed on a massive scale. China’s unprecedented growth is evident for all to see. It is estimated that 20 million people migrate from rural areas to cities every year. These numbers seem only to be rising and according to BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) China will subsequently be home to the worlds first Mega-cities.
The city of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province was labeled China’s largest ghost city in 2010. It is, in fact, just a part of the even larger area of Ordos which was developed to accommodate 1.5 million people but remains largely desolate and unoccupied. These ghost cities, bridges to nowhere and empty highways fuel skepticism from many Western analysts of what they consider an unbalanced Chinese economy. In 2011, the percentage of the Chinese population in urban areas reached an astonishing 51.3%, compared to less than 20% in 1980. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) projects that China’s already mushrooming urban population will expand by more than 300 million people by 2030 – an accession almost equal to the current population of the United States.
These ghost cities seem to phase few in China however, their confidence in their colossal urbanisation is reinforced by the many examples of “empty” urban construction projects of the past, such as Shanghai Pudong. Built in the late 1990’s, Shanghai Pudong is the classic example of how a city lay empty for a long period but slowly became occupied. It has a population today of roughly 5.5 million. China does not wait to build its new cities. Instead, investment and construction must be aligned with the future influx of urban dwellers. Employment in urban areas skyrockets at a consistently rapid pace and the development of infrastructure and accommodation in anticipation of growth has always been part of China’s grand plan. All the rest of the world can do is simply bare witness the largest urbanisation the world has ever seen.
Despite the pain of our poor broken country, we can take our legitimate, silenced rage and channel it into something positive. Don’t let them bring you down, people. Start with you. It’s the very best place to start.
Stop waiting for the right time to do what you want to do. There is no such thing as the right time, as anyone who has ever planned to have a baby or to go back to education will tell you. There never is or ever will be a right time. The right time is a myth that makes us miss the boat of opportunity. Procrastination leads to all sorts of missed goals and under achievements. It can lead to unnecessary poverty, for instance. Set a long term goal but break it down into realistic, achievable steps. Celebrate each victory. Move on to the next stage.
Be grateful. Sure there doesn’t seem to be much to be grateful for now: global wars and warming, African famine, still, in the twenty-first century, our poor broken agonised country. But yet: take a deep breath and look carefully at what you have to be grateful for. Stay present when you do this. Pay attention. At the end of Day One – TODAY! – write down one thing that you are grateful for. One thing and one thing only. You may not write down two things. Not yet. In a journal, in your iPhone, on the inside of your arm if you want, just write it down. Keep it somewhere safe, where only you can see it. It might be the perfect cup of coffee you had this morning in that small, new coffee place that wasn’t there last week. Or how the leaves of the dogwood tree in your neighbour’s garden that you can see from your kitchen window is at its simple, staggering, Autumnal best. On Day Two write down two things. By this time next week, that gratitude list will be seven at the very least. Just imagine. That will be seven things that you can be grateful for, that your heart can sing for, that will make you happy because they-are- yours-for.
Go back to school. If it is too late for this year, start making arrangements now for next September. Third level applications can take as long that to get sorted: ring schools, check your subject choice. Third-level extra-curricular courses don’t have such a wait time to apply. And the subject matters in these are vast and exciting, to say the least. For instance, there is a part time or evening art course in University College Cork, in which you can actually go on a trip to Florence to see the art. http://www.ucc.ie/en/study/ace/what/short/Jan/ . This is also the time every autumn when drop-out rates of existing courses peak. That’s a bad thing, you would think. But it’s a good thing too, for you. Because it means there is a place for you on a course of your choice right now. They will be only too delighted to accept you, in almost all cases. Some short course are coming to an end now and new ones running until Christmas are about to begin. Make enquiries. Do the maths. If you are scared, start small. I once did a drawing class called, ‘I Can’t Draw’, because I couldn’t. And, what do you know, I found that I could! At the very least, check out your local Community School, which is always easy and do-able because it is just that, local.
Get over your fear of the computer. Go to your Library. Sign up for a Fas course, which run all the time, on how to use the computer or even to expand on what you know. They are running course now all over the country. If you live in the Barrow Street area in Dublin, and are of a certain age as they say, you can spend time being mentored by a Google employee, who volunteer to teach older citizens about the wonders of the computer age, like how to navigate the very best thrills of the skydive that is the Wonderful World Wide Web. http://www.thejournal.ie/google-oaps-internet-training-courses-564991-Aug2012/ If you are kind, tough, energetic enough, you can become a mentor and go back into your community with your shiny new-found skills tucked under your arm – like those children in Africa, who go to school every day and then come back to their village and pass on what they have learnt to the rest of the children. Google even throw in lunch for you. Now, how cool is that.
Start your own business. You know that pile of to-do papers stacked on your kitchen table that the clutter experts keep telling us to get rid of? Well, just for now, move that pile to the other end of the table. Another week there isn’t going to bring the world of tidy to a grinding stop. Sit down with your lap-top, iPhone, school copybook, and begin on page one making a list of what it would take for you to start your own business. How many successful entrepreneurs began with a scribble on the back of an envelope? Thousands, people! Thousands and thousands and thousands. You know that luscious chocolate cake/apple tart/salad dressing that only your daughter or your mother or your best friend can get so right? Maybe the two of you could develop that into a small start-up http://www.aldi.ie/ie/html/product_range/best_of_ireland_23417.htm. I wish someone would come up with a better design for the bicycle saddle – stationary or Alps-climbing – that would take the pain and numbness out of what’s there now. Sure, I know there’s no money available from our banks. So what. There are gaps in the market now that weren’t there five years ago when we were saturated with ‘stuff’ of every description.
Take a yoga class. Finally. Sure you can watch yoga on a tv health channel. But, seriously, when did you last actually move the coffee table out of the way and do an hour of yoga? If you take a class, you commit to being there, learn how to do it properly, and carry that template with you to do wherever you happen to be. You can then choose to top-up that base with a refresher class every year or two. And then you have a marvellous tool at your disposal that has been proven to have a whole raft of health benefits.
Go for a walk. It’s cheap, free and you will have a sounder mind and a healthier body in as little as six weeks. If you think you lack the willpower, or the time, or it’s raining, go to Tiny Habits http://tinyhabits.com/ where you will see how to get over those blocks, one walking shoe at a time. A quick click on the subjects and testimonials will prove that, even though it is a simple concept, it really, really works. So it rains here. So what. Get over it: it isn’t as though we have a choice over the weather. Go to Lidl or Aldi and pick up some of their Wet Weather Walking Wear.
But whatever you do, just do it. It is never too late to get passionate about your life. This is not a rehearsal. This is the real thing, baby! Allow yourself to be the star, the hero in your own narrative. Overcome obstacles to re-discover your authentic, heroic self. All the old clichés are true: seize the day, be present, show up. Face the fear and do it anyway. Go be happy, goddamn it!