Uglification of the Landscape
I've always been sensitive to the aesthetics of built human environments, and when I was growing up I was constantly questioning why our communities couldn't look nicer. By "note nice" I'm particularly referring to the 'landscape of the offramp;' those stretches of car dealerships, fast food joints, strip malls, franchise hotels, parking lots, and utilitarian architecture we're all familiar with. Although our modern uglification of the landscape has many other manifestations as well.
I recently moved to a place where I'm interacting more with the landscape of the offramp than I have in the past, so these things have been on my mind, and my frequent encounters with strip malls and freeways leave me vaguely distressed. I'm lucky enough that those encounters are mostly limited to portions of my commute to and from work or when I have to go to the grocery store (I live in a quiet, leafy neighborhood). But the question I want to pose is how anyone else here responds to landscapes that have been "made ugly" by commerce and industry? Personally, in addition to my need to constantly recharge in nature (as has been discussed by others on the fibromyalgia thread), I also fantasize about the time when economic and environmental conditions change so much that the concrete scars of our society are surrendered to nature. Looking at the long-term predictions posted on this site, it looks like those conditions will start arriving within the next decade. Hooray!
I hear you, Coyote. Travel the freeways of Houston, and you will see a hundred miles of that blight. It would seem as if the whole world has been turned into a giant, tacky, wall-to-wall strip-mall. Nothing but parking lots and Quikie-Lubes and Shit-Fil-A's. This is not America the Beautiful. This is late-stage capitalism metastisizing every last square foot. And i am not saying that as some sort of "back to the woods" communal hippie. I am more of an inner-city type communal hippie, who wishes that the woods and fields were not being destroyed for such ugly and wasteful stupidities.
Totally agree! Read, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs. She was panned as a nut when she wrote her book almost 60 years ago but has been totally vindicated. She preached mixed use, walkable communities. Yet another reason I live in a small (~2,500) town.
I live in CT where we don't have as many big chain restaurants but more small, family owned ones. We have the malls, strip and otherwise, but they are made to look more charming (I live in a town that is approx 25K people, not a big city). When I traveled down south, especially to flat areas like Houston and other cities in TX I noticed that none of the restaurants were small, homey ones but all these big chains. When I visit family in Germany even the smaller cities are all small shops and restaurants. Everything is in walking distance or biking for most people. I love that kind of life. Notice they all look slimmer than us too. They walk more or take a bike. We spend way too much time in this country driving. Most of my friends have to commute over an hour to work every day. The traffic is insane.
That Europe-New England-South/Texas spectrum you describe is a great example of how the age of human settlement patterns prior to the arrival of the automobile affects the degree to which landscapes (at least in the Western world) have been given over to sprawl and concrete. It's no coincidence that the only US cities with extensive commuter rail networks-Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago-became major urban centers prior to the 20th century.
But while the landscape of the offramp is an example that is more specific to North America, late stage capitalism (thank you @Unk p) is metastasizing in many different ways around the globe. I've traveled in China, and landscape uglification is happening there BIG TIME as government officials ram through mega infrastructure projects in order to keep their economy chugging. Then there are all of the unnecessary dams being built in the Global South that are displacing peasants and indigenous communities. The list goes on...
@Tricia CT others,
You have touched raw and painful triggers for many of us.
I grew up in nature, fern-filled woods and wide open spaces leading to beaches, mountains within a very town, or nearby very small city to now relatively medium sized city still within an hour or two from mountains, forests or beaches.
But the metastatic nature of urban blight of all of my once beloved places and spaces makes me physically and emotionally ill.
I rarely even drive down major streets because of the barrage of uglification, trash and collected personal debris of not just urban sprawl or homeless camps but our own once natural and naturally beautiful yards and properties of our own homes.
Humans can exhibit as well as live, sad and even ugly lives often seemingly reflective of our own pain and lack of harmony within. And on a larger collective lives the strip malls, car and junk lots, dearships and stacked upon stacked concrete jungles of parking garages, housing units, enormous shopping mall-entertainment centers that speak volumes about our greed, materialism and endless pursuit of false senses of self worth or false needs for validation with abundance of needs and possessions.
And don't even get me going on true strip(ping) malls and gaudy massage and video shops of our most prurient, self-absorbed behaviors and separation from our higher selves. Ugh.
The uglification of the landscaoe is at heart the uglification and disconnect from ourselves and our very souls and highest selves.
The disconnect from joy, from beauty, from music and most of all from nature and communion with the heartbeat of one another and our once beloved plant, animal, and mineral kingdom.
Connection to beauty, joy and mother earth our only salvation from our inhuman or perhaps inhuman selves.
Love, light, and healing prayers,