Wednesday, October 7, 2009

postcards from the edge

one of the random collections i've accumulated over the years is of postcards. generally speaking, i don't get them all together and peruse them; they tend to pile up in little stacks and live, scattered, in various boxes helpfully marked like so:
misc mc
kitchen stuff
misc mc

but lately, with the whole settling down thing, i've been actually putting my random collections together. with these postcards, i am kind of fascinated by what people choose to celebrate or showcase about their place. the very function of postcards is to impress upon the recipient some key image about somewhere else. i suddenly noticed a striking similarity in two postcards that i found funny:

really? there's two states bragging about potato growing? and they are so cheap, they won't even pony up for a new image?  what are you doing, maine? potato growing in maine is a fairly small industry. there's the whole beach/lobster/scruffy tree thing you should be talking up. and idaho? when you've got the sawtooth mountains, the salmon river, and craters of the moon - you're going to advertise potatoes? is that going to bring people there in droves?

i think the winner of the postcard that is inspiring me the least to jump in the car anytime soon is: 

really, endless fields of soybeans is more attractive than that. and if you've been near a pork farm/iowa...and can associate the appropriate smell with this image, all the better.

i tend to collect 'themes' of postcards: from exotic places, featuring maps or plant identification information, funny ones, and scenes of environmental pillage. i guess the last one isn't too surprising, given my natural resource focus (forestry & ag). still, sometimes it amazes me that we have such a frontier mentality that we will celebrate rampant resource use in these ways. the classic one, from oregon:

a more subtle one, from new mexico:

i know, not all cattle production is environmentally unsound. but let's be realistic - in general, stampedeing tons of cows across fragile rangeland is not entirely sustainable.

then there's the grand champion expression of american pride in progress and utter lack of future-thought:

the berkeley pit, of course, was at one point in time one of the largest open-pit mines. it was owned by a huge conglomerate that dug all the copper out...and then removed the pumps that kept it dry and walked away. since then, it's been slowly filling up with water...which, thanks to the mining residue, is heavily contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, zinc, etc. did the flock of snow geese that landed in the water and died die from toxins or a bacterial infection? we don't know, but over 300 carcasses were pulled out in 1995. it was for many years the largest superfund site. not to mention the fact that the company abandoned the community and people of butte without a backward glance...all in all, a really cheerful scene to send on my family back home while i'm travelling.

or how about this one?

ah, sweet hanford! currently the most contaminated nuclear site in the US - fully two-thirds of the entire nuclear waste of the country sits there (53 million gallons of nuclear waste). plus, you can read up a little bit on it and come up with this fact: that plutonium from hanford was in the bomb that fell on nagasaki. the back of this postcard cheerfully proclaims: "Plant 2 can produce enough electricity to serve about 35,000 all-electric homes". that's it? thousands dead, millions of gallons of toxic waste - but on the plus side, enough electricty to serve a town!

there really used to be a town there, too. everyone was moved to make room for the 500+ square mile site. but they kindly named the new site after the town that had once been there. a sort of tribute to progress, i suppose. plus, they got a postcard out of it. i bet there weren't any postcards of hanford the town.

1 comment:

  1. I liked your post about the cultural divide of differing places and I think this postcard post continues well in that vein. All culture, like politics, is local, leaving the outsider to look at the postcards and wonder.