Thoughts on the Apocalypse
The future is now, at the Salton Sea.
By Joni Tevis
After World War II, speculators promoted the Salton Sea as a resort destination. At just sixty miles south of Palm Springs, it seemed like a sure bet. Boomtowns like Salton City Beach, Desert Shores, and Bombay Beach—where we’re standing now—grew up along the waters edge. Boaters raced across the water, setting world records. Frank Sinatra and Guy Lombardo played shows at the Yacht Club just down the way. But over the next twenty years, the boom faded, and then the storms hit.
The Salton Sea feels like a pleasure ground that people abandoned years ago, but it’s more than that. Don’t be fooled by the burned-out trailers on the edge of the water, saying this story’s been told. Look more closely. At the water the color of beef broth, so full of salt and herbicides—atrazine, bentazon, diquat, metribuzin—it’s two steps from solidifying, like aspic. I’ve eaten my share of spinach and grapes and strawberries from the Imperial Valley; that runoff is here now, reducing every minute under the powerful summer sun. Look around. This is what happens when the money runs out, and nobody’s left to clean up the mess. This is what’s next.
Angels and demons at the most infamous dive in the city.
By Brent Hendricks
The idea is that things speed up as the world hurtles towards an end point. Not just the felt pace of life and communication, but time itself speeds up as the significant signs of the past crash into the present. Typology and Recapitulation. Old Testament and New Testament. Like you’re swinging from a rope and your whole life flies before you—all the figures of your life, your culture, even history itself. All the signs of the past fire by and then it’s over. And after that someone you don’t know tells a story about it: about you, about the world, about the end of the world…
“She hanged herself,” he says. And it takes a while, but the ground opens up beneath me and I’m falling right through.
A daytrip to James Dean’s Last Stop and the Earthquake Capital of the World.
By Steven Church
If there is a living, breathing earthquake laboratory in North America, a place where the United States Geological Survey and other entities test out their best theories of earthquake behavior, it is this tiny town in the Cholame Valley. I’d read something about an artist who’d relocated to Parkfield and installed a shake-table affixed with 10-foot steel rods that was designed to make seismicity visible and tangible. He was trying to understand earthquakes through art, and I suppose I saw myself as attempting something similar.
I wasn’t sure what exactly I was chasing, but writing seemed to be the way to go after it. And I knew that, on some level, my interest in earthquakes was a continuation of my own interest in apocalypse.
A brief essay on what it means to be human.
By Scott Russell Sanders
When I speak with audiences about our responsibility to bear in mind the needs of the generations that will come after us, a century and more in the future, I am often asked why we should care about people who do not even exist. What I realized, as I pondered this challenge from the audience, is that the impulse to care about the fate of unborn generations arises from my sense of taking part in the human lineage. Caring about the fate of unborn generations—strangers who exist, as of now, only in our imagination—is an essential part of what it means to be human.
A rallying cry for our dying planet.
By Derrick Jensen
The dominant culture is murdering the planet, and there really isn’t a prayer of stopping this murder so long as so many people continue to value this culture over life on this planet, the life it is murdering. This valuing is almost universal in this culture. Even most mainstream environmentalists say explicitly that they’re attempting to save civilization, not the real world. Here’s an example of this valuing: what do most mainstream “solutions” to global warming have in common? They all take industrial civilization as a given, and the natural world as that which (never who) must conform to industrial civilization. That is literally insane, in terms of being out of touch with physical reality. And it will never work.
By Nicole Walker
Terrain.org recently asked a number of writers what the “apocalypse” means to them, how the idea of impending global disaster factors into their work, what weight the impending end-of-life-as-we-know-it adds to their daily lives. We asked for a comment on the situation, for reactions, suggestions, and artistic engagements. How should we respond to the fact that today we’re confronted with the very possible demise not just of our culture, but our world? Where can we go from here? How should we proceed? Are we hopeful—or are we just waiting for the other shoe to drop? What happens when it does?
As part of our “Thoughts on the Apocalypse” series, over the next few months writers’ responses to our inquiry will be posted here, on Terrain.org’s blog.
In this installment, Nicole Walker laps up oysters, packs away antibiotics, cans tomatoes, and writes, “I pray the apocalypse comes with electricity, but I presume that is not the name for apocalypse at all.”