Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Feeling my Inner Kunstler

I'm currently in Surfer's Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia in order to give a talk for work.  If you are in a bad mood when you frame the photo, the place looks like the above.  Or like this if you try to make it look good (say be capturing the sunrise from your hotel):

I absolutely detest this kind of place - there's nothing that destroys the spirit of a once beautiful place quite as effectively as a bunch of 20-100 story concrete and glass hotel towers.  I went for a walk early this morning, and by the time I came back, I was seething.

I was trying to figure out why places like this make me so mad.  I don't mind major cities nearly as much as this kind of beach+concrete-jungle resort.  I don't like to live in cities - being that far removed from nature feels oppressive to my soul.  But on a visit I can appreciate their liveliness and intensity and grand scale.  I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that big cities have been there a long time and the original spirit of that place has been completely replaced with the ambience of the city itself.  Whereas, at a resort, there is still a little bit left of whatever natural beauty it was that made people come here in the first place, and that makes it so much worse.  The crassness and insensitivity of the people that developed all these towers is made achingly painful by the fact that there is still clean sand and soft breezes and strange tropical sounding birds whistling in the trees between all the unspeakable ugliness that the humans have brought to the landscape.

And maybe it also has to do with the fact that it's clear that thousands on thousands of people must choose to come here and stay in all these concrete towers with their own money - to a place I experience as a kind of spiritual torture and never would come to if I wasn't being well paid to do it - and then I feel very isolated from my own kind.

How does anyone expect to feel a sense of the universe's mystery in a building that looks like that?

There are days when I can't wait for the robots and algorithms to complete their take over - how can they screw the planet up any worse than we do?


Lloyd Morcom said...

Ah Stuart, my sentiments exactly!

James said...


I'm sure many of us feel your pain.

Hug a tree. Listen to the birds. Walk on the beach. A couple of meters of sea level rise may "remodel" the resort.

Either that, or fall deep into gloom, buy a copy of The Road for the flight home, and contemplate mortality.



dr2chase said...

I grew up in a tourist-y place (Florida). I never did quite understand what the tourists saw in it, because they didn't do much of the stuff that we thought made Florida fun.

And now, they all go to see The Mouse. Why?

(Back then, the politics were substantially less insane. We elected governors like Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles, not lunatics like Rick "5th amendment" Scott and Jeb "the smart one" Bush.)

Steve From Virginia said...

I feel yr pain, Dude!

Just like that ... all over the world, there is no escape.

Time for a revolution, right?

Stuki said...

Can't speak for Surfer's Paradise; but given the seemingly universal appeal of "beach front" property, I appreciate how tower lined beaches like Miami's allow many more, often ordinary, people a piece of the dream; than the more common arrangement of zoning away everyone but the bailed out few.

Stephen Smith said...

Our coastline doesn't have the big towers, but all these little hotels. So many that there aren't places for the natural beauty, but just block, steel, and concrete.

What I'd rather - is that we build the hulking towers...but then to retain the natural areas. This way we people can enjoy it while preserving the majority of the commons for the world.

Anonymous said...

Well Stuart, take some solace in the fact that you are intelligent enough to articulate these feelings and not alone in doing so.

Humans have insulated themselves from nature to a spectacular degree over the course of the last century. With overshoot, resource depletion and environment change creeping into the picture, that bubble will pop and humans will regain some much needed humility.


kjmclark said...

I felt that way when I had to go to Vegas for work. What were people thinking? "$$$"

It will help you appreciate home that much more, however. It gave me some extra incentive to talk to my planning commissioners and council members and thank them for keeping that kind of development to a minimum.

Stephen B. said...

Ha, ha! I love this!

And all I thought you wanted to do was crunch numbers into informative graphs!

Indeed, what you speak of is exactly how I felt 25 or so years ago during the summer I lived on Florida's "Treasure Coast", aka St. Lucie and Martin counties. Back then they couldn't build condos, houses, and shopping malls fast enough. Well, we see how *that* turned out.

Stuart Staniford said...

Stuki and Stephen Smith - these are good points and indeed it would be much worse if development was not concentrated in this manner.

The post of course is not trying to make some kind of considered proposal about what should be different, but is just a rant about my own feelings that we as a species have gotten ourselves into the situation where we have to do this kind of stuff (and my incomprehension of why so many people are seemingly happy to come to places that have had this done to them).

Frozen in the North said...

What I like about the Gold Coast is that within an easy drive (let say 30 minutes) there are wonderful unspoiled beached with not a soul around. What people forget is that Australia is a place that has for centuries been able to create ugly.

In the most spectacular sites they are able to build towns that make Bournemouth (UK) look good -- trust me that takes some effort.

Bottom line, get out of Dodge and you will see some spectacular sites largely unspoiled -- get a 4x4 many of those place are hard of access!

Mr. Sunshine said...

The cell phone revenue from the antennas on the Lord's Gym "steeple" must go a long way on the Lord's Treadmill! :)