TV movie review: Forgotten Planet: Abandoned America (2011)

I was expecting something different, a history of ghost towns. What I got instead was an over-the-top account of five places in the US, an account that tried to create amazement out of nothing. The script and narrative was a little bit too sensational, dramatically recalling moral decay and cursed land.

The five cities the show highlighted were interesting, but I would have preferred much more factual rather than sensational accounts. The five abandoned places include: Pincher, Oklahoma; the Salton Sea, CA; Hunter’s Point, CA; Detroit; and Bodie, CA.

For the most part, the tv show is a depressing look at dark parts of US history, when we polluted the environment and ourselves through our industrialization and ignorant conceit.

Pincher was a community poisoned by the zinc and iron ore mining of the 20th century, and finally completely abandoned in 2009.

The story about the Salton Sea in California revealed the destruction that salt and pesticides from agricultural runoff brings: increased salt concentration, algae blooms, fish die-offs, and bird die-offs.

Hunter’s Point in San Francisco was a naval shipyard during WWII where ships were built and repaired—and radiation experiments conducted on farm animals and dogs. Now it is abandoned and partially radiation-contaminated.

Detroit, the Motor City, really needs no explanation. Its collapse started decades before but accelerated at an alarming pace in the last ten years. The city is a study in urban decay with whole swatches of the city abandoned.

Bodie was what I expected Abandoned America to be about: an honest-to-God ghost town in the Old West. Bodie went from gold mining town to settled mining town to a town abandoned after the government order to shut down the mines at the beginning of World War II; the mines were not necessary for the war effort.

The episode of Forgotten Planet as a whole was disappointing. The script and narrator too sensationalist. And it left me realizing that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of similar communities that we polluted and destroyed.


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