A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Tuesday night 6/22
There are countless predictions and prophecies on how the world will end. The rapture, the apocalypse, nuclear winter, supernova, wars, pestilence, the zombie plague, the Stand, I Am Legend. Tonight has helped me to see one such possible outcome – simple disappearance of humanity. On an island so sparsely populated as Iceland, going for stretches without crossing paths is not unheard of. Since leaving Skaftafell National Park – a portion of the south of Europe’s largest glacier – our path has been around the southeastern portion of the country, a land that has no human civilization save for a couple harbor outposts. The desolation is understandable. This is a portion of the country that does not want to be inhabited. It is frigid cold even in June. The weather is dreary cloudy and drizzly, and even when the sun comes out it isn’t for long. Were you trying to build out here, you would first have issues with the terriain being entirely rubble. The house might stand for some time before you realized the rubble was volcanic. If the eruption didn’t kill you, the ensuing glacial floods would soon swamp your lands. And if the force of the flood didn’t take out your house, the boulders washed through would. The environment is the weirdest kind of scorched earth – this is not man-made atomic desolation; this is simply the earth rejecting humanity and returning to a pristine state.
From here, the east fjords are similarly stark with clouds, cliffs, and remote nothingness. It is Big Sur, minus the multimillion dollar houses and the cars coming the other direction. The map we are following has a limited number of place names. Some are huge font – Reykjavik and Akureyri. Some large (these are the 1000 people villages). Some medium (200 people or so). And some in small font, either without or with parentheses. These are up to a few houses, the former being inhabited, the latter being abandoned. The sheer lack of things to put on a road map allows 50-year old abandoned homesteads to still be noteworthy.
We pulled off at a collapsed farm building in absence of any surrounding architecture. While I took photos, sheep bleated at me and birds overhead sent eerie cries. The ground was unstable and had started to absorb the completely rusted farm implements that had been left to the elements.
Just down the road, another partial building bore some Banksy-like graffiti. A simple hitchhiker facing the road, thumb out, and a sign that said Metropolis. His most obvious conveyance was one of fatigue with middle-of-nowhere existence, ready to move on to a place with something – anything – to do. But he was dark and his face obscured, making him an unsettling character. His silhouette on the wall evoked thoughts of atomic explosion human silhouettes on the sides of buildings. We pressed on.
We stopped at a couple abandoned houses for photographs. The latter was along a washed out gravel road, next to a partially earthly-reclaimed shed and a boarded up second shed. The house itself was small, a wooden outpost with two rooms on each floor and a steel door locked shut. On the windowsill was a book sans cover yellowed from years of exposure and a bottle whose label looked to be from the 60s. The clouds had come in more by now, creating the darkest light that can be had in Iceland in late June. Midnight about 20 meters under the cloud line, looking over a frigid ocean lapping at the desolate shores from the vantage point of an abandoned home, still light enough to read the terrain’s absence of life.
By the time we rolled into our final destination for the night, we hadn’t seen other living souls in hours. This was the end of humanity. Power was still going and the structures of man were still there, but man was absent. The world was at peace.