I love ghost towns. There's something amazing about being the only human being walking through a vast and utterly empty, human-constructed realm. At least half the appeal of the zombie movie comes from the weird emptiness of the world. Whack a few shambling corpses over the head, and you can live anywhere you want! Dibs on the library!
There have always been ghost towns. Every human-inhabited continent is dotted with the remains of towns that were abandoned, after the residents ran out of water, or food, or were turned into a decorative pile of skulls outside the front gates by a barbarian horde.
The Black Death left many villages empty, as the few survivors just left. The 30 Years War in Europe was so vicious - today we'd see it as ethnic cleansing - that it left vast areas depopulated.
There's never been a better time than now to be a lover of ghost towns, because they're making brand new ones.
Traditionally, you get a ghost town like this: people move in, they set up a town, something goes catastrophically wrong (famine, pestilence, economic collapse, nuclear reactor meltdown, underground coal seam fire) and everybody leaves/drops dead.
Now China and a few other countries are just building ghost towns from scratch.
Ordos City is one of the most famous of these ghost cities. The actual ghost town is the new city - the old Ordos was a standard issue boom town. When China's economy started heading skyward like an Atlas rocket, power plants needed coal. Inner Mongolia had lots of coal. Miners came, and Ordos grew and grew, and then planned for a massive, new town site that would put all its previous expansions to shame. And they overshot.
There are a few people living in Ordos, but they amount to one or two families living in apartment blocks built for hundreds.
China also has one of the contenders for the world's largest mall (sorry West Edmonton), the New South China Mall. South China is where a lot of the factories that supply the west were built, and the mall is built just east of Guangzhou, one of the country's largest cities. Yet from its opening in 2005, the mall had a 99 per cent vacancy rate for the next several years. The owner claims things have picked up recently, but there are reports that unfinished sections of the mall are now in danger of collapsing.
Canada is no stranger to this kind of building boom madness and resource-grabbing overshoot.
One of the most famous examples in recent years is Kitsault, a scenic little town of about 2,400 people that existed for exactly three years and then was closed up.
A company town, it was built for molybdenum miners and opened in 1980, on the extreme north coast of B.C. The mine owners didn't want their workers to get dissatisfied and quit, so they included a mall, a community centre, a library, and a small hospital. Then the price of molybdenum crashed in 1982, and six months later everyone was gone.
Kitsault has popped up in the news because the entire town was kept intact and maintained over the years, and it has come up for sale a few times.
If Canada had a population of more than a billion, Kitsault and towns like it might have been built on the scale of Ordos City, rather than as a little village.
China, and maybe Kitsault, should consider new industries for their empty towns. Tourists would probably pay good money to come and to take part in Mad Max or zombie apocalypse tourism. Get a few locals dressed as bikers or the walking dead, and you've got a brand new industry.
@ Copyright 2013