Who's ready for a depressing tale to bring down your summer? Call me uninformed, but I just now learned about Treece, Kansas. Since veins of zinc and lead turned up almost a century ago, mining companies (and miners) moved in, made a mint (the companies, obviously; not the miners), tapped the land out, and left. Now, Treece is surrounded by decades on decades' piles of toxic "chat," the waste rock left behind after extracting the minerals and lead. The chat is insidious, seeping into rivers and creeks, turning them a vibrant orange; inching its way back into the soil; blowing through the air. No one quite knows what to do with the town now that it's down to two residents.
Outside the realm of dystopian films, it's rare to see entire towns abandoned in favor of better, safer lives, and when it does happen, it's typically because of some kind of immediate disaster like a war, a flood or a hurricane. This has been slow and messy -- disease, bureaucracy, forced displacement. The notion of a disposable town is a weird one, one that feels appropriate for any time except now: a throwback to a time when the buildings we built were less permanent, a glimpse of what lies ahead.