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The Real World Versions of Revolution’s Dystopian Cities

A new TV show looks very dystopian, but there are places that resemble Revolution’s landscape in the world today

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Abandoned amusement park in New Orleans Image: Keoni Cabral

“Revolution” premiered last night on NBC, hoping to coast into viewers’ hearts on a wave of Hunger Games hysteria. The show is set in a world where all electricity disappeared 15 years ago. (Even one of the characters comments that this pivotal plot point defies all laws of physics…so we’ll just roll with it for now.) It follows a heroic band of misfits trying to protect the one ring a shiny USB drive from armed horsemen.

The swordfights are cool, but the scenery is much more interesting. This is an archaeologist’s fantasy, a civilization abandoned abruptly in the wake of sudden, cataclysmic change: People in a hurry leave behind the most interesting artifacts. Looking at the remnants of our present lives through a future lens is one of the most entertaining parts of the show. iPads and iPods are useless paperweights, and cars become flowerbeds. The landscape changes, too. Wrigley Field is an overgrown ruin, and suburbs have turned into medieval towns.

It all looks very dystopian, but there are places that resemble the show’s landscape in the world today.

Visually, the producers of “Revolution” probably took their cues from New Orleans. The Big Easy took a huge population hit after Hurricane Katrina, and seven years later, the city’s abandoned schools and theme parks have found an echo on the small screen.

The town of Pripyat near Chernobyl is a classic. 25 years ago, the disaster forced almost everyone out, and it has been partially reclaimed by a radioactive wilderness.

More recently, the earthquake in Christchurch created a zone of abandoned suburbs, which is slowly being retaken by wildlife.

On the other end of the deserted spectrum from the semi-abandoned New Zealand suburbs is the deserted mining town of Kolmanskop, Namibia.

Kolmanskop Image: Michiel van Balen

Abandoned just 40 years after it was established, the dunes creeped into the nearby houses, overwhelming them in floods of sand and dust.

More from Smithsonian.com:
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El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya

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