Location 51


By Jonathan H

Rocket Test Structure

All too often, I get caught up in the minutiae of photographing historic structures. I’m completely discounting a large portion of the built environment — the recently abandoned, the recently built, and the still-active. I simply choose not to focus on these locations partly because seeing old buildings in the context of a post-industrial milieu tells us a story that’s different from driving by a Wal-Mart, or liquor store, or even a store-front church.

These places still tell a bit of a story of discardment, though. They may still be a reflection of the throwaway culture in which we live. It’s also a reflection of the loss that our culture has all-too-recently experienced – a culture in which the products of our consumption are no longer actually produced on our own land. There is still a narrative of environmental waste, the harsh realities of production, the dependence on labor, and the extreme power that the worker once held sway over corporate fat-cats — all of these things are no longer a part of the American equation.

We live in a country that can no longer appreciate, nor can we learn to conserve, the resources we use — simply because, whether it’s oil, or avocados, steel, or tchotchke bouncy balls from the .25/c machine in the laundromat — all of these things are no longer connected to us.

Then I realize that we still have production facilities, factories, and skyscrapers that we should be? proud of. We still build things, we still create — and, of course, we have locations that are a reflection of our power, but power with the wrong priorities.

Today’s photo also shows that, at least until very recently we still tested rockets – things that ostensibly brought men to the moon, but were ultimately turned into the vehicles for intercontinental ballistic warheads, ever faster, ever more potent, ever more efficient at killing people. We forget how many of these testing facilities still exist, and how few have gone into abandonment. If there’s any industry that weathers all economies, it is the war economy.? This is an unfortunate fact.

I’m now going to step off my soap box. But we should all take note of the fact that the U.S. spends – if not more than – about one trillion dollars a year on defense and defense-related spending. We spend more than all other countries combined. What we could accomplish with that money? Where could we go, as citizens of the world? Some may label it as “unpatriotic,” but I see it as the ultimate form of patriotism, the kind of patriotism that prevents us from going the way of Rome.

War Spending around the World

12 comments on “Location 51

  1. seany on said:

    i think that a $vaue/GDP pie would be more informative….

  2. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    I agree seany. In the analysis, I wanted to include China somehow. In a GDP graph China would most certainly be on-par with the U.S. I think now, U.S. spends about 4% of GDP on war spending, which is very large, yes, but not as large as our 44-odd percent of GDP spent during WWII.

  3. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    By the way, I pulled up the GDP figures. We’re about neck-in-neck (GDP wise) with China. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2034rank.html

    However, I’m not entirely sure that GDP may be the best measurement. Bigger dollars buy bigger weapons.

    I think essentially, what I was trying to get at, though, is that the U.S. is largely the creation of the world-wide arms race that we’re currently going through.

    Thomas Friedman has interesting things to say – most notably that a country no longer has reason to invade another country in which they have economically vested interests. He once claimed that no country with a Mcdonald’s in its borders will go at war with another country. I get at what he’s saying. I wish there was a better way of articulating it…

  4. Is that one of the test stands at the XXXXXX site?

  5. The X’s answered my question, thanks. Please post more pictures of site X if you have any.

  6. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    Thanks eric. I’ll be sure to post more images in the future. In the meantime, though, you can definitely check http://www.flickr.com/photos/tunnelbug for some of the latest.

  7. Al C. on said:

    Rockets! Love it!

  8. Aaron on said:

    Great post & photograph, and I agree with what you’re saying about these newer discarded industrial structures being a symbol for the throwaway culture which has developed here, I havent made that connection before.

    I thnk another way to restate what you were driving at with the Thomas Friedman reference could be that, military force is used only (if not primarily) when new business for large US corporations stands to be gained, and other means (crippling loans, coup d’etats.. to name a few) fail. I am being a bit cynical of course.

    Well done also in trying to raise more awareness of the insanity of our defense spending “A true patriot must always be ready to defend his freedom against his government”.

  9. WorkerBee on said:


    As you have more than one follower going by “eric”, I’ll post as workerbee henceforth. Very interesting pic – what exposure time did you use on that image? With the star motion blur I’m assuming 10min+??? Awesome image – I’ve been experimenting quite a bit of late with nigh photography, I’ll share my blog URL via email with you shortly.

    Anyway, yes, we spend an enormous amount of money on military/defense. And not to sound like an “old” republican (because I’m not, well not necessarily both anyway), a lot of that money trickles down into the private sector – living relatively close to a military base, I see that in action daily. Being in the bay area close to Alameda and the reserve fleet, I can see that the immediate perception of military spending would have more of a past tense connotation though. Also have to consider that military expenditure is what a lot of high tech industry uses as its R&D budget, especially aerospace – again, perhaps hard to finger an immediate, tangible benefit, but this country would have not aerospace industry left it it weren’t for all the military $ funneled into it.

  10. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the words. I do agree that money trickles down in a war economy, just as in any other economy, and technology is definitely a good thing. I’m assuming you’re just playing devil’s advocate, which definitely commendable. My own thoughts are that war spending are the equivalent of taking a pile of cash, dumping jet fuel on it, and burning it. It might provide a little warmth for a few minutes, but how are you going to buy food after it?

    But politics πŸ™‚ as usual. I still agree to some degree. Living in Richmond, you see what the abandonment of the Richmond shipyards after WWII have done to the entire community, and the county at large to an extent.

    Anyways, the exposure was about 6min. Motion blur starts to set in at about 5 min, but the longer th ebetter of course. a good 20-25 min exposure will give you a sweet effect, but of course, F-stop should be a good 11 or 13.


  11. WorkerBee on said:

    What, me play devll’s advocate? πŸ™‚

    Hey, as the dollar continues to devalue, you get a bigger pile of cash to burn…….if you can still afford the jet fuel to dump on it………..

  12. Pingback: U.S. War Spending in Cartograms - Bearings

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