California’s deserts have sparked the imaginations of millions of people around the world. From the famously alien landscape of Joshua Tree to the wide expanses of seemingly empty land, the desert has been seen as a place of reinvention, a blank slate on which the visitor creates his or her own dream. This episode explores the man-made natural disaster that created the Salton Sea, the efforts to preserve Joshua Tree National Park, and how commercial interests and real estate developers created a desert utopia like Palm Springs.
With long-time Joshua Tree resident and artist Kim Stringfellow, we discuss the complicated history of the desert and how it’s often misunderstood. We also visit archivist and former park ranger Joe Zarki, where we explore a photo album that served as the “pitch deck” for Minerva Hamilton Hoyt’s quest to preserve Joshua Tree State Park. Palm Springs is visited, with a discussion with Michael Stern, who authored a book about legendary photographer Julius Shulman. We also meet Tim Bradley about how the Salton Sea came about, and Tao Ruspoli about efforts to revive a once-popular resort area with the Bombay Beach Biennale.