Godzilla, Istanbul rerun, and earthquake
Sometimes it happens that a topic gets stuck in your head so much that it gets associated with everything you read, watch, and listen to. This is completely normal, but when things get to this point, you start to overlook everything else.
The Istanbul mayoral election, which will be held for a second time on June 23 after the March 31 polls were annulled by the Supreme Election Council, is about to become such a topic.
The elections aren’t just about Istanbul anymore—the entire country and Turkish citizens living abroad have been watching the process closely, trying to hear every single thing the candidates say. Naturally, whether they want it to or not, the election is becoming intertwined with every other issue in their minds.
If Godzilla, the Japanese creation that gave new meaning to pop culture, were to return to cinemas, minds like mine would even tie Godzilla to election issues and Turkey’s most populous city.
First released in 1954, the Godzilla movie was basically about the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. Godzilla represents the bombs’ devastating effects, and the movie is asking humanity to stay away from these types of weapons. Still, the movie is closely related to atom bombs and other nuclear activities.
Godzilla is sometimes a gigantic lizard that was accidentally created through nuclear testing, and sometimes he’s a natural weapon to use against humanity’s destructive effects. What doesn’t change is that humanity cannot stop this creation easily. In last the film, directed by Michael Dougherty, Godzilla is both a natural weapon and humanity’s last hope.
In the first film in 2014, Godzilla reappears after two creatures to destroy San Francisco, and he shows everyone that monsters are real. To find out where these monsters can be found, a group called Monarch works with the U.S. army. Monarch establishes where the monsters came from and works to make sure they don not become active again. At the same time, with a device called ORCA, they attempt to bring the monsters under their control. However, while Monarch and the U.S. army are investigating the creatures, a group of environmental terrorists attacks the base and steals ORCA as it was controlling the monsters.
Godzilla 2 continues from this point, with fights among monsters and humanity’s hopes for survival. It raises the same question that came up in Matrix; “Is humanity the greatest virus on Earth?” Monarch’s long-standing work is seen at the drawings at the end of Skull Island, where a group is springing to action; this serves as an important tie to the last production of the series, Kong vs. Godzilla.
Whether the Godzilla films are good or bad is a separate topic, but in light of the Istanbul elections in Turkey, they raise a lot of questions. The first of these is what the elected mayor would do in the face of an earthquake, which would be an equally destructive force in Istanbul. More precisely, what is their plan to save as many people as possible in a natural disaster?
Last year, the Chamber of Engineers came out against the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency’s (AFAD) claim that there are 2,354 earthquake gathering sites in Istanbul. The chamber pointed out that mosque courtyards can’t be used as gathering sites, and many of the places shown as gathering sites by AFAD are in fact now occupied by shopping malls and skyscrapers. In case of an earthquake, the number of safe places for people to gather is now just 77.
It’s terrifying to even think about what will happen if there’s an earthquake in Istanbul, which has a population of over 15 million and a long history of earthquakes.
And then there is Ekrem İmamoğlu, the candidate who won the Istanbul mayoral elections in March, but had his mandate taken away and who is now coming out stronger in the election re-run. Looking at his plans for the city, his projects for re-greening Istanbul really stand out. On İmamoğlu’s campaign website, he discusses adding green spaces and earthquake gathering sites in each neighbourhood in Istanbul according to their population. This project sounds pretty good for districts of Istanbul like Mecidiyeköy, Levent, and Avcılar, which are completely covered with buildings and have almost no parks. However, it seems it will be quite difficult to just randomly turn a certain number of buildings into green areas.
The other frontrunner in the election, Binali Yıldırım, is offering some very different suggestions. He favours reinforcing buildings, as they have already been doing in urban renewal projects, as well as identifying unsafe buildings and replacing them with safe ones. There’s no mention of earthquake gathering sites on Yıldırım’s website. Instead, he supports carrying on with the current policies. However, it is not even known how many of the new buildings could withstand an earthquake. There is no information on Binali Yıldırım’s campaign website about where people can go if their buildings or neighbourhoods are destroyed in an earthquake.
Although Ekrem İmamoğlu’s pre-earthquake plans are the better of designed compared to Yıldırım’s, there are still some parts that required further work.
Whenever Godzilla emerges, he forces us to face what will happen in an unexpected disaster—the destruction, the fires, and the pain. On top of that, it’s never known when Godzilla will appear or even whether he will appear. On the other hand, the potential Istanbul earthquake has been talked about for years, and given the earthquakes that happened throughout the city’s history, the fact that another one will almost certainly happen becomes a harsh reality. Preparing the city and the public is primarily the leadership’s responsibility.
Another thing that sticks in my mind besides Godzilla is the threats to our safety that Turkey’s rulers avoid telling us. These are questions like what happened to the Turkish agricultural products that Russia turned away? Were they sold in the domestic market? Are there good plans in place to deal with the possible risk of the Akkuyu nuclear plant being built? And is there a team that can come in and intervene quickly in case of an accident in Istanbul’s new airport?
© Ahval English
The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.