A popular narrative trope in many stories is that of the wasteland. The hero generally has to get across an inhospitable landscape that has been blighted by some kind disaster that has occurred naturally, by humans or by other worldly influences. Either way, to succeed in whatever quest they are on the heroes usually have to cross it or survive in it with little resources and no outside help. The story’s main character has to spend some time in any environment that only a Land Remediation Company could help sort out.
Why is this the case?
The origins of a wasteland in a story run very deep. One of the most well known is that of Jesus in the wilderness, wandering and being tempted by the devil but there are even early examples such as the trials of Gilgamesh which is thought to be the oldest in the world. It is a recurring theme that appears in the Lord of the Rings in Mordor, and the Desert planet of Arrakis in Dune.
Why do we need these Wastelands? Simply put the hero has to undergo a trial of some kind and if the environment is also against them it makes their achievement seem even more incredible.