Thursday, May 03, 2007

And speaking of John Muir...

When our webmaster Tom was twelve years old, or so, and living with us abroad, he acquired a voluminous collection of the British comic 2000 A.D., in which the formidable Judge Dredd held violent sway. And a really nasty character he was, in a comic of such extreme scuzziness as to make Batman and Captain Marvel look like Disney concoctions.

Dredd is the law, so to speak: judge, jury and executioner rolled into one. He lives in a place called Mega-City One, a sprawling metropolis on the eastern seaboard of the former United States, where people are housed in skyscraping City Blocks by the tens of thousands. Beyond the city limits is the Cursed Earth, a wasteland inhabited by assorted slimeballs and technomutants who move about in ghastly punk-tech machines.

I occasionally perused those comics, if only because I had a sense the Cursed Earth might be just around the corner.

I was right. It is here.

It used to be that we could escape from the noise and congestion of the city into the tranquility of unspoiled countryside. A day at the beach. A walk in the woods. A bicycle spin down peaceful lanes.

No more. The ghastly punk-tech machines are everywhere.

Highest on the list of offenders are the jet-skis, earsplitting Dreddnoughts of coastal waters and inland lakes. Last summer in Ireland I watched buzzing swarms of these wretched things drive terrified young swimmers onto the sand. "See me! see me!" the infernal engines shriek, "I'm young, I'm male, I'm Judge Dredd, and I don't give a bokk whose afternoon at the beach I ruin."

Almost as bad are the snowmobiles. Fresh soft snow. Pine boughs dipping under pristine burdens. Blessed silence. Then -- VROOOOM! VRRMMMMM! Fleets of gasoline-powered peace shatterers, judge, jury and executioner, dsytopian violators of the winter woods.

Two-, three- and four-wheeled ATVs, all-terrain vehicles, and I do mean all. Mountains, deserts, dunes, forests, meadows -- no place is safe from these earth-gouging robo-toys for boys of all ages. Even my beloved Path, posted to machines of any sort, was violated the other day by a teen on an ATV.

OK, I'm being crotchety, but the battle lines are drawn between Thoreauvian conservationists and the Dreddful technomutants. It's a fight for the last remnants of organic wildness. The wind in the willows vs. the infernal combustion engine. Walden Pond vs. the Cursed Earth.