So now they’ve ruined Indian Canyon, one of my favorite drives between Park City and Bluff. “So sad,” as says Atsushi Yamamoto, alumnus and four-year jack-of-all-trades staff member of DesignBuildBLUFF, when anything goes wrong. No shit. It reminds me of the quintessential Native American warrior who turned teary-eyed to the camera after some idiot had thrown a bag full of fast food trash at his feet in a television commercial to bolster Lady Bird Johnson’s Beautify America campaign.
I’ve been a ‘fan’ of, or in the even more current parlance, “liked”, SUWA (the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) all of these years, always appreciating anyone or group who will passionately battle the ruthless corporate insanity of trashing the pristine vastness of this state and the rest of the West, or how about the whole globe, just because they can. And now we have Governor Gary Herbert whining that the Feds (read the Obama administration) have shrunk the number of publicly owned acreage that may be ravaged while at the same time berating individuals for contributing up to one-third of Salt Lake Valley’s ugliest air in the country. He maintains that we, the people, are guilty of tipping the the difference from Yellow air quality alerts to Red, when they recommend that we stay inside, and that school children take recess in the hallways. What a riot. What a joke is this politician, the epitome of the Peter Principle, which if you don’t remember, or are too young to have learned the theory that our organizations promote employees to the level of eventual, or ultimate incompetence. The only argument I’ve ever had against Jon Huntsman, Jr, is that he left our Life Elevated, Greatest Snow on Earth state in the grasp of a total buffoon. How about this, from the Op/Ed page of the Tribune just the other day?:
“Remember the tale of Chicken Little, who cried that “The sky is falling!”? Chicken Little is hit on the head by an acorn, whips his friends into a frenzy and convinces the others that the sky is falling, which ultimately leads to their being eaten by a fox. The moral of the story is not to believe everything you hear. This is still sound advice.
“To hear Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah’s congressional delegation tell it, times have never been harder for energy companies operating on public lands in Utah. Hardly a day seems to go by without Sen Orrin Hatch complaining that the Bureau of Land Management isn’t selling oil and gas leases fast enough, or Herbert imagining that the federal government is standing in the way of a robust energy sector. In other words, the sky is falling.
…According to The Salt Lake Tribune, at the end of 2011 the state of Utah had a record high number of 10,300 producing oil and gas wells , the majority of which are found on public lands… At the end of fiscal year 2011 there were just under 4.5 million acres of BLM managed lands under lease, but just over 1.1 million acres in production. That roughly 5:1 ratio has stayed steady for years… If anything needs to be fixed, it is the wildly unbalanced BLM land use plans left on Utah’s doorstep in 2008 as the Bush administration left office. The plans opened more than 80% of eastern and southern Utah’s BLM managed lands to oil and gas leasing, including millions of acres of the state’s wildest public lands.”
Don’t get me wrong. Very high on my list is kicking action toward minimizing, in hope of finally eliminating, our reliance on imported foreign oil. As I’ve written before and continue to espouse to whomever might lend an ear, there are multiple manners by which we can achieve it, all of which need to be attacked (via research and experiment and failure) concurrently, siphoning off subsidies paid to the too big to fail, tax credits, encouragement of the proud American entrepreneurial spirit, cheerleading the Dream that’s thought lost by the droves, whatever percentage you care to use. Likely no single maneuver or direction – not wind alone, nor solar, nor geothermal, nor tidal, nor nuclear, nor fill in the blank (we know there are hundreds to thousands of wild and crazy ideas out there, including the elusive cold fusion, just read Freakonomics or Superfreakonomics, think about Helium3, or mining platinum on the moon – explain to me that you imagined that all of these slimmer and slimmer portable boxes and slick devices would drive our days and nights, or that Apple, Inc, would briefly climb to become the Fortune 1) – no, no idea can yet be singled out to accomplish our goal. Yet everything might, alternatively to spewing carbon, that is. It’s killing Indian Canyon. It kills another species at least daily, maybe, chillingly, every hour. Michael Sorkin, the architectural critic, years ago explained to an audience I was fortunate enough to be a part of, that our planet is quite like an airplane, wherein every species comprises a rivet holding fuselage and wings together, and that as each one fails its way to extinction the ability to fly altogether reaches its tipping point at which we all, homo sapiens included, go down with the ship. The environment will survive, of course: the case is how soon will our stuff become like so many artifacts in a future Museum of Natural History, and we so many bones wired together with a little guesswork.
Those giant metal chicken looking things pecking at the earth, flattened pads beneath the whole ordeal to hold and access them and the gray-and-green-painted cylinders failing miserably to achieve camouflage, pipes snaking away above grade, surely counter reasonable code, backhoes and front-end loaders compacting more of the same scarring unnatural flat pads, and drill rigs boring for more, more, more. What was it that dolt woman (her appearance on Saturday Night Live generated one of its highest ratings ever) from Alaska said? “Drill, baby, drill?” Should we worry that our comedians, in this case the remarkable Tina Fey, are seemingly infinitely more intelligent than our politicians? David Brooks, a favorite of mine from the New York Times, began a statement the other night, “Lesser pundits would say…” Brilliant and hilarious, cracking up the whole panel. It reminded me of the debate between Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart (who by the way, comes up just after Jon Huntsman on a Google search) on the latter’s show, who kept having to remind the controversial conservation talking head that he is a comedian, not to be taken seriously. Many of our wisest ancestors have been attributed the quote that “there exists not a shred of scientific evidence that life is serious.” Alan Watts said that that’s why angels are light.
The canyon at its most beautiful is but a quarter to half a mile wide, so these ugliest of chickens are spitting distance from the road. We pull over to retch – actually to urinate (it’s a long drive from Bluff to Park City), but what’s the difference, either provides the Bill McDonough’s Waste=Food nutrition to some little, even microscopic critter. And I’m thinking that Ed Abbey probably had it right; throw your beer bottles or cans out the window, for the road is a despicable intrusion and pollution in and of itself. Pisser, I couldn’t bring myself to that edge of Abbey’s monkey wrenching frenzy, no Henny Penny or Loosey Goosey me; I still tilt toward Lady Bird’s windmill, toward clean and positive energy. They don’t take these chickens away once drought leaves them impotent. Something akin to Moore’s Law tells me that even the spare parts will be obsolete. The Chinese might dig the rusted steel, though, who knows.
About a mile or so past the Eve of Destruction, where the North Fork of Indian Canyon veers toward what I’ve always determined to be the southwest, I see the old barn of a private cattle ranch with it’s south facing roof covered with either solar or solar thermal panels (my pedal has hit metal today, especially). Slowly a couple “what ifs” plug into my addlepated brain: what if these were giant shiny solar arrays? What if they were ten-story triple-winged (Mercedes or Peace?) wind generators? Those things appear beautiful at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, and on my longer distance drives through Wyoming and the grain belt of the midwest, and arrays in the desert excite me to no end, as does the exploration of space (the only thing that Newt and I might agree upon – I’d be happy to be fired by you, Mitt). I’m keen on Helium3. I like to explore wilderness – in the side canyons all along the 80-mile stretch of Comb Ridge alongside Bluff one can easily feel him or herself to be the first intruder since the Anasazi packed up and hurriedly left back in 1230. Quickly you intuitively learn to hop rock to rock to leave no trace for the rest of the curious.
I dig risk, not the status quo of “close-ology”, how I was once explained the science of proximal drilling for oil in Texas, nor the tirelessly disruptive, distracting mechanical chickens. Noah would have banned them from the float, I believe.
At Bluff we provide “a place where chance can incubate.” Call it a version of the Ark.
- Hank Louis