New Zealand is not in its original condition. The flora and fauna have been reengineered in the typical clodhopper human fashion. Our species loves to tinker with things as though we were polishing the good china with a backhoe. These islands (two full-size, with a set of smaller seed-islands for backup) sailed out of Gondwanaland fully forested, which offended the early settlers’ mercantile sensibilities, and they scraped them almost bald. The land was home to a companionable group of flightless birds that pecked about in peace. The birds strolled past each other in grand profusion, with nothing to worry about but thigh-feather abrasion.
|A depressingly thick tome|
Because we’re still here.
But not, by recent planetary standards, that many of us—not here. This is a comfortably unpopulated land, with the vast majority of residents corralled in cities, as people should be, and the remainder strung out in the countryside with a thousand sheep each available as spacers. The principal occupations are being nice to people in airports, sheep arrangement, and trail maintenance. Anywhere a person might rightly want to tramp is all laid out with boardwalks and graveled pathways and a lavish architecture of steps and bridges over the damp spots. The whole system is tidied on the hour by reasonably-compensated pebbleherds who keep the gravel spanked into its proper borders. To my eyes, the weed-whacking on the sides of the trail was overdone, until I realized that all the border plants would clap their hands over your head by noon and consume stragglers by nightfall, if not subject to regular discipline.
So what we have here is a beautiful set of islands that is completely walkable, which is my definition of a civilized state. We are encouraged to travel the whole thing on foot by the splendid trail system and the fact that automobile fuel is five million dollars a gram, which is exactly the price God would have put on it if he were as powerful as the oil moguls.
I kid. Most people know a lot more about God than I do, and many of them believe he is even more powerful than the oil moguls. They’ve only got that on hearsay, but I suspect they’re right. And if he is, it will all become much clearer over time. Not that much time, either. Hope we get to wave at our fellow space travelers before we go.