This story was inspired by episode #130 - "Holdout" from the podcast 99% Invisible, which you can listen to here, and by my dear friend Alison, a true protector of the Wilderness. It is unfinished.
She lived in a tent, in a tree, in a Park, and they called her the witchy woman, and she was rarely seen by anyone these days. The Park was called Yosemite and it was beautiful. Oak stood next to pine and fir, along with the other last living bits of moss, mugwort, madrone. There were rocks there, and even a little waterfall that rotated the same 100 gallons of greenish water to the delight of tourists. These remnants of a lost world stood in front of a spectactular 3D view of Half-Dome, the windows of the HalfDome Home™ made for an ever-changing 9,000 ft picture of where the monolith itself stood until it didn’t.
Like the filling of the Grand Canyon with trash, and the oil rigs now dotting Yellowstone, this didn’t happen because people hated the Wilderness, it happened because it was necessary. What do you do when the population hits 14 billion and no one knows where to put 3 generations of unemployed Americans? God knows trying to stop people from having kids didn’t work, the media screamed “eugenics!” and demanded that we add government funding to the Mars colonization project, and then the Moon, but those places filled up, and people got tired of living with their entire extended families in the tiny cramped housing units that were stacked higher and higher, until they started crashing down.
The first Apartment Collapse in China killed 3.7 million people when a building that had been designed to hold 250 floors was extended to nearly 700. It fell, as did 14 buildings it slammed into. Bystanders described it as a large scale game of dominos, and the wreckage was so impossible to manage that they just flattened it as best they could, drilled in new titanium foundations, and built on top of it. And so Half Dome was leveled, and the San Francisco bay was filled with bricks of compressed garbage, and Florida was connected to Mexico by an island build at its tail and then pushed into the gap of ocean it had been designed to fill like a puzzle piece.
Hawaii is about the size of Texas now, and Australia was almost the size of Africa before a nuclear reactor blew and *poof* the last walkabout ended for good.
I know, I know, this sounds like madness, but what do you do? Fire up the gas chambers? Build a planet out of old car tires and Pepsi cans? We tried, we really did, but no one ever wants to spend money on research when 75% of humans are living on Soylent bars and bartering synthetic tobacco extract for Tylenol.
So people acclimated and called it “progress” and little by little trees were replaced with oxygen machines and beaches were replaced with skyscrapers and over time people mostly forgot what the world used to be like. But some didn’t.
Which brings us to the Witchy Woman.
… to be continued.