On the geotechnical invasion of paradise

It’s too small to see clearly, but you’re looking at an ad for Komatsu in which the entire top of a mountain has been sheared clean off.
The tagline? “Call the experts for any challenge.”

And there they are, driving away in yellow earth-moving equipment – mobile crushers, vibratory rollers, and minimal swing radius excavators – if you look carefully at the left side of the advertisement.
In a press release on their site, Komatsu writes how “[n]ew ways to develop hard terrain – sandstone, lava rock and basalt – had to be learned once the easily developed land was taken. As a result,” they write, “contractors are facing great challenges.”
Including, it seems, the obliteration of whole mountain peaks
Not ones to be intimidated by geology, however, Komatsu arrives with their “advanced land development practices” – “the absolute top” of the industry, they say – and their “world-class machines,” whose “powerful dozing and ripping force” puts the surface of the earth back in its place: as something we will build more suburbs on.
In any case, I’m tempted to propose the plot of some new, geotechnically futuristic version of Paradise Lost – perhaps the world’s first book about the geological invasion of Heaven (in which “devilish enginery” has been assembled inside a “hollow cube,” whilst an army of demons “turn[s] wide the celestial soil” to unleash “sulphurous and nitrous foam” upon a heavenly landscape “soon obscured with smoke”) – but a version that’s been written specifically for Hindus.
In other words, rather than Milton’s legion of demons, who rip minerals from the earth and hurl clouds of rock at the gathered phalanx of angels surrounding God, you’d read instead about a rogue group of anti-mountain engineers – tens of thousands of them, wearing hardhats and carrying bagged lunches – who have begun dismantling Mount Meru one hunk of granite at a time.
They drill, blast, doze, and mobile-crush their way upward, in an endless fleet of bright yellow trucks, reducing the Himalayan vaults of their own gods to mere gravel.

(Thanks, Ben! And thanks, Alex!)

10 thoughts on “On the geotechnical invasion of paradise”

  1. I was thinking Hilton rather than Milton. ‘Lost Horizon.’

    A crew is sent to excavate the tops off some Himalayan mountains, because they obstruct some billionaire’s view of the moon as it sets. The city-sized diggers and shaped nuclear charges crumble a few mountains to reveal… A hidden civilization devoted to peace and tranquility.

    Radical environmentalists get wind of the story and start mountain-sitting instead of tree-sitting. They set up shop and before long the whold range is crammed with little villages of outsiders trying to protect the now-denuded Shangri-La. Reverse-refugees living on mountaintops.

  2. Love the root canal diagram – geology as dental intervention. And Octo, be sure to say hello if you come to the event tomorrow; I’ll continue my barrage of stupid legal questions for you.

    And I like the idea of the mountain-sitters. There’s a project by Andrew Maynard – discussed here – that uses detachable architectural structures to sort of clip-on to trees and thus protect them from loggers; perhaps, then, we need a mountainous version of that project, some kind of clip-on hut that could save mountains from devastation…

    And I did read the first book in Pullman’s series; it was alright – I wasn’t in the mood, at that phase in my life, for armored polar bears so I don’t think I gave the book its due – but I did appreciate, at the time, the Miltonic undertones.

    “Book VI” of Paradise Lost is pretty spectacular, as far as geology and angelic war both go. Amidst rocks and anti-angels, the engines of war were built…

  3. The image immediately reminded me of the mountain-top removal that plagues the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains (which you helpfully linked to). Komatsu recognized that the all to real destruction of the Appalachian mountains isn’t as sexy as a slick slice of the Himalayas.

    Destruction of the environment is hot!

  4. If you’re not familiar with Philip Pullman His Dark Materials, it’s a great re-interpretation of Paradise Lost. Definitely plays with concepts of development and reconfiguration of landscapes, along with a lot of other chewy material.

  5. Isn’t the ad primarily a visual pun on the phrase ‘to move mountains’ – meaning to make every possible effort?

    The equivalent phrase ‘to move Heaven and Earth’ would surely be more applicable to Milton or Pullman…

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