A.K. Sarvis, M.D. aka Doc …
“Did you know that a consortium of power companies and government agencies are conspiring to open more strip mines and build even more coal-burning power plants in the same four-corners area where all that filth is coming from now? Together with more roads, power lines, railways and pipelines? All in what was once semi-virginal wilderness and still is the most spectacular landscape in the forty-eight contiguous bloody states? Did you know that?”
“I was once a semi-virgin,” she said.” Ms. B. Abbzug- aka Bonnie
Edward Abbey’s, The Monkey Wrench Gang was published in 1975. Hayduke, Seldom Seen Smith, Doc, and Abzug set out to go to Page, Arizona near the Colorado River and blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. The novel is an unapologetic portrayal of a gang of environmental terrorists.
Glen Canyon Dam
Abbey never tried to thread the needle, didn’t bother to put some favorable patina on his gang. Hayduke was a Green Beret, veteran of Vietnam War, beer drinking, civilization hating desert loving wilderness advocate. Hayduke had preservation of what was wild on his list of good and the sprawling mess called Tucson on his list of what he called tragedy.
The Navajo Generating Station was under construction the same time as The Monkey Wrench Gang was being drafted. The book was published in 1975, the same year that the power plant went online.
Navajo Generating Station
Last year, November 2019, the Navajo Generation Station closed unable to compete with newer technologies, both natural gas and solar power were cheaper. In forty-five years of operation the power plant released millions and millions of tons of pollution into the atmosphere, much of it falling onto the Navajo Nations land and people.
Not sure happiness is something Edward Abbey based his life upon. A conservationist’s day begins and ends the same way, losing another fight. Hayduke’s barbarism and wretched excesses I imagine were medicinal characteristics for the author to create. Abbey’s doing something about the desecration was to set Hayduke out on the page and let his savage disdain for civilization speak his vulgar truth to power.
Last week felt like I was on the back lot at 20th Century Fox. I’d just come from makeup and heading to the costume shop. I was Hayduke’s stunt double.
Decommissioned Coal Conveyor Belt
The drive east from Tuba City to Teec Nos Pos is 145 miles. Along the highway the Kayenta Mine and the Peabody Coal Company’s conveying system is found located in Shonto, Arizona. Closed now the mine delivered 8 million tons of coal each year for use in the regional coal fired power plants. The largest were the three power units located at Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona.
I opened the door to my van and stepped into the pages of Abbey’s novel. A conveyor belt ran of in the distance a mile or more in each direction, the same contraption Hayduke had sabotaged, the same piece of equipment the environmental terrorist had monkey wrenched.
Hurricane Zeta the fifth hurricane of the season (an all-time record) will hit Louisiana today. In California and Colorado all-time record-breaking wildfires have shaken communities near and far. Time has caught up with our bingeing on fossil fuels. Climate change is here.
We’re all Hayduke’s now.
“He drank another beer as he drove along. Two and a half six-packs to Lee’s Ferry. Out there in the open Southwest, he and his friends measured highway distances in per-capita six-packs of beer. L.A. to Phoenix, four six-packs; Tucson to Flagstaff, three six-packs; Phoenix to New York, thirty-five six-packs.” Edward Abbey Narrator