The Abridged Earth

Abridged has never had a great relationship with nature. Sure, we recognise we wouldn’t be here without it but like some prodigal we’ve run away from it and worse framed it within an aesthetic. We blame the various allergies it has visited upon us. Still we seem (as this project reaffirms) to be obsessed with landscapes of various sorts. Look on the or sites to see what we mean.

One thing this pandemic has done is brought us back to nature and showed us how much we are a part of it and how merciless, viciously indifferent, and all-consuming it actually is. Tooth and Claw indeed. Nature and the natural had be come a thing to visit, to frame within a couple of weeks in June. It has become in that weary phrase ‘a political football’ and when something enters the political world it looks all sense of reality. We can see this in the case of the NHS which has suddenly been seen as vital (literally) to the nation’s health and well-being despite the fact a few months ago that the British electorate were happy enough to vote for a party that had cut it to the bone. The NHS will be relegated to the political once again if and when this crisis abates. Instead of (and another weary phrase) a sea-change this pandemic will be treated as the old 1970s and 80s oil slicks were – a tragedy yes but ultimately containable even if the natural (human/social) and financial costs are far higher. Things don’t change, they just change their names. The Exxon Valdez, the oil tanker at the centre of possibly the most famous oil-slick in US history when it ran aground on Alaska’s Bligh Reef in 1989 wasn’t scrapped until 2012 and until then operated included the SeaRiver Mediterranean, the Dong Fang Ocean and the Oriental Nicety. Everybody knows (as Lenny Cohen put it) that: ‘Old black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton for your ribbons and bows’.

Of course, the crazy pastors and eco fundamentalists are proclaiming that this is the wrath of God or the wrath of Mother Nature. God’s apparently upset about woman’s rights and gay people getting married. Presumably, they are putting this pandemic in the same context as His murderous, verging on the genocidal, Old Testament behaviour. Essentially, they are accusing God of murder, and apparently are alright with that. We may not be that scripturally up to speed, but we can’t see He’d be impressed with that. Similarly, we anthropomorphise the natural, so Ma Earth is all annoyed. We all have an inbuilt need to be punished by universal beings it seems… Mother Nature (to use the phrase) doesn’t care. In the same way that the elephant doesn’t notice the ant it stamps on. She is all cause and effect. Somebody’s either so desperately poor that they have to eat wild animals or perhaps oblivious to of the dangers of doing so and therefore a disease that normally resides in animals have jumped species, using our transport systems and global market to spread to almost everywhere.

So what’s this got to do with Google Earth? Well Google Earth is perhaps the ultimate corporate packaging of nature. Captured as it is in a moment from satellites and passing cars. Essentially one giant planetary polaroid with the bits we aren’t supposed to know about redacted (we should do an Abridged Redacted issue) or are too inaccessible left out. The Abridged Eartg. It seems only natural that we use it. Sometimes we think we are now reaching the zenith of Abridgment. Then we remember there’s always further to go.