X Was Here
It’s ridiculously hot. The sun beats down overhead, enhanced by the cloudless sky. The heat is blistering – beads of sweat roll down my forehead, pushed by the slight breeze passing over the mountain I’m currently on top of. It’s a beautiful view – everything Lord of the Rings promised me. Lush dense bush lies below, crackling with wildlife that won’t kill you and met with rough, raw beaches that will. The scene is everything you could want after you’ve just hiked (or crawled, in my case) up a mountain. A reward for the hell you just willingly put yourself through.
The summit is marked with a beautiful rock face, a landmark that nature intended to be a momentous achievement. It faces out at this stunning view, and once, it matched this beauty. Now, it’s marred by wounds of endearment that people have scratched into its flesh. Deep thick gashes that the elements have tried, but failed, to erase. These lacerations serve not as a testament to human achievement, but as a reminder of how toxic our presence can truly be.
It’s not uncommon for us to “mark our territory”. Hell, as we speak, the human version of a cat pissing everywhere creates havoc through our earth in the form of climate change. Tourist sites are full of people trying to make their trip special. Everyone has a picture with the Colosseum – how do you go one better to get those extra likes? By defacing one of its 2000-year-old walls, of course. The fine of €20 000—which one tourist got for scratching their initials in—is totally worth it, right? Either that, or head to Easter Island, where you can pose with the world famous Moai statues and try to cut off a piece of their ear. Try a hunk of none of those statues, and I guarantee you’ll learn the meaning of local saying, “an eye for an eye”.
There’s a reason that landmarks and beautiful places have those signs that say “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” – and it’s not just overly protective locals. They’re a desperate plea; this world is not just yours, you’re privileged to share it with billions of others.
So please, stop carving you and your current love’s initials into every rock and tree you see. If you must, carve them on your arm instead – trust me, the next visitors will thank you for it.
Cover by Scott Norris