Welcome to Pine Beetle Utopia.
I am Phillip Bandura the creator of this site.
This project all started with a trip to Vancouver to visit a friend. I live in Calgary and the drive to Vancouver is about twelve hours through the most beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains. (See Photo) They are beautiful aren’t they?
Before I started my trip I heard a lot about the Rocky Mountain pine beetle and the devastation it was creating. Pine trees are being killed en masse by an infestation of pine beetles, the little bug being no bigger than a pencil lead. This fascinated me and I was going to keep my eyes peeled for the beetles trademark symbol of death, red, dead pine trees. The infestation is said to be so vast that in the worst affected areas it rains sawdust as the trees are bored-out by the beetle.
Embarking on my drive in to the mountains there were only a small amount of dead trees. It wasn’t until I reached the Coquihalla highway that I got my first good look at the devastation.
It was getting dark and thoughts of how awful it was to see all the dead trees ran through my head. The pine beetles had to be killed before the Rocky Mountain forests were destroyed. Suddenly the car started to shudder; a banging sound emanated from the engine, then nothing. The car was dead. A wave of white smoke billowed up from under the hood. I coasted to the side of the road and come to a careful stop.
Shit. What was I going to do? I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by death and destruction in one of Canada’s most treasured natural wonders, and I was hungry. I got out of my car and lifted the hood. Steam rushed up at my face, fogging my glasses. Now I am no car mechanic but I had dated one once, so I thought maybe I could work something out. Looking around my car’s engine, I could see the oil was good. So were the belts, then I looked at the radiator fluid and the container was empty. Crap, I should have taken my car in to get it looked at before venturing on the Trans-Canada. I stared at the semi transparent radiator fluid refill container.
As I opened the container, I could see a sort of red and black pipe cleaner looking object. “What the hell could that be”, I thought with frustration. I opened the lid, pulled out the thing and to my surprise it was a piece of red dead pine tree. Those little rotten bastards! Not only had they destroyed my mountains forests, they had killed my car.
I threw the twig and shouted profanity at the forest, letting out all my anger in a fit of rage, jumping up and down and kicking at the pavement. When I finally stopped I noticed that it was completely dark and cold. I left the hood of the car open and got back into my car. I was exhausted form all the driving, contemplation, and shouting. I pulled out my sleeping bag and laid it over myself. Then poked around for something to eat, remembering that my mom had given me some granola bars for the trip. I tried to stay awake for as long as I could, waiting for someone to see my four-way flashers and stop to help. But no one did. I drifted off to sleep.
As I slept I was transported to the most vivid dreamland. I pinched myself like in one of those cliché movies; I felt it all right. I started to look around. I was in a forest; a pine forest and the trees were a brilliant red. When I had seen the red trees from the highway, it had invoked a feeling of anger, but now I felt extreme enthusiasm and pride in what had been accomplished. Just then I could see something moving in the trees, it terrified me for a moment but then my curiosity took over. What was it? I plunged deep into the forest. The object was moving and it looked metallic. I started walking towards it, then jogging and finally running; it was always one step ahead of me. Laughing with amusement, I kept running. I felt like I was ten again, chasing after one of my best buddies.
All of the sudden I was in a wonderful blue field, the sun was directly above me, the air was thick with sheets of mist, transforming the sun into streams of dancing light. It was the most remarkable thing I had ever seen. In the sky, I could see my metallic curiosity flying. As it came towards me, I could see its wings, like sparkling sheets of ice moving gracefully thought the air. Confused, I could not make out what it was, and then it dawned on me. It was a metallic pine beetle.
It touched down right in front of me with a gentle thud. As it landed, all the blue flowers turned to face it. Then, it spoke to me: “welcome Phillip to my blue fungus garden of contemplation”. I said hi. “ Do you know why you are here?” I amenably responded with “because my mom put something in my granola”. “ No, that’s not it. I brought you here because you care about the pine beetle”. To which I answered “No I don’t! You’re killing everything. “See, you do care. All you have been told is human propaganda, and I know that you can relate to that”. “Well I guess so” I responded. “You see Phillip, humans can not look past the destruction of the pine beetle. If they did they would see how successful we have become”. I had never thought of it that way. “ The golden age of the pine beetle is upon us, we have never done this well and you must show the world how grand our species is”. I was awestruck.
The gentle metallic beetle then put his claspers on my head and I awoke with a new mission in life. I knew what had to be done. I looked up, turned on my car and embarked on a new journey. Pine Beetle Utopia was born.
Phillip Bandura, 2008