Chapter 8                       Dance With The Devil         By Gunther Schwab                   Written in 1963.

 

A STROKE OF THE GONG AWAKENED ALL FOUR GUESTS AT THE

same time. Before Rolande had really opened her eyes, she heard the loud-speaker saying,

 "In thirty minutes breakfast will be served in your rooms.

The guests are requested to gather at lift three at six o'clock punctually."

Sten and Rolande were the first to arrive.

"What are they pro­posing to do with us now?" asked the girl.

Sten shrugged his shoulders. Within a few moments Harding and Groot appeared.

The lift stopped and the lift-boy opened the gates; they entered and the lift rushed upwards.

 

"Where are you taking us?" asked Harding.

 

"I think you're going for a flight," said the boy, and opened the door.

A broad-shouldered man of medium height was wait­ing for them.

He gave a polite bow.

"Klikprap," he said.

 

"What?" asked Harding. "Is that your name?"

"It is.

 

"And what is your job?"

 

"To show you a part of the earth."

 

"I mean, what is your Department?"

 

"The Destruction of Forests. My number is 312. Kindly follow me."

They stepped on to the flat roof of the building.

A large square hole yawned before them.

Suddenly out of it came a milk-coloured globe; a kind of huge circular wing surrounded it at the centre.

It looked like a model of Saturn, but it differed from Saturn in that there was no space between

this wing and the globe itself.

 

"A saucer," cried Rolande.

 

"Yes, a flying saucer, if you like to call it that," said Klikprap.

The monster stood still.

The opening from which it had arisen had shut.

They drew near to it in astonishment.

 

"Actually it is a U1O," said Groot. "How did it get here?"

"The U10's are our aerial means of transport," said Klikprap.

"We have quite a lot of them."

Two assistants brought along some stairs.

 

"So it's you that are always making fools of us poor humans, with your flying saucers."

Groot examined the mysterious object with care.

"We haven't heard anything of your U10's for some time," he said.

 

"For all that, they are travelling through the sky every day, Mr. Groot.

But we only make them visible when it suits us." He opened a door.

"Get in, please."

Groot helped Rolande into the machine.

The pilot saluted in a friendly fashion.

The sphere was hollow and was equipped with a number of comfortable reclining seats.

Klikprap pointed towards them. "You must put on your safety belts," he said.

 

"Is there any means of looking at the outside world?" asked Rolande,

for the walls of the sphere were opaque.

 

"Just wait and see," said Klikprap. The door was locked shut from both outside and in.

The pilot took hold of a lever and a gentle but irresistible pressure pushed

the travellers on to their seats.

 

Klikprap laughed. "Take off is always a bit unpleasant, but you soon get used to it."

He grasped another lever above his head. Suddenly Rolande gave a cry of delight;

it was now possible to see through the walls of the sphere.

It was as though it were made of the purest glass, and one could see all round.

Deep below them lay the earth.

 

"Where is the city?" asked Harding.

 

"About 500 miles below us," answered the pilot.

Suddenly they were over the sea, and on the horizon they saw

a long, sunny coast creeping up.

They saw the shining of the surf.

Then a long, winding river, was below them and led to a wide plateau;

to the north and south were chains of mountains.

Forest, forest, forest and more forest passed beneath them, apparently without end,

with hardly a human settlement to be seen.

 

"What paradise is that?" asked Sten.

 

"Spain," answered Klikprap.

The travellers looked at him in astonishment.

 

"Spain? So far as I know, there are no forests in Spain."

It was Harding who spoke.

"I shouldn't really have said Spain; I should have called it Hispania.

The year is 1200 before your own era."

 

"I beg your pardon," said Groot.

 

Klikprap pointed to a small instrument that hung from the roof of the sphere.

"I've allowed the time spindle to run back it little."

 

Harding asked, "What do you mean?

 

"This spindle can remove us either into the past or the future.

As it revolves so time passes. Look down; trading ships are anchoring at the coast.

From the north, the Celts are coming into the country; the forest is still essentially intact.

The Phoenicians are mining copper and silver – watch them."

 

Very gradually the edges of the woods began to draw back, starting from the coast

and from the settlements and the banks of rivers. Little wisps of smoke were visible above the woods.

Klikprap increased the speed of the time-spindle, but the forest continued to vanish very, very slowly,

over a period of centuries.

 

Klikprap said: "Seven hundred years before your era.

The Greeks are trying to settle, but are having to give way before the Carthaginians."

 

The U10 passed over the southern part of the peninsula.

Far away, on the other side of the sea,

they caught a glimpse of Africa.

 

"I'm surprised that we can see everything so clearly from this height," said Groot.

 

"Our view across space and time penetrates all that might normally obstruct it;

this is due to the infra-red apparatus in­stalled in this machine."

 

"What next?"

 

"Look, the woods are dying away more rapidly. We are now in the year 236.

Hamilcar Barcas has landed in the south and is carrying the war right through the land;

wars eat up forests. 206, the Carthaginians have been driven out, and the Romans rule.

They need wood, a great deal of wood."

 

They could now see the retreat of the woods quite dearly, and it grew more rapid from year to year.

Even so, this was still forest country and large areas were still intact.

 

"War between the Romans and the Lusitanians lasted forty years," said Klikprap.

"Then the Romans had wars amongst themselves.

Now, it's 19 years before your era; there's peace at last.

The Spanish woods have lost an eighth of their substance, but still the land is rich because

it has a sufficiency of forest.

It is the granary of Rome and a real Garden of Eden.

Meanwhile, the woods will have to make further sacrifices.

Military roads are being built, military camps, ships, forts, colonies, cities.

The most important building material is wood."

 

The time-spindle hummed.

 

"Go north," ordered Klikprap and the pilot changed course.

A minute later, like great banks of threatening clouds, the Pyrenees rose slowly over the horizon.

 

Klikprap went on: "Four hundred and nine after the begin­ning of your era.

Over the mountains in the north came the Germans.

That meant war for seventy years; then came the Arabs and the Arabs were splendid destroyers of timber,

as you can see."

 

The borders of the woods began to move more quickly.

The green skin of the earth began to shrink in the direction of the mountains.

In the valleys, it began to break up and then, suddenly, there was no green at all.

They saw Aragon and New Castile, the valleys of the Guadalquivir and its tributaries.

All the country was dry.

It was as though they were looking down on great patches of mange.

 

"War of the Goths against the Arabs, of the Arabs amongst themselves, of the Franks against the Arabs.

Fourteen hundred and ninety-two, the new world is being discovered.

From now on they'll be building more ships than ever – gold fleets, silver fleets, war fleets.

From what?

From the wood of the forest; we have reached the great age of Spain.

The Empire has come into kingdom, onwhich the sun never sets. Watch the woods."

 

An arresting and shattering drama began to be enacted be­neath their feet.

The forests were already pressed back towards the mountains and broken up into innumerable little islands;

they began to melt away like the snow under the sun of spring.

Their dark blue-green tones vanished wholly from the landscape and the light colour of the steppes began

to cover everything.

 

"It's as though a dangerous bacillus was eating away at the healthy skin of a living body

and leaving nothing behind." It was Sten who spoke.

 

Klikprap nodded his agreement.

"You've no idea how excel­lently you're describing man's functioning on the earth.

The forests of Spain have been eaten up by the greed of man and his lust for power.

Thus it is that man has lost his wealth.

Once, 70 million human beings lived on this peninsula; today it can hardly feed its 25 millions.

The nation that was once accounted one of the great world powers has ceased to be of any political importance.

This is my own achievement; today forest is to be found over only 8 per cent of the map."

 

The machine banked and glided at great speed towards the earth.

An ill-defined speck appeared on the landscape.

It was the Capital.

All round the country was dried up, save for a few small spots of green.

The Sierra Tuadarrama was completely bare of trees.

The land was dead.

 

Klikprap said, "The wanderer, who even 400 years ago could walk from Madrid to Barcelona

in the shadow of the woods would seek for those woods in vain today - 1963."

As he said the words, he stopped the time-spindle. "Go on," he cried to the pilot, and suddenly the earth,

which had seemed for a moment to be quite close to them, appeared to drop away into nothing­ness.

Soon there was no more to be seen save endless blue be­neath them.

 

"Is that the sea?" asked Rolande.

 

Klikprap nodded. At that moment, they saw land. A steep coast of red granite. They flew along the shore.

 

"Cote d'Azur," declared Klikprap.

"Watch it.

Completely bare.

The French maritime dales; also completely bare.

The river bed is dry."

 

The U10 made a leap into the air to another range of moun­tains whose heights were also almost

wholly denuded of trees.

 

"The Etruscan Apennines," said Klikprap.

"You see how deeply cut are those river valleys of the Senio Lamone, the Marzeno, and the Reno;

all are about ninety kilometres long and com­pletely dried out because for two weeks

there hasn't been any rain and their watersheds have been completely de-forested.

When there's rain, you get fierce torrents here, which cause a great deal of damage."

A number of light-coloured dots became visible on the bare mountain-side,

but the travellers could not recognize what they were.

 

"Goats ! " said Klikprap, in answer to a question from Rolande. "I love them."

Sten laughed. "A devil who loves animals !

What other virtues shall we yet discover among these gentlemen?"

 

Klikprap remained friendly. "You'll see what I mean in a minute.

The goat is my most valuable and reliable helper in my battle against the land."

 

"What?" said Rolande in astonishment.

 

"Goats destroy the forest and so the fertility of the soil.

They make it uninhabitable for man and can thus be the ruin of a whole nation."

 

 

Rolande turned aside. "I think goats are charming; they are clever and graceful."

 

"Which of his creatures has Satan failed to endow with seductive charm and intelligence?

The grazing of goats is one of my most effective weapons against the forest,

and so I do all I can to encourage people to keep and breed them.

In Italy, there are 11 million goats and sheep; in Turkey, 12 million.

In Italy the complicated grazing rights alone are sufficient to prevent the forest from gaining ground,

although there are a great many places where it might do so.

Thanks to such grazing, large tracts of forest have disappeared,

and the humus has been washed away."

 

"Why don't they keep cattle?"

 

"Because the land is too impoverished to support them.

The only thing it can now support is the goat."

 

"Then keeping goats should be made illegal," said the Swede.

"An effort should be made to make people realize that they would be much better off

when the forest has been restored than they are now when they keep goats."

 

"Good advice," said Klikprap. "But the forest would need a century to make its benefits effective.

Meanwhile millions of people would die of hunger, who today live on their goats. Leave it alone.

We've created the same hopeless situation here as we've created everywhere else."

 

They were flying south; the sea was on their flank; beyond it they could see Corsica

and the small islands that lie in front of the mainland. "All barren," declared Klikprap.

Suddenly he called an order to the pilot, who changed course, crossed the Apennines

and the whole peninsula, crossed the Adriatic Sea and then slowed down over some bare mountains

that lay before them glaring in the sunlight.

 

"The Karst Mountains," said Klikprap. "I suppose you know that in German,

Karst actually means a bare rocky country, so these mountains are appropriately named."

 

"They are indeed."

 

"And yet," continued Klikprap, "once there were oak and Pine forests here.

But I got busy on this territory very long ago.

The Romans cut down a great deal of the timber here, and the Venetians actually improved

on their performance. What was left was destroyed by the native population and the goats.

When the woods disappeared, the olive plantations decayed along with them.

Rich men had poor grandchildren, and nearly a million acres became a stony desert."

 

"I seem to have read something about re-afforestation," said Groot.

 

Klikprap smiled. "Absolutely hopeless.

They've been trying that for as much as a century without any result;

 you see the humus has all been washed away, and where are you going to get any more?

The sun heats the rocks up to a temperature of 80° C and the trees wither;

you'd have to introduce artificial irrigation. Where are you going to find the water?"

 

"I once saw a picture," said Rolande, "which showed how they put a kind of sunshade of reeds

in front of every young tree."

 

"The icy karst wind blows it down and blows the life out of the young plantations.

And what do you think are the costs of such attempts at re-afforestation?

They are much higher than the value of any wood that could possibly be grown here.

No, it's quite hopeless. Outraged Nature has presented man with a bill.

But man learns nothing, and that's very gratifying for my department. Now, let's go north."

 

The sphere began to glide towards the Alps at headlong speed.

A sea of jagged peaks seemed to leap up towards them, and then turned away again showing

them snow fields and glaciers, broken by valleys. The time-spindle hummed.

Rolande noticed it, and turned to Klikprap with a questioning look. "1927," he said.

 

 

A friendly, wooded valley opened before them, between mountains that towered into the heavens.

They flew quite low over it.

 

"Finsingtal," said Klikprap.

"A lateral valley of the Zillertal in the Tyrol.

The forests are almost intact, the brook is peaceful and harmless.

But now they're building a road.

The Finsingtal is being opened up. It costs a great deal of money,

but mean­while people have got work and everybody's very proud of what's being done.

Do you see the two villages, Fugen and Fugenberg?

They owned the timber of the Finsingtal together.

Now comes the time when both are really happy,

which means the time when both do a lot of business.

It's possible now to build a road and then begin to export the wood.

I will let time run on; you'll see what happens between 1928 and 1951.

Now watch carefully."

 

The pilot had turned the machine back towards the entrance to the valley and flew very low and slowly,

stopping now and then in his flight.

Below them, they saw a kind of speeded up version of a grim and hideous drama.

The earth alternated rapidly between green and white as summer succeeded winter;

the dark patch of the woods continually grew smaller,

while avalanches thundered ever more frequently from one winter to the next.

 

"What had the forest authorities got to say about all this?" asked Sten.

 

Klikprap laughed. "The forest authorities are far away.

In 1931 they sanctioned the cutting of a maximum of 3,340 cubic metres of timber.

Actually, 4,100 are admitted to have been cut.

Really it was more, though people don't speak about it. Just look down."

The valley was covered with deep snow but it was very much alive.

From the steep slope from which the timber had been removed,

avalanches thundered into the valley and tore rocks and trees along with them.

 

"There were 162 avalanches in the winter of 1934/5 alone," said Klikprap, with glee.

"We never had anything like that before here."

 

"You're shaving the woods right away," cried Groot.

 

"Quite right ! Man began the work of destruction, the avalanches continue it.

In two months they accounted for no less than 19,000 cubic metres of timber.

We're right above the Schellebergalm. Look, there's an avalanche just starting;

it's taking an entire forest and thirty-seven alpine buildings with it.

Oh, timber's a wonderful business."

Beneath them, one year rapidly followed another.

The quiet Finsing brook became a roaring, raging torrent,

which carried a whole mountain of rubble down into the valley.

Floods sub­merged the farmland and the meadows.

There came the summer of 1943; a cloudburst sent vast masses of flood water into the dying valley.

 

"Watch the earth moving," said Klikprap, as they watched the spectacle.

"The sides of the mountains are becoming alive; they're slipping; they're pushing into the valley;

they're falling right on top of it.

The forest which protected them and held them fast for 10,000 years is no longer there."

 

The unnatural speed of happenings below them made a pro­cess clear which otherwise

would only have been recognizable by its results.

The avalanches and the streams of rubble barred the valleys.

The water got dammed up and broke through, and a disastrous wave overwhelmed the village of Finsing.

The fields were covered with metre-high rubble and slime;

man had violated the sanctity of the forest and the forest had struck back.

 

Klikprap turned to the pilot. "Into the Zimmerthal." Although the pilot did not touch a lever,

the machine shot away, to be stationary again in a moment.

Below them was brown, foaming water which tore away roads and railway bridges.

It undermined the railway embankment and carried it away, while houses were tumbled into ruins.

 

Klikprap laughed. "Timber business – wonderful business," he grunted.

"The damage to the soil is permanent, some of the field is flooded and the rest turned to swamp

because the natural drainage has been blocked."

 

Harding asked: "Zimmerthal? Wasn't there something about that in the papers some years ago?"

 

"You mean the catastrophe of 1956. It was only one of many and not the last.

The Press, radio and films gave long accounts of it for weeks, but didn't you notice something very odd?"

 

"What?" asked Rolande. "Nobody said a word about the causes of the disaster."

 

"Quite right," said Klikprap. "That just shows what a fine organization I've got.

But I must tell you something more about Finsing.

Between 1928 and 1955 a hundred and fifty thousand cubic metres of timber

were either cut or destroyed by avalanches.

These have a total value of 18 million Austrian schillings.

The futile attempt to make good the damage has cost a sum of roughly 35 million schillings since 1947.

This does not include the damage to agricultural land, roads, bridges, railways or Douses.

If they were to be taken into account, we should have a total damage of 150 million schillings up to today.

That's over two million pounds or nearly six million American dollars."

"Odd," said Sten. "If a man steals a little money, he's locked tip, yet there are people who acquire millions

by destroying the forest and it is the public who has to find many times the amount these men have made

in order to pay for the damage."

 

Klikprap said, "The damage can never be paid for. And isn't it strange that laws are so cleverly thought

out that a crime may be committed by which a small number of people can get rich

at the expense of the rest.

But let's go to Greece."

 

Mountains and sea began to rush away beneath them, then the earth turned two blue eyes upon them

– Lake Presba and Lake Ochrida. They were sailing over the Pindus Mountains and making towards Olympus

in the north. They rose to 90,000 feet and saw the outstretched hand of the Peloponnese beneath them;

 it was a depressing sight. There were hardly any woods, the land was bare stones and grey,

and desert; very little green.

 

Klikprap spoke. "In ancient times, 70 per cent of this country was covered with forest.

The ground was fertile and water flowed through the various courses all through the year;

every­where there was an abundance of springs. Ancient Hellas was a world power,

culturally creative, rich and unconquered.

 

"Today, only 5 per cent of the land is forest; wild life has been destroyed;

the earth has been flooded away from the sides of the mountains and gathers together

in the valleys which have become marshy hot-beds of fever.

After every downpour of rain, the water-courses become rushing streams of mud.

Two days later, they are utterly dry and remain so until the next rain comes.

The springs are for the most part dried up; in many villages,

the drinking water must be fetched every day from miles away.

 

"Thanks to the erosion which has taken place through the centuries,

only 2 per cent of the original humus is left; only 20 per cent of the soil is fit for cultivation;

the rest is worthless.

The harvests are pitifully small and hardly attain a third of the yield per acre that other European countries

can produce. Three-quarters of the cereals have to be imported; exports are confined to tobacco,

wine and olives – that is to say, to goods which are not necessities of life

and which are difficult to sell in times of crisis.

The average yearly income in 1938 was considerably less than 150 American dollars per head of the population."

 

"Surely the decline of Greece is due to other causes than de­forestation."

 

"Of course," said Klikprap, "but as the head of my particular

 

Department, I couldn't admit that without diminishing my own credit."

 

"A very human trait for a devil," laughed Harding.

 

Klikprap continued: "If people were as clever as they think they are,

they would realize that many bloody wars and battles have been fought and millions of people

have been killed because the aggressor has neglected to preserve his woods, his water and his soil,

and for that reason was forced to conquer the territory of others in order to live. Perhaps there might

also be a connection between the decline of Rome and the fact that all the countries

around the Mediterranean, which were part of the Roman empire were, almost without exception,

deprived of their forests. For the antique world was in much the same posi­tion as we are today;

the woods of North Africa, from which Hannibal got his war elephants, have disappeared,

and the Sahara has moved forward to the sea.

This is the reason why re-afforestation in southern Europe is so very difficult;

the glare from the desert causes the young trees to wither away."

 

"But for what did these ancient peoples use such vast quantities of wood?" asked the girl.

 

"For building cities, for burning bricks, for everyday pur­poses, for their proud fleets

which were always being sunk and, above all, for the mining of metals.

To produce a kilogram of crude iron needs ten cubic metres of wood.

Nobody ever thought of re-afforestation and since wood, even in ancient times, was a scarce commodity,

it fetched a very good price and so the woods simply died for the benefit of good business,

just as they are doing today. Would you like to see the deserts of sand and stone,

which came into being wherever man destroyed the woods; they are innumerable.

Or shall I show you the ruins of ancient cities which once stood in the midst of a blossoming landscape

and had to die because the forests were cut down?

What I showed you in Spain, in Southern France, in the Appen­nines,

you can also see in the Balkans, Sicily, North Africa and Asia Minor.

There is no part of the earth that is free from the effects of de-forestation."

 

Rolande was tired. "We'll take your word for it," she said, with a smile.

 

Klikprap turned to the pilot. "Home," he said.

 

The transparency of the gondola gave place to a milky white; they sat in silence,

lost in their own thoughts for some time. Suddenly they felt considerable pressure and the machine

came to a standstill; the door opened, and they stepped out on to the roof of the great building

from which the Devil ruled the world. The lift took them down to the 116th floor.

 

"Aren't we going to see your Boss?" asked Rolande.

 

Klikprap shook his head. "He's a lot of other things to do today.

I'll ask you to listen to the rest of my report in my own modest office."

As he passed along, he opened a door. They saw a large, bright room, equipped in modern style,

in which about forty girls were working at their typewriters.

 

"My typists," said Klikprap.

 

"Are they all lady devils?" asked Sten.

 

"Not a bit of it," said Klikprap. "They're just ordinary girls; they get their wages

and believe that they're working in the timber department of a respectable business firm.

They serve the Devil without knowing it, as do millions of others."

 

At last they entered Klikprap's office. It looked like that of a Head of State.

The walls and ceiling were panelled with precious woods and the furniture was quite as splendid

as that in the Devil's own room.

Refreshments were waiting for them on a table in the comer.

 

Rolande was the first to speak. "Your Boss must have great confidence in you,"

she said. "You're the first one who is allowed to be alone when he talks to us."

 

"Well," said Klikprap, "he only has to press a button to see and hear everything that goes on,

and he can take part in our discussion whenever he wants to. Please be seated."

 

They did so, and Klikprap began. "Nature is the original source of man and the forest

is the very heart of nature. The soul of the noblest peoples on earth has been a woodland soul;

all culture has grown out of the forest and it is no chance that the sterility of our present cultural life

goes hand in hand with the destruction of the world's forests. For the forest is an island of silence,

and silence leads to recollections and reflection and so to wisdom.

The forest could be the cure for mankind which has grown silk through being over-civilized.

There he could counteract that everlasting rush and haste which has been fashioned and advocated by us devils.

The forest opens the mind to the sources of truth, and it is this that we must at all costs prevent.

Now you can understand why the forest has to go.

"But naturally, the forest also has a practical value; it is the guardian of life.

It safeguards the health of the circulation of water; the stability of climate and the fertility of arable land.

Twenty-seven per cent of all precipitation is trapped in the tops of trees, and evaporates from there.

It is this evaporation that produces further precipitation.

 

"A pine of medium size has a main root of between ten and twenty-five feet.

This main root carries some 300 secondary roots and from each of these 300 secondary roots

come a further 300. This process repeats itself about sixteen times, the last roots being only fractions

of an inch in length. This complicated root system holds the soil in place and with it the water.

Nearly a thousand tons of water per acre are thus held trapped in the soil; if the forest is cut down,

the mosses and roots die, the soil loses a great part of its firmness and its absorptive capacity;

the rain that falls upon it runs off and takes the soil along with it.

The wind, with nothing to act as a brake upon it, sucks out the moisture and so affects climate;

the fertility of the soil begins to fall.

The forest is a living thing.

The fall of leaves over the millennia has created the humus on which the bread of mankind depends.

Man is primarily dependent for his nourishment and clothing on the garment of plants

that the earth wears on its surface. I have induced him to destroy this green skin

by destroy­ing the forest and so he destroys himself.

 

"Further, four-fifths of man's sources of energy in the world cannot be renewed, a

nd will one day have disappeared. Coal, petroleum, natural gas – one day,

the supply of these things will have given out; wood is the only raw material that replaces itself;

it follows that I must at all costs arrest this process of replacement. Man's sick soul causes the woods to die,

and the dying woods make the soul sick. This is a fact on which my whole programme of work is based.

 

"You see, primitive races in which the original instincts are still alive surround the elements which

are vital to their lives with religious ideas and religious honour.

Thus, unconsciously, they protect their own existence.

The first thing I did was to extirpate this superstition.

I took away man's reverence for nature and thus fostered the stupidity and lack of understanding

for creation which you see everywhere today.

 

"The ways in which man destroys the forests have varied greatly in the course of time.

At first centuries and actual mil­lennia were required in order to make man's destruction

of the world of Nature take any effect.

Today, there are a hundred times as many people in the world and each one of them, thanks to modem Science,

has enormously increased power; thus within a period of months they can ruin a large, fertile piece of land.

In Russia, and in the U.S.A., huge machines like great primitive herds of elephants are at work.

They shave the land like some gigantic razor.

Thanks to me, much time and thought is being devoted in many countries of the world to the problem

of so-called productivity, which in this case means the speed with which the forests are destroyed.

Fortunately, the growth of new trees cannot match the pace of the destructive machines."

 

Groot interrupted. "Laval University in Quebec, have devised a process whereby through chemical treatment

of the seed and the soil, trees can grow in thirty years to a size which normally

they would require a century to attain."

 

"Since when have these methods been tried?"

 

"Only quite recently. They constitute the ultimate triumph of progress in this field."

 

"How can we already know what such trees will look like in thirty years' time?

And how the soil will react when this process has been repeated two or three times?"

 

Groot said: "Well, we know that two months after germina­tion,

these trees are as high as trees of two years' standing."

 

"From what you say, we must assume the experiment is only four months old.

Well, wait and see, Mr. Groot. And be careful with this progress of yours,

particularly when chemical processes are involved.

 

"Klikprap got up and paced up and down the room;

he continued talking, his visitors watching his move­ments.

 

"Apart from what I have already told you, there are other measures which I've taken against the forest.

First, there is monoculture."

 

"What's that?" asked Rolande.

 

"Planting the same kind of plant or tree and having all the plants or trees of the same age over a wide area."

 

"What is the effect of that?"

 

"There's a mysterious connection between soil, climate,

 and the way in which the different kinds of trees are mingled in a forest.

These combinations are no mere chance, but represent the working out of a law.

Man, who has placed himself outside such law, destroys the ordering of the forest which appears to him

to be mere disorder. He exterminates whatever fails to bring him a profit,

and he plants whatever will maximize that profit.

 

"It is only in exceptional circumstances that Nature forms forests which are uniform throughout.

In the Middle Ages, the European forest consisted of two-thirds deciduous trees and one-third conifer.

Man forced his monocultures on the land; today deciduous trees have been reduced to one-fifth

of the whole extent of forest land. Spruce and pine are the favourites of timber-hungry man because

they produce larger quantities and a higher monetary return. Wood is precious and prices rise,

and so for the past 150 years, man has been replacing the natural,

healthy forest by his own beam factories and rod plantations.

 

"Almost all the trees of Central Europe have been developed along capitalist lines,

and with an eye only to monetary return, no regard being paid to the laws laid down by Nature.

But if you force a particular form of timber on to a soil that is unsuited to it,

that soil begins to grow acid, and loses fertility.

The flat-rooted spruce robs the soil of its water and eats up the residual humus.

Moreover, by shedding its needles with their turpentine on the ground,

it extinguishes all other forms of plant life.

These needles also prevent rainwater from seeping into the soil,

every drop of rain rolls away as it would upon a cloth that has been soaked in oil."

 

Sten interrupted, "But people are recognizing their mistakes and are trying to restore

the original healthy state of the forests."

 

"A few are alive to the truth, and certainly the Schools of Forestry try to teach it,

but in actual practice there are quite enough people engaged in the timber business

who do not hesitate to fill every empty space in the forest with spruce,

and I make it my business to see that there are always plenty of such men at work.

Sooner or later your unnatural way of treating the forests must bring about final destruction."

 

Suddenly the Devil's snarling voice was heard: "And even if man were to attempt here

and now to cure the forest, the process would take many hundreds of years,

and I'm not going to allow man that much time."

 

Klikprap picked up a file from his desk, opened it, and stepped into the middle of the room.

 

"Thirdly, another factor which assists in the destruction of forests is fashion."

 

"What has fashion got to do with forests?" asked Rolande in astonishment.

 

"More than you think, mademoiselle."

 

At this moment the Devil himself entered and everyone stood up. He was in a good mood.

"Well, had a nice trip?" he asked.

 

"Wonderful," said Harding.

 

The Boss sat down in a large leather armchair in the corner of the room.

"It is wonderful, isn't it," he said, with a cheerful laugh, "the end of mankind.

Go on with the good work, Klik­prap."

 

They all sat down and Klikprap, continued: "I must admit that fashion is not my invention."

 

"You would hardly have admitted that if I hadn't been here," grunted the Devil.

He was obviously in excellent spirits.

 

Klikprap went on, "But whether I invented it or not, fashion admirably serves my purpose,

and I have every reason to try and assist it in every way I can.

Thanks to the dictates of fashion, the use of textiles all over the world is approximately eight times

what is actually necessary.

More cloth means more sheep.

The damage done by sheep is only slightly less than that done by goats.

More sheep means bigger grazing ground.

To get them, the forest must be done away with.

The water storage capacity of healthy woodland soil is much greater than that of meadows

which have been stamped down by cattle and given greater density by grass.

In the Middle Ages, the edge of the forest was at a height of approximately 6,000 feet; today,

thanks to the enforced enlargement of grazing land, it is little more than 5,000 feet which,

incidentally, has increased the incidence of avalanches.

 

"The increase in sheep has frequently led to the destruction of the flora of Alpine meadowland

and to considerable erosion. On Alpine pastures that have been impoverished by grazing,

forest can no longer take hold. Also plants of high nutritive value disappear.

Consequently, the sheep start attacking the young trees that still grow at these heights

and this forces back the edge of the forest still further,

so that the vicious circle of destruction is, once more, set in motion."

 

Groot pointed out, "The increase in sheep and cattle is also due to the fact

that people are eating more meat."

"That's in the Department of the Desert Devil," said the Boss, "and you'll hear him a little later on."

 

Klikprap continued with his lecture. "I've had excellent re­sults by increasing the number

of wood-processing industries.

The more people get their living through wood, the more pressure will be put on governments,

on the owners of forest land and ultimately on the forests themselves.

And so I see to it that more and more saw-mills, paper factories and cellulose factories are set up.

When they are set up, I insist upon having them extended and modernized, and upon an increase

in their capacity, although, from a purely human point of view, this is unnecessary

and not even economically justified. The saw-mills of France could today cover the annual consumption

of that country in three months; Germany has 10,000 saw-mills,

which is a much higher figure than it can possibly need, the 7,000 saw­mills of Austria

are only used up to 50 per cent of their capacity, but nevertheless, people go on building saw-mills

and enlarging those that are already built.

All this suits me very well indeed.

 

"Next, there is paper. In every year, the human race uses up one billion cubic metres of timber

in the manufacture of paper.

This is two-fifths of the annual world demand for timber.

You will therefore understand that I'm particularly anxious to

increase the use of paper. My agents speak of raising the level of culture,

though what they really have in mind is the circula­tion of newspapers and the misuse of paper

in every department of life. Behind this facade of eagerness for human welfare the skeleton

of the forest stands grinning at us, and with it, the death of humanity.

 

"Let me for the moment deal only with newspapers – and I may say that the white races naturally

make a far better show­ing here than anybody else. On an average throughout the world,

88 copies of newspapers are sold for every 1,000 human beings; but the figures for England are 611;

for Sweden, 490; for Australia, 416; for the U.S.A., 363; for Japan, 360; Western Germany, 262;

Austria, 214. In Western Germany, 671 daily papers appear every day, with a total circulation of 16 millions.

The world's total production amounts to 217.1 million copies.

English-speaking newspapers account for 44 per cent of this,

Japan for 15 per cent and Western Germany for 8 per cent.

 

"Every third American buys a newspaper every day; there appear in that country 314 morning papers

with a circulation of 22 ½ - millions, 1,500 evening papers with a circulation of 34 ½  millions,

making 57 millions in all; to this must be added 546 Sunday papers with a circulation of 472 millions.

 

"A single copy of the New York Times on Sundays eats up 150 acres of forest land;

but all this is apparently not enough, for it appears that the U.S.A. intends to increase

its paper-manufacturing capacity of 1958 by 60 per cent,

while Canada proposes to increase its own by 20 per cent.

My agents are eagerly endeavouring to introduce this gratifying state of affairs into other

parts of the world. Imagine what will happen when the masses of Asia all read their papers daily!

Then we shall  have liquidated the forests of the world within five years and I'll have attained my goal.

We receive most admirable assistance from the bureaucracy of every country.

They can only justify their existence by an enormous use of paper.

The number of officials and of their desks is steadily rising, and even the civiliz­ing

of the so-called under-developed countries brings them two things for which

they never had much use before; desks and paper.

 

"By calling into being the various forest-destroying and wood-consuming forces,

I have created the following world situation: the waste steppes and deserts are today greater

than the surfaces covered by forests.

In the last half century, North America lost one-fifth of its supply of timber.

Thanks to the disappearance of the forest, the cultivation of the prairies and the regulation of the rivers,

the land is drying up. Eight per cent of the U.S.A. is arid; 39 per cent, semi-arid; o

nly half the country now has adequate rainfall.

 

"South America, too, is battling with erosion.

Brazil's annual consumption of wood for fuel is 100 million cubic metres, greater than that

of the whole of Europe. Soon here, too, the wheel will come full cycle.

The shrinking of the tropical forests will have considerable effect upon the weather."

 

Groot expressed a doubt: "I know the forests of Brazil; they are infinite and inexhaustible."

 

Klikprap answered: "Tacitus said the same thing of the forests of Germany,

and the North American forests might at one time have been similarly described.

In the Tropics, how­ever, the clearing of the forest is particularly dangerous;

the hot sun can kill the soil within a matter of hours.

In Africa, de­forestation has taken place on a huge scale, and erosion by wind a

nd water has been proportionate in extent.

Thanks to the merciless de-forestation of low-lying ground, desert has come into being

within the space of a few years. In parts of Nigeria, erosion is assuming threatening proportions;

in the forest country of the North, thanks to the pressure of increasing popu­lation,

more than half a million acres of forest are being destroyed every year.

 

"Twenty-five per cent of the soil of the Republic of South Africa has been lost by erosion;

in Algeria, some 17 million acres of fruitful soil are on the point of being turned to desert.

Madagascar is also fighting against erosion as the result of the destruction of its forests."

 

 

The Devil laughed. "The parasite pathologically intent on his own multiplication eats up

the green skin of the earth and so devours himself."

 

Murduscatu cleared his throat and all looked towards him. He had suddenly appeared

and walked slowly towards them. He laid his grey, bony hand on the edge of the desk.

"It seems to have been overlooked by this Devil that our enemies have some decisive achievements

to their credit. Denmark has, over the past hundred years, doubled the area of its forests.

Spain is annually adding 75,000 acres to its forests and between the years 1940­ to 1949

had carried out re-afforestation over nearly 700,000 acres.

The Bolivian Ministry of Education has instructed all schools to organize tree nurseries.

Norway has commenced re-afforestation over a territory of 2 million acres."

 

"So far they've barely replanted 50,000 of them.

They may have to wait a long time for the rest," said Klikprap.

 

Murduscatu went on, "Yugoslavia has a five-year plan for the re-afforestation of 600,000 acres

and there are similar plans in almost every country of the world, from Sweden to China,

from the Ukraine where, between 1951-1955, they replanted nearly 7 million acres and the Soviet Union

where they are planning for about another 10 million acres of forest; from Austria to the Tennessee valley.

 

"Oh plans, plans, plans ! " said Klikprap. "I've got plans too, and mine get carried out more quickly

than those of the Friends of the Forest."

 

The Devil did not seem too pleased. "I don't want you to take this matter lightly," he said.

 

Klikprap did not take the matter tragically, either. "Don't worry, Boss,"

he said. "Re-afforestation costs money;

cutting trees down brings money in. Consequently the destruction of the forest

will always go on at a faster rate than its replace­ment."

 

"Some States," said Sten, "have admirable laws protecting their forests,

laws which ensure the preservation of the forest whatever may come — Austria, for example."

 

"I'm glad you mentioned Austria. It's an excellent example of how useful these laws are.

In Austria there's an annual addition to the existing timber of 8.5 million cubic metres and a

ctually 11 millions are cut down.

Over the past thirty years destruction has exceeded growth by 85 million cubic metres."

 

Sten cried, "But Austria is the country that has led the world in scientific forestry."

 

"It's the same in Austria as it is everywhere else —"

 

"But surely," persisted Sten, "man is making some kind of effort to avert the catastrophe?"

 

"Where the ground water has sunk below a certain depth, there's no chance of replanting a forest."

"They're building artificial lakes and thousands of new ponds _",

 

Groot put in, "A number of important industrial concerns are contributing large sums

of money every year towards the work of re-afforestation".

 

Klikprap smiled. "A miserable piece of patchwork; it's utterly useless when the whole countryside is sick !

The fact is that these wiseacres are panicking at last; what they're panicking about is business,

for without a sound countryside and above all, good water, there's no business at all.

Now they realize with horror that in gambling away the life of Nature, they've gambled away their own.

I tell you that it will only take another fifty or sixty years to exhaust the timber supplies of Europe,

 and only a further thirty or forty to exhaust those of America.

The annual growth of timber all over the world amounts to 1-1 billion cubic metres;

the annual consumption amounts to 2-1 billions so there's a yearly deficit of a billion cubic metres.

Every civilized man during his life eats, on an average, 300 full-grown trees;

America is using twice as much wood every year as is provided by new growth; in West Germany,

on every day in every year, 11,000 cubic metres of timber disappear into the earth for use in the mines.

The hour when the last tree will fall is now simply a matter of calculation.

Then will begin the desert period of the earth, the gradual decline of fertility of the soil to zero,

and the universal death from hunger."

 

While Klikprap was still speaking, the Devil had left the room, but not before indicating by a gesture

that he was well satisfied with the speaker's work.

 

Now Klikprap rose from his chair and bowed to his guests.

"And that, madame doctor and gentlemen, concludes my report.

The Boss is waiting for you." He pressed a bell. A liveried footman appeared and led the four visitors to the lift.

 

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