Book Review: Thrillcraft


It's a big picture; it's a big book, 12 inches by 14 inches by two thick. When you open it up the two foot wide images of the environmental destruction wrought by "thrillcraft" are awesome- it is the IMAX of coffee table books. In fact you could put legs on it and make it a coffee table.

The content is also spectacular, particularly if you wrestle with the issue of motorized recreation like ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and PWC's.The editor, George Wuerther, also wrote some of the sections, in a style that he describes in the introduction:

"Some of the language used in the book may be described as incendiary. Unfortunately, there is no nice way to describe the true dangers thrillcraft pose to the integrity of our public lands: they terrorize wildlife and other people;destroy the quiet and peace of the woods; and pollute, degrade, and vandalize much of our natural legacy. If the words used to describe these activities seem a bit too harsh, it may be because we have become too complacent about such damage and abuse in our society today."

He wrote a particularly strong section condemning the marketing of thrillcraft: "to some users and owners, thrillcraft vehicles convey power, prestige, status and control. The psychological link between symbolic meaning and these machines is exploited by thrillcraft manufacturers to sell their vehicles,...which in turn feeds a growing consumerism that directly threatens the health of the land and society as well"- quoting ads like Bombardier's ATV ads: "Rip open the box, rip up the dunes" and "Don't just hit the trail, pound it mercilessly"

James Howard Kunstler contributes " The Twilight of Mechanized Lumpenleisure: An Elegy for Bread, Circuses, and Jet Skis;" Philip Cafaro writes "Teaching Disrespect: The Ethics of Off-Road Vehicle Use on America’s Public Lands" then there are specific chapters about snowmobiles and jetskis- no landscape is left untouched.

It is published by the Foundation for Deep Ecology and distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing, and would make a wonderful present at sixty bucks, far less than comparably sized or produced architecture or art books. The writer and publisher clearly thought that the scale of the images was important to convey the message, but it is perhaps too much of a good thing, and might reach a larger audience if it wasn't so big.

::Thrillcraft; Read George Wuerther's introduction here.

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