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The Yellow Bringer of Death

The air is warm on this pleasant evening in early spring, the warmest day of the year so far. On the far distant horizon is the hill where sits a large and enigmatic chalk horse, cut as a monument into the grass by our bronze age ancestors thousands of years past. Near at hand, the crop in the gently rolling field is just coming into bloom. In its middle is a solitary walnut tree. On the newly opening flowers hum bumble bees and honeybees. A pair of butterflies dances low over the crop, darting between the plants. In the sky overhead larks sing on the wing. Their nests are below, perhaps in the crop-free wheel lines that traverse the field. It is difficult to imagine a more harmonious or peaceful scene. But something else quite unexpected intrudes upon this gentle idyll. To the murmur of the bees and the trilling of the larks is added a third sound. It starts on the far side of the field, beyond the walnut tree, and comes gradually closer. The sound is mechanical: a huge yellow machine is rumbling across the crop, with two long booms reaching out, one on either side, a foot or two above the crop. From the booms spreads a silver mist, descending onto the plants and insects below, like a mist of death below the wings of an avenging yellow angel.

In the cab the operator is comfortable in his air conditioning, listening to the radio. He will not hear the crunch of sky lark nests if he drives over them. He will not count the bumble bees, honeybees and butterflies killed by the toxic cloud that settles in his wake. As the yellow angel passes, a silence falls: no more gentle buzzing. Doubtless the farmer will be pleased; the management timetable that required the field to be sterilized has been satisfied (I doubt that anyone checked first to see if the spray was actually needed). What started as a pleasant evening has ended with a bitter taste. We cannot continue to wage such senseless war upon the living realm. If we do, we will surely succeed and what then? Where ends the cycle of death? Our bronze age ancestors, who cut the white horse, had a deep connection with the land and all that lived in it. One wonders what they would think of the modern exploiters of the land (one cannot call them farmers) who so liberally broadcast death where they should be cultivating life.

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