Still, among all the bizarre, self-enclosed universes the internet has to offer—gold-standard bores, UFO chasers, people who believe that cartoons are real in a nearby dimension or that the secret rulers of the world are betraying their existence by leaving little clues on the currency—the flat-earthers are special. Flat earth insists on the primacy of direct experience (look at the horizon, really look, and try to see the curve) against abstract domination. It’s an imaginative protest against the stupidity of our actual dreary sphere. As I’ve written elsewhere, “in an era where so much of the world is disenchanting and so much of social existence is already a given—you will have your job, you will have your life, you will be exploited and then you will die—there are people who can dream the Earth itself into a different shape.”
But lately, there’s been a change; something new and furious is growing in the community. ‘No Forests on Flat Earth’ is an incredible new theory, proposed only last month. Its claim is grand, counterintuitive, and beautiful: we were lied to; our flat earth has no forests. Thousands of people are ready to believe it. This might prove to be important; you can’t understand our reality without understanding those dark and secret places where it’s denied. New discoveries in mainstream science just tell us about the physical universe; earth-shattering developments in the conspiracy-theory fringe tell us what’s happening to ourselves. ‘No Forests on Flat Earth’ might be the future of weirdness, and it’s utterly magnificent.
The response to the video has been huge—since it was first posted by a Crimean man calling himself Людин Рɣси, ‘There are no forests on Flat Earth Wake Up’ has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, spawned hundreds of blog posts in the broader flat-earth-o-sphere and, at the time of writing, has gathered over ten thousand response videos. There’s been an ‘explainer,’ a ‘decoding,’ a biblical exegesis, a roundtable discussion (in fact, many, many roundtable discussions), and, inevitably, accusations that the precipitous popularity of the video is proof that it’s all a plot by the ‘control grid’ to distract from the real truth. Unfortunately, the ‘No Forests on Flat Earth’ video is also nearly an hour-and-a-half long. You should absolutely watch the whole thing—but if you’re not the kind of dedicated weirdo who wants to waste a decent chunk of their day watching ludic conspiracy-theory pseudogeology, I’m willing to give you a summary.
We start with a montage of forests, peaceful scenes studded with sunlight, the kind of pictures just waiting for some inspirational quote to be plastered on top of them. We’ve all seen forests, we all know what they are; how could anyone claim that they don’t exist? But our narrator knows better. “They make us think that this is a forest,” he tells us, “when you are actually looking at thirty-meter bushes. After watching this video, you will reverse your concept of forests by 360 degrees.” This isn’t a forest at all: only a diminished imitation. Thousands of years ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed 99% of the Earth’s biosphere, and when it happened, it took away the real forests. Real trees are nothing like their stunted cousins, the miserable perishing scraps of wood that we see today; they were truly vast, hundreds of kilometers tall, magical organisms that sustained a total living ecology of the flat earth. These things were the anchor of a beautiful world that has now vanished forever. And how does he know? Because everywhere around us, we can see their stumps.