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Ozeki Rough Draft

starfish's picture

One Big Flow, But Not For The Farmers


In All Over Creation the character’s express a relationship to the environment based on both belief and necessity. There is a divide between farmers making choices out of immediate necessity and those on the outside who can approach the environment with more philosophy.

GM seeds offer farmers a way out of using pesticides and they embrace them out of necessity. Lloyd tells the Seeds:

“‘Margins are tight. Prices are down. You need higher yields to make a profit, and inputs maximize your yields. A lot of these fellas, they’re cash poor. Got their whole lives tied up in their land and one season’s harvest. Not a whole lot of room for error. It takes guts to try something new, as far as I can see.’

‘But when you listen to these guys, all they do is talk about how great the stuff is-’

          ‘Thats all it is’ said Lloyd. ‘Just talk. Deep down they know’” (146).

Cass and Will plant Nulifes because they are afraid pesticides are making them infertile, but they are reluctant to do so. Will advocates Nulifes to Cass. “‘But they say it’s safer than pesticides’ He was trying to reassure but his voice revealed the doubt that had been eating at him” (98).

For the farmers there is no room for identity to determine their relationship to GM plants. Only Lloyd takes a stand against them but he no longer is in a position of choosing between GM crops and pesticides. He essentially retired, and, preoccupied with little more than his seed business is free to take more of a philosophical attitude towards the environment. Lloyd writes in his news letter “Scientists do not understand Life Itself, and when they meddle in its Creation, they trespass on God’s domain. Beware of the ungodly chimera they manufacture in their laboratories!” (105). Lloyd’s pro-life beliefs fuel his anti-GMO beliefs but even among the other religious members of the town he is alone in openly condemning GMO’s- the others farmers must think about making a living.

Of course even the farmer’s “practical” decision to use GMO crops or pesticides  is not really practical. They choose pesticides because they are cheap but they have health drawbacks such as Cass’s infertility and cancer. The GM crops force the farmers to spend more buying new seeds each year but they are not reliably safe to consume. The seeds are against both, but as Will suggests Organic Farming doesn’t seem like much of a real option to the Potato Growers.

The idealism of the Seeds is based as much in their identity as Hippies as it is in a complete understanding of the farmer’s predicament. Even Geek who seems fairly knowledgeable reveals some ignorance when Will compares the use of GMO’s to being addicted to drugs and Geek shrugs, suggesting that he “just say no” (272). Quote about people not stopping eating GMO’s when labeled, just want the labels. The Seeds philosophy of going with the flow speaks to how their relationship to the environment differs from the farmers. They can simply move on, but the farmers must stay and make sure that each one of  their crops is successful. The Seeds are free to fight for the environment as a whole but the farmers have no option but to do what is best for their potatoes. Cass sums up what it means to have a livelihood based in the environment when she says that sometimes some creatures have to die so others can live (of course, those living are still paying a price as she well knows).



Anne Dalke's picture

I’m glad to have a chance to weigh in on this draft, and will be interested to see how it grows and develops next week.

You begin by explaining that “there is a divide between farmers making choices out of immediate necessity and those on the outside who can approach the environment with more philosophy.” (Lloyd forms a neat “hinge” for you here, as a retired farmer now “free to take more of a philosophical attitude towards the environment.”)

The comparison you develop between those who are free to “philosophize” about what is best “for the environment as a whole,” and those who need to make “practical” decisions, in order to do what is best for their own crop, also becomes a contrast between those who move and those who stay put. You compare the movement of the Seeds, free to “simply move on,” for example, with the stability of Will, one of “the farmers [who] must stay and make sure that each one of  their crops is successful.”

I’m wondering if this dichotomy will become complexified for you as you finish the novel, whether Will’s shift in position, for instance, will begin to suggest that the most “pragmatic” decision is really one that thinks more largely, beyond bringing in this year’s crop, in order to consider the dangers of monocultures, of the pesticide use they mandate, of the “health drawbacks” of crops that “are not reliably safe to consume.” (Obviously, you are already gesturing in this direction, since I’ve taken these quotes from your text J). It may be that your binary of “pragmatism” and “philosophy” collapses, by the novel’s end, into a kind of dialectic in which each feeds the other. I’m also thinking that the next text in our dock, The Collapse of Civilization, does a pretty good job of suggesting that short-term practicality is what will doom most of us in the long term…maybe you’ll want to bring that perspective into your revised draft of this paper? --where having “a livelihood based in the environment” means making short-term decisions that cause long-term damage to the environment that sustains (or will cease to sustain) us all…. ?

 P.S. Remember that you’re writing now for the internet—even when in draft form, and should have titles that draw in readers. “Rough Draft” doesn’t quite do it!