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Environmental Issues across novels

bgenaro's picture

Environmental Issues Across Novels

A key question that humans need to explore today is the question whether we are dependent on the environment or are we making the environment dependent on us. Kolbert and Ozeki both allude to issues revolving around dependency on the environment. Ozeki focuses on the environment’s dependency on humans due to the effects of human involvement in the environment. Kolbert focuses mainly on human dependency on the environment and the effects of environmental damage to humans. This question is fundamental to understanding the current environmental issues and how to go about solving them. However, this question may not be answered easily. Humans have inhabited this environment for thousands of years; early humans were more certainly dependent on the environment, but what does that mean about us?


As Kolbert points out, humans will forever be dependent on the environment. However, with the formation of an industrial and technological society, humans have destroyed the earth to an extent of the occurrence of a mass extinction. The main issue with a rapidly developing and expanding global economy and industry is the question of how long the earth can sustain such violence. Not only have humans destroyed the earth, but also have altered the earth. Humans have created new “natural” elements. Like the genetically modified potatoes in All Over Creation, humans continually modify plants and animals to create more food for less money. This sounds great at first; it makes more money and creates more food for the hungry. However, is this really right? Is this food really safe to eat? What effects could altering the natural systems in both plants and animals have in the long run? Well, humans don’t know the answers to most of these questions, and the ones we do know, aren’t promising. Like Kolbert’s mention of invasive species and how transporting one plant that is native to one particular area to an entirely different environment can completely wipe out other native species, genetically modified plants and animals could have grave consequences for natural plants and animals. In nature, the law that rules the land is the survival of the fittest; but once humans genetically modify plants and animals to be the fittest and the most adapted, we put nature out of balance. In this case, one could argue that nature is dependent on us because, using technology, we make sure that a plant or animal doesn’t go extinct, even though we caused problem to begin with. However, technology can only get us so far. In the end, genetically modified animals and plants cannot function like the natural animals and plants, but end up eradicating them.


From a human perspective, things like invasive species and genetically modified plants and animals only become an issue once it somehow threatens the convenience of human’s daily lives. Although this time is not here yet, it will come sooner rather than later. Societies go through many stages; first of which is a developmental stage where humans settle and create a community, second is an agricultural stage, third is a technological stage, and last is a destruction stage. Societies of humans can only uphold for so long. It’s in human nature to want to innovate and expand; however, innovation and expansion comes with detrimental environmental consequences. As mentioned in Kolbert’s novel, humans have caused great changes on the surface of the earth since the beginning of the industrial revolution. In geologic time, this is the blink of an eye. Since the 1700s, humans have emitted an enormous amount of carbon and poured thousands of pounds of toxins into the water supply. The effects that Kolbert described would happen are somewhat touched upon in Ozeki’s novel. For example, the failure of natural crops can be an effect of human impact on the environment. Naturally, crops fail all the time, but when they begin to fail frequently enough for people to search for alternatives to natural crops, some sort of environmental shift must be the cause. As Kolbert mentions, climate change will have more impacts than just an increase in the average global temperature. Due to the rise in temperature and the increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere, normal weather patterns will be destroyed. Extreme weather will become more frequent in areas of relatively mild weather, like land that is usually used for agriculture. The agriculture business is already feeling the effects of climate change, which is why the use of genetically modified foods is becoming more and more popular, like outlined in Ozeki’s novel.


The question of dependency is an extremely valid question. However, the ultimate answer to this question is that overall humans are dependent on the environment. Despite all the actions humans take to try to alter and fix the environment, the environment has the upper hand. Kolbert and Ozeki both point out that nature is a force of her own and humans survive by living off of the earth. Although is may seem that the environment is dependent upon human behavior and construction, in the end, human activity is temporary and nature is permanent.