Animal Dreams: Real Life Reflections of the Effects of Pollution on the World's Fertility
Continued inadequate attention to the world's rivers, lakes and streams will ultimately result to mankind's demise. To ensure the productivity and viability the earth in the future, mankind must start working together to protect the physical environment and ecological processes or face destruction. Government legislation and community action related to this issue up until this point in time have largely been inadequate. More proactive measures are necessary both from governmental officials and community members to significantly change the course of history in a positive manner.
From an ecological viewpoint, of key concern are humankind's natural bodies of water, which historically have nourished and supported human life. In recent years however continual pollution and exposure to environment toxins have diminished the supply and quality of water and life available in the worlds' natural bodies of water. There are no signs that water pollution is significantly declining despite previous legislation and efforts by some community members. Brough (1998) shows that over-consumption and pollution continue to accelerate, which is contributing the destruction of the world's natural water resources. The World Wide Fund for Nature recently reported that whole seas are lowing up to 70% of their water; in addition more than 60% of freshwater species including fish and birds are declining; still other reports suggest that virtually all of nature may be "killed off within 50 years unless politicians act now" (Brough, 15).
Time and time again mankind has disregarded vital ecological processes in favor of development and modern conveniences. Despite measures to reduce water pollution mankind has continually dragged his feet. This fact is clearly demonstrated by the Clean Water Act of 1977 whose aims included achieving pollution control. The deadline for establishing safe levels for pollutant discharges was continually extended by government officials. President's Reagan and Nixon both vetoed measures that were aimed at revising and strengthening the Clean Water Act, suggesting mankind's blatant lack of regard for environmental concerns (Freedman & Bikki, 22). This lack of regard for nature undermines the integrity of the natural environment. Despite repeated attempts by ecologists and environmentalists to protect nature, humankind continues to engage in harmful behaviors.
Such continued lack of regard for the environment may ultimately shape the world of the future and result in an inhospitable environment that harms rather than nourishes human kind. At most risk from humankinds disregard for ecological processes are the world's natural water sources including rivers and streams. Studies suggested that almost all water basins in the United States for example are affected by pollution whether from industrial or municipal discharges (Freedman & Jaggi23). Without blatant measures to protect the world's water sources, in time these resources will dwindle beyond the point of redemption.
Since the early 1970s the U.S. government has slowly acknowledged the need to enact pollution control legislation protecting the nations bodies of water. In 1972 for example the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments were passed despite President Nixon's veto (Freedman & Jaggi, 21). These amendments aimed to reduce water pollution primarily from point sources or sources that discharge wastes into bodies of water through discrete piping or ditches.
Fictional Examination of the Issue
Kingsolver in her work Animal Dreams points out that ecology is a politically and scientifically legitimate social issue. Kingsolver metaphorically refers to the river in Grace as a source of fertility for both individuals and the community or mankind as a whole. The author clearly shows through a variety of plot twists how rivers and streams suffering from pollution and inattention will ultimately lead to humankind's demise. In Grace each of the characters livelihood or existence is intimately tied to nature (Valens, 2005). The community rejoices when the river runs well as they depend on the river for their livelihood. However humankind's habits and processes involved with daily life, such as mining, contribute to pollution that ultimately affects the well being of all community members in the work.
The river in the work is regarded as having power ultimately over life and death (Valens, 2005). This sentiment is one that echoes real life, where mankind relies on clean water to sustain life. Water as a source of power is clearly demonstrated in one characters thoughts and actions, those of Doc Homer. Doc sees the power the river holds over human life (Valens, 2005) and fortunately regards this power with some authority. One of the central themes in Kingsolver's work is fertility. The author suggests that mankind's fertility or ability to recreate and continue is promoted but also potentially inhibited by the river. The authors suggests that destruction of natures bountiful waterways will ultimately lead to an infertile society, one incapable of sustaining life in future generations. Codi represents this infertility early on in Animal Dreams as she is unable to have children (Valens, 2005). Codi is an example of what may happen to human kind if the world's natural sources of water are destroyed. Mankind's connection to the future would be distinguished, just as Codi seems to lose her connection with the past and future as demonstrated in Chapter 3.
All the mysteries of life in the work are linked to fertility, and rivers are but one natural source of fertility for mankind. Early on in the work Grace is portrayed as a fertile valley in part because it is connected to a bountiful river. Pecan tress and fruit orchards flourish in this mining town, and the orchard's upkeep is a primary concern among community members. The author demonstrates how mankind's trust in environmental agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency to protect natural resources may be misplaced in later chapters (Valens, 2005). Real life environmentalists who often question government structures in place "for dealing with environmental pollution, "which often" defy effective and concerted action, echo indeed this sentiment" (Freedman & Bikki, 3). It is important to recognize however that the EPAs primary concerns involve environmental protection. The goals of this organization are admirable. It is not enough however to be admirable when the livelihood of mankind may be contingent on your actions (Verweij, 2000). Members of the EPA must work more closely with community members to enact legislation that is powerful, effective and meaningful.
Animal Dreams also demonstrates how most people are unwilling to become involved in ecological projects until they share some intimate connection with the environment. This is demonstrated when Codi becomes involved in Grace's river project only after she understands how much damage the mine is causing the community. At this point she begins taking an active roll in the environment. This sentiment is sometimes echoed by citizens concerns about environmental actions. For example, during the 1970s when Congress debated the Clean Air Act, many members of Congress expressed concerns that cleaning the environment may increase costs (Freedman & Bikki, 1993; Arnold, 1995). Still others expressed concerns that firms might "forego more productive investments" if too many expenditures were focused on pollution abatement (Freedman & Bikki, 17). Were these individuals more intimately connected however with ecological disasters like the characters in the novel Animal Dream, they would probably be more likely to re-evaluate their concerns and pledge more time and money toward investigating environmental acts aimed at protection and pollution control.
The author also demonstrates that those who care for the earth are fertile. One may also assume after reading this work that fertility and bounty is something that can be earned, learned and shared. This is evident in one character Loyd, who helps nourish and cultivate the earth in the novel. The author suggests that one who cultivates is also capable of reproducing and sharing one's own fertility or bounty with. Loyd's connection with Codi helps the two of them strengthen the community and ultimately restore fertility to the earth (Valens, 2005) and to themselves (in Codi's case). Magnuson (1999) supports this sentiment suggesting that the earth will "take care of itself" if mankind works to minimize its impact on the natural world and recognize the importance of water to the quality of human life (p. 902).
The future of water and our culture according to this researcher depends on mans ability to fund hard research and commit itself to the natural world. If mankind does so then mankind may enjoy bounty and fertility for many years to come. Unfortunately modern day trends suggest that bounty and fertility are not a top concern yet among legislators and community members. It may take tragic or drastic events, such as those that occur in Animal Dreams, for beneficial change to occur in government politics surrounding the subject of environmentalism.
Despite the tragic outlook on the world's ecology there is still hope. Animal Dreams infuses us with hope. The author suggests that fertility may be restored when people start working together and realizing how important the earth's natural resources are to our personal and communal livelihood. Natural bodies of water are intimately tied with mankind's survival and well being. According to Magnuson…
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