‘The Tamarisk Hunter’: Environment and Dystopia
More and more through advanced technology and media, issues such as global warming, natural resource depletion, and general lack of care for our environment are coming to the forefront. The issues that we are currently facing with our own environment are typical qualities of a dystopian world and also in science fiction. These topics can be seen in the short story by Paolo Bacigalupi called ‘The Tamarisk Hunter’. The story portrays the life of a tamarisk hunter named Lolo in the fictional future western US and his struggle to survive.
Water is the most valuable resource in the Western US, specifically in the Colorado River Basin where Lolo makes his life removing tamarisk trees from the river banks. Tamarisk trees drain thousands of gallons of water each year. Lolo began cutting the trees many years ago when the Big Daddy Drought started and there was no longer enough water to meet the needs of the people along the Colorado River.
At the time the story takes place the problem is so advanced that only people in California are allowed access to the water and most people living along the river in Nevada and Utah had to relocate. Ten years ago tamarisk hunting provided a good living for Lolo, but in recent years Lolo has noticed fewer and fewer tamarisk trees. As a precaution, Lolo has begun replanting tamarisks in new locations for job security. During Lolo’s week long trek home he runs into another tamarisk hunter named Travis.
Through Lolo’s discussions with Travis he learns of the worsening state of the area due to the water shortage. Lolo also learned of a place called “The Straw” which appears to be located north of Lolo’s home. The Straw is a new built mechanism to deliver water directly to California through the use of concrete and carbon fiber to stop ground penetration and evaporation of the river. After his talk with Travis, Lolo continues on his way home to his wife Annie and his homestead. Upon arriving home Annie tells Lolo that guards have been at the house looking for him. Lolo immediately thinks that they have found out about his tamarisk replanting and are going to kill him. The next day the guards are back for Lolo but they weren’t there to punish Lolo for his replanting. Instead they were there to offer Lolo a buyout. Due to The Straw there will no longer be a river for Lolo to remove trees from. The government is offering Lolo 500 dollars for his land which is just enough money to move North. The story ends with Lolo contemplating his choices as to whether take the buyout or remain in his home. “The Tamarisk Hunter” relates highly to the theme of the environment (and specifically degraded environmental conditions) in a dystopian world. In Chris Baratta’s Introduction, he states that ‘As humanity continues to progress, building more, exploiting more, consuming more, science fiction writers became aware of the detrimental effects that humanity’s progress is having on the natural world.’ (Baratta 4).
‘The Tamarisk Hunter’ represents an apparent dystopian future world and the typical ill-treated environment that goes along with advanced technology and misuse of resources. “Lolo tops another mesa and stares down at the familiar landscape of an eviscerated town, its curving streets and subdivision cul-de-sacs all sitting silent in the sun.” (Bacigalupi 2). The imagery in this quote illustrates the declined surroundings in Lolo’s life which is also symbolic of his own deterioration. There are many other instances throughout the short story that describe Lolo’s environment in a very negative connotation with parallels to his negative status in life. In conclusion, ‘The Tamarisk Hunter’ is a typical example of the state of an environment in a dystopian science fiction work. There are many parallels that can be seen with this story and the issues we are currently facing with our own environment. This story can almost be taken as a warning as to what our world may trend to if we are not careful with technology and our use of natural resources. As such, we as a human population need to protect and preserve our environment as best as possible or our world will turn to Lolo’s.
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