The novel Earth Abides, written by George Stewart, gives an interesting perspective on the ending of mankind. Isherwood Williams picks a somewhat fortunate time to escape from the realities of civilization participate in personal research. During this time, almost the entire population of the nation falls victim of what he claims to be The Great Disaster. Fortunately for Ish, he is still left with a car as well as unlimited supply to canned food and running water. The biggest struggle for Ish is determining where exactly to go from that point, but that is exactly what determines him to push towards a dynamic future. He’s unaware of any known stable and sane survivors so he sets out in search of such people. Ish’s journey is far from eventful and gains no reassurance. Ish’s biggest struggle at this point is trusting what survivors are left, and deciding if those survivors are worth him settling down and starting over with. After this fails, he heads back home where his future slowly heads in a more promising direction. He meets a woman named Em, who he eventually reproduces with. The two start to reassemble “society” and form a small community with other people who share similar views as the couple. From this point on, Ish struggles with what is ideal for their new civilization. Ish thinks in a very intellectual way and greatly cherishes books and his ability to obtain knowledge; but he has a difficult time realizing these are not always such qualities that are essential for survival in their new world. The new way of living is definitely the hardest adaptation for the members of the new civilization. This is an idea that Rachel Carson discuses in Silent Spring. “It took hundreds of millions of years to produce the life that now inhabits the earth- eons of time in which that developing and evolving and diversifying life reached a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings” (6). Carson raises a good point. Mankind has made and immense amount of progress through time. In doing so, members of society of become completely reliant on certain aspects of technology and also fairly comfortable with beliefs and customs.
When Ish witnessed the only life he knew for over twenty years become completely destroyed, he wasn’t quite sure where to begin when it came to repairing the life that remained. At this point in time, he was raised in the mindset that if you were hungry you simply went to the grocery store and purchased whatever groceries you needed to make a meal. After the almost complete wipeout of society, this was no longer an option. The members of the new civilization ate mostly canned food and didn’t have much knowledge when it came to raising crops. This new life that each survivor attempted to create faced several obstacles. They were not used to relying so heavily on the environment and the nature that surrounded them. Carson discusses nature and the problems that arise with human and nature interaction. Carson talks about how nature, insects and animals have adapted to live in a world with humans. “Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds” (10). When the entire nation faced The Great Disaster in Earth Abides, every part of the ecosystem was thrown off. Animals and insects would completely take over, and then suddenly face a near extinction due to overpopulation. A specific example of this was the take over of the rats. As soon as the rat population greatly increased, they began killing each other. They didn’t prey on one another just for pure pleasure, but because the population needed to be controlled.
Although mankind would be virtually absent, there are still many parts of life that would be present. Carson’s article does an excellent job and putting into perspective the kind of impact us humans have had on nature. While keeping those thoughts in mind, it really does raise much question as to how this land would exist if we became extinct. Earth Abides gives insight as to what would happen to this country if the human population did become nearly extinct.