Essay, Research Paper
Jack london and modern day environmentalist groups
We shall never understand the natural environment until we see it as a living organism. Land can be healthy or sick, fertile or barren, rich or poor, lovingly nurtured or bled white. Our present attitudes and laws governing the ownership and use of land represent an abuse of the concept of private property…. Today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see and nobody calls the cops. Through the words from of Paul Brooks one can easily observe a number of feelings shared by some of preasent day environmental preservation groups. Groups like Green Peace and Earth First, hold the idea that the environment is naturally beautiful, but is often corrupted by the greed of humanity. Groups such as these also stress the idea that the environment is actually a living organism just the same as any animal or person. Above all, people concerned with the preservation of the natural environment see the spirit and vigor of the surroundings most people take for granted. Subsequently, they also see the inhumanity that goes along with the environment’s deplition. Even before the breakthrough thinking of radical groups like the ones mentioned above, concern for the environment can be seen in writings of the mid 19th century. One writer who depicts the ideas of modern-day environmental preservation groups was Jack London. Through his stories about nature, one can easily see glimpses of the same ideas presented by Green Peace or Earth First. One story in particular, All Gold Canyon, plainly proves that London would most likely agree with the radical ideas of these organizations. Proof of theses mutual ideas can be seen through London’s descriptions of the settings, the contrast of those settings, and his use of tone.
One way the reader can perceive London’s feelings on the environment is through his descriptions of the settings. Many believe that London not only uses the setting to paint a pretty background picture, but also uses it as the building blocks for his theme and an outlet for his thoughts and ideas. When London first describes the canyon he paints a picture of a beautiful place where the leaves and flowers were fresh and virginal. This passage implies that the beauty of the flowers is pure and untouched by any blemish. This idea can also be found at the heart of
many philosophies of environmental groups. The whole first couple of pages of this story are filled with descriptions such as the one above. These descriptions of the early setting set a mood of tranquility, which again coincides with the ideas of the modern radicals. Later London describes the setting as actually being alive and having human attributes :
the drifting sound and the drifting color seemed to weave together in the making of a delicate and intangible fabric which was the spirit of the place. It was a spirit of peace that was no death, but of smooth pulsing life.
Just as Green Peace or Earth First, London portrays a feeling that the environment which people take for granted is alive. London goes as far as to convey that nature actually has a spirit or a soul. It is through the details like these that one can pick up the core ideas of radical preservation groups, which existed even before their time.
Another way the reader can see the similarities in the views is through the contrast of the canyon in the beginning and when the miner is present. The once tranquil and pure atmosphere is tainted by the clash of steel-shod soles against the rocks. When the miner entered the canyon the spirit of the place fled away on the heels of the red-coated buck. Just from those two small passages one could determine that London probably believed that it was humanity that ruined the innocence of nature, just as the radical groups believe. Like mentioned before, Green Peace and Earth First are extremely concerned with the depletion of the environments natural resources. Because of the negative description of the gold miner, it is pretty easy to get the same kind of feelings from The All Gold Canyon. Many extreme radicals see the rest of the world as greedy wealth hounds that exploit the earth’s natural resources. London seems to show the miner as the same type of greedy animal. There was an exultance about his bearing and a keenness like that of a hunting animal catching the fresh scent of game. The greed for the gold led the miner to become a predator that did not care what it destroyed to get to its prey. The longer the miner was in the canyon, the green screen was tremendously agitated. This again just shows the contrast between the two settings; the contrast which helps London’s radical views.
The tone London writes in also portrays his feelings about the environment. Many of the words and phrases London uses provoke a certain feeling from the reader. The negative depiction of the miner in comparison to the natural beauty of the canyon tends to sway the reader’s sympathy towards the environment. By using extremely connotative words, London can paint a picture of exactly what he wants in to the reader’s mind. In one passage the miner is described with a pick and a shovel gouging and mauling the soft brown earth . These words certainly shed a tone of negativity on the character of the miner. Also, they shed a feeling of sympathy towards the poor environment that is being mauled. The connotation of mauling is extremely negative. By using this technique of connotation to bend the tone of the story, London yet again seems to agree with the ideas of today. Environmental groups often try to win support by depicting “the bad guys” in a bad light, just as the miner is depicted.
With vivid descriptions of settings, contrast, and tone, London not only builds his story, but also gives the reader a small clue to what he may have actually believed in. In the story The All Gold Canyon, it is easy for the reader to draw conclusions about London’s view on the environment. Through the vivid descriptions, extreme contrasts, and connotations it is easy to say that many of the ideas of the environmental groups of today coincide with many of those of Jack London.