While traveling overland from Boulder, Colorado, across the desolation of late season harvested Kansas, and down through the earthquakes and oilfields of Oklahoma, all the way home, to my parents’ house near Dallas, I read a book by Margaret Atwood directly addressing the world I was witnessing out the window of the car. GMO corn was growing all over, where it wasn’t already harvested with a desert behind it. Chicken silos grew creatures plump and mildly retarded, trapped forever in the florescent tubes. Cattle were grazing for the feedlots, which were, blessedly, kept far back from the highways. The corn and sorghum was mostly for the feedlots. All of it was altered, adjusted in the DNA, bred for specific growing conditions scientifically. And, in the wake of it, after the harvest of the thousand miles of corn, a wasteland follows worse than deserts. No wild grasses, no wild creatures, nothing but brown despair and leaching topsoil and whatever chemicals linger in the ground. In Oklahoma, there are earthquakes where there has never before been much in the way of earthquakes. The gases and oils removed from underground, the toxic wastewater pumped down there, all combine to amplify the effects of global warming and destruction. The wind turbines, thank god, offer some hope, like swirling crosses of a Holy Trinity above the Christian plains, but it would seem to be too little, too late. The dogs and wolves and coyotes have all bred together into deadly packs. The pigs have swallowed all the antibiotics and the people will die of the plague again, when our antibiotics don’t work anymore because we ate it all in cheap meat.
All of this economic destruction is about making money, which is really about taking care of ourselves and our families. These things we ruin are done for love. This is a missing note in Atwood’s text, that those who destroy are actually in it because of the love they have for their fellows.
So, I didn’t feel like I was reading science fiction in the sense of the impossible. I was reading cyberpunk, at best, where everything described from company towns to Pleeblands to aggressive genetic crossing felt like what was happening right now, today, in these dull, idyllic cities of the plains.
When the antibiotics don’t work anymore, because we decided we liked to eat cheap bacon better than we liked to let the majority of our children survive into old age, we will see the plagues come again, and possibly the end of the world. One major motif in the MadAdam trilogy is the company that created diseases, and also created the cures. This is happening right now. Investor Shell Corporations own fast food and junk food companies that disguise sugar, fat, and salt as healthfood, push it into schools and food stamp programs, and create the diseases that slowly eat the communities. Them that can afford the cure, but the pills from other companies that are also owned by the investmemt shells. So, we eat McDonald’s, and we get sick. We take heart medication, we get treated for cancers, and we blame ourselves for failing to keep our health against the addictions that are fed to us everyday in all forms of media and convenience. It’s a profitable scheme. It happens right now, even though it feels like it must be some kind of joke.
This is a cyberpunk masterpiece, describing the end of the world based on what is happening right now, and it’s hard to read the news about the environment and fail to see it. We’ve built the disaster and sold it. We’ve built the cure and sold it. All we really have to do is stop buying the disaster, but to do so is to be a cultist, a religious lunatic on the fringe of society, a MadAdamite deserving only scorn. In the end, when I reached my mother’s house, I thought of how the rebuilding of everything in the wake of the waterless flood became a pseudoreligious thing, and how I don’t think our rebuilding will be anything but religious, when the plagues return to us. When the desolation of the American Midwest dustbowls again, and the towns are wiped by biotic infections, the ubiquitous crosses of the bumpers and billboards will spread as fast as plagues, and the only false note of Atwood’s text is the reduction in the specific Christian religion after the waterless flood for whatever cult is forming out of the Crakers.