Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures
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Thoughts on Pumzi, Oil on Water, and The Petrol Pump – Thabit Pulak

February 28th, 2017 | Posted by Thabit Pulak in Uncategorized

Out of all three pieces which we had the opportunity to engage with, I felt that Pumzi had the deepest effect on me. When it comes to issues of the environment, especially if describing a future apocalyptic-type scenario, I feel that visual media is the best way to go about it. Pumzi paints the grim picture of how a society in East Africa lives in a future where water is scarce. The interesting thing about Pumzi was that technology was quite advanced – much more relatively to what we have today. Yet it appeared that the living standards – as in the comforts that we humans are typically accustomed to in the modern world today – have dropped substantially. It appears that not only is water incredibly scarce, but energy seems to be at a premium as well – humans are required to get on exercise machines, and take turns running it in order to power the living facility. It appears that the technological advances in the future are solely serving the purpose of sheer survival, and nothing much more. Pumzi is a possible glimpse into a future when people don’t care about their careless habits in the present.

The Petrol Pump was the next most impactful piece on my mind. I honestly have never read anything like it before – the entire writing piece focused on a space in time that was perhaps no longer than 30 minutes. It was quite remarkable to me that the writer was able to wring out so much meaning and introspection within that constrained time frame. I felt myself asking questions about the environmental/societal implications of my own day to day actions as the writer talked about his thoughts during the process of finding gas to pump into his car.

Oil on Water by Helon Habila wasn’t a bad piece by any means – but I place it last simply because Pumzi and the Petrol Pump were so good! In this story, Habila describes the fight between Nigerian Militants and the oil companies for their mutual desire for oil in the country. Habila vividly describes the destruction of natural land via the exploitation by the developed world.

One thing I feel however, is that Oil on Water – at least compared to the other two pieces we engaged with – seems to shift blame on environmental destruction more to large corporations and foreign interests rather than the individual. While there is a very important truth to this, I don’t think this is the best truth to push forward. What I mean by this is that these corporations are ultimately run by people. These people at one point in their lives, were young children, growing up and learning from their surroundings. I think the best messages are those that push forward individual responsibility as well as bringing awareness to the problems big corporations have made to the environment. The Petrol Pump seems to reconcile these two things better than Oil on Water.

Works Cited

Pumzi by Wanuri Kahiu
Calvino, Italo, and Tim Parks. “The Petrol Pump.” Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories. New York: Pantheon, 1995. 170-75. Print.
Habila, Helon. Oil on Water: A Novel. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

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