Wish you were here: the importance of absence

Wish you were here: the importance of absence

During this week’s discussions, the importance of absence really stood out to me. Although most of my previous literature classes have spent hours analyzing every detail in a book (i.e. “the curtains are blue because the protagonist was depressed”), I’ve never been asked to look at the importance of things that weren’t included within a novel. Like we mentioned in class, for example, the lack of commentary about a potential president most likely indicates that there is no centralized/national government in the United States. This reminded me of Naomi Klein’s famous climate change novel, This Changes Everything. In one of her chapters, she mentions the devastating effects of the BP oil spill on marine life. However, rather than being able to show the world thousands of mutated fish, the main legacy will be a “handful of nothing” (pg.431). After all, the oil spill contaminated a delicate ecosystem, killing eggs, larvae, and juveniles (or in other words, future generations). Thus, the absence of fish populations in the future (rather than the presence of mutated fish) will be the striking consequence of this oil spill. Similarly, a lack of species in formerly species-rich areas, the absence of water during prolonged dry seasons, and a lack of glaciers will become the face of climate change.

Handful of oil: cleaning up after the BP oil spill in 2010.
(PC: Gerald Herbert; http://www.heraldonline.com/news/article31692431.html)


Klein, N. 2015. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, USA.

Robinson, K. S. 1990. Pacific Edge: Three Californias. Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., New York, New York, USA.

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