In Parable of the Sower, Lauren and her group (well, really everyone who is not super rich) have had to revert to preindustrial methods of survival. (Disclaimer: that statement is flawed; those ‘preindustrial’ methods have been used in modern times, but not to the extent that people in Butler’s world have used them). Agriculture is a highly prevalent example of this, as the original neighborhood Lauren lived in relied on hand sowing for the entirety of their food source, and the group must continue to rely on it in the creation of Acorn. Water purification is another example. Though there are water purification tablets and water stations available, the cheapest and therefore most-used method of purification is by boiling the water. Yes, many people still have to boil water for sanitation purposes, but I assume that most students that attend universities do not boil drinking water in fear that it is contaminated. That method was more commonplace in the past.
I could go on listing the older modes of survival the characters have had to make use of despite living in a post-technological age world, but that is not the purpose of this post. Rather, I wish to point out the significance of revisiting the past. For the people struggling to get by in Butler’s future vision of our world, revisiting the past is a necessary component of survival. During the “Conversation with Octavia E. Butler” that is featured at the end of the text, Butler states:
“Our only way of cleaning up, adapting, and compensating for all this in Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents is to use our brains and our hands – the same tools we used to get ourselves into so much trouble.” (338)
That last line struck a chord with me. Revisiting the past is essential for the survival of the human race, but the past, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is the preface to how we shaped our crumbling society in the first place. This dichotomy of needing to return to the past for survival and the past being the origin of how we came to be struggling for survival in the first place brings me back to the idea of circulation that we keep referencing in this course. The nature of life is cyclical, both on the micro and macro scales. Something is born, then grows, eventually dies, and is then returned to the earth to assist in the creation of new life. Since the beginning of civilization humans have cycled through this same process with periods of prosperity and periods of decline. Now, in the world’s current (declining and unstable) political, social, and environmental state, we need to study and learn from past modes of survival/periods of stability, but ultimately (if we make it through this current period of decline, that is) we will circle back into another period of decline. I suppose the present hope is for human life to survive this current decline, and well enough so that the next high period is more prosperous than the last.