With the widespread environmental support and activism that took place this past weekend, I have spent some time considering the environmental conditions in Butler’s Parable of the Sower. The drought and general unavailability of water are not exclusively from her imagination, but rather align with real scientific projections of climate change (Drought and Climate Change). In this novel, the absence of liquid water has broad implications impacting economic and social stability. When people are spending huge sums on the limited water supply, they have less money available for other necessities and goods. This hurts other commercial businesses that would profit if consumers had disposable income, and it hurts the consumers themselves who are considered rich if they can sustain their own life. The absence of water here is closely tied to the absence of prosperity.
Further, the water is associated with liquid financial assets. A liquid asset is something that “can be converted into cash quickly” meaning that it is more easily used as payment (Liquid Asset). Having liquid assets available is important because it gives flexibility to the possessor and allows them to partake in the financial system. In Parable of the Sower, there is a lack of liquid financial assets because of the economic instability revolving around water. As I explained above, without water there was not enough disposable income meaning that there were fewer sustainable businesses and fewer jobs with an income. This means that people will not have money- the most liquid asset- at their disposal. Additionally, the assets that they do have available will not sell because there is no one to buy, meaning that they are not liquid. For example, few people could afford to buy a home. Most assets still available are tied up in the home such as the garden or the furniture. Even assets such as personal skills would not result in a cash flow, as no one could pay an honest wage. That is why Lauren, as a literate young adult with childcare experience, had no hope of finding work on the outside. When her brother Keith was able to earn his keep by applying his ability to read, his income was in stolen goods from a group of thugs.
Butler is sending the message that financial liquidity depends on the availability of liquid water. She is looking to the future and emphasizing the point that if we want a sustainable society and economy, we must also consider the environment. Below is an image demonstrating the three pillars upon which sustainable development rests. If even one is neglected, the structure will be unsupported and may fall into a dystopia similar to Butler’s.