Ephemeral Realities

“It is because islands tend to form near faults or atop hot spots, which means they are ephemeral things in the planetary scale, there with an eruption and gone with the next tsunami. But human beings, too, are ephemeral things in the planetary scale. The number of things that they do not notice are literally astronomical” (150). Islands, too many, are defined as a body of land surrounded by water or classified as isolated. To me, islands mean home, shelter, community, and culture. However, the term that is essential within this piece is the idea of isolation. Within this quote, Jemisin highlights perhaps unintentionally the lives of many individuals that intertwine with justice. 

Islands in the year 2022 hold a lot of significance within our culture. “It is because islands tend to form near faults or atop hot spots, which means they are ephemeral things in the planetary scale, there with an eruption and gone with the next tsunami”. This quote can be directly proven in connection to natural disasters that occur on different islands. One example is the beautiful island of Haiti, Haiti has been exposed to different types of natural disasters. The article “Why Earthquakes In Haiti Are So Catastrophic” explains, “Haiti sits on a fault line between huge tectonic plates, big pieces of the Earth’s crust that slide past each other over time. These two plates are the North American plate and the Caribbean plate” (Jaclyn Diaz). Haiti sits on top of a fault known as the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system. As a result of the unease in the Earth’s crust, Haiti has been subject to various natural disasters, including earthquakes. The results of these earth are devastating, where many are found dead, homes destroyed, and people unprotected. And this is where the second half of the quote comes into play; “But human beings, too, are ephemeral things in the planetary scale” Upon understanding the destructive forces that can occur one understands the way human beings are temporary on space as ginormous.  

Islands within The Fifth Season hold a lot of meaning. In the beginning stages of the novel, Jemisin writes the quote used at the beginning of this paper that emphasizes the uniqueness of islands. This left readers with a lot of questions such as why is Jemisin focusing on islands? Are there people that live on islands within this novel? Etc. Jemisin left readers with a cliffhanger until the very end of the novel. Until readers are met with Syenite and Alabaster in chapter 22 where the Guardians have come to attack the island that at some point they have grown to appreciate. The arrival of the Guardians on the island shows the unfairness of attempting to forcibly eradicate and remove Corundum from his parents’ grasp. Corundum is considered as a need by the Guardians and the Fulcrum because of what he can provide. After reading about how the Guardians invaded the island, some people might wonder, “Who will restore this island?”

In recent years we have seen injustices and science connected. In 2020 Puerto Rico was hit by a devastating earthquake. However, hundreds of people are unable to pay for damage repairs to their houses. Others are skeptical of government inspectors’ claims that their homes are secure. The injustices are direct, we have a community of people impacted by an earthquake but the response of the government was very limited. For instance, Puerto Rico began to create camps for individuals who have lost their homes. Jenniffer Santos-Hernández, a research professor at the University of Puerto Rico who has visited the camps, believes the authorities have done little to offer temporary accommodation near people’s houses. She went to one neighborhood that is constructing one-room shacks with metal roofs that she described as looking like something out of a “shantytown”.

Works Cited 

Diaz, Jaclyn. “Why Earthquakes In Haiti Are So Catastrophic.” NPR, 16 Aug. 2021, choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2021/08/16/1027990749/haiti-earthquake-why-deadly-explainer.

Jemisin, N. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, 1). Reprint, Orbit, 2015.

Robles, Frances, and Erika Rodriguez. “Months After Puerto Rico Earthquakes, Thousands Are Still Living Outside.” The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/us/puerto-rico-earthquakes-fema.html.

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