The Forgotten Side of Environmentalism

When discussing Environmentalism we often take ourselves out of the equation, as if we are not part of the environment or as if we are somehow better than any other plant or animal that is a part of our environment. As mentioned in my previous post we are nothing but animals at our core and thus we are also part of the discussion on environmentalism. We often concern ourselves over saving animals that we have put in danger such as rhinos or animals that have put themselves in danger such as pandas, but we never really stop to think how we can help and how we can save our fellow man, how we can help them in their life and give them the same opportunities that we were afforded. We often forget that there are people who are struggling to get by every day, that many can’t afford the luxuries we take for granted, some can’t even afford to properly feed themselves. We either forget the struggles of others or voluntarily ignore them because it is often easier to close your eyes and block your ears then it is to take the time and try to help another human out of a tough predicament.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle outlines this phenomenon quite well and shows the reader the struggles that people face in trying to achieve the American Dream that we all are so desperately vying for whether they come from wealth or poverty. The Novel does a fantastic job in showing the split that has been created in humans. With world one being Delany and Kyra, the two white affluent main characters who live in their “open” community and world two being Candido and America, the two other main characters who are Hispanic and live in the world of poverty. For Delany and Kyra, their world is one of choice and privilege; their privilege comes from their citizenship in the United States and their race. Delany and Kyra don’t have to worry about putting food on their table or saving money because they have a steady income. They have everything that Candido and America could ever want and more. The world that Candido and America live in is vastly different from the world of Delany and Kyra, for Candido and America their goal is to survive, to be able to make enough money that they can support their soon to be family and to be able to afford to feed themselves. They do not have the luxury of being born in America; they had to fight to get here across dangerous terrain all while dodging the border police, just for the small hope, the small chance that they could find a better life in this country. Every step forward the two seem to take has them walking three steps back, they struggle constantly but don’t give up and keep moving forward no matter how dire the consequences may seem at times.

One of the biggest points of contention within the book is whether or not the community that Delany and Kyra live in should be gated with a better wall built around the perimeter or whether the fence they have now and the openness of the community should stay. This is very reminiscent of the current argument of whether or not we should be building the proposed wall by our President. Kyra after losing both of her dogs to coyotes and dealing with people threatening her at one of the properties she is trying to sell, slowly begins to believe that the better wall around the community sounds like a good idea, and when others begin to play on her fears she becomes very motivated for building the wall. She wants the wall to go up to separate the community from nature which is why she bought her house in the first place, the plot she chose was the closest to nature that she could get in the development. Although after dealing with those who threatened her she wants the wall to be built to separate her from people who cannot afford to live where she does, to separate her from poverty. Delany is against the wall but also at the same time is not the liberal humanist he declares himself to be. Throughout the course of the novel, Delany slowly becomes more and more bigoted against those who are not like him. He begins to group all types of people into one and begins to profile. In the end of the book, Delany goes mad in the pursuit of Candido who he believes has been causing problems when he actually wasn’t which brings us to this passage: “Delany didn’t care. He didn’t care about the hazard, he didn’t care about the other drivers or the wet road or the insurance rates – all he cared about was the Mexican, the man who’d invaded his life like some unshakable parasite, like a disease” (332). Delany has one goal in mind, to get back at the man who he believes has been causing all these problems in his life, in this pursuit he puts all the blame on Candido who he refers to only as “The Mexican” as well as a parasite or a disease rather than a human. He only looks at him this way because of his race rather than any actual proof. In his pursuit, the only thing that prevents him from fully attacking Candido is seeing that just like him Candido is trying to provide for his family. Although while Kyra and Delany caused so many problems for Candido and America, Candido and America still treat the two as humans, and even when they lose everything at the end of the book Candido still saves the man who almost killed him and later chased him, not because he had anything to gain but because he was a true humanist.

Overall the Tortilla Curtain brings up a lot of important arguments both pertaining to humans and nature as well. The wall was originally liked by Kyra as a way to protect her family from coyotes and other dangers of nature; she wanted to use it as a dividing line between the community and the nature she enjoyed so much before the loss of her dogs. Although the other argument is the treatment of other humans whose only difference from them was the color of their skin and their background. Both are arguments about environmentalism.

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