A Comparison of Nan Enstad and Roy Scranton's Essay about the Environment

The world we live in today has many issues people are concerning themselves over. One of the biggest predicaments that happens to involve everyone is our environment, how we are manipulating it, and why. We are affecting ourselves in negative ways because of how we live and how we consume products and treat each other globally. If something is not done to change this soon, a disastrous future lies ahead for us. These are the main points heavily addressed in both Nan Enstad and Roy Scranton’s writings, each in their own unique ways. It is especially interesting that Scranton and Enstad are explaining these issues each with a different point of view. Scranton is telling his argument using his military background as an example and Enstad is analyzing an article from National Geographic telling of the toxic body burden of an American man. In their searches for finding out the cause of this problem, they both seem to ask the important questions such as who, what, how and why? What can we possibly do to fix this?

Scranton has had the experience of being a private in the United States Army. The things he saw in Iraq were shocking in the sense of how different it was back home. What the war did to that country destroyed its infrastructure; its food and water supplies, electricity and safety were all compromised. He compares this scene to his later experience back home when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and he was sent there to help. The people there ended up in a very similarly compromising situation to that of the war he witnessed in Iraq. It is like foreshadowing what could happen in the not so distant future to the majority of the world if we are unable to halt things like climate change or global warming because with the way things are changing, more natural disasters are likely to occur. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III has stated that global climate change is our greatest threat (Scranton) because even if we’re working our hardest to prevent things like terrorism or just general insecurity and upheaval from occurring, they would still inevitably happen if we let the environment get out of control. It is the crucial first step in creating order, because without a stable environment, people cannot live stably. More wars or global arguments will break out because countries and even your local neighbors will be fighting each other for the last remaining resources in what may eventually become an apocalyptic world.

So when asking who and how, Scranton approaches the idea in a more pessimistic but realistic way. He argues that it is too late for us to change what we’ve already done to the environment. We have gone too far with the way we carelessly pollute, and it’s led us to today’s conditions. “We are past the point of no return.” (Scranton) We are now living in the Anthropocene that we have created for ourselves. In a time span shorter than we realize, the world as we know it will be dramatically different. With the way humans have altered the environment, everything is rising. The population, average temperatures, and even the oceans will be much higher than they are today. This will affect the global economy, our agriculture, and many other essential things. Having said this, we must “learn how to die in the Anthropocene” (Scranton) or in other words, prepare ourselves for what is to come, and deal with it, but should cherish what is still left of our once beautiful environment.

Moving over to Enstad’s essay, when focusing on the question why, she emphasizes the importance that capitalism is a leading cause in the reason we have these issues today and have for quite some time now. Assuming Enstad disagrees with the ways of capitalism, she repeatedly implies that it has a negative impact on society, creating one in which basic survival and daily routines are based largely on purchasing goods, consuming them, and quickly disposing of them without a second thought. “Capitalism is not out there, it is within us.” (Enstad 57) Literally within us, because of all the toxins each of us has unknowingly been trained to intake. But this is not necessarily any one average, local person’s fault. We don’t have the power to control exactly how goods are made and the chemicals put into them, so we’ve been along with it. The people that do, however, the people that are in charge of big corporations and governments, don’t seem to care as long as they’re wealthy.

The way people are affected by toxins isn’t even distributed evenly, so there is clearly something wrong here than just toxins. Enstad states that “The unequal distribution along lines of class and race of hazardous workplaces, high-risk jobs, housing near manufacturing or processing plants, and toxic disposal sites means that poor people and people of color can reasonably expect to have a greater share of the toxic body burden.” (Enstad 57) This is an example of unfair treatment both locally and globally. Toxicity itself is not biased or chooses where it is placed. Corporations place them wherever it burdens them the least. So locally, they are not affected, but whatever innocent lives that happen to be on the other side of the Earth suffer the consequences.

While Enstad and Scranton both address these major environmental issues and human involvement while criticize corporate globalization, they are sure to make it clear that they are not saying it’s any one nation’s fault. Even though they both talk about America the most, they do not exclude the variants of other country’s problems. Nobody is perfect, but if we simply cooperate with each other or be a little more mindful when buying and consuming goods as Scranton and Enstad suggest, then maybe this won’t be a problem, or at the very least a big one, for future generation.

Works Cited

  1. Scranton, Roy. "Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene." Opinionator 10 Nov. 2013. The New York Times Company. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.

  2. "Toxicity and the Consuming Subject." States of Emergency: The Object of American Studies. Ed. Russ Castronovo and Susan Gillman. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2009. 55-68. Print.