The Sheep Look Up addresses, like any good political novel, the daily idiosyncrasies that humanity—by virtue of ignorance, greed, and selfishness—apparently naturally succumb to. Idiosyncrasies, of course, that are leading us into an inevitable apocalypse. Sheep, different from the previous novels we have read, pays particular attention to environmental neglect, a prescient topic that rings surprisingly loud today, particularly as we engage in the discussion about global climate change.
But what is this discussion really about? Is it about mankind’s natural lack of concern for the environment? Doubtful, since many less technologically savvy cultures have been reliant on, and thus show much care for, the environment. It isn’t necessarily that we don’t care. Perhaps the discussion is of laziness. Is it humanity’s tendency to build what makes life easier—the wheel, the printing press, the computer—in order to be more efficient that simultaneously drives us to use a car to go even a block down the street or that makes us panic when we lose the television remote? The ambitious nature to produce effort-saving devices perhaps also makes us lose sight of their consequences. Or, is this discussion once again reverted to capitalism? Does the desire to produce for the Almighty Dollar make us selectively incoherent of damage that we cause?
Interestingly, the United States and the world seem to be fairly polarized on the issue of environmentalism. While on the one hand many countries are making their political voices heard about saving the planet, on the other, these same countries are boasting of industrial growth that seems to counter environmental progress. Perhaps perpetuating the problem, we see first world countries exploiting third world nations to acquire further profit in places where environmental laws fall low on the list of priorities.
It seems, though, that this has become a problem of ignorance as a result of avarice. In determination to build the biggest company, the strongest conglomeration, and even the most powerful country, over the last two centuries we have seen an almost entirely one-sided focus on strength through money. This has left humanity to forget about the source of the material from which they receive their profit. And when an issue is one that is felt not day to day or year to but generation to generation, it is easy to neglect the longterm consequences. But we are arriving at a tipping point—at least that is what Brunner and Al Gore and Rachel Carson would argue. But as they mention, humanity’s even more powerful to survive, its “obligation to endure” makes this question crucial to our current ideological discussion. Apocalypse may be a strong, pessimistic term, one that Brunner seems to ideologically thrive on. But then again, maybe it is the most appropriate. And seeing that environmentalist pursuits won’t likely be able to catch up with the global capitalism, only time will tell…