The modern human assumption that trees, plants and all other wildlife are “just property” is, to Powers, the root of our much greater species problem. “Every form of mental despair and terror and incapacity in modern life seems to be related in some way to this complete alienation from everything else alive. We’re deeply, existentially lonely.
“Until it’s exciting and fun and ecstatic to think that everything else has agency and is reciprocally connected we’re going to be terrified and afraid of death, and it’s mastery or nothing.” To that end, Powers hopes his book will be part of the restoration of a tradition that has all but ceased to exist in modern literature. “We are incredibly good at psychological and political dramas, but there’s another kind of drama – between the humans and the non-humans – that disappeared in the late 19th century, once we thought we had dominion over the Earth. Because we won that battle.
“But now we know we didn’t, actually. And until you resolve that question, how do we live coherently at home on this planet, the other two kinds of stories are luxuries.”
The Overstory is next on my reading list.