Essay on Ecology Theme in Dune, a Novel by Frank Hebert
Number of words: 1602
Frank Hebert’s science fiction novel Dune is the first book of a six-novel series. The book series focuses on several issues including but not limited to ecology, eugenics and social change. In Dune, Hebert highlights the struggle of humanity in an enormous empire. Over the past five decades, Dune has received extensive attention. Indeed, many recognize Dune as the greatest science fiction of all time, and it has won several awards including Hugo and Nebula, some of the top honors in the genre (Ellis 104).
In the novel, there is a strong theme of ecology and how humans can change the natural balance of the world. Herbert immerses the readers into the issues of ecology and climate change through accentuating the strength in existing environmental systems particularly the case of Arrakis and pinpointing the length of time and the difficulties associated with changing the situation in addition to addressing the problem for future generations. The concerns of the author on ecology not only points to future possibilities but also has relevance to humanity here and now.
The ecology theme in the novel consists of various features including the nature and the balance of the planet as it is at the time of the story, and the way the characters in the story have adapted to the prevailing conditions. Another component is the aspiration of a green planet including all the efforts the characters are making to bring the vision to reality. The main factor about the planet in Arrakis is that it is a desert with only small polar ice caps. At the beginning of the book in the first appendix, the author states; “the effect of Arrakis on the mind of a newcomer usually is the overpowering barren land. The stranger might think nothing could live or grow in the open here, that this was the true wasteland that had never been fertile and never would be” (Herbert). It is deductible; water is a matter of great concern especially for individuals in a low socio-economic position who lack the connections and the resources to have water shipped from other areas. While it is implied there is adequate water on the planet to transform this condition, finding the water in its proper form is a difficulty. Therefore, extreme planning and sophisticated techniques are to be utilized if any such effort is to be successful. Moreover, in efforts of attaining water in its most convenient form, extreme care should be taken to preserve the existing life.
The Fremen were not originally citizens of Arrakis having come to the planet as slaves. However, they had adapted their lifestyle to the climatic conditions in Arrakis and focused on their survival. For instance, it is notable that the Fremen are capable of refined technology, but the efforts are primarily concentrated in aims of preserving water (Allen 11). Undeniably, their burial norms, clothing, the treatment of foreigners, means of transport both walking and on worm back, their yearnings among other things directly reflect their efforts of survival. Hebert emphasizes the power of the ecological systems in Arrakis in the very description of the storms in the desert. He states “That’s too caution a word, bad. Those storms build up across six or seven thousand kilometers of flatlands, feed on anything that can them a push…They can blow up to seven hundred kilometers an hour, loaded with everything lose that is in their way-sand, dust, everything. They can eat the flesh off bones and etch the bones to slivers” (Herbert 46). The description is reminder despite the efforts of the Fremen to survive in Arrakis; there are some things about the weather and ecology that even humans do not control over. For instance, while human activities in one way or the other contribute to tornadoes, hurricanes or also great dust storms in the Sahara, these are naturally occurring events that human beings cannot control despite the desire to do so (Roderick 263).
The vision of the Fremen of the future, particularly the aspirations for a green world is grounded on two things, their recollections of the world they came from which they kept alive through specific practices and the words of Kynes about the techniques they can apply to make their planet a green one. Kynes’ plan requires patience which is a necessity since the outcomes of the program can only become visible after a long period. Essentially, Pardot Kynes, as an ecologist, provides the basic plan that will facilitate the transforming of the planet from a desert to a green one in addition to providing a window for the needed forms of life to either adapt or be replaced by other ways of life that can perform the same function (Allen 11). The Fremen, on the other hand, supply the dedication to the cause in addition to providing practical support to the plan that will make the vision of a green planet a reality.
However, the Fremen including Kynes, Paul Atreidos, and Jessica realize that change cannot be complete since efforts to increase water will eradicate spice, an ingredient that makes Arrakis planet important. Water is venomous to the sandworms who produce the spice in their earliest forms (Palumbo 435). The spice is an essential resource in the country that not only prolongs life but also expands human consciousness in addition to making interplanetary travel possible (Palumbo 435). It is the substance on which the entire planet survives on. Moreover, Paul appreciates the strength both physical and mental among the Fremen and acknowledges to no small extent their experiences have shaped their power and voices that he would like to witness the same drive even after achieving the climate they envision. Indeed, the Fremen are strong and powerful soldiers because of the hand they have been dealt with. The harsh desert climate to an extent has contributed to the dedication of the Fremen in fighting the Emperor’s soldiers.
It is noteworthy that all the efforts to change the planet and achieve a green environment were ecologically thorough and scientifically practicable with the only dubious area being the source of water that is required to initiate the cycle in any significant way (Ellis 106). While the author does not go into detail, there are suggestions and implications in the novel that the planet does have the sources and as such the possibility of a green planet is accepted without loss of reliability.
Recognizing the growing popularity of mainstream and science fiction representations that address climate change and other ecological issues, it is time that Dune, as an environmental masterpiece ahead of its time received the critical and the relevancy acclamations that it deserves. The environmental problems in Dune go beyond the mere necessities of the daily life on Arrakis to encompass efforts to change the barren land into a green planet. Altering Arrakis into a green planet is to an extend performing the activities of a higher power since the Fremen envisions a land that conforms to their preferences and needs (Ellis 107). Indeed, the efforts of changing Arrakis climate bring a question of morality since the change will kill the sandworms in addition to obliterating the muad’dib, the planet’s mice.
Climate change is a contemporary global issue in the 21st century. Countries across the globe irrespective of the economic conditions are making efforts to counter climate change. Over the past century, the world has witnessed many climate changes from the familiar landscapes being ravaged by drought to the raising seas among other environmental disasters. Dune stands as one of the early productions that took to heart the issues of environmentalism in addition to working positively to bring the subject of climate change to a young and influential audience. Undeniably, similar to the book where the Fremen live ecologically sustainably out of necessity, in recent times many scientists and scholars and the society as a whole understand that it is irresponsible of humanity to assume that humans can endlessly consume on the finite planet (Roderick 264). Humans need technologies that incorporate individuals to the ecosystem similar to the efforts of the Fremen who had several “permacultural” technologies for surviving the harsh climate and transforming the desert into a green planet. Kynes states the purpose of ecology is “understanding consequences” (Herbert 30). The definition paints the picture in Arrakis in addition to providing a basis for humanity dedication to altering the course of climate change in the current society.
While it is unlikely that world’s climate will deteriorate to the climatic conditions in Arrakis, the novel stands as a masterpiece with huge reaching influence and the ability to inspire individuals particularly new generations of readers, writers and scientists to look deeply in the environmental issues in the contemporary society. Undeniably, Dune gives the impression that the environment a community exists in determines that society’s culture, economics, politics, and religion among other things. Therefore, it is vital for society to acknowledge the relevance of climate change issues if the world is to maintain or improve the current level of civilization.
Allen, David. “Cliff Notes on Hebert’s Dune and Other Works.” Cliff Notes (1975): pp. 2-61.
Ellis, R J. “Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Discourse of Apocalyptic Ecologism in the United States.” Garnett, R, and R J Ellis. Science Fiction Roots and Branches. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990. Pp. 104-124.
Herbert, Frank. Dune. Chilton Books, 1965.
Palumbo, Donald. “The Monomyth as Fractal Pattern in the Dune Novels.” Science Fiction Studies vol. 25, No.3, 1998, pp. 433-458.
Roderick, Nash. Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973.