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Monkey Wrench Gang Book Review

Monkey Wrench Gang Book Review

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Published by dvm258

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Published by: dvm258 on Apr 23, 2012
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10/15/2013

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Mariutto 1David MariuttoPUP 3203Dr. Jacques2/12/09
The Monkey Wrench Gang Book Review
Environmental activism is viewed from a different perspective, author EdwardAbbey’s, in
The Monkey Wrench Gang 
. The story follows an eclectic group of citizens: aVietnam veteran, a polygamy-practicing Mormon, a general surgeon, and his feministreceptionist on their anti-infrastructure and development campaign in the AmericanSouthwest. Bypassing the usual, legal action afforded to citizens, including lobbying and public protest, the gang opts for more direct action against development—its destruction.As the plot progresses, the individual and group actions of the characters quickly evolvefrom low-key vandalism to outright destruction. For example, The Mormon, “SeldomSeen” Smith prays for “a little
 pre-
cision earthquake” at the site of the Glen Canyon Dam,while Doctor Sarvis and Bonnie torch billboards along Route 66 during the introduction of the novel. These actions later grow into an elaborate attempt of the demolishment of theWhite Canyon and Dirty Devil bridges in Utah. The perspectives of Edward Abbey on theenvironment and United States politics come to light not just through the gang’s intense,illegal actions for their crusade against the building of infrastructure, but from their sillier,comical and less destructive ones as well.In
The Monkey Wrench Gang,
there are two major plots for the destruction of expensive, vital pieces of infrastructure that are carried out. The first is the destruction of an automated train and railroad track that delivers coal from a strip mine to a nearby power 
 
Mariutto 2 plant. When plotting to carry out their plans, members of the Gang elaborate on why they believe the track should be destroyed, and what its existence means to them. Dr. Sarvisconsiders the potential damage in the most detail: “…the devastation of landscape, thedestruction of Indian homes and Indian grazing lands, Indian shrines and Indian burialgrounds; the poisoning of the last big clean-air reservoir in the forty-eight contiguousUnited States, the exhaustion of precious water supplies.” Sarvis’ thoughts on the coal’seffects on the local ecosystem are very descriptive, and illustrate the fourth law of ecology because of a thorough description of development’s consequences. In addition, the impactto humans surrounding the power plant has been limited to Indians, and serves as ademonstration of the government’s policy towards environmental justice.Interestingly, one of the most insightful perspectives into the local citizens’attitudes towards the coal plant comes from an elderly, gas station attendant. After Hayduke asks the attendant how he feels about the plant, he responds, “Why we got moreair around here’n ary man can breathe.” As his conversation with Hayduke carries on,readers learn about the attendant’s view of members of the Sierra Club as “outsiders,” whohave no authority over “our air.” The old man fails to comprehend the impact the power  plant could have on air quality further to the west, outside of the immediate region. His belief in the infinite availability of clean air is an example of Garrett Harden’s “Tragedy of the Commons” because of his attitude towards the air, a common pool resource, and servesas a case of the environmental complacency Abbey frequently describes throughout thenovel.In between these intense missions of sabotage, Abbey’s political perspectivescontinue reveal themselves. While visiting the Kaibab Plateau to observe the effects of 
 
Mariutto 3logging, Bonnie and Hayduke pull to the side of the road to vandalize a life-size SmokeyBear sign. In the narration, Abbey adds that, “…in 1968, the United States Congress madeit a Federal offense to desecrate, mutilate, or otherwise improve any official representationof Smokey the Bear.” Though the use of this short act of vandalism, Abbey sends amessage concerning the inequality of the government’s treatment of different modes of thedestruction of trees. While the government has approved of the clear cutting of trees withinthe national forest, it also encourages the protection of trees from forest fires, potentially because only the latter makes money for the Forest Service. In addition, there is irony to befound in the fact that the United States Congress has make it a specific crime to vandalizeSmokey Bear, a mascot for the Forest Service, but less-stringent protections exist for theactual forest currently being clear-cut.Abbey’s distrust of the government can also be seen in Bishop Love’s so-called“Search and Rescue” team. Despite the original purpose of their squad, Love and his teamactively seek to apprehend the Gang for their crimes. Love serves to symbolize thenumerous conflicts of interests from within the government that hinder its proper functioning. For instance, Love is insistent on not calling for backup when involved in aroad chase with Hayduke. This is because Love has future political ambitions, and believesthat being personally responsible for the apprehension the Gang can boost his public profile. In addition, the Bishop holds stakes in many energy and development industriesthat would be hurt by further environmental activism. During the introduction of BishopLove to readers, Smith recants a prior experience in which he prevented a development project in which Love stood to gain at least a million dollars: “He wanted a forty-nine-year lease on a section of state land overlooking Lake Powell. Had in mind some kind of tourist

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