THE TAMARISK HUNTER Science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi envisions a future filled with environmental terrors. His characters move through worlds transformed by climate change, genetic engineering, drought, and toxic waste -- places that seem exotic at first, but on second glance are just a few unwitting steps beyond today's headlines.
From the author:
"The Colorado River is perennially drought-ridden, but we're not really dealing with that in any concrete way. You can look at that and say, 'Huh, if that dam keeps getting drained, what happens next?' In "The Tamarisk Hunter," I create a situation where we really do run out of a lot of water, and the drought is deep and long-lasting and brutal, and then I start speculating about how human beings will deal with this..."
A. ILLUSTRATION: Study this illustration by Stan Shawn and make a list of expecta-tions about the story based on the details you see in the picture.
To appreciate what the author is doing in his short story "The Tamarisk Hunter" you need to know more background. Follow the directions for each step below for an interactive short story experience; the steps will take you through the background, the story, and the final interps.
B. THE COLORADO RIVER is the "most legislated, most debated, and most litigated river in the entire world. It also has more people, more industry, and a more significant economy dependent on it than any comparable river in the world."
Using information from the links below, find the answers to these questions:
1. How long is it and to which 7 states does it supply water?
2. What are the several reasons 22
water storage reservoirs/dams were
built for the Colorado River?
3. What is the "Law of the River" and why did it have to be created?
4. Of the 7 states that get their water from the river, which one has the most controversial use of water? Why?
5. In the CBS Reports link, explain 3 serious conservation efforts the state of California is considering AND/OR requiring its citizens to do in order to conserve water.
C. WATER SHORTAGE ISSUES: Access this other CBS Report video clip to discover more details about the water shortage in the United States.
1. How much water does the average American use a day?
2. Describe the Southwest's use of water and the water crisis issues there.
3. What are the key water conservation tips from the video?
4. What other solutions are suggested?
5. OTHER -- Write down any other information that surprised you or that you believe is important to this issue.
D. READ THE SHORT STORY: As you read "The Tamarisk Hunter," make a reader-response log where you record key excerpts from throughout the whole story and your interpretation of them. You may want to write about:
Lastly, include an interpretation of the story as a whole -- what did you think of the resolution or lack of resolution? Why do you think the author ends the story in this way?
You can access the story at this site, too.
E. REFLECTION & ANALYSIS: As you do final interpretations of the story, you'll need to know more about the tamarisk tree. Use the links at the bottom together with the details from the story, and write about these six things:
1. It is said the tree has a serious "evapotranspiration" rate. What does that mean? Why is it of concern?
2. In the natural world, what are the several other reasons the tamarisk tree is so dangerous?
3. How does the tree play a different role in the story? How does it play a similar role?
4. Connect Lolo and Annie from the story to the information in the FAQ link. Who or what are they most similar to in the FAQ link?
5. Now that you know about the tamarisk tree, what are the double meanings or suggestions of the title "The Tamarisk Hunter?"
6. When you put together your knowledge of the Colorado River and the tamarisk tree with what happens in the story, what social comments can you infer the author is making through
F. ILLUSTRATION Lastly, restudy the image of Lolo, the Tamarisk Hunter (to the right).
1. Identify/write the images and their relation to the story. What other information has the artist added that may not be directly stated in the story? What meaning does this add to the story?
2. Do you agree or disagree with Bacigalupi's speculation about humanity? Why or why not? What will be different or the same?
1. Read another of Paolo Bacigalupi's bio-punk short stories. The People of Sand and Slag "We can have all the technology in the world and still make some really, really bad decisions. We can create a hell where nothing is left alive except for us, but where we can be very comfortable, because we'll accept whatever we have to in order to meet our immediate desires."
Colorado River Map
The Quechan people's farming patterns and techniques were determined by the flooding pattern of the river.
Amazingly, over 100% of the water in the Colorado has been allocated to several communities. This water is supplied by a series of canals and 29 dams.
Lolo and Maggie
A head gate
Small tamarisk tree
Lolo, the Tamarisk Hunter
Introduction and author quote are from an interview between environmental journalist Michelle Nijhuis and SF author Paolo Bacigalupi at www.grist.org/article/bacigalupi/PALL/print.
Short story illustrations are by Stan Shawn as featured on the High Country News website, www.hcn.org/issues/325/16378.
The quote about the Colorado River in part (A) is from Marc Reisner's novel Cadillac Desert.
The historical photo of the Quechan and the painting of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon come from www.raftingamerica.com/interior.php?page= colorado_river. I could not locate the photography's original source or the painter's name.