Throughout Feed, M.T. Anderson shows how the unchecked growth of technology and corporate power has ravaged the environment. Some of the effects of environmental degradation are purely physical. For instance, because of unchecked corporate expansion—in the form of factories, industrial farms, hotels, infrastructure, and so forth—there’s an unprecedented amount of pollution. Constant corporate activity has sucked much of the oxygen out of the air and also raised the temperature of the planet to the point where the elderly are nostalgic for the days when the temperature never got above one hundred degrees. The consequences of these environmental changes on humans are horrifying. The escalating temperature has caused almost all animals to die off, and it is quickly becoming clear that human beings are endangered, too. In America, people’s skin starts peeling off, while in other parts of the world, people die because of the toxicity of their environment.
One of the consequences of environmental degradation is that it leads to the further degradation and cheapening of mankind’s spiritual relationship with the natural world. In the world of Feed, the wilderness no longer exists. As Violet Durn points out to Titus, every place she wants to explore has already been explored countless times—meaning that the human race’s “fingerprints” are all over it. When the two of them go to the mountains for a few days, they find a town packed with tourists. In the future, there’s nothing special about nature anymore—it’s just another tourist destination. Every spot that hasn’t been outright destroyed has been colonized and commodified, meaning that the feeling of peace, exhilaration, and the unknown that people have always associated with the natural world has all but vanished. In a sense, the natural world has become the human race’s final “product”—something to be enjoyed and callously discarded, but not respected.
Anderson is pessimistic about the possibility of any solutions to the decay caused by corporate expansion. As he suggests, attempts to use technology to curb pollution and environmental decay are almost by definition ineffectual and contradictory. Anderson writes, for instance, that a large corporation has torn down a nearby forest in order to build an oxygen factory—a darkly ironic way of suggesting that even “green technology” is anything but green. Corporations may engage in small, token efforts to curb pollution, but this is not enough to outweigh the massive amounts of pollution they produce. Anderson’s broader point is that corporations can use technology and clever PR strategies to mitigate or cover up the damage they do, but they can’t repair the lasting and irreversible damage they inflict on the environment. A particularly disturbing example of this principle is the way that the feed glamorizes the lesions that have begun to appear on people’s skin because of environmental degradation. Rather than trying to undo or slow their destruction of the environment, corporations instead find ways of making people think that the lesions are attractive. Corporations also try to obscure the damage they’ve done by making the news more “positive” (for example, Titus mentions that feednews is downplaying the seriousness of recent air pollution levels, even though the reports are miserable). All in all, Feed shows that corporations are locked in a “zero-sum game” with the environment, wherein the healthier one becomes, the unhealthier the other becomes. While one could argue that Anderson’s thesis about the environment is unnecessarily grim (since there might be some forms of technology that don’t cause rampant pollution), his grim outlook has a useful purpose: he hopes to galvanize readers in the 21st century into changing their own practices of consumption, thereby improving the odds that their own world doesn’t turn into the one described in Anderson’s novel.
The Environment ThemeTracker
The Environment Quotes in Feed
"It is not the will of the American people, the people of this great nation, to believe the allegations that were made by these corporate “watch” organizations, which are not the majority of the American people, I repeat not, and aren't its will. It is our duty as Americans, and as a nation dedicated to freedom and free commerce, to stand behind our fellow Americans and not cast . . . things at them. Stones, for example. The first stone. By this I mean that we shouldn’t think that there are any truth to the rumors that the lesions are the result of any activity of American industry.
"It's about this meg normal guy, who doesn't think about anything until one wacky day, when he meets a dissident with a heart of gold." I said, "Set against the backdrop of America in its final days, it's the high-spirited story of their love together, it's laugh-out-loud funny, really heartwarming, and a visual feast." I picked up her hand and held it to my lips. I whispered to her fingers. "Together, the two crazy kids grow, have madcap escapades, and learn an important lesson about love. They learn to resist the feed. Rated PG-13. For language," I whispered, "and mild sexual situations."
I sat in her room, by her side, and she stared at the ceiling. I held her hand. On a screen, her heart was barely beating.
I could see my face, crying, in her blank eye.