Lauren writes that the community is falling apart. Another robbery has taken place; three thieves broke into the Cruz house and for some reason the alarm did not go off. They killed a 75-year-old woman who lived there before two of the younger men arrived and killed two of the thieves. This is the seventh “incident” since Keith’s death, and Lauren notes the irony of the fact that her father and Cory have been giving money to the victims from the money Keith gave them—“stolen money to help victims of theft.”
Lauren learns that a company called KSF has taken over the coastal city of Olivar. Olivar is richer than Robledo, but there are higher taxes and the city suffers from the fact that some of its land is unusable because of the encroaching shoreline. As a result, the citizens of Olivar agreed to let KSF privatize the city; in turn, KSF will expand the solar-powered desalination plant that supplies clean water. KSF eventually plans to take over many more cities and achieve a monopoly over water, energy, and agriculture in the Southwest. Some in Olivar are nervous about the plan, as there are examples of corporations who’ve bought towns and “cheated and abused” the residents. But others appear on the radio announcing how glad they are about the takeover.
At first it may seem as though KSF is a positive force in the world of the novel, providing the security and sustainability not available to ordinary people. However, there are distinctly sinister overtones to KSF’s offer to house people securely in exchange for work. The fact that the company hopes to gain a monopoly over water, energy, and agriculture in the entire Southwest is particularly ominous. With total control over these essential resources, there would be no limit to KSF’s power.
Lauren’s father is dubious about the KSF scheme, but Cory says she wishes Robledo would be taken over, too. Lauren’s father points out that Robledo is “too poor, too black, and too Hispanic” to appeal to corporations. When the radio announces that KSF are seeking nurses, teachers, and other professionals to move to Olivar and work for room and board, Cory decides to call. Lauren explains that the salaries in company towns tend to be too low for anyone to live on, so the residents quickly become indebted to the corporations and end up living in a situation of “debt slavery.” Marcus and Cory point out that it would be safer in Olivar, but Lauren and her father remain firmly opposed to moving. Lauren’s father points out that “freedom is dangerous… but it’s precious, too.” Cory bursts into tears and later Lauren finds her clutching Keith’s urn in her room.
Lauren’s family continues to splinter apart as they confront the impossible choices facing them in the future. Cory and Marcus are seduced by KSF’s promise of safety and security, but Lauren and her father are skeptical. They understand that a company like KSF is working in its own interests, not in the interests of the workers it employs. They know that the KSF corporate towns will work according to an abusive, exploitative, and racist logic—they are Butler’s vision of capitalism run rampant and unchecked. Cory, however, is so desperate to find an external force that will “save” her that she ignores these truths and invests hope in salvation by the company.
Marcus tells Lauren that the Garfields (Joanne’s family) are planning on moving to Olivar, which makes Lauren sad. Marcus is now 12, “beautiful,” and popular with the neighborhood girls. Lauren thinks that Olivar is “one face” of the future, and meditates on her own future. She resolves that as soon as she turns 18 the next year she will leave the neighborhood and start Earthseed.
The neighborhood may be falling apart, but this has ultimately strengthened Lauren’s resolve about forging her own path in the future. As life in the neighborhood seems to be an increasingly unsustainable option, Lauren knows that she must leave in order to survive in the long term.
In the next entry, Lauren writes that she has decided to go north. She will use several old maps that used to belong to her grandparents. She wonders if there are people who will pay her to teach them literacy, and wonders if she would be able to teach Earthseed scripture alongside this. She has finally found a title for the book of scripture: “Earthseed: The Book of the Living,” a twist on the Egyptian and Tibetan books of the dead. She notes that she doesn’t care about being original, only about telling the truth. If she finds other people outside who are already preaching her truth, she will join them, and if not, she will teach it herself.
To some extent, Lauren’s plans for going north seem naïve—she is using outdated maps and hopes that people will pay her to teach them to read and write, when in reality no one Lauren has ever met has money to spare. However, as Lauren herself argues throughout the book, even a naïve belief in a better future is better than denial of the truth or resignation to misery.