“The Edges of the Civilized Word” by A. Deming

Brief summary of the chapter

In the chapter, The Edges of the Civilized World, the narrator is a disturbed journalist who is concerned by the harmful interaction between mankind and wild animals. The narrator is not amused by the supposed fun that mankind enjoys at the expense of comfort and disturbance of the animals and plants. Through the journey to the Sea of Cortez, the narrator is taken aback by the behavior of mankind, who is less concerned with the sustainability of tourism activities and their effects on the peace, breeding cycle, and well-being of animals such as sea lions, dolphins, sharks, and monarchs among others.

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The narrator finds it difficult to understand why mankind cannot watch the sea lions from a safe distance. Again, at one of the random stops, the narrator is not amused about the stories by the Californians who had to jump into the sea to join hundreds of dolphins to ‘play’ instead of watching from their yacht (Deming 145).

The narrator is hungry with the interaction between mankind and wild animals because the transitory and temporal nature of tourism affects the social and cultural environment at the tourism sites in several ways. From the first stop at the Los Islotes, the narrator sighted many emissaries peddling towards the habitat of the sea lions, probably to interfere with their comfort and way of life (Deming 146).

The same experience with the monarchs reaffirms the narrator’s fears that mankind is an enemy of nature, who derives joy from destroying or interfering with the plants and animals. In fact, the author dismisses the argument by one of the field biologist, who tries to justify his close interaction with the sea lions, by condemning the direct interference in a bid to fulfill an empty desire (Deming 147).

The narrator is disgusted with the constant encroachment into preserved areas and mass tourism that lead to degradation of the environment. Unfortunately, the plants and animals lose more than mankind does. The narrator starts that mankind is destroying many forests and virgin lands in his quest to survive at the expense of other animals. For instance, in the example of the monarchs, there are only five conservancy areas that are protected by vigilantes (Deming 149).

The narrator observes that “the forest floor is carpeted with dead monarchs. This is their sanctuary and mortuary” (Deming 149) because the effects of environmental depletion cannot allow the monarchs to survive the cold winter.

The narrator proposes several ideas that mankind should consider in order to practice sustainable eco-tourism. Reflectively, the concept of eco-tourism revolves around a comprehensive review of ‘push and pull’ factors which determine functionality of the tourism sites (Deming 149). For instance, the narrator suggests that there is need to preserve protected sites to minimize interference with the flora and fauna. Besides, the narrator proposes controlled number of tourists visiting a single site over a period of time. In addition, the narrator suggests that mankind should keep safe distance from the wild animals and plants to minimize the level of interference (Deming 148).

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Presentation Questions

  1. What do you think is making the narrator uncomfortable with nearly every character he meets during the tour of the Sea of Cortez?
  2. Do you belief that the narrator’s opinion may be wrong, especially in blaming tourism as responsible for depletion of the environment?
  3. What can be done to ensure that the interaction between mankind and nature is beneficial to both parties?

Works Cited

Deming, Alison. “The Edges of the Civilized World.” The Future of Nature: Writing on a Human Ecology from Orion Magazine. Ed. Barry Lopez. New York, NY: Milkweed Editions, 2007. 143-153. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) '“The Edges of the Civilized Word” by A. Deming'. 1 December.

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