Books and Movies Reviews

Systems in Earth Abides

In George R. Stewart's novel Earth Abides, a vivid and highly detailed future of society is painted.After a fast spreading and fast acting disease has all but destroyed civilization, seemingly infecting nothing but humans, only a few survivors are left to live on and determine the future of the human race.But how will the once stable ecosystem of an entire planet react to such a drastic change as the end of civilization as we know it?To answer this question it is important to understand the many concepts and processes involved in systems.
First, it is imperative to understand what a system is.A system is "a structured set of components which are related to each other and which operate together as a complex whole."There are several types of systems, with the most common being open and closed systems.Consider the desert in chapter 3.As an example of an open system, that is, one in which both energy and materials pass through the system, the materials passing through are the humans and their chips of stone and roads, while the energy could be the wind blowing through.It becomes a closed system, that is, one in which only energy passes through, when the human intervention ceased, and all that is left was the wind (although technically grains of sand could be carried out of the system).
Initially after the fall, little changed.For example, the novel's main character, Isherwood Williams, henceforth referred to as Ish, was on an almost hermetic research retreat at the beginning of the novel, and thus knows nothing of the plague until he heads into town one day.Upon hisfirst contacts with abandoned homes, there is so little changed that he thinks nothing of it other than perhaps the inhabitants are on vacation, or at a baseball game.As time began to pass, however, the full effect of the loss of civilization on the environment began to be felt.Dogs and cats that had been left in kennels or ho…


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