Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The Acceptance of Change and the Need for Resiliency

The only constant is change. It’s a universal truth in Lauren’s world that people have a tendency to resist. For Lauren, not accepting change is to live in a state of denial and, worse, invite a destructive transition. She observes her neighbors rigidly clinging to old constructs, be they economic, racial, sexual or religious, that prove untenable in a world devastated by climate change. It’s an aspect of her father’s Christian faith that runs counter to her beliefs. She’s unable to place hope in a capricious and, in her mind, uncaring Christian God to bring about a desired outcome. Earthseed’s fundamental tenet is “God Is Change.” Change is to be accepted, though not in a passive manner. In accordance with Earthseed scripture, change is to be actively engaged, purposefully shaped, and intentionally influenced to bring about transformative results. Change affects everyone, but as we read in the novel, only those who are resilient and capable of “ongoing individual adaptability” are best able to survive and thrive in a turbulent landscape. A deliberate manipulation of change manifests resiliency through hard work, education, purpose, kindness, and community. It ultimately breeds a more tangible type of hope within the Earthseed community.

Destruction and Its Role in Rebirth

The novel is set amid a backdrop of environmental devastation and societal collapse, yet the idea of rebirth, regeneration, and rebuilding is continuously woven throughout Lauren’s narrative. As fires rage across the land and drug-addicted pyromaniacs raze communities in murderous fashion, Lauren notes that people, like Bianca Montoya, continue to marry and have children. The creation of life, and the importance of children is, of course, vital for a hopeful future, and for Earthseed’s future. For Lauren, destruction is to be taken in perspective. In a conversation with Joanne Garfield, Lauren talks of humanity surviving the bubonic plague and, subsequently, using the vacant land left behind to create a thriving commerce. Prior to her community being burned to the ground, she raises the concept of a phoenix being reborn from its own ashes. To rebuild from nothing takes hard work and persistence, a notion touched on by the sermon her father gave on Noah and God’s impending destruction of the world. Through Noah’s perseverance, hard work, and purpose, life was able to regenerate itself after God’s divine cleansing. Similarly, after fire cleansed Bankole’s land, work got underway to reseed the arable land. The group also made plans to rebuild housing structures that were lost during the fire, and to create a steady food supply by breeding rabbits all for the sole purpose of regenerating life. 

The Importance of Community Over the Individual

Lauren’s neighborhood in Robledo is comprised of individuals driven by self-interest. As the outside world crumbles, so do the bonds that hold together their walled community. Neighbors hurl accusations, children are neglected, friends are betrayed, and the undercurrents of racism threaten the community’s livelihood. When neighbors band together to put the community first, it’s too late. For Lauren, their behavior demonstrates how a community shouldn’t function. The framework she devises for the Earthseed community comprises approaches and governances antithetical to those in her walled community. There are no barriers to be a member of the Earthseed community, but all are expected to put the group ahead of the individual. We see examples of this when Lauren shows kindness to strangers in need. She helps an elderly man to his feet, rescues Jill and Allie from the rubble of a house collapse, and goes out of her way to offer food to Emery and Tori. When Jill Gilchrist sacrifices her life to save Tori in the ultimate show of selflessness, Lauren comforts Jill’s sister Allie in an act of familial love. The importance of community and the idea of rebuilding a society that thinks altruistically catches on with others, none more so than Bankole. He initially wants to run away with Lauren alone to his mountain hideaway, but soon reverses course. He welcomes the entire Earthseed community to live and rebuild their lives on his land.