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California Blue

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California Blue is a novel about a seventeen-year-old boy named John Rodger. John is in his last year of high school in a small northern California town where the majority of the townspeople, including John's father, work in the lumber industry. As the youngest son of a father who was a champion athlete, John has always felt pressured to excel in his sport of choice, distance running. Because his father considers biologist's opposition to clear cutting of redwoods a threat to the timber industry and his livelihood, John's father also disapproves of John's interest in biology as a major area of study. John doesn't follow either of his father's wishes. In the middle of his senior year John learns that his father has leukemia and that his health is declining. The illness complicates their relationship, which was sometimes contentious and which was never harmonious. The strained relationship becomes even more stressed by John's discovery of a rare species of butterfly in the company forest. John is well aware that if the existence of the butterfly is reported to the authorities and the butterfly is categorized as endangered, all environmentally disturbing activity, including the ongoing clear cutting of redwoods, will be ordered to stop in order to preserve the habitat. Of course this will threaten the livelihood of everyone in the town who is dependent on the timber industry. Knowing that reporting the butterfly's existence to the authorities will alienate him not only from his father but from the town as well, John debates the issues and weighs the consequences. After conferring with Miss Merill, his biology teacher, John elects to fully disclose his findings, knowing that this will go against the morals of his father and the townspeople and will make him unpopular. He reports the discovery and takes the consequences. His "friends" beat him up. He runs away. With help of Miss Merrill, his biology teacher, he returns home to a "separate peace" with his father and a new understanding of the trade-offs between loyalty and responsibility.

Decisions regarding environmental problems require both knowledge and values. Placing value on specific issues can be sorted into four categories of justification: utilitarian, ecological, aesthetic and moral. California Blue focuses on the interplay of environmental issues and ethics emphasizing the conflict between industry and species preservation. Timber cutting in the Northwest United States is a mainstay of the economy. Although clear cutting is not as environmentally sensitive as selective harvesting and redwood cutting, some is essential to America's continued growth and prosperity. To ban timber operations and to throw people out of work, all to preserve an endangered blue butterfly, is to test the limits and logic of ecological priorities. The national policy of preserving endangered species serves the purpose of promoting biological diversity, which if not followed might threaten the ecosystem. This national policy of species preservation is a matter of social policy balanced with the competing interests of the local economy and human needs. Under the utilitarian approach one must balance the benefits of species preservation with the detriment of stopping human activity which threatens that species or the environment in which the endangered species lives. Under the ecological approach one weighs the environmental consequences of each activity notwithstanding the economic benefit. The choices in California Blue are heavy handed and loaded for shock value. In California Blue one must chose between

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