Who here remembers reading Bill Peet’s The Wump World? A masterfully illustrated statement on the effects of pollution and the tragedy of the commons, The Wump World is easily one of my favorite children’s books. In a world, “very much smaller than our own world,” the Wumps live happily in a heavily forested, water-rich landscape. Wumps, from my assessment of Peet’s visuals, are part-moose, part-capybara.
All at once, a distant humming overwhelms the Wumps, disturbing the world’s well-established peace, and ushering in the blue-Pollutians. Pollutians, like Wumps, are hard to describe. I imagine they don’t exist in our reality: they’re kind of human, kind of smurf.
As the story often goes, the Pollutians, after claiming Wump World as their own, basically destroy the planet. They pollute the local drinking water and air, and mow down all the forests. The Wumps escape to underground caverns, fleeing their homes, while the Pollutians fully exploit Wump World’s environmental assets. Finally, with nothing left, the Pollutians leave Wump World, heading to a greener, richer planet. The Wumps are left to pick up the pieces of their tattered ecosystem.
Although The Wump World ends on a hopeful note, with a plant sprouting from the cracks of a sidewalk, I can’t help but wonder: Am I a Wump? Or a Pollutian? And, when will Bill Peet’s fears come, truly, to fruition? 2020? 2030?
The Wump World is a great book for children, but it’s also a great book for contemporary adults. Facing these hard realities, understanding one’s consumption and impact on global sustainability, is important to do right now.
Less than 24 hours ago, President Trump signed an order to dismantle many of the EPA’s environmental protections. Definitely a Pollutian. So, what do I do? What do you do? First things first, decide whether I want to be a Wump or a Pollutian. Really think about it. Surely, like Wump World, Earth “would never be quite the same,” but that’s no reason to neglect what still remains.