“The Tamarisk Hunter” by Paolo Bacigalupi tells the story of Lolo, a water tick, who hunts down plants with high rates of water consumption and kills them, allowing for more water to be accessible for humans. However, in Lolo’s world, water is highly regulated due to the “Big Daddy Drought,” and going thirsty seems to be a common daily occurrence. Animosity has grown between those with water and those without, especially in the case of the government of California, which has better water rights than other places. Those from California and those associated with the national government–like the National Guard–are spoken about in terms of disgust and anger, even when Lolo is confronted with a childhood friend who now works for the National Guard, he is angered by his choice in employer. Faced with an inward spiral of water regulations, the human race seems to be slowly dying of thirst.
Unlike other science fiction works, Bacigalupi does not put the ecological crisis in the background, like it is in James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, but instead makes it the main focus of his short story. He also includes many responses to the crisis: Lolo’s avoidance of governmental regulations, Hale’s compliance with those with the most water, and Travis’s unending search for water. Not only are there varied responses to the crisis, but there is also a disproportionate struggle associated with it. Travis–who has not had the success that Lolo has in collecting Tamarisk–is forced to move North in search of available water. In turn, Lolo is worse off than Hale, who may potentially gain admittance into California, where water is slightly more abundant. Despite the differences in access to water, there is an underlying sense that each character is doing what they can to survive. Lolo, once he hears about Hale’s attempts to get more water for his family, seems to acknowledge that the broken system is just looking out for its own, even if it is at the cost of others. This serves a reminder to readers: we are all just doing our best to survive, and all deserve a chance to flourish.