Throughout this novel, we have seen the pivotal role nature plays in influencing the lives of individuals. In this section, we have seen how individuals can influence nature. Analyze Le Guin’s portrayal of how the inhabitants of Urras, Anarres, and Terra influence their environments. What can we learn about the relationship between nature and individuals through these “case studies”?

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Through these case studies, we learn that the health of the environment is directly proportional to the actions of individuals. Even though Urras and Anarres thrive on seemingly contradictory principles, the citizens of both worlds have evolved effective means of working within their ecological structures. As he traverses the fertile plains of Urras, Shevek finds himself admiring the beauty of the land; he comes to the conclusion that the Urrasti know how to use their world to their advantage. On Urras, "the lure and compulsion of profit" seems to be as much of an incentive as the "natural initiative" and "spontaneous creative energy" on Anarres. Like the Anarresti, the Urrasti people know how to cultivate and work their farmlands to their advantage.

Despite the arid nature of Anarres' landscape, the people thrive in egalitarian, socialist communities. The interchange of ideas, crops, and technology benefit a network of inter-connecting regions; thus, the people of Anarres are able to leverage social and natural ecology to their advantage. In Abbenay (the capital and center of Anarres), they cultivate Old World grains to balance the general staple crops of ground holum and mene-grass. Economy is practiced as an environmental ethic: the wind-turbines and earth temperature-differential generators are not used for heat when outside temperatures reach above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The prevailing philosophy is that "excess is excrement."

On the other hand, Terra is used as an example of what Urras and Anarres could become if excess materialism and ensuing centralization are adopted:

We saved what could be saved, and made a kind of life in the ruins, on Terra, in the only way it could be done: by total centralization. Total control over the use of every acre of land, every scrap of metal, every ounce of fuel. Total rationing, total birth control, euthanasia, universal conscription into the labor force. The absolute regimentation of each life towards the goal of racial survival.

On Terra, the people despoil their natural environment for their own gain and then usher in an oppressive bureaucracy to reign over the ensuing chaos. To summarize, the examples of Terra, Urras, and Anarres support the hypothesis that the well-being of the environment is directly proportional to the actions of individuals.

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