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In chapter thirty-five of Serena by Ron Rash, we see a picture of man-made desolation created by the lumber companies who have stripped the land. This was once a majestic mountain range, a place worthy of being named a national park. (Fortunately, the lumber companies are stopped and the Smoky Mountain National Park is saved.)
Now, however, looking around, McIntyre sees a barren wasteland. Of course the entire mountain range has not been decimated, but certainly some significant damage has been done. It is almost at the end of chapter thirty-five (about two paragraphs from the end, which you can find in your copy of the text) that the quote you mention is found:
McIntyre raised his eyes and contemplated the wasteland strewn out before him where not a single live thing rose.
We know that McIntyre is a religious fanatic who sees dire doom and gloom in all things (remember he is the one who calls Serena the whore of Babylon (a biblical reference to the Book of Revelation) simply because she wears pants. So when he sees a wasteland and claims that there is not one living thing there, we understand that he is prone to dramatic exaggeration and sees things primarily in light of religious fervor--or fanaticism. It is probably bad, but not as bad as McIntyre thinks it is.
To McIntyre, then, this sight is a representation of what he thinks the end of the world will one day look like.
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