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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 579

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Tyrone Tierwater is an environmental activist who gets involved in Earth First! when Andrea, his second wife, encourages him. While he's reluctant at first, he eventually adopts and embodies their ideals. He stages protests and acts of vandalism for the cause. Boyle writes, "All it took was public awareness—if they only knew what electricity ultimately cost them, if they only knew they were tightening the noose round their own throats, day by day, kilowatt hour by kilowatt hour, then they’d rise up as one and put an end to it." This is how Ty justifies it when he commits vandalism and breaks the law on behalf of the environment.

Later, after he's been in jail for his actions, his daughter takes up his mantle. She ends up living in a redwood tree for three years before dying when she falls out. Her protest draws more attention to the cause "because the longer she held out, the more people began to take notice. No one had been up a tree more than twenty days before Sierra climbed up into Artemis, and as she reached the one-month mark the press started to converge on her dwindling grove in the Headwaters Forest." Sierra becomes a martyr for environmentalists.

While Ty loves the environment, he also loves his daughter. When she moves into the tree, he relocates to live near her and eventually uses a cell phone to talk to her from the base of the trunk. Boyle writes, "A gust shook the treetops, and Sierra's tree quaked till I could feel the recoil of it in my feet. I looked up and there she was, her face a distant, drawn-down splash of white in a welter of rocketing green needles. And then her voice, buffeted by the winds and assaulted by the rain, came drifting down like a leaf: 'Dad!' she called. 'Dad!'"

Though he starts working with Earth First! for the woman he loves, eventually, Ty comes to have a real attachment to the world. He doesn't believe things should be the way they are; he believes the world will bring them to a bad end. He explains,

Friendship. That’s what got me into the movement and that’s what pushed me way out there on the naked edge of nothing, beyond sense or reason, or even hope. Friendship for the earth. For the trees and shrubs and the native grasses and the antelope on the plain and the kangaroo rats in the desert and everything else that lives and breathes under the sun. . . . Except people, that is. Because to be a friend of the earth, you have to be an enemy of the people.

This is another way that Tyrone and Earth First! justify their actions and come to their conclusions.

At the end of the novel, Ty and Andrea are living as a married couple in a cabin. Their activism is behind them, and the last Patagonian fox in the world lives as their pet. Ty takes her on a walk, and a girl who reminds him of Sierra stops to talk to him. Boyle writes:

"Is it a dog?"
"That's right," I say, "that's right, she's a dog." And then, for no reason I can think of, I can't help adding, "And I'm a human being."

Their activist days are over, and all they can do is live out their lives with each other, the fox, and the hope for a better world.

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