This article traces James Gatz’s transformation into Jay Gatsby as a representation and personification of human-caused climate change. Gatsby’s life depends on many human-centered, selfish endeavors, from his inspiration via Dan Cody’s mining practices and his involvement in intense deforestation during World War I to his bootlegging enterprise dependent on South American agriculture and the rise of the automobile, all the while ignoring the waste of the valley of ashes in favor of a consumer-culture lifestyle that feeds the socioeconomic disparity and wealth gap that began in America in the 1920s. While Gatsby’s life and transformation depend on these practices, each one is in some part responsible for Earth’s current ecological crisis. This article uses ecological philosophy to argue further that by going too far forward in time to reclaim what he had lost, Gatsby is also representative of humanity’s eventual quest for a previously inhabitable Earth after each of these selfish ventures wreak havoc on the planet’s environment. After the planet has become inhospitable due to extreme climate change, human beings will seek to return to a more environmentally welcoming planet; however, we will be unable to do so. In so doing, we may be destroyed by our own selfish endeavors, unable to repeat the past; and eventually, much like Gatsby, there will be no one to attend our funeral after we have been destroyed by our own valleys of ash.


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pp. 174-188
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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