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Chani's narration at the start of Dune 2021 states:

At night fall, the spice harvesters land. The outsiders race against time to avoid the heat of the day. They ravage our land in front of our eyes. Their cruelty to my people is all I've known.

The cruelty of their Harkonnen overlords is undisputed. They place very little value on human life in general. However the spice harvesters appear to leave the deserts in much the same condition as they find them. There is very little life in the open sand areas and the tracks left behind by the harvesters will soon be obliterated by the wind-blown sand. Although the novel mentions areas where the Fremen are cultivating plants and trees, these are in the deep desert. The Harkonnens don't know about them because they are outside the range of the spice harvesters.

The Fremen's antipathy towards the Harkonnens is understandable, but why does Chani say they ravage their lands?

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  • Real life deserts are sensitive ecosystems, even if they look like a pile of sand. Maybe something similar applies to Arrakis. Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 10:18

2 Answers 2

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Ravage:

DEVASTATE, WASTE, SACK, PILLAGE, DESPOIL mean to lay waste by plundering or destroying. RAVAGE implies violent often cumulative depredation and destruction.

Sack, pillage, despoil, depredate and plunder all meaning to steal from.

Merriam Webster

The Harkonnen have been stealing the spice, the gift from Shai-Hulud, the physical embodiment of their God to his people the Fremen.

The spice is not only essential for the ritual of the spice-orgy and the maintenance of health, the manufacture of fabric, and the basis of many technologies essential for Fremen survival, but as a means of income by the trade through smugglers.

The plundering of this essential resource inspires a hatred of stunningly fanatic proportions resulting in a bitter feud, easily earning the description of this by the word "ravage", and more.

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    By that logic, doesn't that mean the Atreides also "ravage the Fremen lands" when they extract spice?
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 17:05
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    Stilgar in his brief interview with Duke Leto seemed to indicate that he could live with the Atreides spice harvesting, as long as they don't do anything else in the desert.
    – Batperson
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 22:47
  • @Nu'Daq: If I remember correctly, one of the main differences between the two is that the Atreides asked for permission and the Harkonnen did not. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 9:14
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I believe this was just added in the movie. Fremen don't like any outsiders, but they've had conflict and have been subjugated by the Harkonens. I don't recall the Fremen being particularly concerned about conservation of the desert till way after the Harkonnens were gone.

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    In what sense (if any) did the Harkonnens ravage the Fremen lands though? That was the actual question being asked. Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 4:10

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