Tag Archives: global warming

Love and War (V 1.11, “Fruition”)

12 May

To recap—last night on V, the “Lizard Princess” got Nancy Kerriganed by mommy dearest and ended up beginning to build a relationship (equally manipulative) with Tyler’s mommy as well, Fifth Column High Commander Erica Evans.

All quite apropos, because “Fruition” was an episode all about Vs acting like humans, humans acting like Vs, and, picking up on last week’s title, the battle between “Hearts and Minds.”

When Agent Evans got the call about a violent attack on a V, she rushed to the hospital to find—much to her surprise—that the victim was Tyler’s girlfriend Lisa (however bruised and battered the poor girl may have been, Erica certainly would have recognized the red bra and panties Lisa was sporting the first time they met).  But while Erica had known about the hidden cameras in the peace ambassador uniforms (and her son’s naivete), she’d broken her own rule trusting him even a little bit—and now got the biggest shock a parent could possibly have: my son is dating a reptile.

Of course, in characteristic low-key, low-voiced Elizabeth Mitchell fashion, Erica’s conversation at the end of the episode was a little less dramatic than the situation might have called for.

Tyler: I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with me… dating a V.

EE: It’s a little weird—not gonna lie.

Yes, yes it is a little weird.  But human teens lying to their parents isn’t so weird as parents ordering their kid’s legs broken and face slashed open to make good theater for a press conference.  Even before Erica found out that Anna was behind the attack, she saw the look of all-consuming terror on Lisa’s face when her mother came to take Erica’s place comforting her at the hospital.  Even Erica in her shock had been genuinely horrified, and stayed by Lisa’s bedside even while the girl was sleeping—brushing her hair back from her face and holding her warmly.  When Anna hugged her daughter, she smiled as sinisterly as only an evil alien queen can do, and Lisa, stiff, looked wide-eyed at Erica.

The two mother’s couldn’t have been much more different.  While Lisa told doctor Joshua “My son’s in love with a V,” Anna thought she was being convincingly sincere when she told Erica—“Lisa is very fond of Tyler.”


But Lisa, as Joshua realized and told Erica later in this episode, is more than just “fond” of Tyler-of-the-vacant-expression (am I going to ship Lisa/Joshua one of these days?  Quite possibly).  She’s beginning to develop human emotions—which makes her perfect material for the Fifth Column.  Or at least, for manipulation by the Fifth Column.

It’s interesting to note here that Erica and Anna might have more in common than they think.  Anna, as we’ve known for a couple weeks now, has some nefarious plan involving Tyler—the details of which are still unknown.  And though Erica’s compassion score is probably off the charts (exceeded only by Father Jack, who’s passed compassion and edged into the betazoid empath zone), she’s quite happy to use someone else’s kid too.  Quoth Evans: “If she’s going to use my son then I’m sure as hell going to use her daughter.”

But Erica drew the line at involving her own Tyler.  When Hobbes suggested (supported by Ryan) that they might bring the boy into the Fifth Column quadrilateral of trust, Erica adamantly refused.  Consideration for her son’s safety?  Ostensibly.  But Tyler, they know now, is already in danger, and the only added danger that might come from telling her son about her secret life as a terrorist might be to the Fifthers themselves.

Tyler loved Lisa.  That’s pretty well-established.  And she, it seems, loves him back.  From a strategic standpoint, there’s no reason to put anything between that mutual trust—especially when Lisa’s human emotions nearly had her confessing to her mother’s scheme in framing Hobbes and climatologist Lawrence Parker for her attack.

Erica recognizes the value in teen love toward the end of the episode.  After Tyler apologizes for lying and calls her “my hero” for catching the man who (says Anna) attacked Lisa, Erica responds with this warm peace offering: “Tyler, I was wrong about the Visitors—you were right.  I’d like to get to know Lisa better, and Anna too, if that’s all right with you.”

Erica’s qualms, it appears, don’t lie with using Tyler—but with giving him more information than he needs to know.  She’s manipulating her son just as surely as Anna is her daughter.  Though, to Erica’s credit, she’d probably never take a crowbar to Tyler’s kneecaps.

Kyle Hobbes is another Fifther to reveal some suspiciously V-like tactics in “Fruition.”  But whereas Erica wants to promote the rebel cause by encouraging the development of Lisa’s empathy, Hobbes prefers eliminating emotions.

Ryan’s been sporting a relatively flat affect for the past couple weeks, even since Val found out his true identity and the fact that her baby’s some sort of hybrid (Val might want to consider checking out Splice in theaters for useful parenting tips).  On a stakeout outside Parker’s Chinatown apartment, Ryan confessed to Father Jack that he didn’t think he could continue fighting without Val, and the love she’d supported him with.

Jack Landry gives the conventional priestly response— have faith.

Kyle Hobbes’s advice is a little different.  In the Fifth Column bunker, surrounded by his spy gear and stolen hard drives, he gives us this gem of personal insight:

“When special ops soldiers go to war, they don’t carry any family mementos, no photos, nothing.  You know why?  Because they can be taken from you and used against you.  In war, emotions can get you killed.  Leave your feelings for her behind—burn any trace of them out of your heart.”

It’s an interesting comment, considering that Erica, just minutes before, gave Lisa a picture of her son to carry with her—“for strength.”

Hobbes is, in effect, teaching Ryan how to be a V.  Because while Anna kills those who fail the empathy test (failure meaning showing empathy), Hobbes’s ruthless pragmatism would make him a perfect lieutenant.

And so, with this insight into the mind of a mercenary, we learn that Hobbes really doesn’t have too much emotional attachment to… anything (there goes my Hobbes/Even theory).  That is, anything except himself and his own interests.

Anna’s minions framed Hobbes and Larry Parker for the supposed Fifth Column attack on Lisa.  Of course, Hobbes was too busy blowing shuttles out of the sky to possibly be involved—and Parker was a chubby academic with thick glasses and a twitchy demeanor (but to be fair, being on a V hit list might do that to anyone).  The reason Parker was a target stems from his research on global warming.  Apparently, he and a team of scientists developed a compound that would help reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the compound had a dangerous side-effect—it produced fish, amphibian, and reptile-killing algae.

No wonder the Vs wanted him gone.  What’s more confusing is why Hobbes would steal his hard drive without telling his Fifth Column compatriots that he had potentially the most important weapon against the Visitors in his possession.

Answer: Because Hobbes isn’t as human as the rest of them.

Meeting with Marcus in a dark alley, Hobbes makes a deal to trade the research for a fat bank account and a “clean slate,” or, “everything the Vs have on me.”  Which begs the question—what exactly do the Vs have one him?

Likely they don’t know he’s Fifth Column.  They do know that he very likely murdered five helpless scientists (Parker’s fellow researchers, who had all “disappeared” in the previous months).  They also framed him twice, and got him on the FBI’s most wanted list.

That’s a pretty dirty slate—and if he can be cleared with the human authorities, he won’t have to shave his sinister (and quite recognizable) mustache and goatee—but Hobbes’s betrayal makes it entirely possible there’s a whole lot more.

Ryan asked him, “Since when do you worry about anyone else but yourself?”  After this week, we can pretty safely say the answer is—never.  And in another case of human/V crossover, Hobbes’s characterization is starting to parallel Anna’s more and more.  As Joshua said to Erica, when she couldn’t believe Anna would injure her own daughter: “She’s not human.  She will do anything to get what she wants.”

That’s the problem for the Fifth Column these days.  Will stopping the Vs make them like their enemies?  Father Jack raised the question last week in “Hearts and Minds,” but the debate raged on and came to (get ready for it) “Fruition” last Tuesday.  With the season coming to a close, we’ll find out soon.

On a lighter note, Anna’s eggs are about to hatch and Lisa’s considering fratricide (that’s what human emotions bring—love for Tyler and the desire to kill thousands of babies).  And Anna, I’m pretty sure, was reading off a Kindle.

This has been the one-year anniversary post of the Scattering’s birth.  Happy birthday blog!


Honor your Father and Mother (Earth)

30 Dec

It’s the 11th commandment of sorts for a radical group in Minnesota calling itself the Church of Deep Ecology—deep ecology being defined as “the idea that all life has the right to exist, that no species is more important than another.”

(I guess going green isn’t good enough anymore.)

Deep Ecology is a relatively recent branch of “ecophilosophy,” emphasizing—as the St. Paul church does—the principle that the environment as a whole has the same right as any human being to live, flourish, and thrive.  This differs from the more common form of environmentalism which focuses instead on conservation of the environment for human-driven purposes (the search for sustainable energy, after all, is just an attempt to preserve natural resources for our sake—not solely the planet’s).

For this reason, deep ecologists call the more mainstream “going green” movement “anthropocentric environmentalism”: it is not, apparently, as holistic as the ecosophists’ perspective (for the curious, this widening of outlook is known as “re-earthing.”  Very New Age).  In this light, non-secular environmentalism—the Christian emphasis on “stewardship,” for example—is just as culpable for anthropocentrism, and more than a little paternalistic.  Highly disrespectful, really, to imagine that we can tell our mother what to do.

But if the matriarchal position is already occupied by this third rock from the sun, it might be said that the “father” of Deep Ecology was Baruch de Spinoza, a 17th-century philosopher, who’s been called variously: a pantheist, a panentheist, and the “God-intoxicated man.”  To simplify very very greatly, Spinoza focused on the unity of all things, both the spiritual and natural worlds—for him, they were identical.  God and Nature: one and the same.

(It was Percy Shelley who called Spinoza the “God-intoxicated man,” by the way: Spinoza’s influence suggests why the Romantic poets and later Transcendentalists—see Walden—listed so heavily to the pastoral, anti-industrial side.)

As another side note: Science fiction readers might notice this resembles Isaac Asimov’s rather disturbing Foundation series—“Gaia,” the hive mind world, encompassed all planetary consciousness, from human beings to seemingly inanimate stones and sand.  And thanks to that damn Captain Trevize, the hive mind thing’s going to spread galaxy-wide in a couple thousand years, too.  Creepy.

Most interesting to me, however, is the connection between Deep Ecology and Animism, the philosophic/religious/spiritual view that souls or spirits reside not just in humans, but other natural phenomena (animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, thunder, and so on).  Or maybe it’s more like Totemism, which posits a primary source for this life-filled environment, rather than distinct spirits for each facet of the natural environment.  For the last few millennia of human history, in many parts of the world, this sort of indigenous religion has given way to organized, revelatory faiths, but deep ecology promoters seems to be bringing it back with all the power of climate change “warm-mongering” behind them.

Even so long ago as the last millennium (all right, 1994), Carl Sagan addressed in Pale Blue Dot the spread of “animist attitudes.”  He cites past and recent American surveys:

In 1954, 75% of people polled were willing to state that the sun is not alive; in 1989, only 30% would support so rash a proposition.

And the 90% of people who denied your car’s tire had emotions in 1954 are down to 73% in 1989.  (Chances are, there’s a hierarchy of envy among automobiles in America today, with hybrids occupying the foremost places on the social register.)

“We can recognize here a shortcoming—in some cases serious—in our ability to understand the world [Sagan writes].  Characteristically, willy-nilly, we seem compelled to project our own nature on to Nature.  Although this may result in a consistently distorted view of the world, it does have one great virtue– projection is the essential precondition for compassion.”

Too bad it doesn’t make sense.  Anthropomorphizing Nature—as in “Mother” Earth—is, ironically, just as anthropocentric as the less radical environmentalism it excoriates.

No matter; contradiction is, after all, the lifeblood of postmodernism.

Making Science Cool Again (FlashForward 1.10)

4 Dec

Science, we’re taught, can both improve and destroy our lives.  Today, we hear a lot more about the destruction.

But science and its products, astronomer and popularizer of science Carl Sagan comments, aren’t inherently anything, good or bad: they’re morally neutral, ethically ambiguous, and, ultimately, necessary.

From the beginning of human history—prehistory, he speculates in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark—hovering beside science and technology there’s always been that specter of moral ambiguity.  For our ancestors, the dangers of domesticating fire were likely as readily apparent as we see the potential catastrophes today of splitting the atom.

“This is an old indictment,” Sagan writes, quoting Greek playwright Eurpides (428 BCE)—

The mind of man—how far will it advance? Where will its daring impudence find limits?

It’s something an angsty protagonist might ponder in any modern movie or tv show.

But we are, as Sagan notes, a “technological species.”  Humans don’t have the claws, warm pelts, saber-teeth, or echolocation natural selection granted our lucky animal friends.  To survive, we needed to reason and create: that’s science and technology right there.

But the debate rages on circa 2009 CE, and thanks to selenium photoconductivity, it’s televised.

ABC’s FlashForward is a science fiction series that’s bringing on the science.  But predictably, in “A561984,” the moral indictment tags along.

Brilliant (and possibly sociopathic) physicist Simon Campos is one of the central figures in episode 1.10, and he’s so convincing that I’ve almost completely forgotten that Dominic Monaghan was once a heroin-addicted hobbit trapped on a mysterious time-hopping island.

We were introduced to Campos some weeks ago, when he (surprisingly successfully) hit on a woman with his knowledge of quantum mechanics—and then proceeded to inform her that his flash forward had been a particularly enjoyable murder in which he choked the life out of some guy, and liked it.

Mad scientist much?

It doesn’t help to learn in “A561984” that—according to his more morally scrupulous colleague Lloyd Simcoe—experiments done by their research firm may have caused the blackouts, and all the consequent deaths.

“Simcoe and Campos killed more than all those men put together,” an enraged news commentator shouts (those men probably meaning Hitler, Stalin, and the like), “There’s a real case to be made here that they’re the worst mass murderers in history.  Why aren’t they in jail?”

It’s the “daring impudence” argument all over again—Campos and Simcoe’s proton-driven plasma wakefield acceleration experiments (and that’s a very real, very current area of research, actually—remember the paranoia about the “doomsday machine” Large Hadron Collider a year ago?) may have led to the greatest catastrophe in human history.  They’re evil.  And more frighteningly—science is evil.

But it’s not science that’s morally ambiguous, Sagan writes—it’s people.  Almost every realm of human activity is fraught with contradictions (not just science—“It is properly said that the Devil can ‘quote Scripture to his purposes,” he notes, calling this quality of contradiction in most human endeavors a “moral multiple personality disorder.”)

FlashForward makes this subtle point surprisingly well: after all, it’s not his technology we find disturbing, it’s Simon Campos himself (seriously—he’s giving Ben Linus a run for his money as the most sinister semi-villainous character on television).

And as much as Simon Campos is painted as the villain, when it comes to discovering the true cause of the blackouts (which probably weren’t his and Simcoe’s fault at all, popular opinion aside), he’s absolutely right:

“It’s called the scientific method,” he says.  “It’s about collecting empirical evidence.  Lloyd Simcoe tends to let his emotions run rampant—I don’t.”

Let’s ignore Simon’s flat affect for a moment—FlashForward is making a sophisticated point extremely relevant to the political and cultural climate today.  Wars are being fought in Congress over stem-cell research, after all; and climate change hysteria is, ultimately, an anti-technology movement.

How we judge science—its positive and negative consequences alike—needs to be a rational, level-headed process.  The public, like scientists themselves ideally are, need to be objective.  In FlashForward, Lloyd Simcoe’s impassioned speech, that his research was responsible because he feels guilty for the loss of his wife, is completely sympathetic, but not even necessarily true.  All he did was spark mass panic and discredit a potentially-valuable line of scientific research.

The way to avoid this—to make sure the public is knowledgeable enough about scientific research to make objective judgments—is to do like Carl Sagan and popularize science (mention Sagan’s name to a baby boomer and chances are they’ll respond, laughing, saying “billions and billions!”).  On that count, ABC’s doing a good job.

FlashForward is bringing the arcane in science to general audiences—it’s an encouraging continuation of a trend I think it’s fair to say Lost began: reversing the dumbing-down of mainstream television.  While Simon makes quantum mechanics thoroughly creepy, after all, Lloyd Simcoe manages to make it romantic:

“Have you heard of the Many Worlds interpretation?” he asks Olivia Benford, as they realize that they almost lived next door at college, almost met and so, maybe, even almost married.  “Basically, it’s the idea that anything that could have happened in our past did happen, in some alternate universe.  All those alternate decisions and choices you made are still playing themselves out on other worlds.  If you buy the theory, I suppose in some other universe you did go to Harvard—and we did meet.”

A physicist on television who’s neither evil nor socially inept?  Imagine that.

“Benevolent Science Fiction”

20 Jul

Abroad, for a human being in an inhuman tyrannical social system, has a particular and rather radiant sort of definition.  In her article “The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy,” Ayn Rand defines the word as conceptualized by a person in Soviet Russia:

“The meaning of the word for a Soviet citizen is incommunicable to anyone who has not lived in that country: if you project what you would feel for a combination of Atlantis, the Promised Land and the most glorious civilization on another planet, as imagined by a benevolent kind of science fiction, you will have a pale approximation.”

Abroad, as in Europe or the United States, is both a utopia (Atlantis) and the land of opportunity (the Promised Land).  But the reference I found most interesting was her connection of advanced technology or high culture not only to science fiction, but in particular a “benevolent” kind.

She’s right to imply that a kindly, optimistic science fiction is a lot less common than the darker variety.  Just a few examples: Mervyn Peake’s Titus Alone is downright disturbing, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is about as pessimistic as you can get, and while Isaac Asimov may be less dark his Foundation series is undoubtedly creepy.  Not to mention that absolutely nothing Philip K. Dick writes is ever pleasant.

Admittedly, I don’t read much hard science fiction (I’m a Humanities major, for God’s sake)– but “soft” science fiction (which deals often with social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, anthropology, etc.) tends toward the distinctly dystopian.  Think 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451.  Paranthetically– Ayn Rand’s Anthem is a bit sci-fi itself, and not in the least “benevolent”… but then that’s the point, isn’t it?

In any case, science fiction which doesn’t involve human beings destroying the planet, the galaxy, the universe, the species, or alien species is a bit rare these days.  “Benevolent Science Fiction” would, on the other hand, present an optimistic vision of human ability and the future: freedom, not a security state, or technology as advancing the quality of life rather than enslaving its creators.

The Green Movement today tells us that industry and technology is killing the planet; that humans are hopelessly destructive and should be quarantined to their single globe and not cause any more damage.  Environmentalism isn’t, after all, opposed to pollution or killing baby seals– it’s opposed to technology.

Doubt me?  I was horrified a couple days ago to find a trailer for the upcoming documentary “No Impact Man” on the Apple Safari homepage.  I will not put the link to the trailer up here because it feel it would pollute my blog environment, but here is the description and summary provided:

“Author Colin Beavan, in research for his new book, began the No Impact Project in November 2006. A newly self-proclaimed environmentalist who could no longer avoid pointing the finger at himself, Colin leaves behind his liberal complacency for a vow to make as little environmental impact as possible for one year. No more automated transportation, no more electricity, no more non-local food, no more material consumption… no problem. That is, until his espresso-guzzling, retail-worshipping wife Michelle and their two year-old daughter are dragged into the fray. Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s film provides a front row seat into the familial strains and strengthened bonds that result from Colin’s and Michelle’s struggle with this radical lifestyle change.

Welcome to the Dark Ages, friend.  (And with no electricity, that’s quite more literal than flippant on my part.)

But let’s think about this– is electricity evil simply because it makes an “impact” on the environment?  Even the earliest humans used natural resources for tools, or altered the environment with agriculture.  We can only survive by making an impact on the environment.

So if technology is evil, so is what makes it– the human mind.  This movie sounds like science fiction to me, and more specifically, the malevolent kind.

Modern culture is telling us that progress is evil, so today, on the National Space Society’s “Space Settlement Blog Day,” the idea of a benevolent view of science, technology, and the future seems both relevant and important.  Space colonization and settlement still sounds like science fiction to most people, even when we had men walking on the moon forty years ago.

And honestly– at the rate that some fields of technology are advancing, how does the accomplishment of half a century ago still stand as the summit?  Looks like technology-haters are getting what they want.

Even today, and even in the West, the idea of going abroad (this time from the planet) seems like an improbability (if not an impossibility).  It’s an idea pulled from a genre of benevolent science fiction– except, now, with technology the new bogeyman, there’s no such thing.


For more information on Exvironmentalism and how conservation and space colonization can mesh, I direct you to Dr. John Bossard’s blog, the Plasma Wind.  He has posted a copy of the keynote speech at a recent Exvironmentalist conference, where I was happily in attendance.

Homo Sapien-itis

22 Jun

Re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, I was vaguely horrified to discover the second novel, Perelandra, become a rather explicit polemic against space travel.  The vast distances between stars, planets, or galaxies in space, he wrote, are simply: “God’s quarantine regulations.”

Or in other words, humankind is a disease.

From C.S. Lewis’s viewpoint, this makes a lot of sense—a devout Christian, he believed that the Fall of Adam and Eve tainted all men and women with Original Sin.  We’ve got the mark of Cain, brothers and sisters, and we will necessarily export that propensity to sin anywhere we travel.

What I find interesting is that this argument, today, isn’t even limited to the deeply religious.  The most fervent proponents of the depravity of mankind are probably the ones we’d least expect: the environmental movement.

Keeping our rivers clean or our air pure seem like goals intended to benefit human beings (or at least in terms of human health).  “Pollution,” after all, is defined as “the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has poisonous effects.”  Poison’s bad, sure.  We don’t want children playing in the waves at the beach and going home with a rash.  But “going green” means more now than making the environment safe for humans—it’s a decidedly anti-human attitude.

Pollution isn’t what’s sinful, but production—incandescent lightbulbs, running your dishwasher at “peak hours,” carrying your groceries home in a disposable bag.  These are the little things, the little comfort that modern technology allows us, but it’s not the little things the environmental movement targets: it’s the biggest thing of all, the human mind.

We don’t have claws or fangs or fur to help us survive—only the mind.  And from the earliest days of human evolution (or the earliest days after the Fall, if you’d like), humans have had to use that mind to shape the environment if they wanted to survive.  The means of shaping the environment to human needs is technology, whether it’s the wheel or the automobile.  Technology might not be “in harmony with nature,” and it might not always be “green,” but it has improved the quality of life of billions of people over thousands of years.

But it’s not the human standard of living the environmental movement hopes to improve: it’s nature for nature’s sake.  Plants, animals, and rock formations have the right to exist without interference—but human beings don’t.  It’s not Styrofoam cups in a landfill which poisons the environment, but the very fact that people use and want Styrofoam.  Filthy rivers pollute our water sources, but billboards “pollute” the landscape.

“And just think,” a classmate told me.  “If we go out into space, we’re just going to do the same thing to some other planet.”

Human beings themselves are the pollutants.

But if “doing the same thing” means making use of the natural resources of both the planet (whatever planet) and the natural resources of human mind, and if that’s the disease, then I very much hope we’re all infected.

Too Old to Be Living with Mother (Earth)

19 May

Personifying nature and our lovely little blue planet as “Mother Earth” is an old, old metaphor– perhaps as old as humanity itself, at least if the prehistoric existence of the Earth Mother or Mother Goddess concept is any indication.

The Venus of Willendorf statuette, carved over 20,000 years ago (Upper Paleolithic era)

The Venus of Willendorf statuette, carved over 20,000 years ago (Upper Paleolithic era)

If Rhea of the Greeks or Isis of the Egyptians seem to track the archetype into antiquity, just consider the “Venus of Willendorf” statuette, carved somewhere between 22,000 and 24,000 BC (that’s 10,000 years before the famous Lascaux, France cave paintings were created, by the way).  Nude, with exaggerated breasts and hips, the image seems to be a celebration of motherhood or child-bearing traits.

And the image of the Magna Mater (Great Mother, for the Romans) remained, seemingly burned on the human psyche throughout history.

(Proof of that can be found, if nowhere else, in the extensive space early Christian leader St. Augustine devotes to condemnation of her worship in The City of God Against the Pagans.)

Maybe gilded shrines to the Earth Mother aren’t constructed with regularity in modern America, but don’t imagine Augustine eradicated the image for good: contemporary environmentalism and concern for the welfare of the planet seems to recall something of the ancient Mother Goddess…

What’s the foundation of contemporary environmentalism?  It seems to me that there’s an underlying argument that Nature has rights of it (her?) own– humans are participants in, not the center of, the ecosystem, and shouldn’t sacrifice the health of the planet for industrial or other aims.

If that’s not personification of the planet, I don’t know what is.

But if we’re going to stick with the Mother Earth metaphor– and I don’t see why not, considering thousands of years of civilization rising and falling haven’t done much to shake the imagery– then why not extrapolate from it further?

If the planet Earth is a mother, then we, as her children, will necessarily continue to grow.  Like any mother, she’ll provide us food, shelter clothing, all the basic necessities of life– for a while.  After all, every child– if it survives long enough– becomes independent.  That’s the point of parenthood, isn’t it?  To raise autonomous, self-sufficient children.

Well, humans as a species are growing in that direction– what Mother Earth once gave us (food, shelter, clothing) naturally, we’re learning to develop ourselves: horticulture, genetic engineering, synthetic materials.  We’re quickly becoming self-sufficient.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve yet become entirely independent: humanity is still (metaphorically) living with mom.  Like a grown adult living at home could fast become a drain on his or her parents–taking from good-natured mom and dad long after it’s strictly necessary for survival– we as a species might be outstaying our welcome.  It seems to be the belief held by the environmentalist movement, at least– considering our use of natural resources as parasitic.

Maybe it’s time to consider that humanity needs to move out of mom’s house.

As was pointed out to me by Dr. John Bossard (of BSRD LLC), the word “environmentalism” is a derivative of “environ”– in Old French, to turn (virer) inward (en):

Turning inward towards a mother figure is what a young child does for nourishment, for protection, for comfort.  Turning outward is what we do when we’re grown, independent, moving out of the security of the house we’ve always known.

At this point in human history, when an increasing number of people seem to recognize the danger to Mother Earth, what needs to be done is not to limit the industry and technology which allows us to become more independent of reliance on depleted natural resources, but to give wider scope to what Dr. Bossard termed “exvironmentalism”: turning outward– beyond this planet and into space.

I can’t see another way to both continue to grow and develop without turning into a true parasite on our Mother Earth.

Dr. Bossard’s blog, the Plasma Wind, which focuses on propulsion, space exploration, and energy: http://plasmawind.typepad.com/plasma_wind/

For information on the “Venus of Willendorf” carving as well as women in prehistory generally: http://witcombe.sbc.edu/willendorf/willendorfdiscovery.html

Leto Atreides Hates Global Warming

11 May

* Spoilers ahead: this is your final warning.

Leto II: God Emperor of Dune and primary agent of the Scattering

Leto II: God Emperor of Dune and primary agent of the Scattering

I still hold that re-reading the Dune (Frank Herbert) and Foundation (Isaac Asimov) series back to back was a great idea.  Admittedly, the acute paranoia that someone has been lacing my food with mélange isn’t entirely pleasant (and I keep wondering if various inanimate objects in the house are “conscious”… are you there Spinoza?), but even these unfortunate side effects of science fiction overload can’t negate the value of this literary juxtaposition: Asimov and Herbert both want to save humanity, but their methods could not be more different.

Okay, first question– save from what?

The imminent robot uprising, alien invasion, the end of the Mayan calendar, Benjamin Linus– maybe.  But if you’re following the rapidly-growing support for “greenness” today, the more likely answer might be Global Warming (read: ourselves).  Here’s a recent MasterCard commercial which pretty much sums it up.

Or one could be less subtle, like the late Edward Abbey (more on him later), who wrote in his book Desert Solitaire that “Nature’s polluted, man in every secret corner of her doing damned, wicked deeds.”

So assuming that’s the threat to humankind– total destruction of our planet’s natural resources (and if you’re not a global warming true believer, just pretend it’s a Death Star killing the planet, deal?)– science fiction gives us two pretty distinct options:

1. Unite with planet.  I won’t use “hive mind” as a description– because the Borg has made that pejorative– but the concept is essentially the unification of all life forms on the planet (humans, animals, plants, magma– I’m using “life form” loosely here) into one consciousness.  This way, any threat (without or within) can’t harm the species or planet– it would be harming yourself.  Success!  Unless…

2. Maybe the Foundation’s Captain Trevize was wrong to choose unification over dispersal, which is Frank Herbert’s alternative– humans spreading out by the billions in every direction through space (the titular God Emperor called this “The Scattering”).  This way, any threat (without or within) can’t touch every individual– preservation of the species.  And a depopulated planet means the amelioration of adverse effects of modern technology (e.g. global warming).

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure how to go about the first plan, but the second…