How many times and in how many different ways have we destroyed the earth?
The “we” in that sentence refers to science fiction writers. Yet again the other day, a friend read a book description out loud, and the rest of us could almost guess how each phrase would go before she said it. A “dying Earth” (COD not specified in this blurb) has been fled by the “last remnants of the human race” who are, of course, “desperate [for] a new home among the stars.”
It doesn’t matter which specific book she was reading about. It’s a trope so common I’d say it’s a cliché at this point.
Is killing the Earth really necessary?
We’re always screwing up the Earth in science fiction.
We over-pollute it, overpopulate it, blow it up (or aliens blow it up for us), fill it with fascists who drive us out, fill it with Zombies who drive us out, fill it with invading aliens who drive us out, we pave it, we run out of food, we run out of . . . you know the scenarios.
All are pessimistic views of our future, and the underlying idea is twofold: killing our mother is inevitable, and we’ll find refuge in the stars. Somehow, somewhere.
I’d like to argue that neither is likely, but there’s the oil lobby (to refute the first half). We’ve so far avoided the nuclear holocaust that haunted my childhood during the Cold War, but climate change might just do the job–for humans, anyway.
I imagine that even if we humans kill ourselves, the planet will do what it’s always done: grow new things that are better-adapted to the new climate reality. Just look at the woods around Chernobyl.
And how ’bout that home among the stars?
As I’ve outlined in earlier posts, space is a really hard place to live, much less be fruitful and multiply. Microgravity makes everything harder, distances are, well, astronomical, and providing what humans need to survive is hideously expensive, at least right now.
So let’s soft-pedal the destruction of earth already, people! We still have no good place to go!
Anyone who looks at a photo of the ISS can see we aren’t currently able to create a viable long-term habitat in space. Who are we kidding, here?
Personally, I’d rather explore the ideas of the Solarpunk movement, which focuses on sustainable scenarios in science fiction. And yes, this means I’ll talk more about it in future posts.
IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Universe Today for the asteroid-impact visualization of Earth’s demise; to the Hellcat Fandom Wiki, for the visualization of war on Earth; to the United Nations Development Programme for the otherworldly dump photo; to Einar Öberg on Geek.com, for the visualization of “earth without people” via Google Street View; and to the Patheos blog “Evangelical” for the Interstellar screen shot.