Saturday, June 13, 2015

Interstellar Tomorrowland

Warning, the following may contain spoilers for both Tomorrowland and Interstellar.  I'm a little liquored up so that's not a certainty.

Also, due to the aforementioned liquor there may be some opinions expressed that some will find offensive.  I'm trying to offend anyone, but opinions being what they are someone is bound to be offended.  I'm truly sorry, and I refuse to be bound by anything I write as a guarantee that my opinion may not change in the future.

How's that for a disclaimer?

BRB, I gotta get a refill.  It's a good time for the easily offended or spoiler-averse to find another spot on the internet.

So two movies that I've seen recently have been both refreshing and had a profound impact on me.  The first was Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.  From the first trailer I knew that this was going to be different, or at least different from what we've seen recently.

See, we've all fallen into the trap of the worship of the apocalypse.  I admit, I was right there with you, and one of the proudest achievements I own is how often my friends talk about the Cyberpunk 2.02.0. that I ran once upon a time.  I captured the atmosphere, and they helped build that universe with me.  Let's face it, I grew up reading about how the world would be ruined by the time I was an adult, and the only hopeful science fiction I read was from 20 years before I was born.

Interstellar has a leg in both worlds.  The future is very bleak, but there's a small group that still won't give up, that's still trying to make a difference.  That determination, stubbornness, and drive towards a goal that's over the horizon an not just the object of making it to another day is what makes it different.

The depiction of a future where a young girl can be an agitator merely for the affront of suggesting that once, during a brief period of history, we managed to land men on the moon, and where that amazing accomplishment can be officially declared a hoax, made me tear up in anger.  Because I can see it happening in my lifetime.

"We used to look up and wonder about our place among the stars, now we just look down and think about our place in the dirt."

Tomorrowland was along the same lines, but it started in the present day and looks back.  Back at the future we thought we were going to have, filled with the marvels that technology could bring to us.  A future of flying cars, robots, jetpacks, and space travel.

Again, there's a scene that entices the heroine to search for the entrance to this future that brought angry tears to my eyes.  What did we do wrong?  Looking back, it seems like it was all right there, ours for the taking!

Again, the character that's key to the story, an in this case the protagonist, is a young girl.  (As a side note, this tells me that there are a lot of fathers who want a better world for their daughters, but I could be wrong about that.)

During a shooltime montage of all the ills and evils of the world, from war, to famine, disease, to climate change she stops the teacher in his tracks and asks "What are we doing about it?"

And here's where you can feel free to begin disliking me.  Because I want to know the same thing.

Windmills are great.  Geothermal and solar too.  There are lots of alternative forms of energy, but pretending that they're a substitute for on-demand fossil fuel energy is a fantasy.  The only reliable, consistent replacement has been a pariah for 30 years, and as a result we haven't built a new nuclear power plant in this country in decades.

So we're stuck with fossil fuels, or we can go back to living in mud huts.  Here's a clue, folks, we stopped living in mud huts not because we were forced to, but because it basically sucks.  Vaccines were developed because the alternative was piles of corpses.  And GMO's are better than starvation any day of the week.

But we've turned away from that future.  We pretend that we never needed those miracles of research, products of human ingenuity and inventiveness.  Why?

The villain of Tomorrowland tells us.  Because a future without hope asks nothing of us.  If there is no hope then we don't have to put the energy in to make it happen, and we can focus on our small slice of life and bicker about sexual orientation and who gets to marry who.

"What are we doing about it?"  If we're stuck with fossil fuels and our options are conserve back to the stone age or fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, what are our choices?

Conservation is a lifeboat strategy.  It's what you do when you expect the rescue party to show up at any minute and you just have to make that last crust of bread last one more day.

Guess what?  Nobody is coming to rescue us.  We're it, we're all there is, and if we starve ourselves until we can't move, we'll never get the crops planted to feed ourselves.

Specifically, if carbon production is the issue, and China is already pumping more carbon into the atmosphere than the US, what are we doing about it?  Threatening?  Making treaties?

There are already successful carbon sequestration technologies that are being resisted and banned, despite the obvious advantages.  Why?

When humans move to a place that lacks something they need, they used to find a way to get it.  Now we're destroying dams.  What happened?  Why is a beaver dam, built for a beaver's purposes, more sacrosanct than a human dam, built for human purposes? (With apologies to Robert Heinlein for the paraphrase)

Look.  That future is still out there.  We just have to want it bad enough to make it happen.  The world is already more amazing in some ways than the previous generation could have imagined.  WE CAN MAKE IT MORE.

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