Sustainability isn’t a brand spanking new issue. Even ancient civilizations had to face the problem of running out of resources and having to problem-solve or face certain collapse. Some lessons are hard to swallow even thousands of years later. Somehow, post industrial revolution, the idea of sustainability didn’t really earn a name for itself until the 50’s, with the new Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, and then during the 60’s and 70’s, when environmentalism really picked up as a movement. Before then people weren’t very aware of how they were damaging the ecosystem, only aware of the nuisance that fuel production created with it’s foul smells and acrid smoke. In today’s world, people still need to see the statistics and graphs – people are always looking for veritable proof to confirm that something is really wrong – it’s heavy material to deal with, and with the upcoming elections and environmental issues being used as political tools, it’s hard to know what is truth and what is simply manipulation.
Let’s take a breather for a moment and look at something a little easier to digest.
What about the things that inspired our imagination to make a difference? I want to take the time to look back and think about some of the movies, television shows and books that challenged us to confront and picture the world fighting to protect it’s resources and the world depleted, both things that seem fantastically abstract when applying it to our own lifetime, but both totally within the realm of possibility.
Of course, as most stories go, the world of fiction allows an ample amount of flexibility in terms of solving real-life problems. It isn’t an uncommon trope for the world to be healed by magic, or by mythical prophecy, or for superheroes to come along and save the world from certain disaster, or for people to be launched off into another planet because the world could no longer sustain life, only to return and find that the planet has rehabilitated itself and the humans can return. Unfortunately, Captain Planet and the Planeteers don’t really exist, and with NASA retiring it’s space shuttles, jumping ship to the next galaxy over isn’t a very foreseeable game plan. What these kinds of stories are able to do, however, is to stimulate dialogue over very real problems. They force us to check facts and look problems in the face. They empowered us as children to believe we could make a difference, as young adults they encouraged us to think outside of the box; as adults, these stories redirect our attention, for better or worse, towards issues that beckon for consideration.
Our recent times have given us Avatar, Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow and Sunshine, but what about looking even further back. Back to the blossoming days of Sci-Fi movie FX, back to before you could think of moving a computer out of a room: Join me next week for a glance back to Logan’s Run.