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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Renewing our Dinosaurs

Have you ever wondered why a particular show never caught on with the viewing public?  With its dinosaurs that looked like puppets, the “Doctor Who” story “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” earned the fan’s disdain.  The same criticism cannot be made of the digital creations in last year’s series “Terra Nova,” which surely belong alongside the most convincing ever brought to our television screens.  Yet the future of the show seems in doubt, as ratings were not high enough for executives to readily agree to the production costs of a second season.  Given humanity’s eternal fascination with dinosaurs, I’ve wondered why more people aren’t tuning in.  Perhaps part of the reason lies in the series’ underlying premise: that man’s increasing demands upon the environment have ruined the Earth beyond hope of renewal.  

Perhaps the human brain is programmed to reject the idea that our world is capable of being destroyed.  We know that an asteroid or comet could strike the Earth tomorrow. Movies such as “Armageddon,” and novels such as Shiva Descending by Gregory Benford and William Rotsler, portray the catastrophic effects such an event would bring mankind.  Yet the United States doesn’t even have a craft capable of manned spaceflight at the moment, let alone the means of deflecting such an object.  We know that Carbon Dioxide levels are rising dangerously high.  Movies such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” and novels such as Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson, remind us that Global Warming could wipe out many of the plants and animals we depend upon, and make the climate inhospitable for us.  Yet instead of taking bold steps and sweeping action to combat these threats, we argue over the necessity of taking any action whatsoever. 

As much as we sometimes yearn to wipe the slate clean and begin again, we often prefer minor alterations to existing routines.  Rather than destroying and building something completely different, we embrace revision and renewal.  In the TV series, and the novels by Jonathan Gash, Lovejoy not only locates antiques for clients, but also restores them to their former glory.  Where others see ruin, he perceives a return to glory.  Our TVs and shelves are swamped with shows and books that enable us to restore old furniture, or alter it to suit current demands.  For every building we demolish to build another, many more are added-onto, rebuilt, or remodeled.  Mechanics rebuild or modernize old cars, even if the result costs more in money and time than purchasing the current model.  Instead of penning a new story, writers often revisit unfinished manuscripts in the hopes of finally capturing their initial conceptions.  Rather than opting for divorce and starting with another, spouses persist in their attempts to reinvigorate an ailing marriage, regardless of how broken their relationship might seem to others.  We restore, rebuild, remodel, rewrite, and refuse to believe that anything we love is ever completely beyond our ability to save.

I hope we eventually tackle the really big issues, such as the colonization of space (both to increase our knowledge and to ensure our species’ survival) and the reduction of Carbon Dioxide in our environment.  But I take heart in what I can do today, even if my individual concerns seem wholly unrelated to such global issues.  Even if what I accomplish is no more than a gentle reform, or a minor adaptation to a previous effort.  For who knows what all our individual changes, improvements, and upgrades might eventually accomplish?  Perhaps if all of us concentrate upon giving our best efforts in all that we do, and each day attempt to fulfill our ultimate potential, our individual efforts might add up to a new reality in which we perceive achievable solutions to such global threats. 

We often argue over causes and methods, or lay the blame for a particular problem at another’s door, and then conclude that a particular problem is unsolvable.  Is it any wonder that we  occasionally do battle with despair?  Yet, just as we reject the conspirators’ viewpoint in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” we reject the future as depicted in “Terra Nova.”  I find this tremendously encouraging.  For as special and unique as I may (or may not) be, or how strong and capable I may (or may not) be, I know that I don’t want to live on a ruined Earth.  And as cool as I think dinosaurs are, I don’t really want Mr. T. Rex as my next-door neighbor.  

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