Ever since it aired back on October 12th, the tune from this closing sequence of Stargate Universe has been playing in the back of my mind:
(Sort Of Revolution by Fink)
The show involves a motley crew of soldiers, scientists, and civilians who, by way of the mother of all stargates, go on a mission that has, so far, gone nothing like it was planned, and have ended up trapped aboard a space ship of unknown design, on the far side of the universe, headed to who knows where. Now in its second season, the group’s struggle to survive, to gain some control over the ship they call Destiny, and, most of all, to get home, has made Stargate Universe one of my very favorite shows.
Now I know that most people will read my description of the show and immediately think something like, “Oh here we go with the aliens and warp drive crap again.” And, on the surface at least, that’s precisely what it is. But looking beyond the surface, I see a show with the potential for becoming the kind of metaphor for the human condition that the original Star Trek series became. But while Star Trek used individual episodes to explore difficult political and moral issues from the safety of the far off future, I think the Stargate Universe series itself acts as a mirror reflecting the very real challenges we face in our struggle for survival here and now on this huge spaceship we call Earth.
The Earth? A spaceship? I know that that is a strange concept to many, but despite the illusion that we live in an environment of endless variety, the fact is that our environment is a closed one, vulnerable to dangerous contamination, with no outside source of maintenance or resupply. And for all the appearance that we stand in a solid and motionless place with all the universe moving around us, the fact is that we and our planet are always in motion.
A spot on the equator rotates around the Earth’s axis at over 1037 miles per hour (1669 kph). Where I am, at roughly 40° north of the equator, it’s just under 795 mph (1279 kph). The Earth moves, on average, at over 67 thousand mph (108 thousand kph) in its orbit around the sun. The sun (and the solar system) is revolving about the center of the Milky Way galaxy at over 500,000 mph (804,672 kph). The Milky Way is traveling at over 1.3 million mph (2.09 million kph) relative to the locations of other galaxies. The net result is that the Earth travels about 32,211,882 miles (51,839,999 kilometers) per day, or roughly 11.7 billion miles (18.9 billion kilometers) per year.
Impressive, right? Not to mention sobering! But the “Spaceship Earth” concept has actually been around for many years in academic and environmental circles. You can get a glimpse of how much thought has gone into this idea in this quote from one on-line document, Science NetLinks: Spaceship Earth:
“This lesson is entitled Spaceship Earth to reinforce the idea that our planet is – in reality – like a spaceship hurtling through space on a long-duration mission. There is no resupply from outside sources. Recycling is as much a part of the natural order of things as is the sunrise everyday. Pollution occurs when there are outputs that cannot be used as inputs for something else. Pollution is harmful and can be downright dangerous. The connections between parts of the natural system are imperative to its normal operation. By actively thinking through what it takes to keep people alive on a spaceship, the students will come to understand more fully what it takes to keep people alive on this planet.”
Despite all the efforts of the “egg-heads” to bring this idea to our attention however, most people have hardly given it a thought. But think of it we must, I believe, because it’s a very large piece of the “big picture” that we need to grasp in our own best interests. And just as we benefited from the influence, through popular culture, that Star Trek had on how we treat each other, I think that Stargate Universe can have that same kind of impact on how we treat our world – as another great and influential metaphor for the human condition.
I want ice water.