Interstellar and other Scifi movies

Every now and then we take out a few DVDs from the video store on a weekend to watch as a family.  Hubbs has been renting mostly scifi movies in recent times.  Yesterday, we watched Interstellar.


interstellar-tars-saves-the-day interstellar2

A very thought-provoking film.  (Though I’d like some physics background on those terrible freak-waves, when the sea is clearly so shallow – Col, your input?)

Despite a wormhole being constructed in space for humanity to explore 12 potential new worlds on suicide-style missions, only three signal life-supporting environments.  Three vastly different worlds.  Astounding.

The film is pretty brilliant describing the way human logic and genius loops back on itself, and also, showing what values really matter.  I loved the graphics and the concepts.  But what I want to discuss is the “Earth be finished” premise.

In the past few weeks I watched about 4 Scifi movies (taken out at the local video shop by Hubbs whenever the flea bites him).  They had one thing in common:  The “Earth be finished” premise.

In each, I see a mismanaged environment:  Desert or drought, slummy dwellings (or in the case of this last one, a ramshackle old farmhouse), dust, no trees, no animals (except that there were a few rats and some small goats in “District 9”), it’s a wtf? environment.

When I was in 1st year zoology, our professor pointed out that one of the big mistakes humans keep making is seeing themselves apart from nature.

We are very much a part of nature.  We may be a destructive or even evolutionary part, but a part of it we are.  Nobody was around to point fingers at the first algae-like organisms who merrily pumped highly toxic oxygen gas into the atmosphere until (so goes the theory) Earth became a snowball covered in ice.  Nobody was breathing oxygen at that point; everyone was using CO2 dissolved in sea water, and methane gas as fuel source.  And the first mass extinction was upon us.  Nearly all life on Earth perished, leaving only species who could bind oxygen to render it comparatively harmless.

Why do I say “we”?  Because we were there.  Not as sentient human beings of course; as one of those little unicelluar “people” that survived that catastrophe.  Our ancestors survived, or we wouldn’t be around today.  An encouraging idea, is it not?

At any rate, if I had to “save humankind” from its own mismanagement, (firstly I’m hard pressed wondering whether I’d bother, but that attitude won’t get me into Valhalla), I would start by planting trees, and collecting seeds.  Why are there no trees in District 9?  And in Interstellar?  And in the other movies we watched?  Why is Earth’s future depicted as a desert?

Idk – whenever one leaves a garden to its own devices it gets overgrown with weeds in no time flat.  A wilderness I can understand, but it takes dedicated action to transform wilderness into genuine sand desert.  Even in our very arid Karoo region, people farm – they grow merino sheep, and plant hedges of insanely tall cypresses to mark their borders.  “Bossies” is more or less all that grows, but if you walk between them you will find an astounding biodiversity of “weeds” and low shrub, also richly populated with insects and therefore small animals – mice, snakes, lizards, all sorts of little birds, and the likes.  Sheep may safely graze.  And wherever there is a water “voor”, a tiny streamlet, you will find greedy willow trees lining it and creating mini ecotopes with even higher diversity.  It gets pretty “dust-bowly” in the Karoo, but still they cling and farm – not maize though.

Surprising that Interstellar picked maize (“corn”, for Americans) as the last crop to survive when it is so very sensitive!  But yes – it takes hard-headed monocultural farming methods with insecticides and herbicides killing off all potential diversity to arrive at a dust bowl.

I feel that education is the answer.  Schools have an obligation; especially rural schools.  It doesn’t take much to go on a veld outing with a school class and pick up seeds, and then return to the classroom and “hatch” them, plant them (if need be, in the very school grounds) and thereby teach the principles of environmental nurture.  Teach the children that it is not enough to grow food (teach them that too, though – potatoes, tomatoes, pumpakin) but that one needs trees, too.  Even if they throw shade on your veggie patch.

Whenever I see such a mismanaged-Earth science fiction film, I wonder if the authors have ever really sat and observed nature.  It boggles my mind.


12 thoughts on “Interstellar and other Scifi movies

  1. Tomorrowland has a similar theme . But where I felt Interstellar is a smashing movie, suspect science notwithstanding, Tomorrowland was plain awful and corny as hell.

    What are the others you have recently watched?

    • District 9 – must say I really enjoyed that one, it’s quirky! Then there was one that had a sort-of half-moon-shaped “Utopia” artificial station with trees and gardens, and Earth of course a desert. Can’t remember the name. I also can’t remember the name of the fourth one – I guess they weren’t memorable enough. I agree, Interstellar is a great movie, very imaginative in its concepts (except for the basic crop-fail concept).

    • Did not like District 9 at all and could not see what all the fuss was about to be honest.
      Seen the other one too, Elysium I think it’s called. Has Matt Damon in as well as Jodie Foster, right?
      Not so hot. This dystopian outlook is wearing a bit thin.
      Bring back Star Wars!

  2. One of the aims of Durban and Coast Horticultural Society is to bring a love of planting gardens to all sectors of South African youth.
    Of course, the whole idea of mankind destroying the planet is based on survival of creatures similar to ourselves. There may be far more evolved ones arising from the next gas shortage.

  3. ‘Interstellar’ is a brilliant film. It works precisely because it is humano-centric, from our own, current, human viewpoint. It therefore speaks to us because it is from us. Time and time again, this kind of story-telling works. If the writers had sat down and observed nature, it would have been less ‘our’ story.

    That’s not to say writing from without that psycho-cultural bubble can’t produce great work – it often does. Brian Aldiss is one such sci-fi writer – I’m thinking of his ‘The Dark Light Years’, for example.

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