Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Earth2100 -- A Pre Mortem

I've always regarded plausible disaster scenarios with the same blank check that the rubber-necking commuter cashes in at a roadside accordion pile-on.Whether I stared blankly into the infected futures in the fire bursts from 'The War Game' or the stillbirth of the bitten umbilical chord in 'Threads' I've never been able to look away from a fathomable end game on earth.

And while nuclear annihilation was the rockiest slope down the certain doom gateway environmental disasters lulled me into a catatonic fascination in our future blind dates with the destiny we have coming to us. (Gee, that sounds more like Pat Robertson indicting a very different form of denial of service).

Earlier this month ABC News aired Earth2100. The producers played the apocalypse slow dance card, casting climate change in the starring role of why this new century could well prove to be the last one for civilization -- both as we know it and as we would come to accept it as). Most of the push back was that it was too negative to set a plausible series of events in motion. The scenario caved under the weight of too many improbabilities. Staggering to another June 2009 station break didn't help the credulity factor. Whatever happened to a commercial-free peak at unsustainable enterprises?

What spooked me the most was how unspectacular the unraveling was -- no special effects and shock factor inventions like suicidal pacts among rapture-starving fundamentalists or power-mad puppeteers that ready, launch, aim. Most of the drumbeats were ominous for their present day familiarity: pandemics, border riots, coastal flooding, acute water shortages, and endless gas lines? Not exactly "out there" prognostications when conjuring up what an accumulation of earthly debts will do to the worldly aspirations of an overgrown human population.

The most novel accessories to heeded warnings include a splash of bio-engineering to re-crown the soggy ice caps and a fortress of ocean-borne levies to guard New York City against the tidal stampede of runaway sea levels. The machinery jams much like the history we're doomed to repeat from Katrina (FEMA trailers a distant reminder of how good we had it when the century was young). The flooding sea produces the perfect cocktail storm, unleashing the plague to end all body counts. The grid fizzles. Frequencies die. There's no social future left to shape or future to imagine.

For me the most poignant aspect to this was the broadcast date of June 2 -- the birth date of Lucy whose biography spans the final century ahead. She is the tribal elder of 2100 and has a proud personal history that scales her grief to an epic and collapsible dimension that transcends any boundaries still standing. It is also the birth date of my late grandfather Robert Pollan who was born on June 2, 1906. I'm grateful there is something of Popa I still have the opportunity to teach and it's a lesson that can never be over taught and runs the constant risk of being undervalued:

* Treat people as their own person where they make the difference (not their breeding, gonads, hair size, or facial markings).

* Avoid at all cost the exclamatory stain of "you, your, them, or those ... people."

* Use the pattern-matching attributes of grouping humans as a way to show others how they stand out in ways that will help their communities.

These are values that endure any worst case scenario or the perverse fascination with their invention.

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