Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Silent Running

The 1972 film Silent Running imagines a future where Earth is so polluted that the last forests have been blasted into space in environmental domes to preserve them. Freeman Lowell, played by Bruce Dern, is forced to kill his fellow crew members to save the forests when the order comes through to destroy the domes and return the space fleet to commercial operation.

Like most science fiction, Silent Running is not concerned with accurately predicting the future. The film was made before climate-change fears, so even though there are no forests on Earth, people’s lives are not particularly affected by rising sea levels or runaway temperatures. On the contrary, it seems the planet has been tamed. The temperature is a constant seventy-five degrees planet-wide, and everywhere you look everything is the same.

That’s probably the most chilling aspect of Silent Running. Humanity has lost something irreplaceable, and most of them don’t even think about it. As Lowell says:

Every time we have the argument, you say the same thing to me, you give me the same three answers all the time, the same thing, “well, everybody has a job,” that’s always the last one. But, you know what else there is no more of, my friend? There is no more beauty, there is no more imagination, and there are no frontiers left to conquer, and do you know why? Only one reason why.The same attitude that you three guys are giving me right here in this room today, and that is: nobody cares.

The parallels with what is happening on our planet right now are devastating. Silent Running is available to buy or rent on Google Play. I recommend it.

This article originally appeared in Beyond, my free newsletter for lovers of science and science fiction. Sign up here - http://eepurl.com/btvru1