Monday, December 22, 2014

The Environmental Themed Catalyst for FOX's show Terra Nova (Old Article)

After the success of other series where science fiction meets reality, like Lost on ABC, the Fox Network has released a new show in the Fall 2011 lineup called Terra Nova. The series "Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization" (IMDB). This action pack TV series airs on Monday nights from 8-9 pm eastern. Although the show did catch my attention and held it through the premiere, instead of giving a review, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the environmentally themed catalyst that were the base plot for which the story was enacted on. The themes are brief but important not only in the story line but also as a statement to the viewers here in the present. I thought this show had a very interesting environmental ethic attached to it and is worth a discussion.
First lets discuss the more obvious environmental themes in the plot. The show opens with a panning shot over the moon, where the United States Flag still stands from the 1969 moon landing, On the horizon is a brownish globe, similar to that of Mars, as the shot pans down the audience is shown earth in the year 2149. There is no vegetation or blue water, the air is not clear and infrastructure still stands. Next we begin to see people, all wearing masks as if there was an outbreak of disease, but they wear these respirators because the air is unsafe to breathe. In these first moments of the show we are told that earth has been polluted and stressed to the point that the air is unbreathable and earth is unrecognizable. Is this a path we are on? The next scene shows Jim Shannon, the father of the family, coming home to his wife and kids with a surprise. The surprise is a simple orange, something the youngest child has never seen before. This illustrates the lack of fruits in this world, also the shortage of food, which could mean a number of environmental stresses. As the scene progresses the eldest daughter of the Shannon family comes barging through the door yelling that someone was on there way up to the tiny apartment. As the family panics they take the youngest daughter, only a toddler, and places her in a air vent behind a bicycle. As the police knock on the door, the audience soon finds out their is population control on this dismal earth, in this dismal time. Population control in which a family is only allowed two children and yet the Shannon's have three. I won't go any further into the plot now that I have gotten my examples across, I don't want to ruin it for any potential viewers! I was shocked that the show would actually bring up population control. Many deep ecologist, those that put environment ahead of any single thing or being including humans, argue that majority of Earth's environmental problems arise from the over population of the planet by humans. To say the least this has been a taboo issue for environmental related talk, usually only brought up as a talking point against environmentalist to paint them as anti-human. So in the first few scenes of this television show we are exposed to a number of environmental issues, which can all be related to today's problems including air pollution, food shortage, global environmental issues, and over population (carrying capacity). As I began to watch the show I was impressed with the attention and weight given to the environmental issue that end up causing the deteriorating living conditions of Earth and was curious to see what direction they would take the show in.
As the show went on and the family escapes to Terra Nova, what is believed to be earth in the past, on a separate time line, it looks as if the Shannon's as well as humanity will get a second chance. Then I realized all the environmental undertones of the first few scenes had been completely reversed the second they landed in Terra Nova. The plot of the show says two things when they did this: One is that technology can solve our problems and two don't worry about this earth, when it doesn't work for us we'll move on and start somewhere else. This message that we can have two earths doesn't teach people to examine their behaviors and their impacts on the environment but instead reinforces the idea that technology will fix it and/or the earth's resources are infinite. Although I do have to mention that they do use alternative energies in Terra Nova, including wind turbines but I'm not sure if this is to start over in a more environmentally friendly society or could it be that they don't have the resources to burn fossil know since most of what they and we use for fossil fuel is alive and walking around them on a daily basis in Terra Nova. This idea of getting a second chance, although possible, shouldn't excuse reckless behavior in our environment and Terra Nova doesn't send that message even if the first few scenes do.
Despite the contradictory environmental messages of Fox's Terra Nova it's still worth a view, at least for now!



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