So here I am doing the finishing touches on my fall course, "Science Fiction Cinema and Social Criticism," when along come this story from The Guardian: "Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilizations, scientists say."
"Rising greenhouse emissions could tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat, warns a report."
This is the basic story line from a whole host of 1950s science fiction movies, including "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the one I'll be showing in class. Back then, of course, the threat that bothered the alien visitors was annihilation through nuclear holocaust. Today's scenario, revised and updated by a group of scientists from Penn State University, focuses upon possible extraterrestrial concerns about what green house gases are doing to the planet.
"Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain."
Reading the Guardian story made me laugh out loud, both for its way of presenting global climate crash and for its echoes of the sci-fi stories and movies of my youth. It's hard to tell from the actual report, “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis,” whether the writers are fully serious or just having a good time speculating about some ghastly possibilities.
Klaatu barada nikto
...and a Happy New Year!