erik lundegaard

Humans from Earth

I was reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker piece on the sixth great extinction, which may be happening now—at the least, it’s happening now with frogs and bats—when I came to the scientific rationale for why not only frogs in the rain forest but frogs in the National Zoo in D.C. are dying en masse. Apparently it’s a fungus, chytrids, which, according to Kolbert, the New Yorker’s environmental writer, has never been known to attack vertebrates. Then I got to this line about how they’re spreading: “Chytrid fungi generate microscopic spores that disperse in water...”

Spores! Of course, being me, I thought of that first-season episode of “Star Trek,” “This Side of Paradise,” in which on yet another of the many “Eden” planets the Enterprise crew encountered, a particular breed of plant shot spores at the crew and turned them all lovey-dovey. Even Spock. Especially Spock. Cue “love theme” music.

Deeper into Kolbert’s article, you realize that the greater problem isn’t spores but, well, us, and the impunity with which we move about the planet. This, too, recalls “Star Trek,” or, at least, my criticism of the recent “Star Trek” movie:
In the original series, particularly its first season, there was a mystery, and a creepiness, to what they might find out there, always augmented by that great background soundtrack of creepiness. ... There are still stories to be told out there, that add to the mystery rather than pave it over, but you’ve got to drop out of warp-drive, and pause, and look around, and reflect, in order to tell them properly.
I apologize for the glibness of this comparison. It just feels like what’s wrong with the new “Star Trek” as a storytelling device is simply a reflection of what’s going wrong here. Microscopically, things are deadlier than we realize. But the deadliest thing of all may be our own sense of impunity.
No tagsPosted at 08:51 AM on Thu. May 28, 2009 in category Culture  
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