The latest Hollywood blockbuster right now is this year’s remake of the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. In one of the odder publicity moves, the producers have decided to beam the film into outer space just in case any extraterrestrials want to watch it. The transmission is being directed at the star system closest to our own, Alpha Centauri, which is about 4.37 light years away from our Sun, though the studio notes that it is a wide beam transmission so that any aliens who happen to be travelling within the cone of the transmission or even beyond Alpha Centauri should be able to tune in as well.
More seriously, it’s pretty unlikely that any aliens will be close enough to catch it, and it’s a big question whether or not the signal will remain coherent enough to be watchable at any reasonable quality 4.37 light years away. In any case, since Earth has been leaking radio transmissions into space for decades by now, if any aliens are in Alpha Centauri and wanted to send a reply, we’d have heard from them by now.
My wife and I have decided not to go watch the film, so I went ahead and read spoilers for it on Wikipedia, mainly so that I can make fun of its environmentalist message. The plot of the original 1951 film revolved around the fear that the wider extraterrestrial community felt at the thought that humanity, a species that they considered to be irrational and irresponsible, had developed atomic technology. For this updated version, the theme is now the environment, with the aliens believing that humans are harming planet Earth and must be stopped, even if it means exterminating all humans.
Intentionally or not, this message underlines a fundamental disagreement that I have with the whole environmental movement. The greens’ message seems to boil down to believing that humanity is bad, period, and that every trace of humanity’s presence on Earth is a corrupting influence that must be purged. As other critics of the environmental movement have pointed out, when environmentalists paint a picture of what they think of as unsoiled and pure nature, humans are either completely absent, or at best, are reduced to small groups of hunter-gatherer humans living in mud huts wearing nothing but loincloths.
This isn’t to say that I disagree with the need to protect and preserve the environment. What I disagree with is the reason why we should care: because a poorly managed environment results in a poorer quality of life for everyone and investing in a better environment means a better, healthier and happier life for all. This means working for a future in which the Earth’s resources are sustainably and rationally managed for the betterment of human life, not acting as if humanity’s very presence on the planet is an embarrassing evil that needs to be done away with.