Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Problem with Paradise

The Eagles' song "The Last Resort" begins with these lines:

She came from Providence 
The one in Rhode Island
Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air.
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee
Just as her father came across the sea.

It's a song about emigration, about westward movement, the colonization (and destruction) of the continent.  With each westward move, to the farthest coast and then to the islands beyond, the colonists believe they've found Paradise, the ultimate place of rest and beauty.

But there's a problem: no sooner do they arrive than they begin to turn Paradise into a wasteland.

I was thinking about this song when I watched After Earth, the Will and Jaden Smith vehicle.  Not a bad film, as summer sci-fi fare goes; if you want a full review, check out my other blog, YA Guy.

But what got me thinking about the Eagles song as I watched this film was the theme of emigration and colonization, in this case emigration away from earth and colonization of distant planets.

In After Earth, humans have destroyed our home planet's environment, and so they leave, seeking a new, more hospitable planet.  It's a theme we've seen in a number of recent fantasy/sci-fi films: Avatar, Wall-E, Battle for Terra.  I wrote about those films here.

And what I wrote is that I find such films disturbing, because--for all their ostensible environmental awareness--they suggest that even if we trash this planet, there'll always be another planet waiting for us.

Some people actually believe this.  Should earth become uninhabitable, they say, we'll simply pull up roots and terraform the moon or Mars.  That such a feat is far beyond our current technologies isn't the main problem with such thinking.

The main problem is that, unless we can overcome such thinking, no matter where we go we'll start doing the same thing all over again.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with Paradise: we don't really want to live in it.  We want to devour it and move on.

The Eagles song ends:

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it's like up there
They call it Paradise
I don't know why
You call someplace Paradise
Kiss it goodbye.

What's going to save us, if anything is, is not another place "after Earth."  There is no such place, or if there is, it won't be safe from us for long.

Paradise can't save us until we decide there's something worth saving.

No comments:

Post a Comment