The environmental movement in America is under siege as the scale of the toxic contamination to our planet exceeds our ability to comprehend. Last week (in Taormina), the G-7 Summit failed to gain American support to reach a consensus on re-affirming the Paris Agreement to mitigate (reduce) greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a “Back-to-Basics Agenda” that aims to “make America great again”, supported by states rights’ advocates, industrial and agricultural corporations, climate change deniers, and eco-unfriendly citizens. As a disunited nation, we are deadlocked in our discourse on global warming. Only the transformative forces of popular culture can save us by assimilating the political, moral and ethical principles of environmentalism, on a cosmic scale. Comparable to Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy, we need a federation of Eco-Sci-Fi Heroes—virtual and actual—to lead the way.
The year 2020 marks the 54th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise as a cultural phenomenon transforming popular culture and science, from baby-boomers to Generation Z. The franchise has generated over $10 billion in multimedia sales by proliferating a diverse array of movies, video games, novels, comics, figurines and toys. Star Trek’s influence on the science-fiction industry, popular culture and entertainment, as well as social justice. If we hope to save our planet from destructive human behaviors, we need to establish an institution in the form of a supranational governmental organization (SNGO).
The magnitude of toxic contamination to our planet cannot be fully appreciated by most people. Consider the case of unleaded fuel. The use of unleaded gasoline in cars began with the 1975 model year, over 40 years ago. In light of the current national median age—38 years—more than half of the U.S. population was not born when we decided to take drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect human health. The results of the EPA’s lead phase-down program have produced breathtaking reductions in blood lead levels among children. Today, virtually, every living American benefits from the outcome of the hotly debated program that produced monetized health benefits in the billions of dollars. Yet, the EPA is now an endangered governmental agency.
The environmental movement is in distress and undervalued. Despite a surge in grassroots activism throughout the nation and enormous increases in donations, the environmental movement, in its current iteration, will never catch up to reality. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is eviscerated by the Executive Branch, open season is declared on eco-friendly regulations, and our campaigns to protect our natural resources. Without the power to legislate or adjudicate, our campaigns to advocate environmental protections are doomed. As long as grassroots activism remains an activity—not an intrinsic aspect of daily life—we will never be “all in.” Environmental lobbyists are hard-pressed to impact public policy, while state and local governments set priorities to manage natural resources with decreasing budgets.
The diverse list of environmental causes encompasses a vast array of initiatives to protect our air, oceans, Arctic sea ice, rain forests, drinking-water sources, endangered species; and mitigate devastation caused by industrial pollution, mining and drilling, radioactive waste management. A seriously coordinated effort to address all these global issues would generate costs that conceivably exceed the U.S. annual budget, nearly $4 trillion—approximately $12,000 for every adult and child in the U.S.
However, the bigger problem is our political and cultural will to face these daunting issues. As long as environmental stewardship remains and activity for a select demographic segment, we will never successfully address the challenge. Ultimately, our commitment must become ubiquitous—culturally, politically and ethically intrinsic to our daily living; and pervading our collective conscience. Our acclimation must become a second nature intuitive impulse—as mundane as locking the door upon leaving home or choosing a movie to watch with a loved one. More succinctly, our commitment to environmental stewardship must integrate with popular culture: movies, TV shows, gaming, books, music: “all the ideas, knowledge, information, creative works and principles expressed or enjoyed by a majority of a population at a given time.”