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A “Force of Nature”: Star Trek and the Apocalypse in the Anthropocene

Authors: Cally Quayle*, Michigan Technological University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Star Trek, science fiction, environmentalism, Anthropocene, discourse, media
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: Download

Since its creation, science fiction has acted as a conduit for social issues, and metaphors thereof — whether that be critique of a fascist regimes, the horrors of war, theoretical outcomes of current social systems, or other critical current events. One common theme is the topic of environmentalism and the ongoing question in popular culture of the effects and interactions of humans/aliens/machines on, and included in, the environment. Star Trek is a high-profile show, clocking in with over 703 hours of canonical television alone. This poster explores human-environment interaction through the lens of the film whereby Star Trek characters - often humans - navigate complex environmental relationships. Exploring discourse throughout the Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery, I highlight examples where characters play the role of both the “saviors” and the perpetrators. With topics of pollution, overpopulation, and racially-based environmental destruction, Star Trek, historically, has used its platform as a cult classic to address pressing social issues, and environmentalism is no exception. The show observes this topic over the course of many years, expanding the definition of the term “environment” to not only encompass physical planets, but space as well. These discourses further fall into a broad spectrum, with some more so than others using the safe lens of the future to reflect direct ongoing crises in the present, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Force of Nature.” In doing this, Star Trek enables a critical engagement and examination of “human”-environment interactions.

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