Monday, October 10, 2011

Light of the World Terra Nova

It's that time of year again! Time for networks to unveil their fall TV lineups and introduce us to new shows and bring back our old favorites. Time for our friends at Fox to start a new series that will be preempted for three weeks by baseball never to return because they failed to gain a 10 share in the [archaic and ridiculous] Nielsen ratings.

Traditionally, I have boycotted Fox's new offerings because of this failing strategy.
I have become a fan of too many of their shows that have fallen victim to the “post World Series ax” to continue having my heart broken. When the teasers for Terra Nova first aired, I was intrigued by the concept and wanted to watch the show. But, I was worried like so many shows before, that I was going to see three episodes, love it, and see it get canceled. I set my “over/under” for the series at 5 episodes based on Fox's history at this time of year. I picked the under, but I'm hoping for over by a long margin (like maybe a few seasons!!). Initially, I wasn't going to watch it, but a co-worker highly recommended it and I watched the first episode on Hulu (take that into account Fox execs!). I set the series to record on my DVR because it conflicts with prior obligations (take that into account also Fox execs!), and so far am loving the series.

For those of you who haven't taken a chance on it yet (and judging by the fact that it's not in the Nielsen Top 10, that's a lot of you!), please watch it here.

The premise of the show initially sounded like Jurassic Park meets Avatar, but the storyline is (thankfully) more complex! The pilot begins in the future- 2149 to be exact- when the earth has been decimated by humanity's poor ecological decisions. The atmosphere is filled with carbon monoxide, food is in scarce supply, and population controls have been instituted- a billboard in the background declares “A Family is Four.” The story centers around the Shannon family, who have three children, and the arrest and imprisonment of Jim, the father.

A time fracture has been discovered that allows one-way passage to another time and dimension 85 million years in the past. The scientists who have discovered the fracture select citizens to send to Terra Nova based on the needs of the community (scientists, soldiers, doctors, etc.). In addition to adjusting to a bright new world full of oxygen and plant life, new citizens of Terra Nova face the dangers of dinosaurs and an unknown terrain. Oh, and there's a splinter group who sets up their own colony outside of Terra Nova. The series is poised to highlight the tensions between the two groups as well as the tensions within the groups. With 85 million years of timeline to work with, the plot can go anywhere!

What I love most about the show so far is that it highlights the consequences of our destructive attitude toward our planet. I'm not the tree-hugging, hybrid driving, “save the whales” kind of guy, but I would consider myself to be into the “green” movement. The way I see it, we have a responsibility to pass this planet on to our children, so we need to preserve as much of it as we can in order for them to be able to enjoy it and pass it on. The world of 2149 in Terra Nova is an image of the future consequences of not searching for ways to clean up the planet and reduce our impact on it.

Terra Nova itself represents a second chance to get it right. Starting with a “clean slate” of a planet, the residents of Terra Nova are seeking to learn about this new world and live in harmony with it. Instead of burning fossil fuels to power their settlement, they use wind and solar energy. I presume the reason for this is attributed to the fact that having come from 2149 they have learned to harness nature's power in order to provide electricity. It could also be because dinosaurs are still roaming the planet and therefore fossil fuels don't exist yet. The second episode raises questions about species management in regards to an antagonistic pterosaur population. Instead of doing what “Old Earth” did in destroying species that were deemed antagonistic, predatory, or “useless,” the scientists of Terra Nova concoct a plan to relocate the pterosaurs in order to continue to study their contribution to the planet.

So what does all that have to do with Scripture and Faith? (That's what this blog is about after all!)

A lot, actually. First of all, in the Genesis account of Creation, God said to man, Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food” (cf. Gen. 1:28-30). With over 6 billion people on our planet today, I'd say we've done a good job of being fertile, multiplying, and filling the earth. Farmers, zoologists, and pet-owners have taken dominion over the living creatures. We have learned which seed-bearing plants and fruits are the best foods for us. After sin entered the world, we learned how to like meat and prepare it. Then God, “found it very good” (cf. Gen 1:31).

God gave us the authority and ability to manage the planet He gave us as our home. For a long time (depending on who you ask for the exact length of time), we did pretty good. We lived off the land, replenished what we took from it, and didn't over hunt animals to extinction. Then we became an industrialized people, and started plundering the earth for metals, fuels, and other resources we need to make all the things we enjoy work. The consequences of this plunder is that we are finding out the limits of some resources. We are also finding out the damaging side effects of burning too much fuel, exhausting certain resources, and polluting our water supply. Don't get me wrong- I love our modern advances! Electricity makes it easier to do a lot of things. However, I think we have a responsibility to seek ways to produce electricity in a way that doesn't impact the environment as negatively as our current oil and coal based production methods do. Living 25 miles from our nation's first hydroelectric dam shows me that this can be done. Living in a state that sees 358 days (fewer this year) of sunshine shows me that solar power is a possibility.

We are working on developing cleaner burning cars, planes, trains, and other modes of transportation. We have become more aware of our impact on the natural world and the consequences of over hunting and over fishing. We are trying to clean up the mess we've made in some lakes and rivers. We have finally realized that our time on earth is limited, but that it was here before us and will be here after us. We have finally begun to think about how to preserve resources for our children and their children. We know that we don't get a “second chance” or a “terra nova” and so we need to do our part to live in harmony with the one earth we have.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church's teaching on the “green movement” in paragraph 339: “Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.” When we think about all that God has given us, we should be in such awe of it that we wouldn't want to destroy it. The most powerful being in the universe has given us stewardship of this planet. He entrusted us with the “very good” creation He spent six days (I don't know if they were literal) making.

Think about it as though we are “house-sitting” for God. If a friend asks you to watch their home while they are on vacation, they entrust you with the care of it. You don't trash their home, leave it in disarray and then expect them to be happy when they return. You care for it by watering their plants, cleaning up after yourself if you're staying overnight, and making sure it is at least in the same condition as when they left it. That is our God mandated responsibility for our planet- to care for it.

Can we be collaborators with our Creator if we wantonly pollute air, pile up atomic waste, denude our forests, and foul our rivers and lakes? No. A serious spirituality begins with a deep conversion from callous tearing of whatever we want from the earth to a caring stewardship.”
-from An Ecological Spirituality by Rev. Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ
(available here)

So, watch Terra Nova and look for the lessons it presents about caring for the planet. Look for ways to “go green” in your daily life. Help clean up our planet and be a good steward of our resources!


  1. I still need to check out Terra Nova. A friend of mine told me about the premise and it sounds like a show worth watching. Great Post!

    Also, in 2009, I wrote about the Green Bible Movement. Here is the link to that post:

  2. I am an avid fan of Terra Nova, and appreciate your encouragement to look in it for examples of good living practices. I just ran across this website from Facebook and am really enjoying it so far! Thanks and blessings!