Monday, 23 May 2011

I Blame Star Trek

What is it about us that makes us think we can Star Trek our way out of the negative impacts of lifestyle conveniences? I read an article the other day about how microbes may make it possible for us to compost virtually everything, including polystyrene. Yes, polystyrene!

Now I like Star Trek as much as the next Trekkie, and I think it is fascinating how the show has been prophetic about everything from MRI scans to iPads and wireless communicators. But should we be relying entirely on technology and science fiction solutions to back us out of the problem of too much landfill waste?

I think not, Number One.

Now I'll admit: tiny bugs that chomp trash are pretty cool. An invention that will no doubt make it easier to be okay with using more disposable conveniences. But one can't help but ask: what's the catch, and can we not do better to solve the root problem? And more importantly: would this be the solution they would use on the Starship Enterprise? Let's ponder this for a moment.

Ever notice there are no trash cans on the Enterprise? Captain Picard asks for an "Earl Grey, hot" and it just materializes - tea cup and all - from a hole in the wall. So, what happens to that cup afterwards? Maybe Captain Picard's tea cup reverse materializes back into that hole in the wall and is magically re-constituted into a Romulan ale stein Guinan serves up in Ten Forward. Or maybe Picard places the cup in the Enterprise's garbage chute a la the original Star Wars where it gets smashed up into cubes of garbage that are jettisoned into space.

Although there are hints of cool technology everywhere on Star Trek, they seem to brush over the more mundane topics, like how they handle trash and sewage on the ships and space stations. Although, had Ed Begley Jr. done more than a guest cameo on Voyager we might have had the answer to these green mysteries that keep a tree-hugging Trekkie up at night!

What's clear though is you don't see a lot of disposables hanging around the bridge. No one drinking from a polystyrene cup. You also don't see the Enterprise jettison a trail of litter or effluent as it warps off toward a new galaxy. So it appears the Star Trek version of the future had the wisdom to close-loop its living.

So when the cool microbe-eating bug solutions get voted out in favor of more practical steps to eliminate packaging and disposables don't blame me: blame Star Trek.


Jenise Fryatt said...


From one tree-loving Trekkie to another - Bravo!! Now, I think we need to attend a Trekki Convention, and interview the experts for answers to these very important questions. One think I'm sure of, Jean Luc Pickard would NEVER have had his tea in a polysterene cup!

Shawna McKinley said...

I'm in Jenise! You bring your Vulcan ears, I'll bring my Ferengi ones!

Tahira Endean said...

First - awesome pics both of you - really captures the spirit you both have and bring to everything you do. Ears could add to that. Apollo 13 was a great example of how you USE EVERYTHING you have and you only bring what you need. With a world where convenience and consumerism are key drivers solving the polystyrene problem is just one step. Interviewing trekkies is definitely the most logical place to start.

Shawna McKinley said...

Thanks Tahira! Facilitating a focus group of Trekkies to propose solutions to the world's sustainability challenges would be so awesome! That would be a meeting I'd love to be at :)