The Drama of Earth Systems (Pt 1)

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Science fiction writers who write for television, movies, or streaming services often use a “trick of the trade” to get their scripts finished on time. They will use the [INSERT SCIENCE HERE] trick. What is this? Let me describe it to you.

A science fiction writer will be going along swimmingly describing the drama of a script:

Over the last several weeks the crew of the starship ESS Avis has been enjoying some much needed R&R on the planet Systemia. During this time the captain of the Avis has become romantically involved with an attractive member of the village. Their romance has angered village elders putting the mining agreement the Avis was sent to secure, in jeopardy. The captain is tormented. A village elder pulls the captain aside and suggests traveling to an outpost 100 lightyears away and returning with much needed medical supplies. This, the village elder tells the captain, will set things right. There’s only one problem. The medical supplies must be delivered to the village before the time the mining agreement is set to be signed, which is in two hours. With gleam firmly planted in eye, the captain calls together a few of his crew and they quickly transport back to the Avis. Moments before the agreement is set to be signed, the captain reappears with a bounty of medical supplies. The elders are astonished. “How were you able to accomplish such an mazing feat,” one of the elders asks. The captain begins describing how the Avis is able to travel 100s of lightyears in a matter of seconds. “The Avis is equipped with a spore drive,” the captain reveals. “That’s amazing,” one of the elders exclaims, “How does it work?”  The captain motions to the elders to gather around. “It works by … [INSERT SCIENCE HERE].”

Yes, it is not uncommon for the “science” of a science fiction script to be written by a science crew. I learned about spore drives by watching the science fiction streaming series Star Trek Discovery. Do spore drives actually exist? No. But the idea of traveling 100s of light years in a matter of minutes is based on some real science, the science of mushroom spores. Yes, good science fiction typically has a large dose of real science in it. If you would like to learn more about the process of blending science fiction and real science to produce a science fiction idea like spore drives, I’ll put a link in the notes to the article How Mushrooms Fuel Star Trek Discovery’s Experimental Transport Technology by Lauren O’Callaghan.[1]

In the series of posts to follow I would like to tell you about the drama of Earth Systems. Why just the drama? Well, frankly, Earth Systems are shot through with complex levels of chemistry, biology, and mathematics. Given that I have all but forgotten my college chemistry and mathematics courses (never took biology), I am left to attend to the drama of Earth Systems, of which there is a lot. As an example, when it comes to climate change, we are looking at increasing levels of forest fires, severe weather systems, flooding, and coastlines either being eroded away or simply slipping beneath the waves. I’d call that very dramatic. So, yes, I can read a textbook like Earth System Science: From Biogeochemical Cycles to Global Change and grasp the full impact of the drama being described without knowing the [INSERT SCIENCE HERE] chemistry, biology, and mathematics. Now, that being said, I do have a background in both geoscience and counseling psychology. So, maybe for me, the drama is a bit easier to “get.” If that truly is the case then allow me to bridge between the drama I see in Earth Systems and you the reader. Along the way I’ll be pulling from my readings in and writings on, systems theory especially organic systems theory. We’ll get started in the next post (no spore drives required).



[1] Here’s the link to O’Callaghan’s article on spore drives: