Interstellar: Why the Climate Controversy?

JD King is a filmmaker and contributing writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

"Right Wing Attacks Media Climate for Saying Interstellar is About Climate Change"

"Interstellar and the Climate-Culture War"

"Interstellar's' Rejection of Climate Change Hysteria"

These are a just a few of the headlines circulating the Internet about Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster movie, Interstellar. But for a film having zero to say directly about global warming, it seems odd indeed that there's so much climate change controversy.

 So what's all the hubbub?

For those who haven't seen it, Interstellar is about "a team of explorers [who] travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity."

As the movie unfolds we learn that the reason mankind must leave Earth is because it is becoming uninhabitable. Doesn't sound too controversial, but here's the catch: It is believed by some that the filmmakers deliberately chose to not make global warming responsible for the natural disaster. And that's why the climate change believers are up in arms.

To global warming doomsayers it would have been perfect to have pinned the planet's demise on cataclysmic man-caused climate change. But, interesting enough, the filmmakers chose not to go this politically correct route and instead made the culprit a food-destroying blight fueled by nitrogen. Nitrogen makes up nearly 80% of Earth's atmosphere and is much less connected to human activity than other gases– like carbon dioxide or methane.

So why did the Nolan brothers deliberately choose to go against the flow?

Some suggest it's because they doubt climate change is a threat, while others simply think they just wanted to explore a more impersonal culprit. Others believe it was an effort not to alienate the many scientists and skeptics who don't believe in man-made catastrophic climate change.

It could prove useful to clarify that the scientists skeptical of climate change don't dispute that mankind's actions can have some impact on the weather. Rather, they argue that there is not enough evidence to say that the impact will be apocalyptic.

We'll probably never know exactly why Interstellar ignored the global warming elephant in the room. But there was another popular environmental-related theory the film did recognize. While climate change was avoided, the ideas of overpopulation and resource depletion were not.

Near the movie's beginning, Cooper (the protagonist) is having a conversation on the porch of his farmhouse with his father-in-law, Donald. While reminiscing what life was like on Earth before the blight, Donald says something like, "But we made a lot of mistakes. Six billion people. Just try to imagine that. Every last one of them trying to have it all."

Is overpopulation a dangerous scenario we may experience in our own lifetimes? I believe the answer is no, not a chance. But what are a few things we as Christians can keep in mind when this popular population postulation comes up again in our conversations?

To begin with, God's commandment to mankind was not, "be fruitful, multiply, populate the earth then stop when you reach human number X." As Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, the founder of The Cornwall Alliance, aptly points out, the root word God used for "populate" in Genesis 9 is the same verb translated "swarm" to describe the plague of frogs that swarmed Egypt! Surely God would have been concerned about over-swarming if it was a possibility, no?

Human history reveals that more people does not mean less to go around, but more to go around.

This seems ironic at first. But with higher population densities there is more division of labor, increased specialization, and larger markets. Given a free society, the larger the market means more incentives to invest in new products and to research new technologies that in turn improve our lives and enable greater efficiencies. In other words, a large population is a blessing, not a curse!

We serve an all-wise God who put us on a very sufficient planet for our needs. He gave us amazing minds to create and produce– we're not merely consumers. Natural disasters–like many depicted by Hollywood–will inevitably occur. But we must never forget that our heavenly Father has promised his creation a definite future,

"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." [Genesis 8:22]

JD King is a contributing writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is also a filmmaker and has two documentaries on environmental subjects, Crying Wolf, and BLUE.

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