Under the sea

Age of the Geek Column: "Aquaman" has hit theaters and, from what I've heard, it's pretty okay. Which is good for a DC movie.

I haven't seen it myself, but I doubt I'll be particularly surprised when I do.

I expect we'll see the good people of Atlantis incited to war by Ocean Master while Aquaman fights to convince his civilization that they shouldn't attack the surface world.

This is hardly an original premise. Depending on the story, if it's not an Aquaman villain getting fed up with us surface dwellers then it's Aquaman himself. And that's just in the DC universe.

Over on the Marvel side of things you've got Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Since his re-introduction in the 1960s he's been alternating between hero and villain, justifiably angry about Atlantis being inadvertently destroyed during various Cold War nuclear tests.

And that's just comics. You can't throw a rock in the science fiction realm without coming across a lost civilization teetering on the edge of declaring war with the surface world as retaliation for the various environmental disasters we cause.

We all know how it goes. A rabble rousing leader riles up the population and gears them up for an onslaught of the surface world. Maybe they're legitimately incensed over how much junk we dump in the ocean or maybe they're just using it as an excuse for their own political advancement. In either case, war is ultimately averted by our heroes who manage to convince the underwater populous that humanity isn't all bad and that we can all learn to live with each other in peace.

It's a story that's been told again and again for generations. The details occasionally change. Maybe it's an underground society or a forest dwelling civilization much more in tune with nature. Maybe they're a powerful civilization capable of bringing humanity to their knees or a relatively defenseless tribe being pushed to the brink of extinction.

Whatever the details, the story always ends the same way. The agitators are defeated and the population comes to understand that humanity is generally pretty good and not deserving of annihilation. That even if the villains' motivations were just, their actions were ultimately wrong.

It's a story that we've been told all our lives, but it's one that's getting increasingly hard to swallow.

Stories like this may serve to raise awareness about the dangers of our behavior and are supposed to be cautionary tales, but in a way I think they also may have a placating effect. We invent a fictional civilization adversely affected by our carelessness only to cement the status quo when they ultimately decide that we're not so bad.

Except we've been telling cautionary tales about the destructive impact humanity has had on the environment for decades and while we've gotten better, we obviously aren't doing enough. The melting ice caps are changing the saline levels of the ocean and there is a million square kilometer patch of the Pacific covered in garbage. The most recent studies give us just a couple decades before we reach the point of no return, assuming we're not there already.

If there is an underground civilization down in the depths, it'd be hard to argue that bringing the surface world to heel wouldn't be in their best interests.

Imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine a sci-fi movie where we discover Atlantis and realize that whatever they do to keep their society running is responsible for catastrophic environmental changes on the surface. The Atlantians may be individually nice people, but they still proclaim no intention about changing their ways, even knowing that their continued path will eventually lead to the destruction of both civilizations. Would the peace loving scientist of the movie still preach co-existence or would they ultimately side with the military warhawk intent on taking decisive action against a clear and present threat to national security?

It's 2019. We are living in the future.

That far flung future where our environment tips into chaos is no longer the thing of speculative science fiction anymore. It's here.

We should probably do something about it.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and hopes we can save the whales before they have to save us.