"The planet, or what’s left of it, is barely recognizable. Once verdant, it’s
now a parched wasteland. The rich shelter in air-conditioned bubbles, leaving
everyone else to face the storms and sand.
This vision of climate apocalypse is all too familiar today, but in 1963, when
Frank Herbert started serializing his science-fiction epic “Dune,” it was
deeply strange. The novel’s story of a planet that had become a desert —
replete with psychedelic drugs, mystical visions and political assassinations —
fit awkwardly with the chart-toppers of its time: “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Mary
Poppins” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Still, the dark novel gained a cult following and, eventually, millions of
devoted readers. Denis Villeneuve’s star-studded film adaptation is being
released this week, and it’s receiving not just critical acclaim but also
appreciation for the “clear contemporary relevance” of its ecological themes.
Mr. Herbert’s tale of climate change no longer seems odd. It is in many ways
the story of our time.
How did Mr. Herbert foresee our predicament? The environmentalism of “Dune” had
a source close to home. Native communities had suffered some of the worst
environmental harms in the midcentury United States, and Mr. Herbert had close
contacts among the Quileute and Hoh peoples of the Olympic Peninsula in
Washington State. Indigenous environmentalists alerted him to how much damage
industrialism had wrought. They warned him that it could become planetary in
scope, a warning that he passed on in his influential novel."
Via Rod Mesa and Diane A.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics