Several years ago, I wrote a piece for entertainment site io9 arguing that Star Trek needed to do more to tackle climate change. The franchise, I contended, has always had its finger on the pulse of the most pressing social and scientific issues of the moment, whether that's nuclear war, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering or gender identity. Certainly, it could carve out space for some episodes reflecting on the biggest, wickedest crisis of the 21st century — one that intersects with everything from science to politics to racial and economic justice?
That call to action recently led me to have to a fascinating conversation with University of Washington astrobiologist Michael Wong, the host of Strange New Worlds: A Science and Star Trek Podcast. In an 80-minute interview, Wong and I discussed the bizarre absence of 21st-century climate change from the Star Trek canon and why that might be. We then took a deep dive into three episodes with strong climate and environmental themes — Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Force of Nature", Star Trek Voyager's "Thirty Days", and Star Trek IV: The Voyager Home — before brainstorming how we'd like to see Star Trek's new series take on various dimensions of the climate problem. We pondered episodes revolving around climate justice, an arc featuring a new kind of di-lithium war, and a prime directive-challenging choice about geo-engineering.
I have to say, this is one of my absolute favorite podcast interviews I've ever done. Wong asked insightful questions, had incredible ideas for how the franchise could explore climate change from different angles, and knows his Star Trek canon inside and out. Listen to the entire episode below, and after you do that, go subscribe to Strange New Worlds wherever you get your podcasts.