Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Spaceship Of The Imagination Has Reached The Rice Terraces Of Banaue

The Spaceship of the Imagination has flown over the rice terraces of Banaue in Ifugao. The fictional starship is one of the "vehicles of storytelling" often used on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, an American science documentary television series hosted by the charismatic and always-entertaining astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In an episode titled The World Set Free, Tyson explored climate change and provided evidence that our little blue planet is getting warmer because of what we have been dumping into the air. To help drive the point that we are slowly killing our planet, Tyson used the fate of our neighboring planet of Venus as an example. Venus used to have oceans but due to the massive and continuous release of carbon dioxide, surface temperature grew to levels wherein the oceans were boiled dry. Our planet Earth could possibly have the same fate if we don't cut down on the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere.

The reference to the Banaue Rice Terraces came at the end of the episode with Tyson's parting words. Our own ancestors (like those from around the world) transitioned from a nomadic lifestyle to one where they had to stay at one place. To do so, they invented agriculture. And this wouldn't have been possible have they not learned how to tap the power of the sun which we now commonly refer to as solar energy to grow their own food. Within the context of the episode, Tyson makes the suggestion that it's the turn of this generation and upcoming ones to start going back to the basics when it comes to sources of energy. It's time to explore renewable and clean sources of energy like the sun and the wind to help stop the quickening deterioration of the Earth because of global warming.

It's flattering to think that of the hundreds of peoples from around the world who transitioned from nomads to crop-growing groups, Cosmos picked to feature the Ifugaos of the Cordillera region. Here's the clip referencing the Ifugaos. For the whole episode, catch it on National Geographic or Fox.

In the event that you can't view the video above, here's a transcript of Tyson's words: "What titan built this wonder of the world? It was the Ifugao people of the Philippines working with not much more than their hands. About 10,000 years ago, our ancestors all over the world took advantage of another form of climate change. The gentler climate of the intermission of the ice age. They invented agriculture. They gave up the ceaseless wandering, hunting, and gathering that had been their way of life for a million years or so to settle down and produce food. They found a way to harvest ten to a hundred times more solar energy than the environment naturally provided for their ancestors. People all over the world made the difficult transition from nomadic cultures to agricultural ones that used solar energy efficiently. It gave rise to civilization. We stand on the shoulders of those who did the hard work that such a fundamental transformation required. Now it's our turn."

Cosmos: The Spacetime Odyssey airs on Fox and the National Geographic Channel. It's 13th and last episode, Unafraid of the Dark will air on June 8, 2014. For more information about the series, visit their official website.