Kicking The Addiction To Fossil Fuels

Recently, when President Obama was asked about the Top Kill Project, the plan to plug the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, he declared, “If it’s successful, and there are no guarantees, it should greatly reduce or eliminate the flow of oil streaming into the Gulf from the sea floor, but if it’s not, there are other approaches that may be viable.” Never-the-less, this situation has focused attention on the necessity for seeking alternative fuel sources even though it will cause a great deal of pain from the costly changes in lifestyle required to kick the dependence on oil.

One way to resolve the global reliance on fossil fuels was suggested in a popular 1951 novel by British writer John Wyndhum who was relatively unknown until The Day Of The Triffids catapulted him from literary obscurity and established him as a major fiction writer. The public saw the book as a science fiction post apocalyptic satire about cultural dependence on the products of the industrial revolution while others contended it to be a play about how karma unfolds for those who did not open there eyes to see what was approaching.

The Triffids, a fictional creation of Wyndhum are described as large venomous plants genetically manipulated by industry controlled farms as a substitute for petroleum. “They can communicate through sound and have three feet which allows them mobility with poisonous tentacles that kill their prey and consume its flesh.”

The pivotal event that occurs is a dazzling display of lights in the sky from a passing comet that destroys the optic nerve and renders anyone who views them blind. Only a few on the planet are unaffected as the horrific consequences lead to the escape and proliferation of the triffids that seek humans as a source of food and display a remarkable ability for enhancing their intelligence with each successive generation by sharpening their predatory nature as ruthless hunters.

The first film adaption of the novel was in 1963 and starred Howard Keel, most known as the lead actor in a long string of MGM musicals of the 1950’s including Showboat and Kiss Me Kate, and who went on to television notoriety playing the second husband of Miss Ellie, matriarch of the Ewing clan on Dallas. This version was considered more of a horror movie that brought the triffid spores to Earth from the meteor shower much like the pods in The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956). “Triffids are portrayed as aliens, and come from outer space, depicted as carnivorous monsters, evil in nature.” But few elements of the  original novel were in the script which had a happy ending when it was discovered that seawater turned the triffids into mush. The salvation of the human race presented in narrative form is similar to the microbes that miraculously ended The martian invasion in The War Of The Worlds (1953).

In December 2009 the BBC aired a made for TV miniseries which was never shown in the United States. This production  is  much more faithful to the 1951 book. It lays responsibility for the creation of the triffids on scientists and oil companies too quick to hail the discovery of triffid oil as the silver bullet to the crisis while doing nothing to change consumer consciousness except by transferring the dependence from fossil fuel to triffid oil, also regulated by the oil industry.

In this version as in the original novel, the plants did not come from outer space, nor are they monsters, but rather a species that comply  with the same biology that bacteria and virus’s have   evolved based on the scientific principle of adaptation. All this as a blind human race succumbs to the cattle call of their triffid predators reminiscent of the morlocks in H. G. Wells, The Time Machine.

The 2009 made for TV film stars two members of the Redgrave family, Jolie Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave in a small but pivotal role as a mother superior who claims to hear the word of God and delivers blind people to the triffids as a human sacrifice to prevent the carnivores from overrunning the abbey she heads. Redgrave, considered by many as the foremost English speaking actress of the twentieth century is also well known for her controversial political and social activism which plays well in this role.

The breakdown of society, its moral foundations and the lines of good and evil are drawn differently in this intelligent production, with superb action and special effects, although the climax does not end as happily as it did for the 1961 film. The population of the planet is consumed and only a small community of sighted people survive on the Isle of White as reality deals a blow to those blinded by the consequences of corporate greed , cultural addiction and disregard for ecological balance.