Geeks for Good

I have three Star Trek uniforms hanging in my closet (Original, Voyager and Reboot). I’ve made room for them in my tiny London flat alongside my custom-made Star Wars cos-play, my beautifully crafted replica sword and growing graphic novel collection.  Close to the top of my bucket list is to join the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras.

Yes, today I’m proud to announce that my geekiness is deep, longstanding and incurable.

But it’s not what most people know about me. Until now, only a select few suspected my nerdish tendencies. Publically, I’m an expert of another flavor. I’m known as an environmental ‘thought leader’, and an advisor to governments and business on sustainability. I’m part of United Nations Working Groups, confidante to CEO’s, and regular media pundit. But when I make impassioned speeches about climate change, few realize that I’m secretly wearing Superman socks.

I come out of the comic-closet for a reason. Because it’s time to call on my people.

If your bookshelves are full of Austen but your Kindle full of Asimov. If you’ve ever cringed when understanding the references in Big Bang Theory a little too well. If you still smart at the cancellation of Firefly. Then I need you.

The geeks may inherit the earth, but we’re going to need something left to inherit. Right now a huge climate conference is running in Paris. This monumental Climate Convention will set humanity’s global carbon goals.  If you’re even mildly interested in the future, you should be obsessing about it’s success.

Especially us geeks. We are a huge and diverse community of every political orientation. But we accept climate science, are pro-renewables and into clean tech. Of course we are. Almost everything we’ve read in science fiction predicts humanity will live in a post-fossil-fuel economy. It’s all warp drives, ion engines, tyllium reactors and hypermatter fusion. The Starship Enterprise doesn’t run on petrol and the Millennium Falcon doesn’t have a coal chute.


Even if you aren’t a science fiction fan you’ll recognize this phenomenon. When imagining the far future authors usually assume humanity will have passed through an energy revolution where we shake off fossil fuels and latch onto something higher tech. Once in that future we do battle with aliens or make love to blue-skinned beauties. But our jet packs, hover cars, space-docks and battle cruisers have one thing in common – they are all post-carbon.

But that future isn’t guaranteed. Another much darker theme also runs through much of modern sci-fi. The apocalyptic visions of Hunger Games and Mad Max offer a picture of our world ravaged by environmental and social breakdown. Those misery-visions may make compelling fiction – but they would suck to live in.

So we geeks need to make a choice. Watch or act? Glory in stories about saving the world or actually get involved? If we did, imagine the difference we could make. We have the numbers; across every demographic and growing apace amongst the young. Over 45 million sales of young adult science fiction and fantasy books has turned the publishing world on its head. Last year science fiction & fantasy movies were 20% of entire cinematic market share. Everybody watches Game of Thrones.

We’ve always had influence, especially on science. According to the Smithsonian the inventors of the submarine, helicopter and first liquid-fuelled rocket were all inspired by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Martin Cooper, the director of R&D at Motorola, credited the Star Trek communicator as his muse for the design of the first mobile phone.

I love these stories and eagerly anticipate the next sci-fi based breakthrough. But actually using sci-fi for proper science is only an option for trained engineers. For those of us with a passionate – but non-professional – science fiction interest, what role for us in changing the world?

COP21 is a convention – and we know conventions. From the massive Comic Con in San Diego to thousands of smaller meet-ups around the world we adore events. These obsessive soups of superheroes, dragons, X-wings, steam-punk, anime and all the weird and wonderful rest are home for us. If we could take one smidgeon of the energy that we dedicate to our Comic-con cos-plays and transfer that to climate change. We’d have this thing solved.

Climate-Con is happening now and I’m heading over to Paris on Friday. There might be fewer costumes than at Comic-Con, but we geeks know how these events should work:

Buy the ‘merch’ – the merchandise for climate action is green energy. Renewables are your own personal touch of sci-fi now available at home. And a green-energy tariff costs a lot less than that mint condition in-box Tardis. Just like Comic-Con, Climate-Con runs on the merch. If we transition to renewable energy we get Star Trek, if we stay with fossil fuels we get Mad Max. Switching to a green energy tariff for your home, or upgrading to solar or biomass, is the best way to show your colors for Climate-Con.

Own the internet – geeks know how to make things trend, so let’s be loud this Climate-Con. Our sheer numbers could make a difference to existing online campaigns like @ClimateReality and – or perhaps start our own #GeeksforGreen campaign?

Fan-follow – support the heroes of climate action. We’re amazing fans and can make our favorites become superstars. I fan-girl on Cristiana Figurers, the feisty, tiny and witty chief negotiator for the United Nations on climate change. Follow, like and re-post her messages @CFigueres.

That may be enough for Climate-Con, but fighting climate change can become a lifelong passion, equally engrossing and complementary to sci-fi. We just need to decide if we’re ready to start acting like the heroes we already dress up as.

Let’s stop just reading about the future and begin building it.

Make it so.

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