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Terra Deforming
"That's the problem with nature. Something's always stinging you or oozing mucus on you. Let's go watch TV."
Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

People who try Terra Deforming see any area that is not housing humans, catering to humans, or creating resources for humans as wasted and views any effort to convert it into a human-usable space as a good cause. These changes often take place, or are predicted to take place, Twenty Minutes into the Future. Because Science Marches On, these ideas have devolved into Zeerust and lead to the almost inevitable unfortunate implication that Humans Are the Real Monsters.

This is rarely shown as positive, even in cases where having humans leave Earth's environment behind gives it a chance to recover.

If taken to its extreme, can lead to a "City Planet", one of the categories under Single-Biome Planet.

In modern science fiction, evil cultures are sometimes shown adopting this view (providing an opportunity for a Strawman Political), or else human society adopted it long ago and later suffered the consequences; either way, it's an opportunity for a Green Aesop.

Compare Horde of Alien Locusts, in which the troublemakers are not Homo sapiens.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga  

  • In episode 6 of Kimba the White Lion, Kimba visits the World's Fair and sees, among other things, plans to melt the frozen polar regions so the space will be habitable.
  • Part of the Backstory of Patlabor is the Babylon Project, a massive public works project intended to fill in Tokyo Bay to alleviate overpopulation. This is not portrayed as evil, just a fact of life, though there are numerous protest groups against it, including some eco-terrorists.

     Comics  

  • A silver age Superman comic shows the Fortress of Solitude surrounded by buildings, because future humans have intentionally melted the polar ice caps in order to colonize the Arctic. Superman is upset by this, not because of the catastrophic effect on the environment, but because he doesn't have privacy anymore.

     Film  

  • This is basically the policy of the government in Silent Running, in which the last remaining forests are housed in satellites orbiting Earth. This of course annoys the Conservationist hero no end, resulting in the film's Green Aesop.
  • In Star Wars, the capital planet of Coruscant is one large city.
  • The Genesis Device from Star Trek II and Star Trek III probably counts. It is an awesome weapon made of doomed phlebotinum (and you often get a large side order of Nemesis with your terraforming) ... but also, the environments that it makes tend to collapse.
    • In the Federation's defence, the Genesis Device wasn't intended as a weapon. They also planned to use it one lifeless worlds, limiting the moral problems. In the novelisation, it's explained that Reliant was searching not just for lifeless worlds but worlds which were projected to NEVER be able to develop life on their own - even the faintest traces of amino acids would rule a world unsuitable for being remade this way.

     Literature  

  • Asimov's Foundation series depicts the one-city planet of Trantor.
    • For those who haven't read this series, Star Wars's Coruscant was inspired by Trantor.
  • In the original Magnus Robot Fighter comic, North Am was a city that covered most of the North American continent.
  • Phule's Errand (part of the Phule's Company series) introduces the planet Ron'n'art which is totally roofed over, up to a mile from the surface. Making it an extreme example of a Planet City. Ron'n'art is noted as having a richly deserved reputation for decadence, corruption, and paralysis of every agency. If it weren't for the robots and automated systems, nothing would get done and everyone would starve.
  • In The Tripods series, The Masters, alien overlords of earth, have "laid waste" to lands too far away from their three cities, located in Asia, Europe and one of the Americas. They also plan to replace Earth's atmosphere with their poisonous alien one.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy, this is a large part of the conflict between the Greens and the Reds, the latter of whom believe Mars should stay pristine and lightly-settled. Note that one of the original reasons for this was in order to determine whether or not there was any life on Mars before the colonization.
  • The novella "The Word For World is Forest" by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • Would it surprise you to find that this trope is a heroic virtue in Atlas Shrugged? From Dagny Taggert:
    "But think how often we've heard people complain that billboards ruin the appearance of the countryside. Well, there's the unruined countryside for them to admire." She added, "They're the people I hate."
Later she looks at a waterfall near her wilderness cabin retreat and thinks that it should be turned into a hydroelectric plant.
  • Then there's the scene at the start of The Fountainhead where Roarke, the architect hero, looks out over a landscape and fantasizes about turning the trees and rocks into construction materials.
  • The Eighth Men in Last and First Men are a technologically adept but spiritually arid Human Subspecies. They live on a terraformed Venus which they turned into "an engineer's paradise [...] Every inch of land served some industrial or agricultural end".

     Live Action TV  

  • In one episode of Space: 1999 the Alphans make contact with Earth, where it's a couple of centuries later due to Relativity or something, and the entire population lives in domed cities because the outside environment is toxic. That exact phrase "Who needs nature" has become something of a Catch Phrase, and you get the sense that nobody on Earth is too bothered about the loss of the ecosystem. For that matter, the writers don't seem too bothered either, making it something of an evaded aesop.
  • In the last episode of Dinosaurs, Earl ends up destroying all plant life on the planet to get rid of these vines that were growing everywhere as a result of the bugs that would normally eat them having gone extinct (Wesayso built a wax fruit factory on their breeding grounds, thus killing all the bugs).
  • In Northern Exposure, Maurice Minnifield sees Alaska as just a huge opportunity for business.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's mentioned that plans are underway on Earth to raise a new continent from the Atlantic seabed, presumably to provide more living space for people. No mention is made of how this might affect global hydrodynamics and climate, or what marine life might be wiped out in the process. This was never, ever mentioned again afterwards, however; perhaps someone, in-universe or otherwise, realised the potential for unintended consequences and vetoed it?

     Music  

     Tabletop Games  
  • Space 1889 progress-minded Europeans see areas not used for some sort of direct benefit for humans as wasted. In 1889 wilderness conservation is barely in its infancy.

     Video Games  

  • Sly 2: Band Of Thieves villain Jean Bison lived this trope. Having become a Human Popsicle during the Canadian Gold Rush and later thawed out due to Global Warming, his mindset is that of a nineteenth century golddigger, consequently wanting to dam every river and cut down every tree for...humanity to use.

     Truth In Television  

  • When Europeans began exploring tropical Africa, they found that the Africans only cultivated small portions of the land. The Europeans seized all the "unused" land for farmland. Turns out that, because rainforest soil is so poor, it is necessary to leave it fallow most of the time. When the Europeans tried to farm all of it, it quickly depleted and could grow nothing.
  • The Ford Motor Company wanted to control every aspect of their car manufacturing. So they bought some property in Brazil in the late 1920s and set up a rubber plantation. They didn't bother to bring any experts in farming and rainforests and it was a major failure. It was called Fordlandia.
  • In Soviet Russia, of course, Nature does not need YOU.
  • Easter Island.
  • Australia—most of the coastal land was covered in forest before European colonists decided it clashed with the wallpaper. This has backfired somewhat, since ecodamage is now causing desertification and thus reducing the amount of usable land available. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a million farmers cursing the fool who thought introducing rabbits was a good idea.
  • Angkor, an ancient city that was at least the size of modern-day Los Angeles County.
  • The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was caused by excessive agricultural development on the North American prairies. Post-World War One wheat prices were very high so many farmers added more land to their farms and plowed it. In some areas land cultivation almost tripled between 1925 and 1930. This removed the grasses that kept the soil in place and preserved moisture in the soil. When a drought period started in the 1930s all the dried-up unprotected soil was picked up by the winds and blown away causing massive dust storms. In many regions, over 75% of the topsoil was blown away by the end of the 1930s. Combined with the Great Depression this caused enormous poverty in the region and by 1940 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states to escape it.


Tears from a StoneThe Ground Beneath Our FeetTerrain Sculpting
Terminator TwosomeSpeculative Fiction TropesTerraform
Tentacle RopeJust for PunThanatos Gambit

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