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Doctor Who at 50: the episode when the Doctor first went green

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The long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary on Saturday. Mark Wilson, a history PhD student at Northumbria University, draws parallels between a 1964 episode and Silent Spring, a seminal text for the environmental movement.

On September 23 2012, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring was celebrated. This book, written by American ecologist Rachel Carson, argued against the uncontrolled and indiscriminate use of pesticides. It has been described as the book that launched the modern environmental movement and the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin of environmentalism”.

In Britain, the book was published in February 1963, but was met with less enthusiasm than in the US. This was in part because Britain had less agricultural land than the US and so fewer pesticides were used, but it was also because the British government and the scientific establishment were already aware of some of the issues Carson raised, and measures were in place to deal with them.

Peter Capaldi was recently announced as the 12th Doctor on the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on November 23 2013. Before Capaldi was announced, there was speculation as to whether the Doctor would be played by a woman. And whilst all the actors to take on the character of the Doctor have been male, in 1964 a Doctor Who story echoed the work of Carson so closely, it could be said that the Doctor and Carson were the same.

The first story of the second season of Doctor Who, called Planet of Giants, aired on October 31 1964. It involved the Doctor and his companions, Susan, Ian and Barbara, landing on a planet which they immediately assumed was an alien world due to their small size in relation to everything else (they later discovered they were on Earth but that they had been shrunk).

Over the course of three episodes, the Doctor and his companions experienced attacks by giant insects, had to climb a plug hole in a sink, and became ill from touching an insecticide. Eventually they returned to their normal size and left. The sub-plot involved a government scientist who made an insecticide which killed indiscriminately. Regretting this, he tried to withdraw his findings but was murdered. The Doctor and his companions destroy the insecticide and save the day.

It is through this sub-plot that the Doctor and Carson become one. On several occasions, the language of the characters mimics that in Silent Spring. The insecticide used in Planet of Giants is called D65, similar to DDT, the main pesticide which Carson discussed. D65 was said to be deadlier than radiation.

The first chapter of Silent Spring describes a fictional town ravished by an unknown chemical (playing on the theme of radioactive fallout). Several times in Doctor Who, the insecticide is described as killing indiscriminately and one chapter in Silent Spring is called Indiscriminately from the Skies, detailing the aerial spraying of pesticides.

In Planet of Giants, on witnessing the effects of the insecticide on insects, Susan claims, “The thing that bothers me is that so many different things are dead. […] It’s all so indiscriminate.” Barbara comments that “it’s wrong to [kill] bees and worms”, to which the Doctor replies that they “are vital to the growth of things”. In the fifth chapter of Silent Spring, Carson claims how, of all the inhabitants of the soil, “none is more important than the earthworm”.

The Doctor and companions’ horror at the effects of the insecticide on living things is echoed in the descriptions Carson made about the effects of pesticides on the natural world. Both Carson and the Doctor understand how everything is connected and the science of ecosystems. In Planet of Giants, the insecticide was “everlasting”; Carson described how DDT stays in the food chain after initially absorbed and finds its way into humans.

This was the first, but not the last time that Doctor Who tackled an environmental theme. As Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary, along with the appointment of a new actor to play the Doctor, it is worth considering that even in 1964 the series was tackling contemporary issues through stories like Planet of Giants.

In Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, broadcast in August 2013, it was commented that science fiction allows people to look at human problems with a degree of distance from them. So the Doctor can deal with issues which might seem fantastical but which would also resonate with people.

Whilst in later stories (such as The Green Death) the Doctor takes a more overtly environmentalist position, it was here, through this Carsonesque story, that the Doctor first went green.

The Day of the Doctor is simulcast globally at 7:50pm on Saturday November 23.

Mark Wilson is a second year history PhD student at Northumbria University. His thesis explores environmental activism in 1950s and 1960s Britain. He has interests in history from below, environmental history, and leftwing/radical history and the history of protest movements. This article originally appeared on One Eye on the Past

Further reading:

In Doctor Who’s universe, the majority of investors would back the Master

Silent Spring is as relevant today as 50 years ago

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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