by Dave Levitan, via OnEarth
The Avengers is now playing at a theater … well … everywhere, featuring the most impressive array of superheroes on one screen that anyone’s ever seen (sorry X-Men). And it got us thinking: superheroes seem to spend a lot of time fighting off environmental catastrophe brought on by the schemes of their archnemeses. We thought the bad guys wanted to rule the world, not just pollute it. (Anyone know if the Heartland Insitute is funded by Doctor Doom? Because it might explain this.) We looked back at some of the biggest comic book movies of recent years to find out which super villains have been plotting environmental disaster. And we probably don’t need to say this, but… SPOILER ALERT.
Supervillain: Scarecrow, Batman Begins
Evil plot: With the backing of the shadowy Ra’s Al Ghul, this twisted psychiatrist/psychopath wants to dilute Gotham’s water supply with a toxin from a rare blue flower that will cause mass hallucinations, panic, and the ultimate destruction of the city.
Did the superhero thwart it?: Yes. He’s Batman.
Could it happen?: Toxins in the water? Of course! Take California, where unsound practices have led to groundwater pollution from nitrates and other substances. And of course there’s the ongoing risk that fracking for natural gas or building tar sands pipelines will contaminate rivers and streams that provide drinking water for millions.
Preventive measures: Reduce fertilizer and pesticide use in agriculture (and on our lawns), provide stronger oversight of oil and gas drilling and transportation, ban imports of rare blue hallucinogenic flower.
Supervillain: Lex Luthor, Superman Returns
Evil plot: Luthor wants to use a Kryptonian crystal to spawn a brand-new continent in the Atlantic Ocean, causing seas to rise dramatically around the world and kill billions of people.
Did the superhero thwart it?: Yes. Although pretty lamely — hence the coming franchise reboot.
Could it happen?: It’s already happening! Fine, we don’t have new landmasses growing out of nothing, but we do have rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rapidly warming temperatures, and soon enough, very rapidly rising seas. Estimates vary, but six feet of global sea level rise by 2100 is well within the range of possibility.
Preventive measures: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and do it yesterday.
Supervillain: Magneto, X-Men, X2, etc.
Evil plot: Humans don’t like mutants? Fine, then Magneto will turn humans into mutants (using a machine powered by Anna Paquin perched atop the Statue of Liberty — don’t ask). Talk about your genetically modified organisms! In the second installment, he skips a step and goes straight to trying to kill every human on the planet. For once, we’re the endangered species! We can just imagine the polar bears thinking: see how you like it, bub.
Did the superheroes thwart it?: Yes. C’mon. Seriously.
Could it happen?: Monsanto … Magneto? Nah, just kidding.
Preventive measures: Don’t piss off endangered species: protect and save them, and maybe they won’t turn against us.
Supervillain: Dr. Octopus, Spiderman 2
Evil plot: Doc Ock just wants to build a stable and sustained nuclear fusion reaction, that’s all. No big deal. Of course, such a thing actually existing would go a long way toward solving the world’s energy problems, but, well, we guess fusion is restricted to the inside of the sun for a reason.
Did the superhero thwart it?: Yes. Are we still doing this?
Could it happen?: Claims of cold, usable nuclear fusion have come and gone several times. Some think we could get there eventually, but don’t bet on it. And more traditional nuclear power, which involves fission rather than fusion, has its share of problems, too, from the risks laid bare at Fukushima to the ongoing issue of where to store nuclear waste.
Preventive measures: Avoid hyper-intelligent robotic arms, focus efforts on renewable energy, don’t attempt nuclear fusion reaction IN THE MIDDLE OF NEW YORK, genius.
Supervillain: Gargamel, Smurfs