The original film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, was released on September 28, 1951. It was a science fiction film that brought a strong message to Cold War-era Americans. Today, the question is, does the apocalyptic warning of The Day the Earth Stood Still hold relevance.
In the 1951 version of the film, an alien, Klaatu, comes down to Earth to warn people of catastrophic events if they do not change their ways. The setting was in the cold-war era, and the threat was nuclear fallout. The alien tells the people of Earth that they will be destroyed if they cannot keep the peace. Earth is feared as a threat to surrounding planets in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
What would actually happen if the Earth stood still? Fraser Cain, for Universe Today, wrote a report on this very subject in 2013. If the Earth stood still gravity would no longer hold people to the surface and everything would start flying at a high rate of speed. This would pose a great danger for all living beings on the planet.
After this initial danger, the next obvious problem would be that a day would last a full year. The Earth would not spin so all sides would not see the sun every 12 hours. The sun would be shining for half a year on one side while the other part of the planet would be in the dark for half a year. Life could not be sustained in this scenario.
Furthermore, there would no longer be seasons because the Earth would lose its tilt. The planet would also become a perfect sphere causing the oceans to flood most of its surface. If Earth lost its orbit, life would likely cease to exist. Fortunately, this cannot happen in real life and is not exactly what happened in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
How does this play out with the threat of a nuclear war today? Is the fallout something the citizens of Earth need to be worrying about? Does today’s society need an apocalyptic warning from an alien, like Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still, to demonstrate the relevance?
Nuclear Darkness is an organization created to warn about the dangers of a world-wide nuclear war. They have compiled information from several studies to enlighten people of the threat a war of this caliber poses to the planet. They emphasize a war between the United States and Russia being the main hazard.
Their biggest concern is the massive smoke cloud that would cover large areas of the Earth. Enormous fires and explosions would cause a cloud so immense it would cover the sky for years. This cloud could block up to 70 percent of sunlight cooling the Earth to temperatures characteristic of the last Ice Age.
The atmospheric conditions would become increasingly poor, eco-systems would start to fall apart, and food sources could not be sustained. Not to mention, there would perhaps be a severe threat of radiation poison to all surviving living beings. The conditions on Earth after a major nuclear war would arguably not be the same as if the Earth stood still, but it would likely be unlivable for most of the population. The alien, from The Day the Earth Stood Still, landed on Earth to prevent a war of this nature. Nonetheless, a scientist would perhaps argue that the threat of annihilation is real under the circumstances presented in the film.
On April 2 of this year, CNN updated their “Nuclear Nations Fast Facts” site. They reported that Russia has the most nuclear warheads at 1,643. Many of these are already placed in strategic locations. The United States has the second most with 1,642 of their warheads already deployed. Most other countries on the list do not come close to this amount, nonetheless, some still have over a hundred nuclear weapons in their possession.
According to a number of recent news reports, Iran is suspected to be developing a formidable nuclear arsenal. They are believed to have everything they need to develop nuclear weapons but claim they are only experimenting with peaceful intentions. On the other hand, CNN reports that Israel has enough plutonium to create hundreds of warheads. In the same report, readers learn that North Korea is on the list but is only suspected to have ten or more weapons currently in their possession.
“Nuclear Darkness” names the United States and Russia as the two countries with enough nuclear warheads to produce the catastrophic events. These were also the two main countries involved in the Cold War that was featured in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Last month, NPR reported that U.S. and Russian relations are at the lowest they have been since the Cold War. Their relationship problems are hindering attempts to secure and limit current weapons stockpiles. The NPR feature stated that the two countries are in disagreement over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The treaty banned the use of medium-range missiles. NPR furthermore reports that both countries are accusing each other of continuing to use these missiles.
Most works of fiction are based on some aspect of truth, writes Gregory Currie in his 1990 work titled The Nature of Fiction. Hence, the 1951 film was based on the real fear of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. The original warning from the film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, might just be as relevant in today’s society along with its potential apocalyptic fallout.
By Megan Hellmann
Philosophyguru-‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’: Movies Where Aliens Save the Earth
Universe Today-What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Turning?
Nuclear Darkness-Consequences of a Large Nuclear War
CNN-Nuclear Nations Fast Facts
NPR-Ice Cold U.S., Russia Relations Put Strain on Nuclear Agreements
Feature Photo Courtesy of Londo Mollari’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Steve Rainwater’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License