Threats to Public Land in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Outside of ecology and conservation, one of the things that I am really into is Star Wars. A few months ago, Rogue One, the first anthology film in the Star Wars universe was released. This was preceded by a tie-in novel, Catalyst, that is a prequel to the the movie. The events in the book take place from the somewhere before the events portrayed in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith to immediately prior to the events of the 2016 Star Wars Anthology film Rogue One.

Note: spoilers for both the book and the movie follow, so proceed at your own risk.

As even the most casual fan of Star Wars knows, the Death Star is the size of a "small moon". A space station of this size would have to take an amazing amount of raw materials to build. I often wondered about the resources it would take to build such a station, not to mention the all the other ships of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

The Catalyst novel covers some of the exploitation of these resources during the two decades before the Battle of Yavin. As the Death Star is the the signature of the Empire, they are in a ruthless in its pursuit of the incredible amount of natural resources. While many planets were open to resource extraction, they also introduced the concept of a "Legacy World"--a term for planets that were environmentally-protected and legally exempted from exploitation. Limited industrial presences on this world were regulated so to be low-impact. The Empire finds ways to override environmental protections on these Legacy Worlds. When the Empire cannot simply claim these protected resources for themselves, they trump up falsehoods as justification for annexing resource-rich planets and taking what they need. In the end many planets are devastated by the Death Star project.

While reading this book, I could help to see the parallels between story and current efforts by some facets of Federal and state governments, corporations, and other parties to reduce or eliminate environmental protections on publicly owned land in the US, largely in the name of economic development. While it was a little stressful to read a book for entertainment that so strongly reminded me of work, it was good to see this issue covered in (semi-)popular media. So much for escapism though...