Imagine a planet in with very little water in it. In such a world its inhabitants consider shedding tears the ultimate sign of generosity. If traveling a person must wear a special suit that recycles every ounce of liquid secreted by the human body. Dead bodies have , as burial service, a procedure that removes all their fluids and recycles them. The local fauna is composed by giant sandworms and they are the ultimate masters of the planet. Finally, imagine that this planet contains one of the most essential substances in the universe. This compound promotes longevity, is pivotal for space traveling and for the proper functioning of society and its components. The product is the very glue that connects an all powerful encompassing human empire that extends throughout the galaxy.
This planet is the work of Frank Herbert. Arakis (also known as Dune) is a giant deserted planet and it is populated by fierce warrior-like tribes called Fremen. The potent substance, only found in Arakis, is the highly additive Spice Melange. The human empire expands to all know universe and is governed by powerful fiefdoms (or Houses) and an emperor. Besides these fiefdoms, several other organizations rule the empire behind the curtains and fight for ultimate hegemony over the others. Frank Herbert’s Dune series is a must-read masterpiece of the Science Fiction genre who was adapted for TV and Cinema.
With all these elements it is very difficult to read Dune and not find similarities with our own situation in the Middle East. Our Spice Melange is the Petroleum. Our society is addicted to it. Oil is used to fuel our vehicles, heat our homes and manufacture essential plastics. Without it much of what we consider granted today would certainly disappear. To add complexity, the region (more specific Jerusalem) is important for the three major religions of the planet. Without belittling religious aspect of Middle East, it is the oil that makes most of the headlines and fuels the disputes we see today.
To bring long standing peace in the Middle East and finding a suitable replacement for Petroleum is essential for the long term survival of our species and our planet. Again, Frank Herbert’s message on Dune is the perfect parallel to our society: The serious and tragic conflicts in the Middle East can only be solved by our willingness to address them, by abandoning our hatred, by embracing change and peace, by questioning as opposed to following blindly and, finally, by employing our intelligence to develop technology that replaces Petroleum in our lives. Or, in the worlds of the famous Carl Sagan:
“...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”