Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Serve Man


The Kanamits are a race of nine-foot tall aliens who visit Earth to help humanity, sharing technology that erases hunger and disarms nuclear weapons.  They are even nice enough to drop-off a book at the United Nations entitled To Serve Man.  Soon enough, lovely cryptographer Patty is madly deciphering its code to learn the book’s secrets.  Meanwhile her boss, Mr. Chambers, and a group of humans decide to head with the Kanamits to their home planet which, one supposes, must be like paradise.

To Serve Man is one of the better episodes of the The Twilight Zone and first ran on a March evening in 1962.

One of the downsides to a truly global economy is that not only do products and information flow freely, but so, too, do animal and plant species.  This can lead to severe environmental problems, like the lionfish devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast, and the Asian carp steaming up the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes.

In a recent article, Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It, Elisabeth Rosenthal reports that an increasing number of “environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control the lionfish and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers.”

“Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”

After all, we’ve learned that eating "Patagonian Toothfish" is disgusting--but call it "Chilean Sea Bass" and we fall all over ourselves overfishing and overeating it. (Sweetbreads, anyone?)

In the corporate world, eating invasive species is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  The one thing voracious corporations have learned, however, is that they need to identify the species when it’s still small and relatively innocuous, just lapping at the edges of the money river.  Once institutional hunters start bagging trophy animals, then the Game Warden starts sniffing about.  That’s why a smart hunter like Google goes on a feeding schedule of one small acquisition a month.

Now, lionfish and Asian carp are one thing, but could there be a more invasive species than mankind?  And, if you thought there might be a chance we would one day escape our planet and start gumming up the galaxy, well. . .  

The day arrives for Mr. Chambers's trip to the Kanamits' planet. As he gets set to climb aboard their spacecraft, the lovely cryptographer Patty comes running toward him in great agitation, only to be stopped by a Kanamit guard.

"Mr. Chambers," Patty cries, "don't get on that ship! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it's... it's a cookbook!"

The lesson, I suppose, is to embrace your inner Kanamit.  Embrace or be embraced, as the saying goes.  And try the lionfish.  I hear it tastes like chicken.