A friend emails us that a story regarding how climate change could attract hostile space aliens to destroy the earth represents the moment when “we live to witness the climate catastrophists jump the shark.” In a report, a scholar with NASA’s Planetary Science Division raised the presumably somewhat remote possibility of catastrophic alien intervention in our planet’s climatological affairs. The Guardian reports:
Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth’s atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control — and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.
This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a NASA-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.
But what’s this about jumping sharks? I’d heard the idiom in the past and puzzled briefly over its meaning. Turns out, it derives from a 1977 episode of Happy Days.
The Fonz, on a trip to Los Angeles, literally jumps over a shark (a fake one) while performing a stunt on water skis. Though the TV show (a favorite of mine when I was a kid) went through another seven seasons, fans regard the episode as the moment when Happy Days began its decline, eventuating in its being canceled. Having descended to something so absurd, it could not really recover and its doom was sealed.
So now we understand the idiom. The point about the climate-change movement, it seems to me, has much to recommend it.