11/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Science Fiction and Reality Merge, Change Happens

If there is one consistent theme in science fiction since the true boom of the genre in the 1950s it's the prediction of the end of the world. For decades the world's demise had been graphically dramatized through alien abductions, nuclear holocausts, the sun exploding and storms of meteorites crashing into Planet Earth - but that was then. Today, the collective apocalyptic fear has more to do with climate change than invasions of little green men.

While some on the fringe still argue that global warming is science fiction not science, the heartening news is that many world leaders have agreed to put politics aside (at least for this week) and put the health of the planet first. As Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned on Tuesday: "Science leaves us no space for inaction."

Clearly, something dramatic needs to be done.

This week more than 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to begin a summit meeting on climate change. Fortunately, this critical issue has been brought to the world stage with vitally important countries like China saying that they are committed to cleaning up their own air.

And across town at the Clinton Global Initiative, experts and prominent thinkers were gathered to discuss harnessing innovation to tackle global concerns like the collapse of eco-systems, health care, clean water and education along with the safety and education of the world's women and girls. The message this week is that technological innovation, together with political commitment, can drive social change. Interestingly this is a very sci-fi theme.

Last March, in a surreal and extraordinary life imitating art experience, I had the opportunity to host a panel discussion about Battlestar Galactica at the United Nations' Economic and Social Council chamber. With Whoopi Goldberg moderating and BSG stars Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell sitting on the panel along with the show's executive producers, we were invited by the UN to discuss the social and political issues that were addressed on the show including: terrorism, reconciliation and dialogue among faiths and civilizations, human rights, and children and armed conflict.

This was the first time that the United Nations had invited a television series (albeit, a smart and provocative one) to appear in their chambers and analyze global concerns through the prism of a sci-fi show. The United Nations' representatives who contributed to the discussion spoke passionately about the work that they are doing and the work that still desperately needs to be done.

It is rare when a television series ignites passionate discourse on timely social issues.
And it was thrilling that the very real conflicts of our time, incorporated into BSG storylines, were addressed with seriousness inside a UN chamber, a chamber that ironically, with its smoking hallways and spaces, seemed a relic of the past.

So while the UN, often maligned as an anachronistic and politically charged organization, embraces climate change this week, I hope that just as hunger, poverty and human rights has attracted UN attention, the preservation of our planet also becomes a priority. Carbon emissions and melting ice caps were never a storyline on Battlestar. But if the environment becomes an issue on any other Syfy shows, I hope that the United Nations is prepared with some solutions.