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In Hollywood, the early months of the year are considered “dump months” – the time to release films that didn’t pan out as expected. The best films are saved for the summer and the holiday season, when they’ll attract bigger crowds and be fresh in critics’ and audiences’ minds ahead of all the big awards ceremonies.

But despite the March 1 release date of “Dune: Part Two,” few viewers are going to forget Denis Villeneuve’s visually stunning sci-fi epic when next year’s Oscars roll around. Based on Frank Herbert’s novel, the film tells the story of a desert planet valued for its “spice” – and the battles waged among various families for control of this prized commodity.

But few viewers and readers probably know about the inspiration for the work: Herbert’s realization that Earth’s fragile ecosystem was facing a reckoning.

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences English professor Devin Griffiths takes readers to the real places that inspired Herbert’s masterpiece, from the rolling sand dunes of the Pacific Northwest to the little islands off the coast of Peru coated with nutrient-rich bird droppings called guano.

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Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

Oregon’s Umpqua Dunes inspired the desert planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune.’ VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

How ‘Dune’ became a beacon for the fledgling environmental movement − and a rallying cry for the new science of ecology

Devin Griffiths, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

When Frank Herbert sat down in 1963 to start writing ‘Dune,’ he wasn’t thinking about how to leave Earth behind. He was thinking about how to save it.

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