Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The new extraterrestial Earth Day photo

Legend says it was the image the launched the modern environmental movement -- moving groups beyond just saving pieces of land, and merging into one loosely affiliated mass working toward a global change.

Dubbed "Earthrise," the photo of the planet Earth bubbling up above the curved surface of the Moon was taken by NASA astronaut William Anders in 1968, aboard Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon, in preparation for the first lunar landing, by Apollo 11.

Renowned landscape photographer Galen Rowell called it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken." Because for the first time, it encapsulated the State of the Earth: A small, single fragile oasis in an apparently otherwise barren solar system -- offering viewers that "Spaceship Earth" realization moment. And it's the power of its simple, clear messaging that is credited with waking a lot of people to that reality: This is It. This is all we have to work with. Let's not fuck it up. 



The first Earth Day soon followed: April 22, 1970.

Well, more than 50 Earth Days later, I'd like to nominate another "Spaceship Earth"-reminding image to motivate us all. This one from another planet:


I think that as much as our leaving our own planet to step on another astral body redirected our collective consciousness toward a more planet-as-a-whole perspective -- as it damn well should have -- the recent unmanned landing, exploring, and discoveries on Mars by the Curiosity probe should deliver a tectonic shift of even greater proportions.

Ancient Martian river system
Because, to put it into a simple, clear message: That photo above is of a planet that once -- and not too long ago geologically -- was covered in oceans and rivers. And, it's not unlikely, also with life.


Colorado River system

Spaceship Mars, it would appear, is one of the fleet of Spaceship Planets that is no longer functioning.

There's a lesson here. Two, actually, I think:

First, is just a reminder of the fragility of Spaceship Earth. No only does it look fragile in "Earthrise," Mars reminds us that, yes, planets really can and do dry up and turn to sand.

We don't know what led Mars to its barren present state -- but whether it was the folly of some ancient alien race, or the random fate of an asteroid strike, or just some other otherwise natural turn of celestial events doesn't matter. The message here is, our Spaceship Earth truly is a gift beyond what we even fathomed before -- and the consequences very real and tangible now.

Let's really not fuck it up.

Second, we must also look ahead. A complementary mission to our working together to preserve the health of Earth as it is should be to combine our efforts to figure how we can spread humanity to other spaceship planets ...

Because another thing this newly revealed ancient history of our planetary neighbor also says is, maybe this one spaceship isn't all we have to work with, after all.

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