|Cherishing Our Terrestrial Home |
Sunday, April 9 2017
Many years ago, the spacecraft Voyager I was launched into the vast darkness of space and began its long, lonely journey to the very edge of our solar system.
Over a decade later, when Voyager had travelled far beyond the frozen worlds of Neptune and Pluto and was at a dizzying distance of four billion miles from home, the brilliant scientist Carl Sagan convinced NASA to have the spacecraft spin its powerful cameras around one last time, and take a picture of the Earth. It was the first time that our planet had ever been photographed from such a distance, and the image that Voyager produced was both haunting, and humbling. The Earth, from that incredible distance, appeared to be nothing more than one minuscule glittering speck amongst countless others.
From young, many of us are taught by one religion or the other that our species and our planet occupy a special place in the cosmos. With so many different schools of human thought preaching to us about how special and important we are, it can be easy to buy into the illusion that we are somehow privileged in the Universe, that we are somehow protected. All of our astounding technological advances can also often make us appear to be more powerful than we are - just take a look at how much humans have achieved in the last one hundred years alone! But from the distance that Voyager’s cosmic photograph was taken, our beloved blue-green planet, the home of all this wonder and progress, appears to be nothing more than a faint, flickering, insignificant speck floating in an endless void. It is a humbling reminder of how small and fragile we really are.
Yet, this is where we all are, and this is where we’ve always been: right here on this tiny cosmic dot. The Earth has been the only home for every human being who has ever lived and died since the beginning of time, and it is the also the only home for humans in the foreseeable future – we are a long way from being capable of colonizing another planet. Should something happen to the Earth, there is nowhere else for us to go. This planet is all that we have, it is the only home that we have ever known, and yet, we are making a mess of it.
We may have made incredible technological and scientific progress, but war and violence continue to ravage every corner of the globe. Human society is wracked with problems, and it often feel like not much at all is being done to address them. And it is not just our social structures that are cause for concern, it is also our wanton disregard for the stability of our climate.
It is an undeniable fact that the greenhouse gases that humans have been pumping into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution are radically altering our climate.
Global warming is one of the most shameful crimes of our generation as it will not only affect us during our life time, but will continue to haunt our descendants, and their descendants, as our planet spirals ever downwards into more and more climatic chaos. If unaddressed, global warming will have catastrophic effects on the habitability of our planet, and this includes having devastating effects on our food supply. It sometimes feels a bit ironic to be writing a weekly column about cooking, when all around me are signs that this abundant supply of food that we so take for granted could one day become truly scarce, and that it would be our fault.
I know that no one of us bears the responsibility of solving all of humanity’s problems, but I do believe that taking a few moments from time to time to contemplate the preciousness of our tiny, beautiful planet, can encourage us to act kinder to one another, and to treat our planetary home with a bit more respect. So this week, in this spirit of cosmic contemplation, I leave you with the powerful words of Carl Sagan as he described the image of Earth taken from Voyager: “The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life.
There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.
It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only world that we’ve ever known: the pale blue dot.”