and it’s so insignificant!

Yesterday’s post It’s all we have showing the famous Earthrise picture taken from Apollo 8 generated a lovely follow-up.

One of the comments was from Mike Turner who wrote,

It’s all we have and it’s so insignificant!

The Pale Blue Dot

Mike included a link to an entry on WikiPedia about the tiny, small dot of light in the universe that is Earth, shown in a photograph taken by spaceship Voyager 1 from the edge of the Solar System on February 14th, 1990.  Here’s that photograph,

Planet Earth from 3,762,136,324 miles

Can you see our planet home?  Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. In a 2001 article by Space.comSTScI‘s Ray Villard and JPL‘s Jurrie Van der Woude selected this photograph as one of the top ten space science images of all time.

Carl Sagan later wrote about his deep feelings about this photograph.  That was almost 20 years ago and, as I reflected just a few days ago, human insanity still seems alive and well; it’s about time that the majority of us recognised the fragility and vulnerability of where we live.

Sagan’s words are reproduced here and should be read by every inhabitant of this planet.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. [my italics, Ed]

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.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

You may also wish to watch this video.

Thanks Mike for prompting this piece.

8 thoughts on “and it’s so insignificant!

  1. And now our bank regulators have failed completely on managing some simple risks as credit defaults are arrogantly tackling pro-cyclicality and systemic risks… what on earth can they imagine themselves to know about that.


  2. A very Good Post Paul.

    I thought I might share a Poem of mine about Earth I was inspired to write this in 1995, long before we got the weather we are experiencing today… Appologies for its length..

    I agree we need to respect… for we are along longs ways from Space hopping..

    Earth gave her body; she gave it us to share
    Her breath once sweet now pollutes the air
    Her waterways of veins once were crystal clear
    Now they hold our garbage lifeless pools and mires

    Earth gave her body; she gave it us to share
    She gave us animals for pleasure and yes for food
    Not to be hunted to extinction penned up and abused
    She gave us her Forests for shelter and for fuel
    Not for mass developments using greed for cutting tools

    Earth gave us her body; she gave it us to share
    The soil she gave for harvest of plants that now are rare
    For medicine and minerals, silver bronze and gold
    Her treasure chests of beauty, we’ve pillaged raped and sold

    Earth gave us her body; she gave it us to share
    Now her tears are falling, can’t you see her pain?
    The bombs that we are testing, fall out, Floods- the Rain.
    Wars between each Nation, like stabbings in her back
    Earthquakes——- Thunder, Lightning,
    She’s Crying with each Crack..

    “Enough” she cries “Enough”, as Planet Earth disrupts
    Her breaking heart that Bleeds, Volcanoes then Erupts
    Her breath now rages Anger, Tornadoes swirl revenge
    Beware the Human Race, Planet Earth could still avenge

    Earth gave her body she gave it us to share
    The beauty is all around us, forever standing there
    Let’s not take her for granted, for some day she will rebel
    Treat her with some kindness, our fellow man as well.

    Earth gave her body, she gives us Life
    Let’s stop all our hating, stop the greed and strife
    Earth gave us a garden, she gives us love
    Love is the only answer, we are told so from above

    Earth gave her body, Give her your respect
    For she might rebel, turn her back sooner than you’d expect
    So help her through her Torment, Heal her wounded sores,
    We can start by healing each other around her windy shores
    Love her and those upon her, take away her tears,
    Her Promise in return,
    Rebirth the “ Golden Years!”

    By Dreamwalker..


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