Tag: Frank Borman

Setting the scene

I have a post coming out in 21.5 hours time and rather have you all wondering why nothing came out today, here’s an image that will make sense when that post comes out.

“Earthrise” photograph taken on December 24, 1968 by William Anders, NASA

From the NASA website:

Earthrise at Christmas

Thirty-five years ago this Christmas, a turbulent world looked to the heavens for a unique view of our home planet. This photo of “Earthrise” over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.

Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders had become the first humans to leave Earth orbit, entering lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. In a historic live broadcast that night, the crew took turns reading from the Book of Genesis, closing with a holiday wish from Commander Borman: “We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”

Regarded as one of the 100 photographs that changed the world, the late adventure photographer Galen Rowell called it “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” Captured on Christmas Eve, 1968, near the end of one of the most tumultuous years the U.S. had ever known, the Earthrise photograph inspired contemplation of our fragile existence and our place in the cosmos. For years, Frank Borman and Bill Anders of the Apollo 8 mission each thought that he was the one who took the picture. An investigation of two rolls of film seemed to prove Borman had taken an earlier, black-and-white frame, and the iconic color photograph, which later graced a U.S. postage stamp and several book covers, was by Anders.  Reference from here.

Home, sweet home!

The only one we have, Earth Day or not!

Earthrise.

It was called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” Rightly so!

Those words were spoken by the late Galen Rowell, the famous Californian wilderness photographer, commenting about the Earthrise photograph taken from Apollo 8 on December 24th, 1968 during the first manned mission to the Moon.

No one who saw that picture of the planet we all live on could fail to be moved. Indeed, none more so than onboard NASA astronaut Frank Borman who uttered the words as the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” It was fellow Apollo 8 crew-member, Bill Anders, who then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.

Who hasn’t gazed into a night sky and been lost in the beauty above our heads. Or felt the wind, flowing across our ancient lands, kiss our face. We stand so mite-like, so insignificant in all this immensity of creation. Our planet is ‘pretty’. Indeed, Planet Earth is good, beautiful, and so precious to life. Life that arose in just a fraction of time after our Solar System formed 3.7 billion years ago; the oldest traces of life have been found in fossils dating back 3.4 billion years. Our miracle of life.

But the one thing we cannot do is to take that miracle of life for granted. Here’s a perspective on that. Just a couple of months after that famous Earthrise photograph, in February 1969, America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded the level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere as 324.42 parts per million (PPM).

From 43 years ago we fast forward to February of 2012. NOAA now recorded that CO2 level as 393.65 PPM, some 21% higher than the 1969 level, but even more importantly over 12% higher than the figure of 350 PPM which is regarded by climate scientists as the maximum safe level for our Planet. And the trend upwards is steepening. Not just for CO2 but also for Methane and Nitrous Oxide which have the potential to be incredibly more damaging to our beautiful planet than CO2.

Across the face of the world people are waking up to the fact that something has to be done. While some Governments and many industries are providing great leadership, the complexities of these modern institutions means that progress is slow; far too slow. People are now taking action for themselves and for their communities.

The most notable group is the worldwide Transition Movement. It started in the UK in September 2006, indeed started in the town of Totnes, Devon, just three miles from where I used to live.

Less than 6 years later across the world there are 975 initiatives!  Including nearly 500 Transition Communities in Europe and 392 in the UK.

In the USA, there are a staggering 285 initiatives with 26 in California and three here in Arizona: Tucson, Pima and and East Valley in Phoenix ‘mulling’ it over. The ideas behind the Transition concept are powerfully simple and can be easily summarised thus:

  • That it is inevitable that our lives will soon have to adapt to a dramatically lower energy consumption, especially carbon-based energy, and that it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
  • That the over-whelming majority of communities, currently lacks resilience.
  • That we have to act now to rebuild our community resilience and prepare for life without fossil fuels.
  • That by tapping into the collective potential of the community, it is possible to develop new ways of living that are nourishing, fulfilling and ecologically sustainable.

Reduce our energy use, increase our resilience, switch away from carbon-based fuels and go back to the strength of communities.  No mystery about what to do!

We do not have another 43 years.  Indeed, some say we are very close to the tipping point of runaway climate consequences.

My message for this Earth Day and, indeed, for every day of the rest of our lives.

Ecology and faith

The National Preach-In held the week-end of February 11th/12th.

Some while ago, I signed up for a week-end organised by the Arizona Interfaith Power & Light.  It was part of a national programme inviting faith leaders from across the country to give sermons and reflections on climate change over the weekend of February 10-12, 2012.  My interest was simply to learn more about the week-end.

Then I quickly discovered that Father Dan from our church, St. Paul’s, had also signed up.  In my innocence I offered to help in any way which was quickly met by a response that bowled me over, “Well, you can be the homilist and give the sermon!”  Thus it came about that at yesterday’s 8am and 10am services yours truly rather uncertainly delivered the sermon.  John H., who with my dear wife Jeannie, did so much to turn my rambling thoughts into a coherent theme, encouraged me to publish the sermon as today’s Post on Learning from Dogs.  It now follows.

oooOOOooo

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, Arizona

The 6th Sunday after the Epiphany

Year B

February 12th, 2012

2 Kings 5:1-14 X Psalm 30 1:13 X 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 X Mark 1:40-45

It was just a photograph. OK, one taken 43 years ago but, so what! Well, the late Galen Rowell, the famous Californian wilderness photographer called it, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

We are talking about the photograph called ‘Earthrise’ taken from Apollo 8 on December 24th, 1968 during the first manned mission to the Moon. Each of you should have a copy of that picture close by. Look at it now and let your imagination be carried back to that Apollo 8 capsule and that momentous experience.

As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.

Then recall that evening, Christmas Eve 1968, when the three NASA crew members took turns reading from the book of Genesis to what was probably the biggest audience ever in the history of television, Frank Borman finishing with the words, “God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

Our planet is good, and so beautiful, and so precious to life. Life that arose in just a fraction of time after the Solar System formed 3.7 billion years ago; the oldest traces of life have been found in fossils dating back 3.4 billion years. That miracle of life.

Who hasn’t gazed into a clear, Arizonan, night sky and been lost in the beauty above our heads. Or felt the wind, flowing across ancient lands, kiss our face. We stand so mite-like, so insignificant in all this immensity of creation; God’s creation.

Our dreams, our hopes and failures, everything we are, have ever been and ever will be, nothing more than a swirl of dust across a desert track.

Jeremiah was called to be a prophet in 626 BC, some 2,638 years ago. In Jeremiah 12:4 he wrote, “How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it, the animals and the birds are swept away…

Words from so long ago! But Jeremiah would, surely, have gasped with disbelief had he realised how, some 2,600 years later, ‘the land now mourns and the grasses so wither’.

Jeremiah reveals much that we all could learn about ourselves. The other prophets couldn’t be accused of hiding behind their work but Jeremiah, out of all of them, allowed us to see the evidence of his own spiritual condition. He was a man of deep feelings and sensibilities and in his book there are five laments over the serious spiritual and moral condition of God’s people. That’s us, by the way!

In that time of Jeremiah, the world population was 100 million persons; slightly less than the population of Mexico today.

Some 1,350 years later, 1,000 A.D., the global population was 265 million.

But by the year 2,000 A.D., our population had increased to 6,000 millions! Put another way, that’s an increase of 5.7 million people every year for a 1,000 years !

Any guesses on the increase in the last 12 years, since 2,000? Well, the global population has increased by 990 million. About 90 million every year!

It is utterly unsustainable at present levels of Western consumption, let alone with poorer nations trying to ‘catch up’.

Last September, our House of Bishops issued A Pastoral Teaching. Our Bishops believe those ancient words of Jeremiah describe these present times. They call us to repentance, to change.

That Pastoral Teaching, in part, says, “Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God’s creation.

Our bishops refer to The Anglican Communion Environmental Network that calls to mind the dire consequences that our environment faces, again I quote: “We know that we are now demanding more than the earth is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know: our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too. We are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.

Let those words enter our souls: “If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.” Planet Earth mirrors our souls! Nothing new about that. In 1975, Berkeley physicist Fritjof Capra wrote in his book The Tao of Physics, “we can never speak of nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves”.

Fr. Dan reflected in his January 22nd sermon on the questions, “Am I really free? Can I really change?” ….. and continued with the words from Jesus, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near, Repent.” Fr. Dan reminded us that the word ‘repent’ indicates that we can change. We can change, we must, and we will.

Otherwise we will learn the truth of that Cree prophecy, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

OK, from out of the mouths of North American Braves to out of the mouths of English babes.

The ‘eat money’ phrase reminds me of a story I heard years ago, back in England. You need to imagine a dilapidated, rural Anglican church with a dwindling congregation. A young boy was given a five pound note to put in the collection plate. When the offering came around, he didn’t put it in. However, after the end of the service, he went up to the vicar, shook his hand and gave him the five pound note. The vicar asked him, “Why are you giving me this money? Why didn’t you put it in the collection plate?”

The young boy answered, “Because my Mummy told me you’re the poorest vicar we’ve ever had!”

Let me stay in Britain. Martin Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist and has been Britain’s Astronomer Royal since 1995.

Sir Martin Rees, indeed Lord Rees as he is now, has been Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004 and was President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.

In a presentation in 2005, he said this, “We can trace things back to the earlier stages of the Big Bang, but we still don’t know what banged and why it banged.

Lord Rees continued, “But the unfinished business for 21st-century science is to link together cosmos and micro-world with a unified theory. And until we have that synthesis, we won’t be able to understand the very beginning of our universe. You want to not only synthesise the very large and the very small, but we want to understand the very complex. And the most complex things are ourselves, midway between atoms and stars.”

Hang on to that word ‘midway’ as I continue reading from Rees’ presentation.

We depend on stars to make the atoms we’re made of. We depend on chemistry to determine our complex structure. We clearly have to be large, compared to atoms, to have layer upon layer of complex structure. We clearly have to be small, compared to stars and planets — otherwise we’d be crushed by gravity.

And in fact, we are midway. It would take as many human bodies to make up the sun as there are atoms in each of us. The geometric mean of the mass of a proton and the mass of the sun is 50 kilogrammes (110 lbs), within a factor of two of the mass of each person here. Well, most of you anyway!

Back to me! Just reflect on the magnificence of that fact! Science and poetry so beautifully woven together. We, as in humankind, the poetic manifestations of God’s unbelievable creation. Our relationship with the atoms perfectly balanced with our relationship with the sun. Brings a whole new meaning to seeing starlight in the eyes of the one you love!

It is all so beautiful, so magical, so spiritual, so God-like. It is also so fragile and vulnerable.

There is a copy of that Pastoral Teaching available for you on your way out of Church. I implore you to read it, nay more than read it, hold it close to your heart. Within that teaching all of us are invited to join our Bishops in a 5-point commitment for the good of our souls and the life of the world, our beautiful planet; the essence of those 5 points being:

That we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, commit ourselves:

  • To repent all acts of greed, over-consumption, and waste;
  • To pray for environmental justice, for sustainable development;
  • To practice environmental stewardship and justice, energy conservation, the use of clean, renewable sources of energy; and wherever we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle;
  • To uproot the political, social, and economic causes of environmental destruction and abuse;
  • To advocate for a “fair, ambitious, and binding” climate treaty, and to work toward climate justice through reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for those most negatively affected by climate change.

As our Bishops wrote, “May God give us the grace to heed the warnings of Jeremiah and to accept the gracious invitation of the incarnate Word to live, in, with, and through him, a life of grace for the whole world, that thereby all the earth may be restored and humanity filled with hope.”

I started with the taking of a photograph 43 years ago that forever changed our view of our planet. Now is the time to change our relationship with our planet, to love it and cherish it; it’s the only one we have. Otherwise, we may not have another 43 years left.

Or in the words from today’s Psalm, “O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.

Amen.

Not good if detached.

The power of real words

Yesterday, I published a soft little item showing some reflective pictures and rather appropriate words of attachment.  Little did I know that some very powerful word forces were planning same day to really thump me around the head.  Here’s what happened.

The church that Jean and I go to on a regular basis is very inspiring.  Two reasons come to mind.  The first is the love and friendship that the congregation offer, both to regulars and visitors alike.  The second is the spiritual inspiration gifted to the priest and, boy oh boy, does that come out through his sermons.  Indeed, the rest of this article was motivated by yesterday’s sermon.

Take a look at the American railway ticket above.  Turn your head and look at the right-hand part.  What do you read?  ‘This check is not good if detached‘.  Now let me quote a little from the sermon,

It is difficult to care for people in the world when we are not a caring community.  It is totally absurd to speak of peace in a world when we do not have peace in our community.  It is impossible to be an instrument of love in the world if we are not a community of love.

What is true in the Church is of course true in the world as a whole.  We do need to learn to live together.  Railway tickets used to carry the words, “Not good if detached.”  That is true of life in general.  Our survival and progress as people on this planet are dependent on our interrelatedness.

See the beautiful spiritual inspiration that comes from those gifted to draw such powerful word pictures.  Take that last word ‘interrelatedness’.  Jean and I are studying at the local college for a Master Gardener’s Certificate.  For the simple reason that we have to find a way to tame our wild garden, comprised mainly of decomposed granite granules, so that we can grown our own vegetables, have some chickens, that sort of thing.

The last session was about botany.  To a complete non-gardener like me it was, nonetheless, fascinating.  What moved me beyond measure was the detail and complexity of all things botanical; grasses, trees, shrubs, flowering plants, you name it.  It was the interconnectedness of it all.  Here’s an example.

Not a female wasp, just an orchid.

Certain orchids dupe male wasps into trying to mate with them.  Here are a few extracts from a piece in the New Scientist website,

Few can resist the allure of a beautiful rose, but some wasps outdo even the most ardent flower lover. Presented with the right specimen, a male orchid dupe wasp ejaculates right on the petals.

Many insects mistake flowers for femmes, but few go as far as these wasps, says Anne Gaskett, a biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, who led a study of the insects’ amorous intentions toward two species of Australian tongue orchids. “It’s just so hard [for the wasps] to resist,” she says.

——

Orchids are known for toying with males. Many species produce female-mimicking perfumes that lure males into spreading pollen. But most insects merely touch down on the flowers.

——

But why might an orchid provoke such misdirected affection? Gaskett thinks that her experiments show an extreme form of sexual deception that helps the flowers spread their own seed.

Think about that the next time you order flowers!

Now have a quick watch of this video extract from the BBC,

OK, let me get back to that botany class.  As our teacher pointed out, lose that particular species of wasp and the planet probably loses that species of orchid.  Think about the interconnectedness of that, and much more in the beautiful planet all around us.  It is such a marvellous, beautiful, complex and interconnected world.  We need constant reminding of that fact.  Which is where yesterday’s sermon hit the mark again.

Inspired by the pictures from a flight to the moon in 1968, American poet Archibald MacLeish spoke these beautiful words:

To see the earth as it truly is, small, blue, beautiful in the eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together …

That is a wonderful image, riders on the earth together.  It speaks of our togetherness as a human race, brothers and sisters on this fragile island within the vastness of the universe.  Brothers and sisters … that really need to know … that we are brothers and sisters.

We need to do all that we can to build bridges, to mend bridges, to stay together as a true community… because we are:

Not good if detached.  Amen.

What a powerful sermon.  What inspired power in those words.  Real words.

Earthrise, from Apollo 8, 1968

Forgive me for holding your attention just a tad longer.  This is the full Archibald MacLeish’s quotation, referred to in the sermon above.

To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now they are truly brothers.

Archibald MacLeish, American poet, ‘Riders on earth together, Brothers in eternal cold,’ front page of the New York Times, Christmas Day, 25 December 1968

This is what Frank Borman, who was on Apollo 8, had published in Newsweek, 23 December 1968,

When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.

This is what Frank Borman was reported as saying in the press in early 1969,

I think the one overwhelming emotion that we had was when we saw the earth rising in the distance over the lunar landscape . . . . It makes us realize that we all do exist on one small globe. For from 230,000 miles away it really is a small planet.

and this,

The view of the Earth from the Moon fascinated me—a small disk, 240,000 miles away. It was hard to think that that little thing held so many problems, so many frustrations. Raging nationalistic interests, famines, wars, pestilence don’t show from that distance.

The power in those words. The power of the truth about our interconnectedness and the power of Not good if detached.

Let me leave you with a fragment from another Blogsite that I came across quite by chance while researching for this piece.

A blog is a voice, the inner voice, telling, in this case, what is going on, inside and out. And in me, that means it should also be about my spiritual path. My spiritual life is as important to me as breathing. Without connection with the One, what is life? What is it for?

Not good if detached.  Amen.

Amen indeed.