The only one we have, Earth Day or not!
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.
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.