Where were you on Friday, July, 19th, 2013?
I remember where I was that day. I was working at the head office of Best Buy/Future Shop Canada in Burnaby, pounding away at writing product descriptions about personal computers, so the product content department could make the deadline for publishing on the Future Shop Canada website. Around me, the marketers were marketing, the promotion planners were promoting, the co-ordinators were co-ordinating, the managers were managing, and the executives were executizing. Everyone was hunkered down in their cubicles, slaving away for the good of the enterprise.
On Friday, July 19th, humanity went about its daily business on planet Earth, just like it did for thousands of years. Ordinary people lived ordinary lives. People were born, and people died. Dreams were realized, and dreams were shattered. Hopes were raised, and hopes were crushed. The global economy continued its pursuit of profit and market share. The massive megacities roared as their populations continued running the soul-crushing urban rat race, while countless billions of people living far away in tiny rural villages tried to scrape an existence off the land to live another day. Politicians postured and triangulated their ideological policy positions in the corridors of the world’s legislatures and parliaments. Totalitarian tyrants spent another day convincing themselves of their personal greatness and seeming invincibility. Religious people invoked God’s mercy to bring about justice for those treated unjustly, peace for those weary of conflict, and solace for those who were hurt and grieving. Meanwhile, righteous fundamentalists invoked God’s wrath to destroy their enemies, vanquish the infidels, and defend the true believers who steadfastly maintained that they knew God’s true mind, devout in the belief that He supported their version of the truth.
Friday, July 19th, was just another day for human beings on Earth, getting on with the business of living and surviving. Meanwhile, the NASA Cassini probe was moving into position under the rings of distant Saturn to record an extraordinary moment from 900 million miles away that happens very rarely.
Saturn was in a position where it blocked the Sun, allowing Cassini to take a clear picture of the Earth – the tiny white speck located between Saturn’s rings and the Sun’s halo on the right side of the image. In the immense blackness of space, there’s our home – a small, shining piece of cosmic dust.
It’s moments like this where I find myself completely at a loss for words to describe my feelings when viewing this image. Our planet – our existence – is totally, utterly ephemeral. We’re perched on a cosmic gossamer strand that shifts with the solar winds. More than ever, I’m struck at how we can even exist in such a cold, vast void. Not only that we exist, but that we’re also AWARE of our existence in this universe. Somehow, some way, we created an object that was sent far across the solar system to take a photograph of Earth – from 900 million miles! At the same time, I feel the urge to run out into the street and shout at the top of my lungs, ‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING TO OUR HOME? DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?’
Luckily for us, the late Dr. Carl Sagan created a very timely message to try and help humanity understand how fragile, precious, and rare our world is. Back in 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft took an image of Earth as seen from – get ready – 3.4 BILLION MILES away. Dr. Sagan was part of the team that created Voyager 1. When he produced his amazing PBS series COSMOS, Sagan narrated a segment called Pale Blue Dot, which are his thoughts about this image recorded by Voyager 1.
Earth is our home. There’s nowhere else for us to go. If we don’t seriously start changing our behaviours now about how we treat this planet and the biosphere that keeps us alive, then this beautiful gem – this Earth – will become a pale, lifeless dot. Every human being, every country, has a stake in the future of our planet.
The Grumpy Ferret (Only 5% of the universe is made of matter)