“Consider again that dot…”

The Earth and Moon (48 million miles away) photographed by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft upon its arrival at Mercury.

I realize that cynicism and pessimistic views regarding the future of the world we inhabit can be returned with scapegoat retorts like “the planet will be fine” or “Earth doesn’t need humans, humans need the Earth” but these are the most intellectually lazy and brazenly inexcusable statements one can make, quite honestly.

Surely we all realize that the survival and speciation of life thriving on this biosphere are what’s at stake; however, in the immortal words of Carl Sagan,

“Consider again that dot…”

We may not be the only conscious organisms in the (this) universe, but we certainly are the only sentient life forms whom can speak for this particular planet in this particular epoch inhabitated by intelligent primates (by our biased terrestrial measure). With this in mind, realize also that past, present, and future life on this planet is an actual extension of the planet itself. (Most) biological organisms harvest sunlight; the solar winds effect the atmosphere which drive climate/weather/ocean currents; animals and plants have disseminated seeds amongst the planet which have influenced its color, atmosphere, migratory patterns of other species, resources, and the planet’s own reflection or absorption of radiation.

Earth and Moon at a distance of 898.414 million miles photographed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft from the orbit of Saturn.

Rather than dispensing the notion that we are just an insignificant flicker of life or a shade of biology along Earth’s planetary history, I assert a far more emboldening consideration that it’s our evolutionary imperative to survive and flourish; and ultimately, our conscious ability to choose how far we carry that responsibility beyond the illusory confines of Earth’s gravity well.

Yes, we are, in the cosmological and geological perspective, a mere genetic font amidst the biological typography in the story of the universe; but we have only begun to explore the vast index of chapters, let alone browse the potential library of universes awaiting curious travelers to wander its halls.

We can take the complacent view that looks upon the previous variety of life extinguished from our world, unnoticeable to the rest of the cosmos; or, we could, as suggested by physicist Lawrence Krauss, embrace our brief moment in the sun through the realization that all other species came and went directed not by a conscientious notion of an oath to those who came before us or those who cannot speak for themselves.

Earth and Moon photographed by the JAXA spacecraft Hyabusa-2 from 1.9 million miles away.

Our specific ancestry from primitive homo to present homo sapiens sapiens arduously survived through conscious awareness; a sense of self directed by actions and parallel behavior exhibited by us today. What would they have to say about such complacent statements that suggest “none of this matters” or “the planet will be fine without us”…?

I leave this open to interpretation and further thought, but not without imparting some poignant words on this very postulation:

“In our tenure on this planet we’ve accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage: Propensities for aggression and ritual submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders. All of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we’ve also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience and a great, soaring, passionate intelligence. The clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain.

Earth and Moon photographed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft from 3.9 million miles away.

From an extraterrestrial perspective, our global civilization is clearly on the edge of failure in the most important task it faces: Preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet … Shouldn’t we consider … A fundamental restructuring of economic, political, social and religious institutions?

And we — ‘we’ — who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos — we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. ‘We’ speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos, ancient and vast from which we spring.”

— Carl Sagan

Earth and Moon as photographed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft through the rings of Saturn from 870 million miles away.

Rich Evans is a contributing editor for the Tumblr science community (@sagansense) and director of public relations for the films ‘I want to be an Astronaut’ (directed by David J. Ruck of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries) which premiered on the International Space Station and ‘Fight for Space’ (directed by Paul Hildebrandt of Eventide Visuals) which premiered at the DOC NYC film festival. Rich currently resides in Pennsylvania where he periodically serves as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) enrichment provider teaching for an inner city after school program through his local public library and for a summer STEAM camp for low income families through the local YMCA.

rich@fightforspace | Follow on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram @sagansense