Building the World

January 25, 2020
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ENERGY: Doomsday Clock

Back in the good old days, when doomsday was just three minutes away. Now, it’s 100 seconds. Time to reset. Image: wikimedia

We are in humanity’s moment of greatest peril,” warn those who keep time on the Doomsday Clock, moving us to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means catastrophic global annihilation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by those who worked on the Manhattan Project, when doomsday only meant blowing ourselves up with bombs, the Doomsday Clock now includes a second danger: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (Ban Ki-Moon et al 2020)

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, inventors of the Doomsday Clock. Image: wikimedia

The Doomsday Clock does not really tick but is set. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. Its best year to date was 1990, when it was fixed at 17 minutes to midnight, indicating the world was hopeful and relatively calm. The clock held at 2 minutes to midnight through 2017 – 2019, but now it is closer than it has ever been. It’s only been reset 24 times since 1947.

Regarding this week’s setting of the clock to 100 seconds before midnight, the keepers of the clock note two action areas. First, due to expire in 2021, the only remaining bilateral agreement between two nuclear super powers (Russia and USA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), must be extended. Regarding the other existential threat, climate change, over 60 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the United States has not committed, California and New York have. That’s encouraging, but it’s still not enough, just 11% of world emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is moving closer to midnight. Whether or not we suffer a nuclear war or an accident, certainly possible, climate change is not only possible but probable, and accelerating. We need to turn back the Doomsday Clock. What can you do to turn back the hands of time?

It is time to stop climate change, and reset the Doomsday Clock. Image: “Prague Astronomical Clock,” wikimedia.

ANIMATION: “Know the Time.” https://thebulletin.org/multimedia/know-the-time.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock

Sengupta, Somini and Nadja Popovich. “More than 60 countries say they’ll zero out carbon emissions. The catch? They’re not the big emitters.” 25 September 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/25/climate/un-net-zero-emissions.html.

“Why the world is closer than every to Doomsday,” by Jerry Brown, William J. Perry, Mary Robinson, and Ban Ki-Moon. 24 January 2020, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/opinions/doomsday-clock-emergency-moon-robinson-brown-perry/index.html/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

January 7, 2020
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ENERGY: Australia

 

“A river of smoke more than 25 km wide flows toward the Tasman Sea from fires burning in Australia.” Image: NASA

Australia’s fires have wrought damage to every aspect of life: people are perishing, dead animals are falling out of trees, the kelp forests of Tasmania are gone, houses are obliterated, the air is poisoned, kangaroos are herding to safe ground, families are camping on the beach. While some blame deforestation, and others note Australia is the most arid country on earth, many point to energy policy as causal. Studies by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis comment on “government’s defense of increasingly technologically obsolete thermal coal” (coal burned for energy rather than steel manufacturing). Australia also exports coal to China and India, among others. But those customers will soon be gone, having announced plans to transition from the coal sector.

Fires plague Australia, most arid country on earth. Image: wikimedia from a fire in another endangered area, California, USA. Climate change is an increasing factor.

The writings is on the wall, even if some politicians speak of alternative facts, and other walls. Coal is on the way out. Coal stocks in the United States dropped 50% in 2019 while renewable energy American utility Nextera Energy gained 42% more market share. Banks like Credit Suisee and Goldman Sachs are rethinking and restricting financing thermal coal and coal-fired power plants. Investors might observe the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change – with trillions under management – aligns pension funds to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Like former financial agreements such as those decided at Bretton Woods, investment and banking groups may increasingly link investment policy to environmental goals.

“Australian energy resources and major export ports,” based on Australian government Department of Resources, Energy, and Tourism, 2008 report. Image: Historicair, 2011, wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Australia might think of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric as an example of mobilizing response to adverse conditions. The macro achievement was built after drought plagued early chapters of Australia’s history. From 1813 to 1815, drought parched the land; from 1824 to 1829 there was another. When a third drought occurred from 1837 to 1840, the land baked, crops failed, livestock died, and the once-lush landscape became so dry that people organized horse races on the Murrumbidgee River, using its dry bed as a dusty track. Snowy Mountains brought irrigation from snow melt, generating hydroelectric power to light a growing country. If Australia might again mobilize a suffering nation’s ingenuity and resolve in response to 2020’s parched and burned landscape, it should be noted that Snowy Mountains Hydro took 25 years to complete. If Australia sets a macro goal to rebuild energy and environment by 2025, what are the first three steps?

“Three Sisters, Blue Mountains,” Australia. Image: wikimedia.

O’Malley, Nick. “The world has made the link between Australian coal, fires, and climate.” 4 January 2020, The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/the-world-has-made-the-link-between-australian-coal-fires-and-climate-20200103-p53omu.html.

Koning Beals, Rachel. “Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank to stop funding Arctic drilling, pulls back on coal.” 21 December 2019. MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/goldman-sachs-becomes-first-major-us-bank-to-stop-funding-arctic-drilling-pulls-back-on-coal-2019-12-16

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780691162379.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

December 2, 2019
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ENERGY: COP25 MADRID where promise meets contract

“Gran Via, Madrid,” will Spain lead the way with COP25? Image: wikimedia.

As the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP25, gathers in Madrid, Spain, there’s some bad news. Greenhouse gas emission concentrations hit a peak in 2018. While 70 countries plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, the world will need a five-fold increase in carbon-cutting actions to keep warming under 1.5C, the goal agreed at COP21 in Paris. Right now, we’re on target for 3.2 degree rise, a number portending disaster. And then there’s loss and damage: loss refers to unrecoverable destruction of species, habitat, lives; damage is repairable destruction like roads, bridges. Rising seas will cause both loss and damage. It is estimated sea rise might cost $14 trillion by 2100; worse, if seas rise 1.8m, it could cost lives, land, and $27 trillion per year – that’s almost 3% of global GDP.

Carbon contracts, key agenda for COP25. Image: “Certified emission reduction units by country.” wikimedia

Carbon contracts are also on Madrid’s agenda: some countries and businesses pay carbon offsets; for example, fund tree planting elsewhere, while still using carbon-emitting fuels. COP21, article 6, raised the issue of carbon markets, opening doors for business involvement. Now, promise must become contract. Historically, our world has found few occasions for large-scale financial agreements linked with values and outcomes. Could lessons learned at Bretton Woods be helpful in Madrid? Are there parallels with the Atomic Energy Act?

Madrid: where promise meets contract. Image: wikimedia.

Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition – CPLC. “Article 6 is the secret ingredient of the Paris Agreement.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pY1KVu537B4.

Climate Action Studio. “Article 6,” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=13YiF6Mt2dc.

Fridays for Future. Climate action movement founded by Greta Thunberg. @FridaysForFuture.

Fried, Charles. Contract as Promise. Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN: 0674169255

Harvey, Fiona. “COP25: youth ‘leadership’ contrasts with government inaction, says UN chief.” 2 December 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/01/island-states-want-decisive-action-to-prevent-inundation.

Jevrejeva, Svetlana et al.  “Rising sea levels could cost the world $14 trillion a year by 2100.” 3 July 2018. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703190745.htm.

Litwin, Evan T. “The Climate Diaspora.” University of Massachusetts Boston, 2011. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859.

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Critical year for climate change starts in Madrid.” 2 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50588128.

Mandelbaum, Michael. “The triumph of the market,” The Ideas That Conquered The World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century. pp 277-304. PublicAffairs, Perseus: 2002. ISBN: 1586482068.

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691162379.

United Nations. “UN Climate Change Conference – December 2019.” https://unfcc.int/cop25.

Youth4Nature. https://www.youth4nature.org/cop-25.

Thanks to colleagues who suggested Bretton Woods as precedent, and to Charles Fried for contract as promise.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

October 25, 2019
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TRANSPORT: frequent flier programs

“Red Arrows at the Royal Air Show” August 2011 Image: wikimedia. Will frequent flier programs change with the climate?

First, it was Greta Thunberg who traveled throughout Europe to speak to, among others, the French National Assembly; the teen climate activist, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, declared the transport decision as a preference for lower-emissions travel. A new word came into common parlance: Flygskam (Swedish) or “Flight Shame.”

Greta Thunberg who traveled by train in Europe and by sailboat to the United Nations in New York, USA, in 2019. Image: wikimedia

Next, Imperial College London and Richard Carmichael reported to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent advisory agency of the UK government, that the nation’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, to meet the Paris Agreement of COP21, must address air travel: “Flying is a uniquely high-impact activity and is the quickest and cheapest way for a consumer to increase their carbon footprint.”

As a result, frequent flier programs, both of airlines and of credit cards, might have to go. Citing data that just 15% of the UK population takes 70% of the flights, CCC report states: “Given the scope for frequent fliers to have carbon footprints many times that of the average UK household, a lack of policy in this area is likely to be increasingly seen as inconsistent and unjust and risks damaging engagement with climate action.” (Carmichael 2019)

In the United States, 12% of Americans fly more than six round-trips per year; mainly business travelers, these frequent fliers are responsible for two-thirds of air travel, and therefore participating in aviation emissions. That’s 3 tons of carbon dioxide per year, per flier. Some policy specialists differentiate between business and pleasure air travel. But 83% of Americans drive cars, and most heat or cool their homes – activities that also cause considerable carbon emissions.

Concerned about aviation’s future, some airlines are staying ahead of the trend: British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia (art of IAG, International Airlines Group) announced a strategic sustainability plan to 1)replace older aircraft, 2)invest in sustainable jet fuel, and 3) develop new technologies that take carbon out of the atmosphere. (Guy, 2019) Businesses and universities are starting to allow longer travel time for staff who travel for work, so that they may avoid flying; train travel, including the Channel Tunnel, is recommended. Japan is updating Shinkansen (high speed rail originally built for the 1956 Olympics) in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Saying “bye” to frequent flier programs? Image: wikimedia

Do you have frequent flier miles? What is your opinion on how incentives in transport may change?

Carmichael, Richard. “Behavior change, public engagement, and Net Zero.” 10 October 2019. Committee on Climate Change, Centre for Energy Policy and Technology and Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-imperial-college-london/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-richard-carmichael/

Guy, Jack. “Ban air miles to combat climate crisis, recommends UK research.” 15 October 2019. CNN/Travel. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/air-miles-ban-report-scli-intl/index.html.

International Airlines Group (IAG). “Sustainability.” https://www.iairgroup.com/en/sustainability

Tabuchi, Hiroko and Nadja Popovich. “How Guilty Should You Feel About Flying?” 17 October 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/17/climate/flying-shame-emissions.html.

Thunberg, Greta. “Address to the National Assembly” July 23, 2019. France. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESDpzwWrmGg

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

September 20, 2019
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ENERGY: Fridays for Future

Will the Global Climate Strike Turn the Tide? Image: wikimedia.

September 20, 2019: millions of young people around the world gathered to protest the lack of action in recognizing, and acting to stop, climate change. It was a Friday unlike any other. Early estimates show wide turnout of three million “and that is before counting North and South America” tweeted Greta Thunberg. Overall, there were 2,500 events in 163 countries on seven continents.

Greta Thunberg. Photo: wikimedia.

Summarized by climate activist Greta Thunberg: “Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will.” Thunberg, nominated for the Nobel Prize, began “Fridays for Future” by taking that day off from school to stand in front of the Swedish Parliament. Thus began a movement.

Flag of United Nations. wikimedia.

September 23, 2019: Will the world listen to the voices of its future leaders? What will the present world leaders, gathering for the United Nations Climate Action Summit do? Find out, here.

September 27, 2019: the next strike. Register here: Fridays for Future.

Al Jazeera. “‘No Planet B’: Millions take to streets in global climate strike.” 21 September 2019. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/planet-thousands-join-global-climate-strike-asia-190920040636503.html.

#FridaysForFuture. https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Sengupta, Somini. “Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike.” 20 September 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Trannell, Kendall, Scottie Andrew, Nathaniel Meyerson. “These are the companies supporting the global climate strike.” 20 September 2019. CNN.com/business.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/19/business/climate-strike-companie-trnd/index.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

March 1, 2019
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Should Trees Have Standing?

Trees, Rivers, and the Evolution of Inclusive Rights. Image: “Willow in Japanese Garden, Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge, WA, USA” by Photographer Geaugagrri, 2007. Wikimedia.

Legal rights, including recent developments regarding “personhood” of rivers like New Zealand’s Whanganui, India’s Ganges and Yamuna, and others soon to follow, may be seen as milestones in history, of the most inclusive definition of civilization. Human rights are still evolving; but what about animal and planetary rights, like water, or the rights of earth itself? Some credit Benton MacKaye, forester and originator of the Appalachian Trail proposed in a 1921 article. Others point to the work of Christoper B. Stone whose article and book, Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights For Natural Objects, launched an awareness of Nature’s legal rights that eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. Many date the birth of the environmental movement to Stone’s seminal paper published during a time when deforestation began to trouble the erudite reader of Darwin, Service, and Marshall. As a lawyer, Stone noted that many entities other than humans have been granted rights: Corporations, Church, State, for example. In our present era of climate change, forestation is one of the key determinants of the future, and a central feedback driver in climate systems including C-ROADS, a simulator guiding the COP21 Paris Agreement. As we continue to improve climate and rights, we may find inspiration in the work of Christoper Stone that traces “history through each successive extension of rights.”

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable free computer simulator that helps us recognize the long-term climate impacts of actions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

MacKaye, Benton. “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Journal of American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921(: 325-30.

MacKaye, Benton. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Stone, Christopher D. “Should Trees Have Standing? – Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972) pp. 450-501. https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/stone-christopher-d-should-trees-have-standing,pdf

Stone, Christoper D. Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment. 3rd edition, 2010 (originally published 1973). Oxford University Press (ISBN-13: 9780199736072; ISBN-10:0199736073.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

January 23, 2019
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PLANETARY HEALTH DIET: Menu Icon

Blue Marble: Icon for the Planetary Heath Diet on Menus? Image: NASA

If the Planetary Health Diet is adopted on menus, what should the logo be? GF means Gluten Free. V stands for Vegetarian; K means kosher.

Kosher Icon on a menu. Image: wikimedia

Icons are a special part of communication. NIKE’s “Swoosh” became popular worldwide because it’s an image rather than a word. The Tennessee Valley Authority promoted use of electricity with the logo of a fist grabbing a lightening bolt, perhaps reference to the myth of Prometheus.

The Planetary Health Diet needs a planet-related symbol, small enough to display next to a menu item. Many dietary icons like K and GF are surrounded by a circle, easy for the eye to spot on a busy menu. What if the Planetary Heath Diet icon were a circle we all know? Would you recognize the Blue Marble as a menu icon?

Should the World Economic Forum endorse the Planetary Health Diet? Image: WEF logo, wikimedia.

A diet that could feed 10 billion, ease the suffering of 11 million who go hungry, improve the health of 2 billion whose diet choices cause diabetes and cardiovascular ills, save health care costs, improve productivity, halt climate change, help achieve the Paris Agreement COP21, and advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), might be of interest to the World Economic Forum, meeting in Davos. The World Economc Forum could agree upon a global menu logo for the Planetary Health Diet.

“Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.” 16 January 2019. The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

McCartney, Paul. “One Day A Week” video with Sir Paul McCartney, Mary and Stella McCartney, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulVFWJqXNg0

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

January 18, 2019
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Food for Thought (and 10 Billion People)

Menu of the future dish: celery, olives, and walnuts on a nest of zucchini noodles with fresh tomato sauce and spinach garnish. Source: Shahmai.org. wikimedia.

World population is growing: soon, we will need to feed 10 billion people. Globally, 820 million go hungry every day; 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger and nutritional deprivation. Conversely, 2 billion adults are overweight or obese; diet-related diabetes, heart diseases and and cancer are leading causes of death. How to balance the world’s food supply? Current levels and some choices of consumption (such as items popular in fast-food menus or backyard barbecues) are not sustainable. For example, the common hamburger: beef cattle use more grazing land, consume more water, and emit more methane, an environmentally damaging gas, than any other meat.

You don’t have to be a vegan to follow the PLANETARY HEALTH DIET. Red meat: one burger, per week. Chicken and fish: twice a week. Dairy: one glass of milk, per day. Nuts: 50g per day. Chickpeas, lentils, beans: 85g per day. Fruits and veggies: 250g per day.

According to nutritional and environmental scientists, this diet will improve everyone’s health and save the planet: 11 million people die each year from dietary causes. Meat and dairy use too much land: livestock emit 15% of greenhouse gases. Agriculture and food production consume 70% of global freshwater sources for irrigation. Find out more about the future of sustainable food: EAT-Lancet Commission’s Planetary Health Diet . How can cities support sustainable food? Should educational and medical dining facilities in schools and hospitals be among the first adopters of the menu of the future?

EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health. https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/

EAT-Lancet, “Brief for Cities.” https://eatforum.org/initiatives/the-eat-lancet-commission/brief-for-cities/

Gallagher, James. “A bit of meat, a lot of veg – the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn,” BBC News. 17 January 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46865204.

Willett, Walter et al. “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food system.” 16 January 2019. The Lancet. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

December 24, 2018
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Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

Earthrise, December 24, 1968: “You don’t see . Image: wikimedia.

Fifty years ago, someone grabbed a camera and changed history. NASA Apollo 8’s crew was to orbit precisely 10 times while photographing the surface of the moon, as a field study for the Lunar Landing mission.  It was 1968: before digital photography, a crew could carry only so much film – all of it was to be used for lunar surface documentation.

For hours, only the occasional click was heard as the spacecraft hovered above the lunar surface, snapping photos of the topography of the moon. There was not much to look at: gray gravely surface cloaked by a dark sky. Then, suddenly, as Apollo 8 completed the first circle of the moon, an orb of blue and green surrounded by swirling clouds appeared in the module window. It was Earth.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets.

When Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders looked out the spaceship module’s window, three voices whispered astonishment in unison. Anders grabbed the camera. “Hey, that’s not our authorized mission; we’ve only carried designated film,” said the commander. The three stared at each other in a wild surmise. Then, all three nodded in assent. Anders, mission’s official photographer, captured the first view that humanity ever saw of our own Earth.

To call it a selfie would be to trivialize it. Earthrise, as the photo came to be called, snapped history into a new era. “It was credited with awakening the modern version of the environmental movement,” according to former American Vice President and environmental leader Al Gore; author of An Inconvenient Truth. “You don’t see cities, you don’t see boundaries, you don’t see countries,” stated mission commander Frank Borman. The first Earth Day followed. World water laws developed further; in the United States, the Colorado River Compact updated environmental provisions; new policies like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act set new standards.

But where are we now, fifty years later?  Hope for our planet’s blue and green miracle is narrow but not impossible. Many governments are setting new goals to save the climate before it is too late, bringing the Paris Agreement COP21 to shared measurement standards at COP24. Cities and states are taking matters into their own hands. Businesses and industries, including aerospace, shipping, and fashion, are setting global supply chain standards to reduce emissions. In response to changing markets, innovations are developing at a pace that some find encouraging. Clean energy jobs are growing faster, and more profitably. There could be trouble, but there is a narrow window of success possible. If we too see the vision in the photo, words of Borman and Anders might ring true: “Got it?” “Yep.” 

Watch the video. Apollo 8 took the Earthrise photo on December 24, a half century ago. So, today is a kind of Golden Anniversary. Is it time to renew our vows?

“Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act,” 1974. http://usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles.crbsalct.pdf

NASA.”Earthrise.” https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181224.html.

Vaughan-Lee, Emmanuel, director, and Adam Loften, producer: “Earthrise.” Go Project Films. http://goprojectfilms.com

Wall, Mike. “This New ‘Earthrise’ Photo from NASA Is Simply Breathtaking.” 21 December 2015. Space.com. https:///www.space.com/31422-earthrise-photo-nasa-moon-probe.html/

Wright, Ernie. “Earthrise” – visualizations created for the 45th anniversary, released on 20 December, 2013. Includes extensive downloadable videos showing the actual cloud pattern on Earth at the moment. There is link to Wright’s presentation at SIGGRAPH Vancouver. NASA, Scientific Visualization Studio. http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-releases-new-earthrise-simulation-video/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

 

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