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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Two Ways to Look at Earth

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon’s surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. (NASA)

John Bos

Screening out unpleasant and unwanted realities has become the norm for far too many of us in first-world countries. Constant streams of carefully crafted propaganda from the power structure have been used to polarize, divide, and deceive, causing an epidemic of voluntary blindness. This is an accurate description of our current political climate. As damaging to our democracy as this is, it pales in comparison to the compromised comprehension of our climate emergency. In other parts of the world, people are increasingly engaged in a daily fight for survival. Denial of our worldwide climate crisis is not an option for them.

With Covid-19 occupying center stage, particularly in third-world countries, the question of people’s survival is the clear and present danger commanding primary attention. Here in America our next compelling concern is reviving the economic climate. As a result, the greatest existential threat in humankind’s history has been relegated to the back of the climate classroom.

Journalist Amy Westervelt, in the April 19, 2021 edition of Nation magazine wrote, “In the absence of government funding for research into a wide range of climate solutions or even the political will to say that we need to stop drilling for fossil fuels, I’m also concerned that we’re left with corporate philanthropy, a system that enables wealthy individuals to create policy without participation in democracy.”

Meanwhile, in the skies above, global climate engineering operations continue to be the crown jewel climate weapon of the military industrial complex. The lingering, spreading and sun-blocking jet aircraft trails are not just condensation as we have been told by government sources. The dimming of direct sunlight by aircraft dispersed particles, a form of global warming mitigation known as “solar radiation management,” is ongoing. These global climate engineering operations are causing untold damage to the planet’s life support systems and human health.

But, no matter how obvious and blatant the ongoing geoengineering operations are, the official denial of the climate engineering reality is resulting in public apathy about this critical, existential threat to planet earth and to all its inhabitants. Putting “profit before the common good,” Westervelt says, the problem “will not be solved by new technologies laid atop the very system that created it in the first place.”

There has always been more than one way to look at things; from the bottom up or top down. Or sideways. Or to avoid looking at all if you are locked into an unshakeable belief about the matter under discussion.

The science writer Elizabeth Kolbert has tweeted, “Two words that probably should not be used in sequence [are], “good” and “Anthropocene.” In her book, The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs the Andes, and marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamanian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of human-caused extinction.

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.

In her book, The Human Age, Diane Ackerman echoes Darwin by writing, “Only moments before, in geological time, we were speechless shadows on the savanna, foragers and hunters of small game. How had we become such a planetary threat?” To this Kolbert adds, “The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.”

Fast-forward to some extraterrestrial wisdom on Christmas Eve, 1968. When the crew of Apollo 8, William Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, completed their fourth orbit around the moon, they emerged from the moon’s dark side to see in awe the Earth rise before them. Anders took the iconic photograph that came to be called “Earthrise.”

Remembering the sight of a fragile looking Earth, a very delicate looking Earth, Anders said, “I was immediately almost overcome by the thought that here we came all this way to the moon, and yet the most significant thing we’re seeing is our own home planet, the Earth.”

I find it profoundly moving that Kolbert’s micro view of Earth is as powerful and relevant as William Ander’s macro view of our same Earth from 238,855 miles (a distance of 30 earth’s diameters) away. They are both witnesses of the fragility of Earth from unique vantage points.

John Bos has been writing about climate change, then the climate crisis and now the climate emergency for ten years. He is a contributing writer for Green Energy Times, Citizen Truth and is a regular “My Turn” contributor to the Greenfield Recorder in MA. Comments and questions are invited at john01370@gmail.com.

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