Only One Earth . . .

Earth From Orbit, Credit: NASA

Returning from Orbit a Space Shuttle Astronaut wisely observed —


“The first day we all pointed to our countries.

. . .

“The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents.

. . .

“By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth.”

Prince Sultan bin Salman al-Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Let me try to help understand what this feels like for me.

You and I are made of Stardust.



Star Explosion

Star Explosion

Every atom making up our bodies was formed when a star exploded.

It took a long, long, looong time for all those star-made atoms to coalesce into molecules.

It took even longer for those molecules to organize into self-replicating strands of DNA – that ended up growing into the thoughtful human reading this.

And that didn’t happen anywhere else in the Universe that we know of.

Looking out from our planet to the heavens, as far as we can see in every direction, there is no other place where we can safely live.

Nowhere else.

There is no known planet or any other place that has an atmosphere we can breathe, temperatures we can endure; no other place where we can eat food that naturally grows there or drink fresh water at room temperature.

Looking down on our planet from the orbital height of the International Space Station, you can see the extraordinarily thin, onion skin-thin, layer of air on our planet where we can live without spacesuits; where we can eat food grown without laboratories.

The Earth's thin atmosphere at sunrise seen from orbit

Earth’s thin atmosphere at sunrise seen from orbit
Credit: NASA

And there are many places on our own planet where we can’t even live.

Two inches under the ocean and we also die from lack of oxygen, we can’t breathe. That’s 70 percent of our Planet’s surface !

Too high in the Himalayas and we die from lack of oxygen in the air.

Even though we can breathe there, our Planet’s Poles are too cold to live in sustainably, and our Deserts are too hot. Both places can easily kill us just from the temperatures.

Looking back at Earth from the Moon, this atmosphere is a mighty thin layer where we can live safely and comfortably.

Earthrise, Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Japan Broadcasting Corporation

Earthrise, Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Japan Broadcasting Corporation

You would think we would treat our planet’s delicate livable environment as sacred, as something to be protected as most extremely precious. Because if we don’t – there is zero scientific doubt that humans will die as a species – forever.

Or as Astronaut Edgar Mitchell described seeing our Earth from our Moon —

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty.”

“You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

We are extremely, extraordinarily fortunate to be here on the Spaceship Earth and to be organized into this living form. Even if it is only for a brief flash of time.

I am most grateful – to be here at all.

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