Strange Island

Do you recognize this island? I was doing some research on planetary ice cover when I first encountered the image. Gave me pause for a few seconds before the light bulb went on. Ultimately, for me, it was spotting the “upside-down” Great Lakes that put things into perspective. It is, of course, North America, but it’s rotated from how one usually sees it. North is at the top on most maps and globes. Further obfuscating its identity, there are no national borders, labels, or latitude/longitude lines.

Seeing the world from a perspective like this reminds us it’s map orientations and borders that are the artificial features. It underscores why, for natural phenomena like weather systems, drought, or heat waves, there are no borders. Forces of nature don’t respect boundaries. Ecologically, it’s an interconnected planet and home to all species.

The first image to evoke this epiphany was the “Blue Marble”, taken by Apollo 8 astronauts on their way to the Moon. The year was 1968. Even with a wide angle lens, you need to get about 29,000 km (18,000 miles) from Earth to fit the entire planet in the field of view. [That’s almost a tenth of the way to the Moon.] It was this image that inspired Buckminster Fuller to coin the term “Spaceship Earth”. As with most NASA images it’s in the public domain, and it’s one of their most frequently downloaded.

The astronauts on that mission, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, were the first to see Earth from this perspective. All remarked that, with no borders visible, and the entire planet just hanging there in the empty blackness of space, they felt a close bond to all peoples, and sensed that “humanity” trumped was more important than “nationality”.

There’s not a lot of science in this post, but I felt it was worth repeating those sentiments. Back in 2013 Sky Lights featured a then-unprecedented three-part series of posts that explained The Difference Between Weather and Climate. Since then I’ve been compelled to return to related topics on several occasions as new climate science emerged. See:

That’s a total of 16 posts devoted to topics related to climate and the environment. There will be more to come, I’m sure, as climate science advances. Sometimes I feel like I’m “preaching to the choir” on this topic, given my reader base, but I think it’s important to provide this information at a level accessible to the non-scientist. And Sky Lights has, since its inception, tried to present science at an understandable level.

What worries me is how even basic science is incomprehensible to a large segment of society. Too many opinions are guided by the media, politics, or superstition, rather than by critical analysis. Too many citizens are unable or unwilling to fairly weigh the existing evidence. And that’s a problem when it comes to mobilizing support for effective solutions.

Climate change is real and cannot be denied. It will affect us all. It will affect our children and grandchildren even more so. It’s time to start making some changes of our own. </rant>

Next Week in Sky Lights ⇒ Graupel

Glitter Paths
Q&A: Graupel