Gaia at Night . . . Mother is Sick

earthriseEarthrise is the name given to this photograph of the Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission.  In Life‘s 100 Photographs that Changed the World, it was called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”  Photos of the Earth from space are so striking because they show how beautiful the planet is when viewed from a distance.  Such photos of Earth allow us to view our planet as one singular system, which we are a part of.  They remind us that we only have one Earth to work with, and that we depend on it for our survival.  Against the inky blackness of space, our home appears small and fragile, a living miracle of air, water, soil, and vegetation.

Such a worldview is particularly important in light of our growing human disconnect from nature.  As our smaller worlds have become more industrial and our lives have become more dependent on technology, we have begun to lose our essential connection to the natural world of which we are a part.  Most of the human beings on this planet live in cities and a great number of us spend most of our time wrapped in technology and manufactured goods.  Although it is of course true that humans are animals, we do not often like to be reminded of it.  Indeed most of us know that we are mammals, however, we think it an insult to be called an animal, be it a pig, a dog, monkey, what have-you.  Calling someone an animal is deemed as a derogatory statement.Gaia - Embrace - Banner

Of course there are some extremely significant factors that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  We are after-all, or so we hope to think, the most developed communicators on the planet.  And of course we cannot overlook our mastery of tool making and technology.  However, although these factors do make us stand out from the other organisms that we share our home with, they do not separate us from nature.  We must not forget that we are nature.  This is why it is so important to spend time outdoors, in nature, and with wildlife.  This time allows us to reconnect with who we actually are.

The first photos of the Earth from space are very powerful because they remind us that our planet is alive – she is Gaia, Mother Earth, she is life – and because of her, we have life.  More recently a variety of photos [composites or collages more-so than actual photographs] have become very popular on-line.  These are the views of the Earth at night.  These assembled photos also provide us with very powerful perspectives of our home.  They allow us to visualize mankind’s extreme impact on the Earth.  From these composite images, we can clearly see densely populated areas of the Earth lit brightly.  We can clearly see the industrialized parts of the planet.  That is to say that we can see were the natural Earth has been converted into cities.  We can see where the natural Earth has been converted to man-made structures of concrete, wood, and steel.  That is to say that we can clearly see where non-renewable fossil fuels are being converted and used as electricity.  We can see where we live, and the impact we have made to our planet.

View The Earth at Night 2400x1200 NASAWhen I first looked at images of the Earth at night, I remember being struck by their power.  They are immediately grasping in their ability to communicate visually.  If we go by the old rule that every picture is worth a thousand words, then these collages of images certainly have something interesting to say.  As I have spent more time looking at these images, I am struck by the notion that the Earth looks sick.  The lights are symptoms of the spreading illness.  Man-kind’s current ways of thinking are destroying our planet.

Simulation of Earth at Night 410x410Now, this all seems very depressing, in a doom and gloom sort of manner.  There is however a positive spin that can be taken from these visuals.  That of course would be to understand the size and scope of impact that we have had in transforming our planet in such a small amount of time.  This is important only because there is still hope.  There is still time to reverse our effects.  Man-kind is not necessarily the cause of Earth’s sickness, but rather man-kind’s current ways of thinking.  We need to change the ways in which we think, consume, and pollute.  If we get the ball rolling towards new ways of thinking, we can have massive impact in very little time.  Our objective is to work towards a sustainable, healthy relationship with our home, Gaia, Mother Earth.

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UPDATE:

This post is receiving significant traffic, often in the amount of several hundred reads each week.   Do me a favour.  Just leave a quick response, and let me know who you are and how you came across this article.  I’m curious to know who’s reading.  If you’d like to share your thoughts about the article, that would be great.

Thanks for reading,

– – –
Ryan

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13 Responses

  1. This article is just amaaaaaazing! Im going to forward it to all my 6000 contacts! Please get back to me to discuss further opportunities! Thank You! Kariza Luiza Fernandes – Eco-Friendly Fashion Designer/ Wardrobe Stylist & Peace Maker! Please go green and let’s save the planet for our children! 🙂

  2. I really like the painting in your article.

    can you please give me a contact to the painter.

    thank you very much

    regards

    svenson

  3. Earth at night makes you think it’s sick, because of the lights? I think the lights make it beautiful.

    • Admittedly there is beauty in these images. And as I’ve said, these images make a clear demonstration of our collective human creativity. However, if that is all that you see, then perhaps you are blind to all of the harm that comes with all of this beauty. Each and every point of light represents massive amounts of pollution. These are key indicators that the ways in which we live are not sustainable. We must use our creativity to come up with alternate solutions.

      • Yes, we do harm our planet, but lights are the least dangerous in my opinion.

      • Perhaps, but think of this: Where does all of this light come from? Each and every light that we see in these images is the result of massive amounts of coal being converted into electricity, and in the process, adding massive amounts of CO2 to our already over-polluted air. Now if the majority of the electricity on this planet came from renewable resources like hydro power, wind power, or even solar power, then yes, I would agree with you that these images would be extremely beautiful. In fact these images would then celebrate the ingenious inventiveness of humanity to live sustainably with this planet – indefinitely into the future. Thanks, for reading.

  4. Hello,

    My name is Mare’ and I was trying to find a way to email you but I wasn’t able to. I have something kind of important to ask you (about one of your pictures) and didn’t want it posted to the world. If you could please send me an email at my above email address and let me know how I can contact you, I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you very much,

    Mare’

  5. […] Gaia at Night … Mother is Sick …. 2,142 […]

  6. It’s not just the CO2 that is generated from powering those lights, but also the massive volumes of other toxins released into the air we breath and water we drink. Every single light bulb is manufactured (with toxic chemicals), shipped to a destination (often across entire oceans by ships burning fuel very similar to asphalt tar), and sold (in large and wasteful plastic packaging). Sick? I think so. The humans are endlessly focused on money — in the mean time, they miss the value of what actually exists.

    As for how I came across this website, I was looking for a picture of earth from space at night, and your title caught my attention.

  7. Electricty has always been in the air since the beginning of time.. Lightning is a perfect example.. Coal not not even used as much as before due to the new innovative creations that have recently came out.. I think the picture is makes me feel not alone.. being in the dark is kinda scary in my opinion.. also I find that dressing up the planet in lights is the greatest thing ever.. I live in Tennessee and we use dams to generated electricty.. also The bulbs that are used last for years and can be recycled.. lol.. and more electrically effeciant and safer as technology improves. I agree with you on alot of the subject ofcourse, but we all have are own opinions.
    I found out about this site by google images of the earth at night.. for some reason, I never read anything, but I did.. and I find this to be a very nice article you have here.. anyways I will let my friends know on facebook..
    take care
    Matt M

    • Thanks for sharing. I agree that our urban lighting gives us a sense of comfort, and in many places we have much more efficient light bulbs. And it is certainly true that we have developed many great and harmless methods of harnessing renewable sources to produce energy. Unfortunately, coal, oil, and natural gas (all non-renewable and massive sources of pollution) are the most common sources of heat and electricity in the Western world. We still have a long, long way to go. Until all lights have been switched to compact fluorescent lights or LED lighting, and until 100% of our energy is produced from Hydro, Solar, and Wind technologies… until then, we are doing massive and global harm to this planet, and we will soon have to pay that bill.

  8. I was reading about the decline of fireflies (http://www.firefly.org/how-you-can-help.html), caused in part by light pollution. So people saying the lights don’t mean CO2 pollution….that’s only part of the story. Many species require darkness to find mates…hunt prey efficiently…be comfortable. Just another thought.

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