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

Hope in Corporate Partnerships?

A few years ago, after watching the documentary, The Corporation, I remember feeling that I no longer had any faith in democracy.   463px-Movie_poster_the_corporationThe Corporation, which is the most successful Canadian documentary of all time, is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan.  The film and book explore the history and rise of corporate power in the western world –  from small businesses to the giant global powerhouses that we have today.   Throughout the film, the message is clear; corporations in North America have become enormous, and enormously powerful.  Corporations are patholical in their pursuit of profits, and corporations are doing serious and irreperable damage to our planet.  Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of the film is the knowledge that a large number of globe-spanning corporate giants have clearly become more powerful than our systems of government.  Corporate greed and power has grown so strong, that it has managed to manipulate constitutional laws in order to protect the interests and profits of these great giants.  This leads to serious questions of coruption of government and faith in democracy; concerns of whether democracy is serving the people or serving the interest of greedy corperate power houses.

A newer book by Peter Senge (and others), however, sheds a more positive outlook on corporate power.  Necessary RevolutionHis 2008 book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World portrays countless examples of a new kind of organizational partnership.   Giant corporations around the globe are partnering with NGOs (non-government organizations) and not for profit organizations in order to counter or eliminate the harm that they are doing to the planet.  At first, many of these partnerships are very shocking; as an example Coca-Cola is partnering with WWF (the World Wild-life Fund – not the wrestling federation).  Many large corporations have made such partnerships and serious commitments to work towards a sustainable future.  Nike, Google, Costco, Ikea, DuPont, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world.  Now, stop imagining – that world is already emerging.  These partnerships have already begun, and they are beginning to make headway in making substantial difference.  Amoung the most shocking of these partnerships may be the recently announced partnership between Walmart and the Suzuki Foundation.

cokewwfIt seems more logical for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer and bottler to team up with a wrestling federation than with the World Wild-life fund.  Selling beverages at wrestling events would generate revenue, but what does Coca-Cola have to gain from a partnership with the World Wild-life Fund?  Sustainability.  The hope for a sustainable future is what Coke has to gain.  The fact is that Coca-Cola is one of the world leaders in polluting our planet.  It has an enourmous carbon footprint, with manufacturing plants all over the planet.  More importantly, it is an emormous consumer of fresh water, one of our most precious resources.  By partnering with WWF, Coke is doing more than simply making a financial contribution, they are demonstrating a shift in corporate thinking.  This shift is an awakening to the realities that corporations have to face; the reality that current practices are unsustainable.  Coke, as one of the greatest consumers of fresh water on this planet, simply cannot sustain its current production.  This partnership is a realization that the company needs to change how it operates, and that it can benefit from the knowledge of leading NGOs like WWF.

walmart-logoWal-mart, Coca-cola, Costco, Ikea, Home-Depot, McDonalds, etc… these powerhouses aren’t suzuki_logogoing away any time soon.  There seems to be an acknowledgment by many of the leading non-profit organizations in the world of this fact, and a realization in essence that, “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”   Will the partnership between Coke and WWF result in sustainable water use, and health to watertables the world over?  Will a partnership between Wal-mart and the Suzuki Foundation result in sustainable transportation of goods around the planet?  This is a rather new development in the corporate world, and it is very early to see any significant outcomes.  However, there is hope in these partnerships, as they are steps in directions towards living sustainably.  HOPE.

Your thoughts are important.  It’s time to SPEAK UP.  What do you think?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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