Reflections Forward - 2019, our New Year

[The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own, and do not reflect the views of STARFLEET,  Alberni Deep Space Port, or the members thereof. ]

Thanks to all who made Port Alberni’s annual Peace Walk one of the ways you welcomed 2019.  Last year, 2018 saw major leaps forward in space science, from probes on Mars to the Ultima Thule probe that made history on December 31, when it reached one of the most distant bodies of our Solar System.  Earlier, on December 3, Canadian astronaut David St. Jacques boarded the International Space Station as one of just 3 humans aboard for Christmas 2018, circling Earth as we sit here.

Like every astronaut and cosmonaut who has seen the jewel of Earth from space, St. Jacques noted that Earth actually has NO political borders, NO colour-coded patches setting certain regions apart from each other.  We really, truly are all one people, under one sky.  To borrow Carl Sagan’s words, “every human being who has ever lived” was born on this pale blue dot, our home planet, Earth.  You would think that by now we would have learned basic housekeeping and budgeting.  But the view from the ground shows we have a lot to take responsibility for.

Earth from space looks more peaceful than the way most Earthlings experience it.  We have found so many ways attack each other.  While the richest countries slam their borders closed to refugees, the middle and emerging nations care as best they can for 85% of the world’s refugees: 1 million in Lebanon, 1.4 million in Uganda, 1.4 million in Pakistan, 3.5 million in Turkey.  Iran hosts almost another million, and Kenya over 600,000, and the list goes on  Globally, there are over 68.5 million people forcibly displaced.  10 million are the ultimate homeless – they are stateless.  Every day,  another 44,400 more people are forced to flee their homes.  (Those are United Nations statistics for 2018.)  So the fuss made by rich countries over refugees arriving in the thousands or even tens of thousands seems pallid by comparison.

More frightening is how we have turned against the only place humans have ever lived:   Earth.  For some two centuries, humans have been at war with our own planet. The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change has been ringing alarm bells for more than a generation, with little effect.  David Suzuki has done the same for even longer.  They are become as voices sounding in a desert.  The storms of December in BC and elsewhere in Canada are, to borrow from HG Wells – the shape of things to come.  In October 2018, the United Nations finally decided to stop being polite and start being direct.  We had (then) 4 – 12 years to make peace with Earth itself.  We now have – at best estimate – just 11 years, before key elements of Earth’s planetary systems reach tipping points that we will not be able to reverse.

But the global attack on forests continues, as we humans clear land by burning the very trees that produce the oxygen we breathe.  We continue using oceans as toilets;  and feeding 10 kg of high-grade plant protein and 1100 litres of chemically purified water to produce 500 grams of beef that only the rich can afford, while we bury agricultural land under pavement.  In the 1980’s the Western Canada Wilderness Committee produced a button that said,  “Stop the War Against Nature.”   Yet we still seem to be rolling straight over another cliff.  Is it time for the Wilderness Committee to bring the badge back for an encore?

December 24, 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the first time humans saw Earth from space, whole and entire, one small blue marble.  July 20, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first human on the Moon – Niel Armstong.  Every astronaut and cosmonaut has been humbled by the view of Earth from Space.  It’s all we’ve got.  At Climate Week 2014 in New York, then Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon said, “There is no Plan B, because we have no Planet B.”

There’s a medieval French tune that I often play when busking for the Salvation Army every December.  It’s called Masters in the Hall, and harks back to times when feudal Masters held forth in the Great Halls of their castles.

We, the people, are Masters in this Hall of nature.  If politicians and corporations won’t put down their weapons to give Earth a chance, it’s high time we did.  For 2019, learn to garden, explore a plant-based diet, refuse-reduce-reuse-recycle, help a refugee, walk more-drive less, install more LED bulbs, plant three trees, and look for a little book called “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” from Earthworks Press (1991).

Be the Master in your own Hall, stop the war against nature.  Declare your personal peace with Planet Earth – and do something about it.

I leave you with two quotes:

Marcus Aurelius (121 CE   - 180 CE  )        MEDITATIONS, V.4
            I go through the things which happen according to nature until I shall fall and rest, breathing out my breath into that element out of which I daily draw it, and falling upon the earth out of which my father collected the seed, and my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk; out of which during so many years I have been supplied with food and drink; which bears me when I tread on it and abuse it for so many purposes.

Charles Fort (US, 1874 – 1832), specialized in anomalous phenonmena:
           One can’t learn much, and also be comfortable.
           One can’t learn much, and let anyone else be comfortable.

Thanks for reading, thanks for caring.

Gillian Shearwater
2019 January 01

[ATTRIBUTION:  If quoting this blog for any reason, please attribute to G. R. Shearwater (2019)]


Earthrise:  Historic first image of whole Earth from space 1968 December 24

Yuri Gagarin - top 16 quotes

Astronomers Without Borders:  their motto is “One people, one sky”                     

Canadian Space Agency:  David St. Jacques mission website

Canadian Space Agency:  Storytime from Space with CSA astronaut David St. Jacques

United Nations High Commission for Refugees

Ban Ki-Moon at Climate Week 2014 NYC

United Nations Global Issues portal - Climate Change

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations

Charles Hoy Fort (1874 - 1932)       

Masters in the Hall (traditional French) - sheet music