It’s a Big Place to Be So Small: Earth Day Reflections

“To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

— Archibald MacLeish, 1968

The picture in the header of this post is the iconic “Earthrise” photograph taken by Bill Anders during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. It’s the first color photograph of Earth and, perhaps, the most famous image of our planet taken from space — and it came to us almost by accident.

Anders was tasked with taking scientific, black and white photographs of the lunar surface for the mission.  And that mission, with its focus on the moon, meant that the Apollo 8 astronauts weren’t looking for the Earth. We owe the photograph to the fact that Anders happened to have seen the Earth coming over the moon’s horizon during a maneuver to reposition the spacecraft.

Anders himself is reported to have said, “Look, we were trained to go to the moon. We were focused on the moon, observing the moon, studying the moon, and the Earth was not really in our thoughts until it popped up above that horizon.”

In many ways we’re often, like the Apollo 8 astronauts, not focused on the Earth and the precariousness and preciousness of our lives in the vastness of history and the universe. We don’t notice our home until we encounter a headline about the latest Climate Change findings, the latest environmental disaster, or the latest extinction.

On this Earth Day, we wanted to share, yet again, that Earthrise in hopes that it will still inspire us like it inspired people who saw the Earth from space in color for the first time. The photo created a wide shift in perspective about the world and our place in it — it pushed people into the realization that regardless of borders and nations we are all tiny beings on a tiny and fragile planet in a huge, inhospitable universe. This photo inspired environmental movements, highlighting the fact that our planet and its resources are all we have, and that taking care of it is necessary for us to continue enjoying healthy and meaningful lives.

Thankfully there are people and organizations that keep the planet and its needs in focus. Here’s a small selection of our Featured Environmental Charities. If you have an unspent Charity Gift Card, please consider donating it to one of them and doing your part to act as a steward of the “Pale Blue Dot” we all call home.

Environmental Defense Fund
Sustainable Forks
Water for People

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Earth Rise 1968 Photo