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Overview effect

Rachel Carson, pioneering author Silent spring, Afraid of the coming space age. After the Soviet Union launched an artificial satellite in 1958, she wrote: “It is pleasant to believe that most of nature will never be tampered with by humans.”

Once, she believed that the ocean was too old and too big to be destroyed by industrial civilization. Now she is worried about the space age: “It seems that human beings are actually very likely to master many of the functions of’God’-even though he is not psychologically prepared.”

However, ten years later-at the age of 56 when Carson died of cancer-an American astronaut took a color photo of the earth rising from the gray rocks of the moon, which breathed life into the environmental movement . It captures Carson’s vision of the beauty, preciousness and interconnectedness of our planetary home.


Within two years of the “earth rise” image in 1968, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were established, and 20 million people took to the streets to celebrate Earth Day. “We explored the moon all the way,” said Bill Anders, the astronaut who took this picture, “and… we discovered the earth.”

The new view of the earth also inspired environmentalists in other ways. James Lovelock, a British scientist at NASA, saw the “exquisite beauty” of images from space, and he said they had a “spiritual effect.” In the 1970s, he and American biologist Lynn Margulis (Lynn Margulis) proposed the Gaia theory.

This regards life as a living, self-perpetuating organism that shapes planets. Lovelock’s work in earth system science helped us understand the ecological and climate crises.

“When I first saw Gaia in my mind,” Lovelock wrote later, “When he stood on the moon and looked back at our home earth, I felt that as an astronaut, he must do this. of.”

The far-reaching influence of seeing the earth from space has a name: overview effect.

It was created by Frank White in the 1987 book of the same name.White said to me Renaissance and Ecologist magazine From his home in Boston, Massachusetts.

He was an amiable silver-haired man with his back leaning on a bookshelf full of space books, and he told me that he wanted to track down retired astronauts for his books. Many of them describe being fascinated by the color and luminosity of the earth, as well as a sense of awe and interconnectedness.

“You can’t prepare for the emotional impact,” Tang Linde, an astronaut, told him. “It made me burst into tears.”

For White, the overview effect is a necessary catalyst for cognitive transformation, away from what Charles Eisenstein called the “stories of separation” (seeing the separation of mind and body, separation of people from each other, and separation of society from nature) and turning to’mutually The story of existence’.

“The overview effect is the truth about who we are and where we are in the universe,” White told me. “Indigenous people seem to understand this kind of unity and unity, but until now, many people living in Western culture cannot understand it.”

Super billionaire

Few people listened to it at first, but now the idea has developed into a movement, thanks in part to an amazing 20-minute documentary by the Planetary Collective, titled Overview – 8 million views online.

White also attributed the renewed interest to today’s global issues. Astronaut Jeff Hoffman said in the film: “When you walk outside on a clear day, there will be a blue sky, as if it lasts forever, but when you see it from space, this is a thin line with little embrace The surface of the planet.”

This is the paper-thin atmosphere that we all rely on, and it has been emitting greenhouse gases.

As the space race resumes, all of this becomes more urgent. Now, the superpower competition is between China, which planted its flag on the moon last year, and the United States, which plans to bring people including the first woman back to the moon in 2024. This is also the competition between the two wealthiest people on the planet: Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who are fighting rival rockets and visions of turning science fiction dreams into reality. .

Bill McKibben recently praised Bill Gates for “he is a member of the Superbillionaire Select Club and he did not actively try to escape the earth”.


White hopes to see space and environmental movement combined, but they seem to be far apart. Environmentalists say that we must face up to living on a finite planet and create a renewable circular economy. Think about the rocket fuel!

At the same time, space enthusiasts dream of building man-made worlds in orbit or on Mars and reducing the pressure on the earth by mining space rocks.

The South Korean science fiction film “Space Sweeper”, recently broadcast on Netflix, tells the story of a group of weird space garbage collectors in 2092, and satirizes the theme of evil billionaires escaping from the earth.

Andrew Simms, the co-author of the original Green New Deal, summed it up sharply: “When we look forward to the prospect of discovering a single microorganism on another planet, we are trembling. Under our feet, we are deliberately executing the Mass extinction event.”


I have always been in awe of the night sky, but in recent years we owe the earth and other life even more. I hope that as human beings once again enter the vacuum of death in space, bringing oxygen, water, food, and mutual support, we will pay more attention to the life around us and reconnect with society to protect it.

As the philosopher Mary Midgley said: Without a living earth, all human ideals and achievements would “disappear like a dream.” Or, as Joni Mitchell sings, “You don’t know what you have until it disappears.”

“I didn’t tell any astronauts that we just need to give up the sinking spacecraft,” White told me. “This is the only planet we know that is very suitable for us.” He believes that the migration of humans to space is inevitable. His plan is to develop a new sustainable and inclusive philosophy of space exploration through a project called the “Manned Space Program”.

Carson agreed that any exploration should be done with a new heart. “As humanity approaches… the universe of the space age,” she wrote, “he must be humble and not arrogant… Besides being humble, I think there are still surprises.”

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