Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wetlands and Space Exploration

Do these two have anything in common? Of course they do! As John A. Murray wrote, “Nature is the universe.” The entire universe—from the tiny fireflies that spark and glow like miniature earthbound replicas of the stars to the distant red glow of Jupiter low on the eastern horizon this July night—is one.

And we are part of this magnificence.

I started thinking about this as my father and I stood in the dark last night near the edge of the cornfield, waiting for the International Space Station, and the shuttle, to approach from the NW at 31 degrees. The serenity of this unusually cool summer evening was only punctuated by the throaty grunts of the frogs in the pond. Would they be looking up too? Hardly likely. But it was interesting to consider all of the creatures of the wetlands—slumbering or awake at this hour—and think about the wholeness of it. The sparrows had long since tucked their new brood into the nest for the night, the rabbits had hunkered down in the garden, and the deer were again safely sheltered in the woods after their nightly crossing at dusk.

And there we were, dad and I, under the constellations again, and waiting for our second sighting of the ISS. Thanks to a NASA site, we had all of the coordinates. And right on cue, there it was. When it came into view, it was unmistakable. Not a plane, not a star, most certainly not a UFO. For we had the coordinates and we knew what we were seeing: an example of what great and fine things we humans are capable of when we put our minds to it and rise above our petty but destructive squabbles here on earth. Whether or not one supports the notion of manned space exploration, one can’t help but feel a thrill of achievement.

Yes, we need to clean up the planet and take care of business here on earth. That's a given. We should be doing this, and we must be doing this. We need to protect these wild areas and these wild things. Sleeping here under the stars, they are every bit as precious as the acquisition of new knowledge. But I believe that science and technology can save us—and them. For science—opening the mind to the true nature of things—is the only way forward to saving planet Earth.

This is the best of us, up there. Learning, exploring, gathering knowledge. And perhaps most important of all, there is the cooperation and the camaraderie we could have here on earth. Are these not fine examples of noble endeavours? Now, if we could only drag some people away from their reality TV shows and make them look up. Way up.

We need to look after the entire universe. And by look after I mean, learn about it, respect it and revel in it, for this is our home. All of it. The solar system and this ecosystem. We need to think better and dream big. With optimism. We need to take it all in with wonder again. Like children. Say Wow! now and then. Isn't this something!

Because it is. It is our magnificent blue and green planet in the vast ocean of the universe. And it is all wondrous and awe-inspiring, from the constellations to these little fireflies, flickering in the dark above the cornstalks.

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