The Blue Dot Global Perspective
In a photograph of planet Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1990 from a distance of about 6 billion km, the Earth appears as a tiny blue dot against the vastness of space. This photo helps us to keep our global problems – particularly that of ‘Climate Change’ – in perspective, and reminds us that, if we are ‘Planet A’ then there is no ‘Planet B’ to fall back on should we make a complete mess of this one. In the words of Eric Idle’s famous Galaxy song, let us “pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space, because there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”
We commenced the year taking a global look at general environmental sustainability issues to give perspective to our local situation. Sessions have been on a fortnightly basis this year, but still covered a wide variety of topics. We have reflected on the outcomes of the UN Paris Climate Change conference COP21 in December 2015, the terms of which have now become legally binding, and the state of the climate in 2016, and the current absence of any national plan for Australia to meet its commitments under this agreement. Electricity and energy supply have been prominent, including the required decarbonisation of the system.
We have looked at the global population problem, how the expected 9 million people might be fed (are Genetically Modified Organisms the answer?) and how (as citizens of the Anthropocene) we waste so much of the food & resources that are produced. Also, the potential benefits of bio-mimicry, how climate change is affecting major countries & continents (China, India, Africa, the Middle East, South America, Russia); the green (?) Olympic games, aviation & shipping emissions, drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, cleaner & healthier cook-stoves in developing countries, and finally, melting glaciers and methane emissions.
Closer to home, we have looked at the ecology of ticks, fleas, lice, mosquitoes, blue-banded bees, wasps, carp, chameleons, colour-blindness in South American monkeys, sea-potatoes, two & three-toed sloths, Asparagopsis (look it up !), the American pika, the blue petrel and other tube-nosed pelagic birds. In the immortal words of the American Indians “may the great spirit watch over you …as long as the grass grows and the water flows.”
*Account of Bairnsdale U3A lectures 2016