Our pale blue dot and COP26

A plea published on the eve of COP26. Humanist opinion column, Barking & Dagenham Post 3.11.21.

We have probably all seen the ‘pale blue dot’ image of earth viewed from space.  Its awesome beauty captures the importance of COP 26.

In 1994 Humanist and scientist Carl Sagan famously wrote: “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark… In all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

Being able to eye our planet from afar is an amazing and relatively recent scientific achievement. Science also now tells us there have been several mass extinctions, not just the dinosaurs, and that due to human activity we are teetering on the brink of another.  

There is gulf between this frightening and very real prospect and the level of Government investment in, say insulation and renewables. Extinction is forever. The stakes are too high to risk doing too little. Individual behaviour has its place, but only governments can achieve essential structural changes. Other countries not doing enough doesn’t justify us not doing the most we can. Leading by example is one of the best levers for bringing others with us. We could, and our output since the first industrial revolution means we should, be doing so much more.

As Sagan concluded, the image “underscores our responsibility ….. to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever had.”

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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