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It is July 20, 1969. The Apollo 11 manned area mission lands on our Moon, and a few hours later, Neil Armstrong takes his first steps on the lunar floor, filling the world with amazement and admiration. With this accomplishment emerges the deep emotion of feeling an intimate union with an Earth that impels us to like and defend it, the house of all of the people we’ve got recognized and, in all chance, will know.

Four years earlier, Aleksei Leonov, the Russian astronaut, made the primary spacewalk in historical past, expressing that the Earth is “our home, small, blue and touchingly lonely,” a level misplaced within the enveloping cosmic darkness.

The preparation, realization, and subsequent comply with-up of the primary journey to the Moon was a lengthy, costly, and troublesome course of, stuffed with achievements, but additionally many difficulties. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” stated Armstrong when stepping onto the Moon, symbolizing the large human achievement. But one other expression, typically used jokingly when confronted with a setback, has develop into much more well-liked: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Earth Dawn. [Photo: William Anders, December 24, 1968.]

Earth Has a Problem

Today, it’s not Apollo however the Earth that has a large Problem. Of course, humanity faces many issues: rising social inequality, the hazard of nuclear struggle, motion towards an authoritarian and plutocratic society topic to tight international techno-digital management, the rise of neo-fascism, the emergence of pandemics, huge social management and surveillance, new collective addictions, the worldwide geopolitical dangers derived from the decline of the North American empire and the emergence of China, and plenty of others.

Today, that blue balloon suspended in an infinite and darkish area has an excellent greater downside, if potential, the largest problem that we’ve got ever needed to face, a problem that persistently knocks at our door: the socio-ecological disaster. No, it’s not nearly cleansing our rivers, planting timber, caring for forests, recycling merchandise, or encouraging using renewable energies, all of that are important and pressing initiatives. Nor am I referring to the essential undeniable fact that we face a local weather emergency that’s already having dire penalties. Our downside is extra advanced; it’s one thing else.

Earth is our residence. Our planet is the one world during which we all know with certainty that the matter of the Cosmos has develop into alive and aware, though it’s not essentially the one one that may be inhabited. The first time that humanity contemplated “our smallness” happened on Christmas Eve of 1968, through the Apollo 8 mission when a {photograph} exploded the consciousness of our species.

That day, the poet Archibald MacLeish wrote:

“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.”

In his books and tv applications, the astronomer and nice popularizer of science Carl Sagan recalled that we’re the legacy of 15,000 million years of cosmic evolution and that we’ve got the pleasure of residing on a planet the place we’ve got advanced to have the ability to breathe the air, drink the water, and love the character that surrounds us. Our cells have been cast within the coronary heart of the celebrities. “We are stardust,” he used to say. Today, we face a completely new circumstance, unprecedented in human historical past. We have created a civilization during which we’ve got achieved great social progress and technological developments however the place, willingly or unwillingly, we’ve got profoundly (and ever extra quickly) altered the worldwide surroundings and life on our planet. We not perceive that we’re a part of nature, and that makes us a hazard to all life on Earth, together with ourselves. The Chilean poet Nicanor Parra warned that we’ve got made the error of “believing that the Earth was ours when the truth of things is that we belong to the Earth,” and that we proceed to have an anthropocentric, scientific-technological, and narcissistic mind-set based mostly in an “ego-awareness” as an alternative of in an “eco-awareness.”

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We are usually blind, to attenuate what threatens us, to muffle what’s dangerous or damaging, to not take a look at what we don’t like. Despite it being in entrance of our eyes day-after-day, we don’t see, we don’t really feel, we don’t perceive; we don’t need to develop into absolutely conscious of the atrocious socio-environmental disaster during which we’re immersed. We discover it laborious to consider the incessant and terrifying warnings that scientists are consistently throwing at us. It is value noting that we discover many causes to disregard the voices, and that many individuals, social teams, and establishments do every little thing potential to forestall us from listening to. However, it’s essential that we perceive that it’s not sufficient to benefit from the items, sources, and effectively-being that nature provides us; we should additionally perceive it and perceive one another. That consciousness should come from a clear human gaze that’s scientific, moral-political, and religious on the identical time. It is just not sufficient to get pleasure from electrical gentle, stated the Brazilian Dominican friar Frei Betto; one should perceive how and why it’s produced: “[O]nly those who have been trained as electricians know how to look at it with different eyes, because they understand how light reaches the room… that is political awareness: seeing the threads, knowing what is going on behind the scenes.” The very first thing is to know. In a effectively-recognized essay, the Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant recalled an previous slogan coined by Horace (1st century BC): Sapere Aude. He stated: “Whoever has started, has already done half: dare to know, start.”

Tiny and Fragile Habitat

For a very long time, the planet appeared immense to us, the one explorable world. For a million years, humanity believed that we have been the middle of the world, that aside from the Earth there was no different place. Today, the Earth has develop into very small. In the most recent section of the lifetime of our species on the planet, we’ve got realized that we reside in a tiny and fragile world misplaced in immensity and in eternity, adrift in a nice cosmic ocean.

On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 area probe photographed the Earth from six billion kilometers away. It was an virtually imperceptible level of sunshine.

Earth at a distance of six billion km from Earth by Voyager 1 in 1990.

Carl Sagan expressed his emotions dramatically upon seeing that {photograph}:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar’, every ‘supreme leader’, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena… Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”

Human beings reside in an surroundings that we form and that on the identical time shapes us. We inhabit a pure world created over billions of years by the processes of physics, chemistry, and biology. We are simply one of many species.

We are in a position to construct comfy homes to take care of our aged and likewise large 26-lane highways. We invent books or the worldwide Internet, and we additionally construct lethal nuclear weapons We can discover the Poles and go to the Moon or Mars, create musical magnificence, and develop elegant and highly effective scientific theories and extremely environment friendly applied sciences. We remake nature to swimsuit us… we’re a species able to virtually every little thing. We usually are not simply one other species.

We reside in two worlds which are in fixed interplay: the ecosphere or pure biosphere – the skinny international pores and skin made up of air, water, land, and the vegetation and animals that reside in it – and the technosphere created by human beings, with all of the devices and merchandise that we’ve got been in a position to invent. Two worlds at struggle, as the good biologist and ecologist Barry Commoner reminded us.

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The present human capability to wield sufficient energy to intervene decisively over nature has its origin within the capitalist industrial revolution that started on the finish of the 18th century. In the final century, we’ve got witnessed the growth of an unstoppable fossil-gas capitalism, and within the final 5 many years, the financial and ideological triumph of a neoliberal and cognitive capitalism, able to creating exponential development and marvelous applied sciences, but additionally of destroying social ties and deep solidarity, selling mass consumption and empty leisure as a lifestyle and private “realization.” The triumph of neoliberal capitalism has been huge and really deep, in any respect ranges, all over the place.

Today the capitalist system doesn’t appear able to creating “well-being states” for all of humanity, not even, because the lengthy-remembered Spanish city planner and environmentalist Ramón Fernández Durán known as, “simulations of well-being.” Capitalism is an all-encompassing materiality that destroys, builds, and consumes. Commodification extends from the microcosm to the macrocosm, encompassing all areas of life and issues: well being, training, nature, data, tradition, artwork, sports activities, the physique… The physique is analyzed, fragmented, commercialized, and eventually, offered as one other commodity. Genetically modified genes, micro organism, seeds, tissues, and animals are patented; organs are trafficked and purchased; wombs, relations, and even girlfriends are rented; and plots are offered on the Moon or on different planets.

It can also be an immaterial lifestyle. Emotional capitalism is the final word explanation for a widespread pathogenesis that enters our our bodies and minds. It penetrates our brains, planting concepts, tales, and fictions that change our methods of pondering and rework human relationships. Pharmaceutical corporations, lively trackers of any potential revenue, determine all types of discomforts, addictions, neuroses, problems, worries, pains, humiliations, and fears brought on by capitalism itself, to create all types of syndromes and ailments and promote their cures. However, for a giant a part of humanity, entry to very important fundamentals as primary as consuming meals, consuming clear water, or respiratory air in hygienic and wholesome situations remains to be an unattainable dream.

We have the means and sources to reeducate our minds, to see our Problem, however we want the willpower and braveness – private and collective – to do it. We can’t resign ourselves to not pondering and feeling on the identical time. We should use that idea borrowed by the Colombian sociologist Orlando Gals Borda from the fishermen of San Benito Abad within the Colombian municipality of Sucre: “sentipensar” (one thing like “feelthinking”).

The basic innovation of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the asking of questions and discovering our ignorance, thus, realizing that we didn’t have all of the solutions. We realized that with effort, time, and sources we might examine and be taught extra, gaining the facility to vary know-how, tradition, the economic system, and the pure surroundings. Science, data, and downside fixing are regularly initiated and nurtured by asking ourselves questions. Albert Einstein identified that the formulation of a downside is extra essential than its resolution. The author Mark Twain identified that the issue is just not what we have no idea, however what we falsely consider to be true. The artist and author John Berger urged us to reside with our eyes open with out permitting ourselves to be defeated by nihilism, hatred, and despair. Will we lastly have the ability to take a look at (and alter) our Problem? •

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Originally revealed in Spanish (April 23, 2022), at ctxt.es

Joan Benach is a professor, researcher and public well being specialist (Health Inequalities Research Group, Greds-Emconet, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF); Johns Hopkins-UPF Public Policy Center; GinTrans2 (Transdisciplinary Research Group on Socio-ecological Transitions, Madrid Autonomous University, UAM). Twitter @joan_benach

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