This is the introduction to what I hope will be a series of blogs on Compassion for the Earth. Compassion isn’t just about how we treat each other. It’s not limited to our kindness to fellow human beings. Compassion extends to all living things, including the earth itself. At my far off memorial service, my teary-eyed wife will likely recount to the assembled attendees how I used to pick up worms on the driveway after a rain so that I wouldn’t inadvertently run them over when I backed my truck out of the garage. It may seem silly to you, but it’s not silly to the worms I saved.
In this new series, I hope to touch on many topics, some of which may make you uncomfortable; all of which are meant to make you think deeply about the direction we are headed as a species. Altogether, my purpose will be to change the way you think about the earth, this tiny little planet adrift around an unremarkable star in the backwaters of an unremarkable galaxy that looks a lot like its neighboring galaxy and millions upon millions of other galaxies in the universe. In the end, I hope to convince you that if this little planet is all we have, that it’s in our best interest to take better care of it, if only for our own sake.
It’s appropriate that as I sit and write this article at a coffee house in Ithaca, New York, where my friend Carl Sagan lived for decades before his untimely passing in 1999, that I quote from his marvelous book, Pale Blue Dot, in which he uses as his central argument a photo of the earth taken by Voyager from the very edge of our solar system looking back toward the sun:
“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 author and Carl Sagan, 1998
John Smelcer, Ph.D., is the author of over 50 books. His writing appears in over 500 magazines and journals worldwide.