The Truths of ‘Earthrise’ Still Hold, But Are Under Unprecedented Attack

The truths of ‘Earthrise’ still hold, but are under unprecedented attack

The iconic “Earthrise” photograph by astronaut William Anders (1968 Apollo 8 mission). (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the moment when residents of Earth began to take the health of our planet as a serious responsibility. The catalyst for that awakening was a photograph that would be dubbed “Earthrise” – a shot of the blue Earth floating above the barren moonscape taken by astronaut William Anders as the crew of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon.

It was the first complete view mankind ever had of the place we call home, explaining to any doubters just how alone but together we are in a vast and dark unknown.

That image helped people begin reaching across political, cultural and economic barricades to address one unimpeachable truth: Ultimately, we all live in the same house, breath the same air, drink the same water.

As the poet Archibald MacLeish would memorably point out in his essay on that picture, “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.”

So, peoples from across the world began to clean up, to protect our house. And with the United States leading the way, for 50 years we made enormous progress, especially in western nations. We cleaned the air and water to protect and improve human health, fish and wildlife. We recognized the importance of our wild and scenic places and made them off limits to development.

Even here in Louisiana progress was made. The river that gave life to our coastal zone became cleaner, pelicans and bald eagles and alligators were saved from extinction, the smudge of smog that filled our skies became thinner, and lakes that had been polluted began to shine with clearer water.

That change wasn’t accomplished without debate. There was always a shared cost in dollars to pay for righting the wrongs we were inflicting on our children and our futures by poisoning the nest we share. But we pushed ahead with compromise, inching toward a better future for all.

Until 2016, and the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House and a compliant GOP Congress — including Louisiana’s own delegation.

Read the rest of the article at The Times-Picayune.