By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Once a photograph of the earth, from the outside, is available, a new idea, a powerful as any in history will be loosed.” ~ Fred Hoyle – 1948

The Earth at Night

One year ago this week, I waded through a massive throng of people who were crammed into the 160 acre postage stamp of simulated sensation that is the Disneyland Resort in California. It was the first night that the parks were decked out for the December holidays and the regulars filled the place to envelope themselves in the cacophonic sights and sounds of manufactured experience.

Disneyland at Night

The next morning, I awoke to find a video link in my email inbox. It was “Overview”, a short film created by something called “The Planetary Collective”, detailing the reactions astronauts have to their experiences in space.

The men and women we send to the heavens are trained in objective science. They observe, measure and analyze sensory input with Vulcan logic in an attempt to understand the most fundamental laws of time and space.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that the insights they bring back to earth go beyond the systematic enterprise of organized thought, into another dimension.

“When we look down at the earth from space,” ISS Astronaut Ron Garan tells us, “we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet that looks like a living breathing organism. but we also see something that is extremely fragile.”


From a distance they see the majesty of the aurora, the small flashes of light in the middle of a thunderstorm and the deep, fundamental colors of land and sea. They also see the impact of erosion, deforestation, wildfires and air pollution. And they develop a visceral realization of how all life on earth is shielded by a thin layer of atmosphere with the thickness of a planetary contact lens. This permeable skin is as sensitive to our earthly actions as is our own to the touch of a burning match.

The common sensation that these celestial explorers experience is a sharpened awareness of how every individual action impacts our future as a species, for better or worse.

My friend Kevin Epling lost a son to suicide in the wake of a bullying experience. Kevin believes that those who do nothing in the face of tyranny and injustice can be just as guilty as those who perpetrate it. We are either working toward making the world stronger, better, safer, or we are contributing to it’s destruction.

There is no in-between.

As we watch the my-way or the highway culture that continues to proliferate across a political and spiritual spectrum, fueled by improvised explosive devices and Internet vitriol, it’s easy to become numb and do nothing. After all, what difference can one person make in the face of a gang, a dogma, an AK-47?

Magaret Mead

In fact, one person can have a huge impact. Every movement began as an idea in the mind of a single individual who had the fire and desire to take action. Pick your favorite hero, or the worst of history’s villains. They were catalysts for change who rallied others behind them.

More than a few came to prominence because the apathy of the masses allowed their small group of warriors to dominate the stage. Some were men and women of compassion who lived their own lives as an example to others. Others fomented fear, uncertainty and doubt, attacking and silencing the opposition to get their way. Many of the ideas of the best and worst humans who have walked the earth survived beyond their own biological life spans and still impact the world today.

New influencers are emerging every day. From a distance, we may not know their names. But each of us, right now, is helping to create a world that our ancestors will either celebrate or deride.

We are one species with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t think about ourselves in that way. If my fellow man suffers than I suffer. If I allow ignorance, sickness and hunger to proliferate, I am weakening the fabric of humanity.

Cloudy Earth

The earth is perfectly distanced from the sun to sustain life, notes ISS Astronaut Nicole Stott,  And after you’ve seen it from space, “ kind of take that reverse role on that we need to be taking care of it…I don’t know how you can’t have a greater appreciation for it after you’ve seen it that way.”

Here’s a link to the “Overview” film. I hope you’ll take some time this week to watch it and to think about how powerful our own actions, or inactions, can be.