The Long Astronomical Perspective – Partial transcript from The Sagan Series.
This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself, as well as to vast numbers of others. We humans have already precipitated extinctions of species on a scale unprecedented since the end of the Cretaceous Period. But only in the last decade has the magnitude of these extinctions become clear, and the possibility raised that in our ignorance of the interrelations of life on Earth we may be endangering our own future. Of course we must keep our planet habitable — not on a leisurely timescale of centuries or millenia, but urgently, on a timescale of decades or even years.
This will involve changes in government, in industry, in ethics, in economics, and in religion. We’ve never done such a thing before, certainly not on a global scale. It may well be too difficult for us. Dangerous technologies may be too widespread. Corruption may be too pervasive. There may be too many quarreling ethnic groups, nation-states, and ideologies for the right kind of global change to be instituted. However, we humans also have a history of making long-lasting social change that nearly everyone thought was impossible.
We have often, despite our diversity, despite endemic hatreds, pulled together to face a common enemy. Our leverage on the future is high, just now. We seem, these days, much more willing to recognize the perils before us than we were even a decade ago. The newly recognized dangers threaten all of us equally. No one can say how it will turn out down here. But this is also, we may note, the first time that a species has become able to journey to the planets and the stars.
Sailors on a becalmed sea,
Carl Sagan – The Pale Blue Dot.
Video by Reid Gower.