Biodiversity on the Blue Marble

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
Image via Wikipedia

Assignment: To speak for 15-20 minutes generally on the topic of biodiversity. Yeah, I can do that–on May 5, Floyd’s Land’s Sake event.

And so I am hoping to put that consideration in the framework of the past 42 years since the first Earth Day (since that celebration is the basis for this 4th annual spring meeting.) I think to keep the numbers round, I’ll look back 40 years to the Apollo 17 mission that sent us the “Blue Marble” dazzling image of Earth, suspended in space, so serene and whole and full of promise. From a distance. Do you remember? Did that image have an impact on you like it did on me?

In the early 70s, for a time, it seemed that we as a species finally comprehended that we stood at a decisive crossroads looking forward. We could foul our nest beyond repair. We could actually sicken the soil, the air, the oceans. Our reach and our numbers were having a global impact after all.

If we chose to, we could take responsibility for preserving our own health and continuity by preserving the health and integrity of the planet. Then Reagan’s Rugged Individualism and swelling corporatocracy supplanted all those lofty intentions. The path since those years has been an inconsistent trail of successes and failures to put earth systems first (or even into the equation), often trending toward anti-earth choices in recent years. But…

I want to see the glass half full. And there are a number of things–far too many for a 15 minute essay–that give me hope. And that’s where I’ll direct my words.

So I may, on the blog, for what it’s worth, toss out a few of those hopeful transformations I see in our thinking, acting, voting and doing–in our technologies, philosophies and even among (sorry to say it this way) our dominion-and-apocalypse-focused religious folk.

Some good things are happening because many see the edge of the cliff; we have a strong and instinctive reflex to avoid steep edges, even at the level of civilizations. Change is possible and its basis quantifiable because we have the tools to show us trends of change and vital signs for today and tipping points before they arrive.

Hope is warranted because most people, even those who might think they would be happy if man were the only species on the planet, are beginning to acknowledge that Earth will go on without us, but we cannot go on if we send millions of species to premature extinction, take too much too fast and leave too little, despoiled, wasted and lost to the future. A re-think is urgent. And it is happening.

I know most readers left after the second paragraph, so I’ll just end without adding any specific conversation points or resources I’m looking at in this regard. Maybe later this week after I’ve thought about it a bit more myself.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I Like Hope, Fred. Hope is an Internet connection that makes us front-row participants in transformations. Hope is a groundswell of little people. That has to be hopeful for this biodiverse planet.

  2. Your plan for your talk is a good one. I know you can thrill your audience with all the amazing things that groups and individuals, states and countries are now doing to right the wrongs. Have fun finding all these great facts to weave in to your talk!! And for sure, share what you have found with us as you go along.