A Planetary View
In 1948 (74 years ago), astronomer and writer Fred Hoyle wrote: “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available… a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
Humans from various nations have traveled beyond the atmosphere and seen Earth “hanging in space.” Their photos and stories about the Overview Effect have forever changed our sense of our planet—and our responsibilities here on the surface.
The Overview Effect is a way of thinking about the Earth and our place in space that acknowledges our essential oneness and the adaptive interrelationships that are part of our biosphere.
Looking at our planet in its truest context gives us an instant planetary perspective on life. With all of humanity’s grasping and violence over land, waters, borders, and food, we do need that view.
But there is enormous pressure to forget. To collapse our vision. To become parochial in our focus. To forget our connections with people in other communities, other places, from other ethical and religious and even political contexts.
We are connected in this life and through ancestral relation with people who have been and are being harmed. Even if we aren’t leaders who directly impact conflict at scale, we can act in our sphere of influence, including by pressing deciders to de-escalate and mitigate state violence and autocracy in all their forms.
We can best honor our view of all things by engaging this present moment as deeply as we can. We believe and know that war is not a natural phenomenon.
Even if we’ve never been to outer space, we can be anchored in the knowing that we are of this Earth and have sacred worth and dignity, every single one of us, no matter where we live.
In my religious tradition, there is a teaching that the way we live proves our commitment to our beliefs. We need to live with an organic view of life, one that highlights the inescapable interconnection of all things and keeps us awake to our mutual impacts on and responsibilities for one another, our need to practice solidarity with others.
That’s the soil for any further material or practical action we might take together going forward. That’s what fuels us as we wait for word of the safety of our loved ones thousands of miles away, as we watch streams and updates from responsible journalists, as we pray for clarity and community resolve, as we remind elected and appointed leaders of their responsibilities to us and to the communities we are joined by the heart to—their responsibilities to repair and care.
Remember that image of Earth, hanging in space.
Remember how connected and mutually bound we all are.
And let that remembrance steady you in this time of destabilization, fear, and heartbreak—whatever today brings, whatever may come in the days ahead, however you are called to press those empowered to lead now and hold those whose home is being made a battlefield.
Stay rooted in your heart. Maintain your focus. Ground in your values. No matter what comes.
- “OVERVIEW,” a 19-minute documentary on the science and spirituality of a planetary perspective (Planetary Collective)
- Photo Gallery: The Overview Effect (Space Center Houston)
- Ukraine-Russia Crisis Faith Leader Working Document (Michael Vasquez)
Keisha E. McKenzie, PhD, senior vice-president of programs at Auburn, delivered these remarks on a national faith coalition call about Russia’s Feb 2022 invasion of Ukraine facilitated by Michael Vazquez and hosted by Dr. Sharon Groves (Auburn) and Maggie Siddiqi (CAP).