All living things, large, small, and in between, share in the precious gift of life on Earth. However, it is only we humans, with our large brains enabling us to be self consciously aware of this gift, that are the only creatures to celebrate Earth Day. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day let us remember that this grand unifying perspective was made possible by one of our nation’s greatest gifts to the world, the first stunning photo of Earth from outer space taken during the Apollo moon missions. This awesome image of our beautifully round whole Earth, suspended in the vast blackness of space, is humanity’s crowning achievement on our long and frequently tortured path in trying to make some sense of our often overwhelming self-conscious existence; the climax of the long collective urge of humanity to explore our surroundings. This new perspective of the Earth takes our self consciousness to a whole new dimension enabling us to feel part of a much greater self — the whole Earth.
As supremely self conscious beings, humans are acutely aware of their mortality and therefore face the question: Why am I here? Human history has been largely determined by humanity’s attempts to answer this crucial question. To find an answer we look for symbols to identify with, to give us a sense of connection and belonging. These symbols range from family to tribe, from nationality to religion, from political party to ethnicity, from wealth to power, from designer clothes to team loyalty. But these identifications and affiliations often devolve into intolerance, violence and warfare as the various groupings strive for supremacy.
But Earth Day and the photo of Earth from outer space give us the connection and perspective that unites us all. When we celebrate Earth Day, we are giving thanks for the wondrous gift of life on Earth and are recognizing the paramount importance of protecting the Earth’s fragile life support system (a system increasingly under siege from global warming, nuclear power disasters, and hydraulic fracturing). This is a responsibility we can all share and when we embrace this humbling and unifying perspective our lives take on new meaning. When we think about homeland security we must recognize the fact that the Earth is truly our homeland– if necessary we can move from one country to another, but this heavenly body is irreplaceable — humanity must work collectively to keep it secure for future generations.
In honor of Earth Day and in light of this new meaning and this fundamental change in our perception of the world I propose the following revision of our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance:
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAGOF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAAND TO THIS PRECIOUS EARTHUPON WHICH WE ALL STANDONE PEOPLE, THE HUMAN FAMILY INDIVISIBLEWITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.
I believe that the time has come to have our Pledge reflect on what all of us share and cherish as citizens of the United States of America and as citizens of Planet Earth.
When this unifying perspective of Earth Day becomes an integral part of human consciousness we will be ready to write a new chapter in human history, one that tells the story of a civilization no longer propelled by ignorance and greed but one that harnesses the energies of all people working in harmony for a better life for all.
We shall not cease from explorationand the end of all our exploringshall be to arrive where we startedand know the place for the first time.
–T. S. Eliot