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When I was growing up in England in the 1970’s I, like everyone else at that time, watched the news on TV before dinner. From Ethiopians starving to death in their war-torn country, commercial loggers chopping down the Amazon rain forest, and Green Peace harassing Japanese whaling ships, it seemed terrible that mankind could inflict such selfishness and short-sightedness on a global scale.
I sat staring at the TV, happily eating my fish and chips, worlds away in the snow and rain of England, I failed to understand the implications of these atrocities. After the news, the starving children, the diminishing Amazon rain forest and the dead whales were all replaced by an animated cartoon. The Magic Roundabout jolted the British public back to a sense of “normalcy”.
However, if I had lived in Ethiopia and felt the pain and suffering of starvation, it would be have been a different story. If the forests where I lived were being cut down in the name of “progress”, I would have become morally charged and even more emotionally connected. But the fact that these injustices were happening in countries so distant, so foreign, and so disconnected from my life, I just couldn’t relate to them. When I speak to groups of people about environmental issues, I see the same kind of detachment.
In 1985, Salam Al-Saud was an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle. At 28 years old, he was the youngest person ever in space. After returning to Earth, he had the following to say: “The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.”
Salam Al-Saud was fortunate to be able to gaze upon the Earth in its entirety. If any of us had the opportunity to see the Earth in such a way, it would put our predicament and challenges into perspective. Even though many environmental problems occur on the other side of the planet, in different countries and to foreign nations, they affect us right here, right now, and in a profound way. Only with a global perspective can we appreciate that the human race is connected through a common fate that has been engineered since the dawn of mankind.