Earthrise: “Oh my God. Here’s the earth coming up.”

This photograph, known as “Earthrise,” was taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission while in orbit around the moon.

I’ve been reading Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth — that’s not a typo, by the way — and he has a nice passage about the taking of that photograph, and it’s “heart-catching” perspective on our fragile planet.

I’ll type it out for you:

In December 1968 we got the first real view of that stable, secure place. Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon, the astronauts busy photographing possible landing zones for the missions that would follow. On the fourth orbit, Commander Frank Borman decided to roll the craft away from the moon and tilt its windows toward the horizon — he needed a navigational fix. What he got, instead, was a sudden view of the earth, rising. “Oh my God,” he said. “Here’s the earth coming up.” Crew member Bill Anders grabbed a camera and took the photograph that become the iconic image perhaps of all time. “Earthrise,” as it was eventually known, that picture of a blue-and-white marble floating amid the vast backdrop of space, set against the barren edge of the lifeless moon. Borman said later that it was “the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia, of sheer homesickness, surging through me. It was the only thing in space that had any color to it. Everything else was simple black or white. But not the earth.” The third member of the crew, Jim Lovell, put it more simply: the earth, he said, suddenly appeared as “a grand oasis.”

But we no longer live on that planet. In the four decades since, that earth has changed in profound ways, ways that have already taken us out of the sweet spot where humans so long thrived. We’re every day less the oasis and more the desert. The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has — even if we don’t quite know it yet.

Here’s a link to a fascinating review by Dave Gardner of McKibben’s book.

If you’ve got an hour to give, you might be inspired by watching this Bill McKibben lecture (he begins 14 minutes into the clip, after introductions).

But if you’ll only give seven minutes, here’s a good introduction to Mr. McKibben:

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