We Are Star Stuff

Tenbaum_Star-stuff_quote_valuescom
via https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-quotes/6104-the-molecules-of-your-body-are-the-same

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

The New York Times reported on the first image ever revealed of a massive black hole at the far reaches of the galaxy Messier 87 this week.  Titled Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole, the article, by Dennis Overbye, was written with language that at times approached poetry and science fiction, with overtones of awe and wonder. Overbye used descriptors like monster, phrases such as portal into eternity, and described the image as the place where “according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.”

The results of years of work by astronomers working in collaboration on several continents, Wednesday’s news was announced at six locations on Earth simultaneously. Overbye wrote, “When the image was put up on the screen in Washington, cheers and gasps, followed by applause, broke out in the room and throughout a universe of astrofans following the live-streamed event.”

It has taken a century of scientific investigation to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity, from which his theory of black holes arose, is indeed true and no longer simply a theory. In the NYTimes article, Overbye quotes Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale, who said “Einstein must be delighted. His theory has just been stress-tested under conditions of extreme gravity, and looks to have held up.”  And astrophysicist Kip Thorne wrote in an email, “It is wonderful to see the nearly circular shadow of the black hole. There can be no doubt this really is a black hole at the center of M87, with no signs of deviations from general relativity.”

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

It’s fascinating to read how the team of roughly 200 astronomers put together the data, collected from eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents. The data was taken during a period of ten days in April of 2017, and took the next two years to compile it into the stunning images revealed to the world this week. Here is a link to that article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/science/event-horizon-black-hole-images.html

It is not easy to describe in words the elation that many of us feel at reading this week’s news, and seeing the black hole images for the first time in history. But a feeling of vindication is part of the larger and more complex web of feelings surrounding the evidence. In a world fraught with opinions passing as truth, outright lies and human egotism run amok, it is such a breath of fresh air to see, with human eyes, an image of a cosmic reality so vast that it is impossible to comprehend. The black hole that lies in the heart of galaxy Messier 87 is nearly seven billion times the mass of our own sun. This is a moment when even scientists will turn to poetry and prophetic words from long ago, as we attempt to grasp the incomprehensible as it is presented to us. In so many ways, for human beings, seeing is believing. This week, we are finally able to see a black hole, a cosmic force incomprehensibly huge.

I looked up quotes by Dr. Carl Sagan, who was a master of writing about science and humanity with eloquence and clarity. Here are some of his thoughts on the relationship between humans and the cosmos, taken from his seminal book, Cosmos, first published in 1980. With gratitude to Dr. Sagan, I offer them to you, dear readers.

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos, via https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3237312-cosmos

Greta’s pure audacity

She is a phenomenon, utterly fearless.

She takes no prisoners, calling out the glitterati, high profile political and corporate leaders. To Greta, it matters not whether a person is powerful, rich or famous, she pays no deference. Her mission is completely clear.

Greta has the gift of absolute clarity, and articulates our situation with razor sharp language. At a recent German entertainment award ceremony in Berlin, she used her words to lambast celebrities for their excessive lifestyles, criticizing their excesses, such as jetting around the world to enjoy exotic vacations and yoga retreats, without considering the environmental costs of air travel. For a taste of her speech, check out her Twitter feed below.

https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg

There are few news stories which give me joy these days. But the speeches Greta continue to give before large and powerful audiences bring me unreasonable joy. And I am far from alone in feeling jubilant. Here are a few replies on Facebook from people who watched Greta’s speech at the Goldene Kamera awards:

greta_goldenkamera_fb-replies

The irony, as Greta so pointedly states in her speech, is that she was invited to the entertainment award ceremony to receive a climate prize, and once she’s called out all the stars in the audience (reminding them of their huge influence in the world, that billions of people see them as gods), she tells them all that, basically, we need you to help us get our message to the political leaders, since you have the influence and fame that we do not. Fortunately, that’s quickly changing as Greta is becoming a unique kind of celebrity in her own right. She doesn’t need bling-bling, makeup or fancy clothes to be a star, because she has a fascinating kind of egoless charisma that is impossible to ignore.

The jewel and money-dripping crowd at the Goldene Kamera awards seemed, from the looks on their faces, more than a little uncomfortable at Greta’s speech and admonitions targeted at them. I know I am not alone in feeling glad she made them squirm a bit to hear the truth. The entertainment industry spends obscene amounts of money and fossil fuels to pump out entertainment to the masses, while mostly turning their backs on the issue of global warming. From Davos to Brussels to Berlin and beyond, Greta Thunberg is calling out abuses by the world’s power elite. It is JOYFUL to see her activism taking hold in people’s imaginations so quickly, to watch as tens of thousands of youth, teachers, activists and ordinary folk join her movement for Climate Strikes. I encourage everyone reading this blog to follow Greta on Twitter and Facebook, and in the news as she continues to inspire, scold, and speak Truth to power. Go Greta!!

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To click on the links, go to @GretaThunberg on Twitter

Greta Thunberg is a fearless, badass warrior working to save the Earth’s future

 

Greta the Great
image credit: Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We need to focus every inch of our being on climate change. Because if we fail to do so, then all of our achievements and progress have been for nothing.” Greta Thunberg, speech to the EU leaders, February 2019

If you haven’t yet heard Greta Thunberg speak, now would be a good time to do it. She has suddenly gained the world’s attention as a mighty and fearless warrior for our planet Earth. And she is just getting started.

Greta is sixteen and tiny, with long mahogany braids, clear blue eyes, and a determined set to her jaw. She is Swedish, and for the past school year she’s been striking in front of the Swedish parliament house every Friday. Her demands are so very simple, and extremely clear: that the adults who run her country actually DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO REVERSE CLIMATE CHANGE AND HOLD TO THE PARIS AGREEMENT. Now she’s on tour, if you will, and has appeared at COP 24, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and most recently spoke before members of the EU on Thursday, February 21st. Whether alone or with schoolmates, Greta takes command of the room. Her message is utterly on point and without any sort of artifice. Her words cut through all the static and egoism present, and like an extraordinarily sharp blade, cut to the heart of our human-created, global situation. She is asking for the people who have the power to take responsibility for their decisions and to begin making better choices, now.

In her speech before a crowd at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Greta stated,

We know that most politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good, we don’t want to talk to them either. We want them to talk to the scientists instead. Listen to them because we are just repeating what they are saying and have been saying for decades– just unite behind the science–that is our demand.

I’m sorry but saying everything will be alright while continue doing nothing at all it’s just not hopeful to us. In fact, it’s the opposite of hope and yet this is exactly what you keep doing. You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come, then you’re acting like spoiled, irresponsible children. You don’t seem to understand that hope is something you have to earn and if you still say that we are wasting valuable lesson time then let me remind you that our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction, and since our time is running out we have decided to take action. We have started to clean up your mess and we will not stop until we are done.  Watch her speech via The Guardian here

This young, fearless teenager has become, whether she intended to or not, the poster child for the climate crisis that is now in full swing on our home world. Most people will either continue to deny or else to cringe at these words, yet Greta, with her clear blue eyes and calm, measured demeanor, is calling it out for the rest of us. And she is absolutely right—the world’s leaders and CEOs ARE acting like spoiled, irresponsible children, as they continue to unabashedly allow the destruction of Earth in the name of profits. This is, as Greta pointedly states, destroying her generation’s chances at any kind of a healthy future life for all those being born and all those yet to come. She’s right again by stating that the Power Elite have known for decades that their decisions and actions (and inactions) would create the situation we are in now. And yet, they only cared about their bottom line, which grew increasingly engorged from oil profits as time passed.

Greta Thunberg is absolutely correct in her summation and demands of the adults in the world’s highest level meetings: Listen to the climate scientists. Stop pretending.
And above all, TAKE URGENT ACTION, NOW.

What she knows, and the scientists know, and what anyone who is not living in denial surely knows by now, is that human beings have already done irretrievable damage to Earth. We have instigated the Sixth Mass Extinction; our fossil fuel appetite has started the cycle of global warming that cannot be undone. The UN’s IPCC report states that we have roughly a decade to urgently change the way we’re using energy, or…. Let’s just say the world will soon be uninhabitable for many. Greta urged the world’s leaders to see our situation for what it is: a crisis. She wants them to panic, to realize that humanity MUST CHANGE THE WAY WE ARE LIVING EVERY DAY, AND CHANGE RIGHT NOW. Not next year, or by 2030, or any of that nonsense. NOW. Right now.

IPCC_cartoon _Kudelka
image credit: http://www.crowdsourcingsustainability.com/ipcc-report-global-warming-1-5/

What is, in my opinion, so remarkable about Greta Thunberg and her simple activism, is that she has completely empowered the youngest members of our societies to spring into action. Last week there were school children protesting all around the UK. There have been student protests in Germany, Switzerland, Australia and it is spreading. In March, organizers are planning a global school strike day for climate change. It’s no longer something that only some progressive adults are doing. Now that youth and children are getting involved and taking to the streets, the climate movement is gaining the kind of momentum that must lead to real change. Why? Because Greta is right: The world’s youth are inheriting the horrible mess that we adults have created over the past fifty years. They are the ones who must live in the future world. The Millennials and Generation Z (those born around the turn of the 21st century) comprise a large percentage of the world’s population. And more are coming every day. This is an unprecedented, world-wide crisis that has no national boundaries, nor specially preserved places that won’t be affected. Species are going extinct in all parts of the globe. The ice caps are melting on both poles. The coastlines will be inundated along all continents. Climate change is the great equalizer. It doesn’t care about race, gender or religion, material wealth or poverty, or any of the distinctions we humans are so fond of keeping in place.

The world’s children are waking up, standing up, and shouting. To ignore them any longer is not only foolish, but will soon be impossible. They will not be stopped. I, and many, many others like me, are standing behind them and cheering. The world’s leaders and their oil-soaked backers have done everything possible to ignore their citizens’ collective outcry. But they will not be allowed to ignore the children any longer.
Greta Thunberg and all those who will come after her will make sure of it.

To find out more about Greta Thunberg, read this article in Earth Island Journal here.