In 1610 Galileo discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter. And it was common knowledge, within scientific circles especially, that Jupiter had four moons. For almost three hundred years Jupiter had four moons, until the ‘fifth’ was discovered in 1892.
By the time Voyager space probes reached the gas giant in 1979, Jupiter had 13 moons. Between 1892 and 1979, Jupiter had between 5 and 13 moons.
And the probe revealed another three.
So now Jupiter had 16 moons, and it was common knowledge for over twenty years that Jupiter had 16 moons.
Then, between October 1999 and February 2003, another 32 moons were revealed.
Since then an additional 14 moons have been observed, 12 of which await confirmation.
So Jupiter has at least 50 moons right now, though probably it has 62 moons, right now…well, give or take.
Of course, before these moons were discovered, they still existed. We didn’t know that they existed but this just means that we had a less developed picture of the universe.
Before the earth was round it was flat, as a matter of scientific fact. For a long time it was flat.
The same idea can be applied to the prevailing attitude towards the earth as a limitless playground for prospectors, corporations, governments and individuals that control global trade and energy policy.
We are reaching for the stars in technological terms, yet we have not yet reached a level of consciousness that honors the interconnectedness of the planet that sustains us, even though it has already given us so much and even though we are starting to get a sense, from gazing out into the universe, that the conditions favorable for life to develop are pretty rare, relatively speaking.
And yet they are embodied right here in the earth and its atmosphere, a paradise weeping for our solidarity.
Our arrogant sense of all-knowing – born out of the western colonial mold of conquering the infidels and cutting back the jungle, wiping our brow with self congratulations – all it does is to prop up the illusion that we are somehow separate from our surroundings, which gives us (or the greed and illusion that controls us) license to destroy our real heritage.
Our real heritage is the natural abundance of this planet that gave us life, that has given us food and medicines and clothes and shelter.
There are cures for HIV/Aids and all the cancers and all diseases – waiting in the biodiversity of this planet and new treatments are being developed right now from various molecules naturally occurring in plants, or by observing living organisms. There are treasure chests of undiscovered biodiversity being clear-cut right now, when they would yield more cash per acre, and for many more years, in terms of sustainable harvesting for herbal and medicinal applications, in combination with revenue from eco-tourism. There is technology and knowledge and resources and energy that can save us and our fellow beings who have no choice but to ride out our disregard. There are birds and polar bears and turtles and tigers and plankton and dolphins and men and women and children dying right now in the name of greed, in the name of religion; in the name of starvation.
The earth may not be flat, and yet in a sense it still is, metaphorically speaking, in terms of how much wonder awaits us in new appreciation and new insight into the breadth and depth; the symbiosis and preciousness of life here on this burning rock hurtling around a very large flaming ball of gas, billions of miles away, that we like to call the sun.
So here’s to our brave new world. It will be what it will be, and that will be beautiful and free and full of life, and let me not forget that I am party to what that might be and that now is the time to act.