Tomorrow morning, early tomorrow morning, my wife and I are heading to the hospital for a scheduled C-section. I’m going to meet my son. Over the next 20 years or so, my duty as a father is to mould and shape him into an honourable and respectable human being. This is something I do not take lightly for it is one of the purest legacies we leave.
I found myself watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Episode 13 this evening entitled: Who Speaks for Earth?. I was in awe of the profound and prophetic words and some points stuck with me. First, Sagan spends some time crafting an image of past civilizations with a comparison between the Greeks and Egyptians. With his explanation that Aristotle believed in two groups; Greeks and Barbarians, this concept rationalized the practice of slavery. There was no sense of a collective community to Aristotle. Sagan also explained the city of Alexandria as the first true cosmopolitan city. It was the heartbeat of innovation and discovery. Its library held invaluable volumes detailing observations and methods. It was not until the mob mentality of the religious deemed the library and its possessions as pagan that the library was razed to the delight of local politicians. It was at this point one of the most poignant statements I have ever heard was uttered…
History is full of people who out of fear or ignorance or the lust for power have destroyed treasures of immeasurable value which truly belong to all of us. We must not let it happen again.
Let that sink in….
My first instantaneous thought was of the Koch Brothers. Scientific discoveries do not belong to any one party or country. These discoveries belong to all of us because they tell of our shared kindredship. We are all in this together.
My second thought deals with the conviction Carl Sagan has to calm the rising nuclear storm among world powers, and he does it in blaring subtlety. He could see the big picture; how all civilization could end within a short, short period of time. Thankfully, these tensions seem to have died down enough that it is not an imminent threat. But, it does remind me a very real, current threat in climate change. Perhaps, this is one reason the Cosmos series was revived.
In my opinion, the threats of climate change are much more dangerous. The outcome would be the same, total destruction, but the impacts are so subtle most don’t catch the trends. Even when all factual evidence points toward environmental collapse in the mid-range future, many do not see it as imminent or requiring even short-term mitigation.
Earth. We were given a beautiful home. Let’s not blow it.
Embarrassingly, I have to admit something. Despite my overwhelming love of science and passion for teaching science to others, I grew up not knowing whom Carl Sagan was. Back story: I grew up in East Tennessee, the son of a mechanic and a bookkeeper. I never even opened one of Sagan’s books until my 30s. I must say, it was my loss.
I have had the privilege of listening to the stories from those who knew Carl Sagan personally. He sounded like such a sweet, endearing person that the world desperately needed and unfortunately still does. By today’s standards, Sagan was a cosmic anomaly harnessing the knowledge from learning, the oration of a great leader, and the passion to spread the wonders of the universe to the masses.
Since the premier of the new production of Cosmos, listening to everyone talk of Sagan makes him sound like a god, but he was something even more great. Carl Sagan was a genuine, compassionate human being. He saw the big picture, even though it is too often clouded by politics and special interests, as what it was; our collective, solitary home among the vast cosmos. Our home has problems that must be addressed and these problems will continue to grow without intervention. Sagan knew a curious, enlightened society could be a force for change.
I wish I had known Carl Sagan, knowing how he has touched the lives of those who encountered him. Neil deGrasse Tyson has had enormous shoes to fill by assuming the role of navigator through the Cosmos. It is our turn to do our part as science communicators to ensure Sagan’s legacy rekindled is not in vain.
Everyone talks about how scientists should give back, outreach, blog, tweet, tumble, etc., as if it is some kind of charity work. What about science writers and science communicators? Are they to sit idly by while scientists (who are more worried about where the next grant will come) fumble through trying to communicate their “latest discoveries and innovations”? I think science writers should also give back, outreach, blog, etc., but not the way you think. The growing group of science writers should outreach to scientists as a form of charity. We all know they (most of anyway) need our help. When was the last time, writer, you emailed some of the top scientists in your passionate field to ask if there was any way you could help communicate to everyone what exciting new findings they have that most people wouldn’t know about?
This is all tongue in cheek dribbles I’m writing. But, I am trying to get a point across. As presented by scicurious, professors and grad students have a lot on their plate. It is about time we engage them.
Disclaimer: I’m very new at science writing since I just graduated with the Ph.D. in August 2012. I’m naive but optimistic (about this anyway).