A Letter On Earth Observation And Global Awareness

Greetings,

As the Editor, I look at Earthzine’s logo tagline and wonder what Fostering Earth Observation and Global Awareness means. Here are some musings of my wonder.

In October 2006, I was approached by Drs. Jay Pearlman and Albin Gasiewski of the then newly formed IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO) and asked to lead the development of a new online magazine as an IEEE contribution to the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and its 10-year plan of establishing Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). The ICEO supports GEO and the development of GEOSS in providing Earth information needed to address challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, resource depletion and other barriers to sustainable development. GEOSS is envisioned to be the global infrastructure required for effective utilization of Earth information derived from the vast amounts of data from existing and future observing remote and in situ sensor systems. One year later, www.earthzine.org was launched.

Earthzine fosters Earth observation (EO) by supporting the development of GEOSS and publishing articles pertaining to the GEOSS nine societal benefit areas, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Climate, Disasters, Ecosystems, Energy, Health, Water, and Weather. Earthzine hosts seasonal themes that highlight the social benefits of EO and explores how EO can address such challenges as Meeting the New Millennium Development Goals. Earthzine’s student essay contests bring together students from around the world in discussions about EO and sustainability. Providing our youth with an international forum for sharing views and discussing solutions for our most pressing issues makes good sense. In addition to seasonal themes, Earthzine distributes a Newsletter on the full moon. If you don’t already, please subscribe; it’s free!

And so how does one foster Global Awareness? It seems that fostering EO for the benefit of society fosters Global Awareness.

It is through observation that we become aware. This is true for the monk who through prayer and meditation observes One’s magnificence, the astronomer looking through the telescope across time who sees the structural evolution of the universe, and the mother who keeps vigilant watch for danger to her offspring. From the source of the Big Bang to our most inner sense of spirituality, the deeper we look in any direction, the closer we come in realizing our universal existence is just but One Life.  We each have our unique sense for what it means to be alive and globally aware; and it’s within the collective of all our senses that Global Awareness emerges as a life form of its own.

Dreams are born and die as part of the cycle on which hope carries us forward. For the first time in Earth’s history, humans are aware of our species’ capacity to adapt and modulate Earth’s life-sustaining cycles on a global scale. Urban sprawl, unabashed thirst for energy and resources, and the use of toxins in our industrial processes have discernable and often deleterious effect on human life and environed ecosystems. Just look around and we can see human impact on Earth in the form of our cities and large agricultural estates where we harvest our nourishment. We see merciless killing in ideological wars that scar the planet. Atomic, biotech and other horrific weapons give us the ability to self-annihilate. There’s little uncertainty in that humanity’s explosive population growth over the past hundred years has transformed the surface of Earth and its life-sustaining ecosystems from local to continental scales. In a million years from now what awareness will there be of Life on Earth?

Global Awareness is recognizing that Life on Earth is what we must protect.

We protect the life of our young as well as the spirit in the fire. To protect Life is to value and care for that which warms our heart during the cold night’s torrent of rage against all life, Death, … so that we may wake to a new dawn with all the splendor that Life has to offer.

How well can we protect another if we do not first protect ourselves? Protecting life begins with valuing and caring for one’s own; in this way our interdependency leads us to understand the need to give so that others, too, may live. And therein lies the wisdom in developing GEOSS for the benefit of society. The collective answer lays within the recognition of humanity’s role in stewardship of the Earth and our awareness that human activity affects all life on the planet. For this very important reason we must care for our own kind in all forms. For where ever humans suffer, so does Life on Earth.

Life is different for everyone thus making every life unique. Life is many things not the least of which is living present in the joy of knowing that we are but one life in many experiencing the joys of Life’s living.   Hmmmm…:)

My daughter experiencing the joy in discovering herself in the mirror for the first time.

My daughter experiencing the joy in discovering herself in the mirror for the first time.



With rockets we send humans and sensors to space that return to us images of Earth with a background of cosmic proportions.  And in our pictures we see that decisions made at the individual, local, regional and global scale all affect the life that exists on Earth. Through our observations we are just beginning to comprehend Earth’s regulatory processes that have served to support life up to the point in which we now live, and what it means to be aware that the future of Life on Earth is forever shaped by human activity.  How do we as the human species move forward in a way in which Life may prosper?

Therein lays the potential of Fostering Earth Observation and Global Awareness. Observing the Earth includes collecting data with sensors that detect and record Earth’s biogeophysical processes and understanding the benefits of those observations and the utilization of Earth information on the global community. Global Awareness entails looking beyond the discerned effect being observed to the impact of the observation on ourselves and others. Earthzine probes these complex issues through interviews with leaders in the EO community and articles that explore GEOSS’ broad objective for societal benefit. We each observe the Earth and have a unique perspective. I invite you to share your views by posting comments, submitting an article or writing an opinion essay.

We today see images of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers from around the planet we all share. ‘Hey you! You’re on the same planet as I am.’  That we are, and One of many in Life!

Blessings my friend,

Paul Racette, DSc
Editor-in-Chief