Issue 11 Editorial

In her National Book Award acceptance speech in 1963, Rachel Carson reflected:

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, in his cities of steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water and the growing seed. Intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into more experiments for the destruction of himself and his world.

There is certainly no single remedy for this condition and I am offering no panacea. But it seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.

As our planet stands on the brink of destruction,  many wonder filled opportunities have come our way through the proclamation of 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. The stimulus for this UN year was the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope. In 1609 Galileo Galilei made his first observation of the skies through his 4cm telescope. To his amazement, he discovered that the Moon had craters, that Jupiter had moons and that Venus waxed and waned. Eventually he was able to confirm the theory of his colleague Copernicus that the Sun, not the Earth, was the centre of the known Universe. This discovery caused havoc  in Christian Europe and Church authorities were unable to cope with this new and exciting extension of human knowledge.

In the early part of 20th century, almost 300 years later, another moment of insight challenged conventional thinking about the nature of the universe. Hubble’s telescope confirmed Einstein’s intuition that we do not live in a static universe. Rather all the galaxies visible through his instrument were moving away from one another and hence the universe is expanding.

The 40th anniversary of the Moon landing has also evoked memories for many and reminded us of the mystical journaling of the astronauts and the precious photos of our home planet.  Even in these days of light pollution, we still seem to sense a mysterious attraction to the phases of the moon, the movement of the planets across the sky and the story telling constellations.

These anniversaries might not make much difference to our day to day lives but for those who choose to engage with the allurement they offer, there is a profound depth to be explored. One such person was Thomas Berry. His death on June 1st this year was a poignant occasion after 94 years of life fully lived. For the EarthSong community, Thomas has been a guiding light and his work has led us into a new cosmology, a new story that challenges the status quo in no less a way than the work of Copernicus and Hubble. Berry’s teaching, along with that of his colleague Brian Swimme, invites us into a new identity of ourselves as kin with all else in the great dance of unfolding mystery. Earlier peoples understood this through intuitive knowing, but we are blessed to know empirically that all that is shares one common origin story.

In this edition we have two feature writers. Ros Haynes in her usual skilled and sensitive way leads us into a deeper appreciation of our indigenous people’s perception of the night skies and illustrates the ways in which myth shapes behaviour and morality. Gill Baker tracks the discoveries of early European humans and the breadth of their astronomical knowledge as depicted in cave art.

Several other articles draw on the theme of the International Year of Astronomy and reflect the insights derived from star and planet gazing. We also honour the contribution and achievements of many Earth visionaries young and old.

This journal will be read in the shadow of two internationally significant and concurrent events in December: the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne. Could it be possible that there would be mutual influence amongst the participants in each of these conferences? Could Copenhagen honestly address the current devastation to our planet and her community of life wrought by rampant industrialization and a false sense of the place of the human in the scheme of things? Could the Parliament of Religions honestly address the spiritual disconnect that has enabled this destruction such that the westernized world has lost a sense of the sacred that pervades all being? Could wonder and humility dissolve the lust for destruction? May it be so.