For those of you who, like me, didn’t have a pair of eyeball-protecting goggles to watch as the planet Venus crossed the face of the sun this past Tuesday, here’s some stunning HD images released by NASA yesterday. The pictures were collected by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which is, according to NASA, “the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun.” NASA’s website states:
During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun’s atmosphere, magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate. SDO provides images with resolution 8 times better than high-definition television and returns more than a terabyte of data each day.On June 5 2012, SDO collected images of the rarest predictable solar event–the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.
Tuesday’s astronomical event, which lasted six hours, is among that rarest of planetary alignments (only seven of them have happened since the invention of the telescope). The last transit of Venus was in 2004 (the transits occur in pairs, with 8 years between them) and the next will not happen until 2117. There are those that say Tuesday’s transit heralds a spiritual and technological revolution here on our blue planet; heaven knows we need one right about now. In the meantime we have these photos:
The SDO’s amazing accomplishment is due to the dedication and expertise of scientists, of course. Yet arm-chair climate skeptics whose biggest claim to scientific and technological accomplishment is to turn on their computer and use their television’s remote control, feel entitled to weigh in on climate science. Give me a break.
My frustration with religion is people who think it’s about four walls: You go in and are righteous and leave church and it doesn’t go with you. I love the great theologian who said, “Everywhere I go I preach the gospel, but only sometimes do I use words.” Or, “Before you tell me about your religion, show me how you treat other people.”
My simple point is that I judge a person’s faith by how they live their life, not by the tenets of their religion. I’ve watched the holiest of people walk past somebody in need or treat their staff mean. To me, the beauty of faith is only seen when people live it consistently or struggle to do so.
~Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey
Those who wish to play a meaningful role in influencing public policy or changing its institutional base must begin with honest inquiry, in community with others if it is to be effective. Whether one sees oneself as dedicated to reform or revolution, the first steps are education of oneself and others. There will be little hope for further progress unless the means to carry out these first steps are preserved and enhanced: networks of local organizations, media and publishers who do not bend to state and private power, and so on. These first steps interact: the organizations will not function without access to information and analysis, independent media and publishing will not survive without the participation and intellectual and financial contributions of popular organizations that grow and develop on the basis of shared concerns, optimally based in the community, workplace, or other points of social interaction. To the extent that such a basis exists, a range of possible actions become available: political pressure within the system, community organizing, civil disobedience, constructive efforts to create wholly new institutions such as worker-managed industry, and much else. As activity undertaken in such domains, including conventional political action, extends in scale, effectiveness, and popular engagement, it may well evoke state violence, one sign that it is becoming truly significant.
There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change – and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future.
– Noam Chomsky
“Action is the antidote for despair.”
~ Joan Baez
Monday, September 26, 2001: Ottawa Tar Sands Action
There comes a time when you need to take a stand. When sending letters and signing petitions isn’t enough. When together we must say, “enough is enough — not on our watch”.
That time is now. We must act together for the health of our planet, our air, our water, our climate, and our children.
John Lennon’s anthem for peace:
I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
~ Walt Whitman
Those of you who follow this blog will know that my family and I spent last week canoeing in the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in northern Ontario’s boreal forest. It seems that the world has done as well (or poorly) as usual without my daily posts here, and I confess to some reluctance about getting back into cyberspace. It’s a world which can very easily eat up the minutes in a day until minutes turn into hours which turn into whole days lost at my desk.
Life in the wilderness was physically challenging (we did a total of 55 portages over our seven days of canoeing) but spiritually refreshing. We canoed routes that had been traveled since time before memory by the First Peoples of this continent. We saw drawings they left behind, amazingly still visible on the rock face rising out of the lake. We saw turtles, otters, loons, kingfishers, moose, and even a bear. We gratefully ate fish that had been plucked from the lake an hour earlier.
Now we’re back, and headlines blare out about the intransigence in Washington, the stock market plunging, the Harper government slashing nearly 800 jobs at Environment Canada, devastating drought in Texas, riots in London, famine in the Horn of Africa, and the list goes on…
Civilization just doesn’t seem that civilized after a week in the wilderness. I don’t know the whole answer to how one stays sane and hopeful in an insane and often cruel world. But I do know that I just had the good fortune to spend a week canoeing in our beautiful Canadian wilderness, and I will cherish it. I think it might be that cherishing the people and experiences, even uncomfortable ones, in one’s life is part of the answer. Now I’m off to do just that.
Woodland Caribou Park, August 2011: