Quote: Carl Sagan, Cosmos Chapter IV: Heaven and Hell

The end of chapter IV. 40 years ago the scientists were already warning about the perturbation of the planet’s climate.

Our lovely blue planet, the Earth, is the only home we know. Venus is too hot. Mars is too cold. But the Earth is just right, a heaven for humans. After all, we evolved here. but our congenial climate may be unstable. We are perturbing our poor planet in serious and contradictory ways. Is there any danger of driving the environment of the Earth toward a planetary Hell of Venus of the global ice age of Mars? The simple answer is that nobody knows…

A few million years ago, when human beings first evolved on Earth, it was already a middle-aged world, 4.6 billion years along from the catastrophe and impetuosities of its youth. But we humans now represent a new and perhaps decisive factor. Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.

The book and TV versions of Cosmos overlap considerably but are not exactly the same. The book expands on many topics, of course, without the time limits of a 1-hour TV episode. Yet the TV shows indulged in visuals that aren’t easily captured in print. In this case, Episode IV of the TV series ends with a montage of how “Everything changes eventually” — images of storms, volcanoes, fires, burning of forests, climatic catastrophes… Huge trucks. Eventually the damage becomes irreversible. Pollution. Short term profits, or long-term habitability.

And so the last few minutes of this episode look like a trailer, or perhaps an inspiration, for the famous Godfrey Reggio/ Philip Glass film Koyaanisqatski (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koyaanisqatsi), which I saw in a theater upon first release, and have rewatched several times over the years on videotape and DVD. Its thesis has been challenged, but after all these years, I think it’s as valid as ever.

I’m rewatching the Cosmos TV series, one episode a week or so, in part because when I saw it as originally broadcast in 1980, I must have watched it on the 12 or 15 inch black and white TV set that I had at the time. I’ve never seen it in color, until now.

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