Remembering Carl Sagan

January is approaching.

Geeky as it may be, one of my favorite things to do toward the end of the month is flip the pages on all my various astrophotograpahy calendars. People know I’m into that kind of thing so I tend to have several going at once. One of my friends was kind enough to already get me one in anticipation of 2013. Anyhow, in counting down the days on the calendar in my office, it reminded me with important dates marked out, that today is the anniversary of  legendary Carl Sagan’s passing

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

Sagan was an astronomer and science popularizer. Of late, I have become more fond of Sagan’s work. The name was always familiar to me, a space enthusiast, but lately, in light of promoting space advocacy with Chasing Atlantis, as well as the community development work on the Esther’s Echo side (a start-up charity supporting education in West Africa I help run) I have come to appreciate him a great deal more. Sagan made it a point to explain the sheer vastness of the Cosmos, also the title of his television series, to the masses to inspire thought on how we govern ourselves as a planet. His concern was that we would never reach the stars unless we pushed through the inherent dangers of becoming a technologically advanced society. On two occasions Sagan was arrested at anti-nuclear protests during the Reagan administration at the Nevada Test Site. Nuclear self-destruction was a sure way of never taking our place among the theorized space-faring community of the Milky Way Galaxy (and maybe beyond.) He also designed two prominent attempts at communicating with this space community through the Arecibo Radio Message and the Golden Record on the Voyager 2 Space Craft (my personal favorite).

It was only recently that I really started seeing a connection between our planet and the stars. That seems strange when you think about it since we float among the Cosmos.  But we tend to think of the sky as our ancient ancestors did, something that was utterly detached from us. Certainly we think of the sky not as we think of the ocean when on a boat; that medium which supports us. And yet here we float in the heavens; our tiny pale blue dot.  So what? Of what relevance is space in our global affairs? I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to high school students from time to time about my work abroad. I used to slip the odd space reference in, mainly to talk about the inspiration my grandfather had in my life which encouraged me to travel. He was also a huge astronomy geek. The more times I did the presentation, the more spacey content made its way in until recently where I realized that they were not so utterly different from one another. When we consider the magnitude of Creation we exist within and the eons of time which passed for us to come into existence, does it really make sense that we use our infinitely smaller histories to justify atrocities on others, or wrestle over tracks of land mere tens of square kilometers in size when we measure our ocean in light years? Does it make sense to pollute and abuse the planet when we know full well we don’t have the means to reach another across the vast distances? Carl didn’t think it did. And making this connection between the social justice and space areas of my own interests has found a new respect for Sagan’s efforts as well as his endeavour to raise the public’s awareness of space.

If you get the chance today, swing by The Carl Sagan Portal for awesome content and inspiring quotes from Sagan about SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!

-Matt &8-)

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