Paul Gauguin Portrait of Ingeborg Thaulow 1877
"The US backed a coup & the new coup government, which included some fascists, waged a war on Ukraine's Russian speaking population, & those in Crimea & elsewhere wanted to not live under that…Why are we risking a nuclear war over that?" @aaronjmate https://t.co/k0RTW57D49 pic.twitter.com/P2lwAcVjiC
— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) October 8, 2022
Both car – and train traffic has been resumed. But the provocations will continue. Until Russia reacts in a way that can be used as a excuse for a large scale attack.
• Crimean Bridge Explosion Just ‘The Beginning,’ Ukraine Says (RT)
The blast that rocked the Crimean Bridge early on Saturday is just “the beginning,” Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s aide, Mikhail Podoliak, has said. The bridge was closed in the early hours of Saturday after a truck exploded, damaging the road and causing a huge fire. “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning,”Podoliak tweeted. “Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.” Ukrainian officials have promised to attack the Crimean Bridge, which connects the Russian peninsula of Crimea to the country’s Krasnodar Region, on numerous occasions during the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
In August, Podoliak said that Europe’s largest bridge “should be destroyed” because it’s “an illegal construction and the main gateway to supply the Russian army in Crimea.” Zelensky and other members of his team have also stated that Ukraine will use force to retake Crimea, which overwhelmingly voted to reunite with Russia in a referendum in 2014. The blast occurred at around 6am local time, causing a partial collapse of the road on the section for vehicles. A blaze also broke out on the parallel rail section, where seven fuel tanks caught fire. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said that a truck exploded as it was traveling along the 19-km-long structure. The fire has been extinguished, and the damage caused by the blast is being assessed. The Crimean authorities said a ferry service will be provided while the bridge is being repaired.
40,000 troops on the Russian border..
• Kiev Amasses Troops On Donbass Border – Official (RT)
Kiev has deployed some 40,000 troops to the border with the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), which recently became part of Russia, the LPR’s top representative in Moscow, Rodion Miroshnik, has said. “In the areas where attempts of a breakthrough are being made [by Kiev’s forces], large quantities of manpower and hardware have been concentrated on the Ukrainian side,” Miroshnik said during an appearance on the Soloviev Live program on YouTube on Friday. According to estimates by the LPR’s forces, “we’re talking about 40,000 men,” the official added.
Kiev’s troops have been gathering to the north and northwest of the LPR, as well as in the area around the town of Krasny Liman in the Donetsk People’s Republic, from where Russian forces withdrew a week ago amid a Ukrainian offensive, Miroshnik added. On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed into law unification treaties with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, officially making them part of Russia. The four territories overwhelmingly supported the move during referendums in late September.
“a monster, whose hands can destroy the planet.”
• US Comments On Zelensky’s ‘Preemptive Strike’ Appeal (RT)
The US is not about to get directly involved in the hostilities between Moscow and Kiev, a State Department spokesman said on Friday, after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky had urged the West to conduct “preventive strikes” against Russia. When asked about the Ukrainian leader’s latest appeal to the West, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the administration of US President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of taking part in the fighting. “As long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we are not going to get directly engaged in this conflict either by putting American troops to fight in Ukraine or attacking Russian forces,” he reiterated, adding that Washington’s message on this matter has been “very clear.”
On Thursday, Zelensky, speaking at an online conference at the Australian Lowy Institute, called for “preventive strikes” against Russia so that Moscow knew what to expect should it resort to nuclear weapons. Later, Zelensky’s press secretary attempted to clarify these remarks, arguing that they should not be interpreted as a request for NATO to attack Russia. The Ukrainian leader himself also stepped in, telling BBC on Friday that he had meant “preventive kicks, not attacks.” The UK outlet also clarified that Zelensky was “referring to sanctions.”
The comments made by the Ukrainian president sparked a backlash from Moscow, which accused him of attempting to spark a world war, which would lead to “unforeseeable disastrous consequences.” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went so far as to describe him as “a monster, whose hands can destroy the planet.” Russia has repeatedly stated that a nuclear war should never be fought, while Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in August made it clear that Moscow is not considering a nuclear strike on Ukraine, given that there are no targets warranting such drastic measures.
The Beltway class wanted to launch the Russia-Ukraine war in 2016, but then Trump got elected and it screwed up their plans. pic.twitter.com/gDgXFACRQr
— Jordan Schachtel @ dossier.substack.com (@JordanSchachtel) October 8, 2022
“US policy has created a global state of dependency in which literally There is no alternative but to break away.”
• Michael Hudson: A Roadmap To Escape The West’s Stranglehold (Escobar)
Are we reaching the point when the key players of the Global South – over 100 nations – finally get their act together and decide to go for broke and stop the US from keeping the artificial neoliberal global economy in a state of perpetual coma? This means the only possible option, as you have outlined, is to set up a parallel global currency bypassing the US dollar – while the usual suspects float the notion of a Bretton Woods III at best. Is the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) financial casino omnipotent enough to smash any possible competition? Do you envisage any other practical mechanisms apart from what is being discussed by BRICS/ EAEU/ SCO?
Hudson: “A year or two ago it seemed that the task of designing a full-fledged alternative world currency, monetary, credit and trading system was so complex that the details hardly could be thought through. But US sanctions have proved to be the needed catalyst to make such discussions pragmatically urgent. The confiscation of Venezuela’s gold reserves in London and its US investments, the confiscation of $300 billion of Russia’s foreign-exchange reserves held in the United States and Europe, and its threat to do the same to China and other countries resisting US foreign policy has made de-dollarization urgent. I have explained the logic in many points, from my Valdai Club article (with Radhika Desai) to my recent book on The Destiny of Civilization, the lecture series that I prepared for Hong Kong and the Global University for Sustainability.
Holding securities denominated in dollars, and even holding gold or investments in the United States and Europe, is no longer a safe option. It is clear that the world is breaking into two quite different types of economies, and that US diplomats and their European satellites are willing to tear up the existing economic order in hopes that creating a disruptive crisis will enable themselves to come out on top. It also is clear that subjugation to the IMF and its austerity plans are economic suicide, and that following World Bank and its neoliberal doctrine of international dependency is self-destructive. The result has been to create an unpayable overhead of debts denominated in US dollars. These debts cannot be paid without borrowing credit from the IMF and accepting terms of economic surrender to US privatizers and speculators.
The only alternative to imposing economic austerity on themselves is to withdraw from the dollar trap in which US-sponsored “free market” economics (markets free from government protection, and free from government ability to recover the environmental damage from US oil companies, mining companies and the associated industrial and food dependency) is to make a clean break. The break will be difficult, and US diplomacy will do everything it can to disrupt the creation of a more resilient economic order. But US policy has created a global state of dependency in which literally There is no alternative but to break away.”
• US Asked Hungary To Invade Serbia – President Vucic (RT)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic revealed on Saturday that American and British leaders, including President Bill Clinton, urged Hungary to invade Serbia by land in 1999. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who told Vucic of the request, refused. In a televised address, Vucic said that the US and UK wanted Hungarian forces to push south into Serbia in order to split the Yugoslav military between the front in Kosovo and a new front with Hungary. “Clinton and the British asked [Orban] to attack Serbia from the north so that they could extend our forces from Kosovo and Metohija to Vojvodina,” he explained. Orban, who at the time was one year into his first term in office, refused, and with the help of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, pushed back against the “pressure from the White House.”
Orban told Vucic of the request during a recent meeting and allowed him to speak about it publicly, the Serbian leader said. NATO launched a bombing campaign in 1999 against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which by that time was made up of Serbia and Montenegro. In waging the air war, NATO sided with ethnic Albanian separatists, who were fighting with the Serbs for the independence of Kosovo, a province of Serbia. Hungary had joined NATO earlier that year, but did not participate in the campaign.
According to Vucic, Orban then traveled to the UK for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and former PM Margaret Thatcher. Greeting him at the door of Downing Street, Thatcher told Orban “it bothers me a lot that you refused to attack Serbia, that’s why more British soldiers will die,” Vucic said. Ultimately, no British troops died during the campaign. Hostilities ceased in June 1999 with the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement, after which NATO troops moved into Kosovo, where they remain to this day. The bombing campaign marked the first time that the US-led alliance used military force without the approval of the UN Security Council, and is still regarded by much of the world as illegitimate.
Rebalance. I think I still prefer to use the word “Turkey” when we talk Erdogan.
• Putin Wants ‘Grand Bargain’ – Türkiye (RT)
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to strike “a new grand bargain” with the West to erase the humiliations of the post-Cold War period, Turkish presidential adviser Ibrahim Kalin told CNN on Saturday. In an interview with the American broadcaster, he said that the Ukraine conflict will inevitably end in a negotiated settlement, with the only question being when, “and how much damage will have been done by then?” Such a settlement will be about more than the borders of Russia and Ukraine, he continued, arguing that what Putin really aims to do is renegotiate the balance of power between Moscow and the West, after a weakened Russia accepted several rounds of NATO expansion in the aftermath of the Cold War. “Our understanding is that Mr. Putin wants to have a new grand bargain, a new deal, with the West,” Kalin said.
The Turkish official referenced agreements signed by Moscow and NATO in the early 1990s – which included the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which stated that the alliance would continue to expand, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia agreed not to use force against its neighbors – as decisions Putin would like to re-do. “The Russian perception is that the Russia of that day, that signed that agreement – that is, the Russia of the Gorbachevs and the Yeltsins – is over,”Kalin claimed. “There is a new Russia, there is a new world, there is a new reality, and they want to have a new bargain.” Putin declared last week that “the ongoing collapse of Western hegemony is irreversible,” and that “things will never be the same.” A multipolar world, he said, will give non-Western nations “an opportunity to strengthen their sovereignty.”
According to Kalin, “This puts of course the entire global order, the liberal order, to a test.” He added: “So far the response has been war from both sides.” Western leaders have not indicated that they intend to negotiate an end to the Ukraine conflict in the near future. Washington’s official line is that it will continue to funnel tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to Kiev “for as long as it takes,” and will allow Ukraine to dictate its terms for ending the conflict. Amid the broader conflict between Russia and the West, Türkiye has positioned itself as a middleman, with Ankara hosting peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in March that ultimately broke down. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called for both sides to return to negotiations, declaring that “even the worst peace will be better than war.”
Lithuania has nothing.
• NATO Should Give Ukraine ‘Everything We Have’ – Lithuania (RT)
NATO countries should arm Ukraine with all available weapons, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Ukrainian media on Saturday. However, he expects the alliance’s other members to foot the bill. “Ukraine needs ‘everything we have,’” Landsbergis told Ukrinform, arguing that the Ukrainian military is already capable of working with the alliance’s arsenal now that its troops are receiving training in multiple European countries. While the US has supplied Ukraine with increasingly powerful weaponry, some of its NATO allies have balked at handing over certain arms systems. Germany, for example, refuses to send its most modern Leopard II main battle tanks for fear of causing further escalation. Even in Washington, Pentagon officials have argued that Ukrainian troops would need substantial training to operate Western tanks.
Landsbergis insisted that “these arguments no longer work,” after a series of successful offenses by Kiev’s forces, which are increasingly armed with NATO weapons. “If this is so, I see no reason why Ukraine should not be given everything we have?” the minister said. “I have already said this many times and now I will say it again.” Landsbergis has emerged as one of the most vocally anti-Russian ministers in the EU in the months since Moscow sent its forces into Ukraine. He has threatened Lithuanian entertainers with reprisals for performing in Russia, supported an EU-wide ban on all visas for Russians, and called on NATO to pursue the military defeat of Russia rather than seek a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine conflict.
However, his own military has little to give Ukraine. Landsbergis told Ukrinform that he would only provide “political arguments” for arming Kiev’s forces, as Lithuania does not have its own “significant stockpile of weapons.” While Ukraine has repeatedly called for more and heavier weapons from the West, EU stockpiles are running low, with Germany’s stocks already exhausted as of early September. Although US President Joe Biden has vowed to keep the arms pipeline open for “as long as it takes,” the US is reportedly cautious about delivering more advanced weapons systems. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Russia is now facing “the entire Western military machine” in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also warned that “the US, in fact, is teetering on the brink of turning into a party to the conflict” due to its lavish assistance to Kiev.
Burn baby burn.
• Fanaticism Of The Apocalypse (Shellenberger)
In Europe, they’re burning garbage to stay warm. “It’s so bad this season that you can smell trash burning every day, which is completely new,” said the 35-year-old mother of three from Jablonna, Poland, near Warsaw. “Rarely can you smell a regular fuel. It’s scary to think what happens when it really gets cold.” The Polish government suspended quality regulations on coal burning for those who can still afford it; 60% of households no longer can. Because of all the garbage burning, the government may soon hand out masks so its residents don’t inhale toxic fumes. Said one of Poland’s most powerful politicians last month, “one needs to burn almost everything, except for tires and similarly harmful things.” The government estimates that 40,000 people died annually from premature deaths from air pollution before the current crisis.
Forests are being hammered. In Estonia and Finland, forests that had been set aside to capture carbon dioxide to reduce climate change are now being so heavily logged that they are net emitters. Hungary lifted conservation regulations so old-growth forests could be logged; it then banned the export of wood pellets. “People buy wood pellets thinking they’re the sustainable choice, but in reality, they’re driving the destruction of Europe’s last wild forests,” said one conservationist. Wood pellets prices have doubled even in nuclear-heavy France which, under pressure from Germany, and in the grip of renewable energy mania, had been shutting down its nuclear plants so rapidly that it had stopped properly maintaining them. Romania has been forced to cap the price of firewood, which had skyrocketed. Burning wood releases more greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal, something most experts finally acknowledge.
And Europe is returning to coal as quickly as it can. This year it increased thermal coal imports more than any other region. Coal imports increased by 36% more during the first eight months of 2022 than of 2021. Europe’s coal imports are today 10% of the global total. Germany is importing coal from South Africa, which is ironic because, just one year ago, Germany gave South Africa $810 million in exchange for an agreement that South Africa not use coal. And at the United Nations climate change talks in Scotland less one year ago this month, the UN created a special CGI dinosaur to warn all nations, but particularly Africans, that they must not use fossil fuels, and instead do what Europe was doing and, supposedly, transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewables.
Is the genius who came up with the idea still working there? Look, you can silence a social media account, but you cannot steal people’s money outright.
• Elon Musk, Former Exec Lead Backlash Against PayPal (DW)
PayPal reversed its decision to fine users $2,500 for violating its terms of service after Elon Musk and a former executive led a furious backlash against the move on social media. In a tweet Saturday, former PayPal President David Marcus spoke out against a new policy, first reported by The Daily Wire, that would apparently allow the digital payment processor to charge users $2,500 for posting materials that “promote misinformation” or “present a risk to user safety or wellbeing.” Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, said he agreed with Marcus’ criticism, joining a number of others who have spoken out against the new policy. “It’s hard for me to openly criticize a company I used to love and gave so much to,” Marcus wrote on Twitter.
“But @PayPal’s new AUP goes against everything I believe in. A private company now gets to decide to take your money if you say something they disagree with. Insanity.” “Agreed,” Musk wrote in reply to Marcus. The criticism from Marcus and Musk, who was on the board of directors and briefly CEO of PayPal during its early days, were at the front of a fury of backlash to the proposed policy. “Get your money out of [PayPal] right now,” venture capitalist David Sacks tweeted. “Seriously, close your PayPal account immediately if they don’t reverse this today,” replied Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. “Why would anyone use @PayPal ever again?” conservative commentator John Cardillo wrote. “They’ve flat out told you they’re going to steal your money if you disagree with the regime.”
“The ‘misinformation’ police are now extending their reach beyond your social media accounts and into your financial accounts,” author and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy wrote. “PayPal probably isn’t protected by Section 230, so it could face legal liability in states with political nondiscrimination statutes,” Ramaswamy added later. “It’s an easier case to make than against a social media platform.” “Orwellian. Paypal reserves the right to take your money if you post a message that Paypal decides is ‘misinformation,’” former FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said. “This is why it is so vital that state and federal legislatures pass laws that prohibit discrimination by tech companies and protect free speech.”
“Most hopeless addicts are trying to hock property or score a few bucks for their next hit. Hunter was flying around the world, arranging meetings with his father and coordinating multiple global accounts.”
• Cynical Defense Of Hunter Biden: I Was Addicted To Drugs (Turley)
For years, President Biden repeated the same mantra when asked about Hunter Biden’s influence peddling and alleged crimes: “My son did nothing wrong.” It was always implausible — as was his denial of any knowledge of these dealings despite emails and pictures to the contrary. So the president and the press have been shifting to a new defense. As the father recently insisted of his son, “He fought an addiction problem. He overcame it. He wrote about it.” The family and the media have been cultivating the angle for months as they anticipated possible criminal charges. Such charges would not only be an embarrassment for the president but also the media, which have been actively complicit in covering up the multimillion-dollar influence-peddling schemes of the Biden family, including Hunter and his uncle James.
With possible criminal conduct exposed, all that’s left is the addiction defense. Hunter Biden’s autobiographical book laid the foundations for this final line of defense. While the book did not do particularly well in sales with the public, the media offered fawning interviews about his account of addiction. The narrative was ramped up by many of the same media outlets that buried the scandal, including articles on how the family fought “to keep him alive.” Now The Post reports prosecutors are second-guessing charges in light of the addiction and how it might undermine any criminal case. While there’s no question the defense would likely use such an addiction, it’s usually more of a concern for sentencing than charging. Addiction can be cited as a mitigating factor to the court in determining the defendant’s level of culpability.
The most obvious problem for the addiction defense is that Hunter did not appear to have any chemical-based challenge in maintaining a global, multimillion-dollar influence-peddling scheme. The image of a crackhead holed up in high-end hotels with call girls is undermined by thousands of emails on international money transfers and complex deals stretching from Moscow to Kyiv to Beijing. The fact is you can be an addict or alcoholic and still be a criminal. Addiction did not appear to inhibit prosecutors in cases like the murder trial involving Lillo Brancato, the actor from “The Sopranos” series and the movie “A Bronx Tale.” Brancato was a drug addict when he participated in a burglary that ended in a shooting. He was convicted and given 10 years. Indeed, in some cases, prosecutors use addiction is as a motive for committing crimes, particularly in paying for or acquiring more crimes.
Not only is this possible prosecution not based on a drug offense, it would feature a high-functioning defendant who earned millions in influence peddling. Indeed, the now-sober Hunter has repeatedly acknowledged that while his family name may have led to some of his past positions, he is a lawyer with experience that was useful in work like serving on the board of Ukrainian energy conglomerate Burisma Holdings. It will be difficult for Hunter to switch from the privileged-but-capable defense to the hopeless-addict defense. Most hopeless addicts are trying to hock property or score a few bucks for their next hit. Hunter was flying around the world, arranging meetings with his father and coordinating multiple global accounts.
• Lapado: Covid mRNA Vaccine- 84% Increased Risk of Death For Men Ages 18-39 (PM)
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on Friday release the state’s analysis of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, revealing an 84 percent “increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39.” Florida “will not be silent on the truth,” he said. The guidance “recommends against the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for males ages 18-39 years old.” In a statement, Ladapo said that “Studying the safety and efficacy of any medications, including vaccines, is an important component of public health. Far less attention has been paid to safety and the concerns of many individuals have been dismissed – these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians.”
The Florida Department of Health released the findings of a self-controlled case series which they used to evaluate the safety of the Covid vaccines, which “studied mortality risk following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.” It found that “there is an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination.” The findings also showed that “Males over the age of 60 had a 10% increased risk of cardiac-related death within 28 days of mRNA vaccination,” and that “Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risks among any population. The guidance suggests that Floridians talk to their doctors and health care providers about the relative benefits and risks of vaaccination for Covid with use of mRNA vaccines, and that it should be weighed against the potential risks of Covid.
This analysis comes after the Florida Department of Health issued guidance in March that recommended against use of the Covid mRNA vaccines for “healthy children and adolescents 5 years old to 17 years old.” The state also recommends “against COVID-19 vaccination among infants and children under 5 years old, which has since been issued under Emergency Use Authorization.” When this guidance for children was issued, the Biden administration accused Ladapo of being a “politician.” Florida is not alone in their guidance. Sweden recommends against Covid mRNA vaccines for children ages 5-11. The Danish Health Authority recommends against Covid mRNA vaccines for children under 18. The UK has rolled back their offering of Covid jabs to children ages 5-11, per guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Hoe much longer can we hide the true cause? Reuters cover its ass from its own headline: “..possibly due to complications arising from extreme heat..”
• England’s Heatwaves See Highest Ever Excess Deaths Among Elderly (R.)
England saw the highest excess mortality figure from heatwaves this year since records began in 2004, health officials said on Friday, after a hot summer that saw temperatures rise to all-time highs. England recorded 2,803 excess deaths among those aged 65 and over during summer heatwaves this year, possibly due to complications arising from extreme heat, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said in a statement. The figures exclude deaths from COVID-19. “These estimates show clearly that high temperatures can lead to premature death for those who are vulnerable,” UKHSA Chief Scientific Officer Isabel Oliver said. “Prolonged periods of hot weather are a particular risk for elderly people, those with heart and lung conditions or people who are unable to keep themselves cool such as people with learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Britain recorded its highest ever temperature, of just above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in eastern England on July 19. The heatwave, which caused fires across large grass areas, destroyed property and pressured transport infrastructure, had been made at least 10 times more likely because of climate change, scientists said. read more Around 1,000 excess deaths were recorded among those over 65 between July 17-20, the UKHSA said, while the Aug. 8-17 period recorded an estimated 1,458 excess deaths. Statisticians use “excess deaths” — a term that became more commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic — to describe the number of fatalities in excess of normally observed mortality numbers for a particular time of year.
Excerpt from William Shatner’s new book, “Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder,” the “Star Trek” actor reflects on his voyage into space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Oct. 13, 2021. Then 90 years old, Shatner became the oldest living person to travel into space..
• My Trip to Space Filled Me With ‘Overwhelming Sadness’ (William Shatner)
With all the attending noise, fire, and fury, we lifted off. I could see Earth disappearing. As we ascended, I was at once aware of pressure. Gravitational forces pulling at me. The g’s. There was an instrument that told us how many g’s we were experiencing. At two g’s, I tried to raise my arm, and could barely do so. At three g’s, I felt my face being pushed down into my seat. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, I thought. Will I pass out? Will my face melt into a pile of mush? How many g’s can my ninety-year-old body handle? And then, suddenly, relief. No g’s. Zero. Weightlessness. We were floating. We got out of our harnesses and began to float around. The other folks went straight into somersaults and enjoying all the effects of weightlessness. I wanted no part in that.
I wanted, needed to get to the window as quickly as possible to see what was out there. I looked down and I could see the hole that our spaceship had punched in the thin, blue-tinged layer of oxygen around Earth. It was as if there was a wake trailing behind where we had just been, and just as soon as I’d noticed it, it disappeared. I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death.
I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her. Everything I had thought was wrong. Everything I had expected to see was wrong. I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Foster’s character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.”
I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound. It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.
I learned later that I was not alone in this feeling. It is called the “Overview Effect” and is not uncommon among astronauts, including Yuri Gagarin, Michael Collins, Sally Ride, and many others. Essentially, when someone travels to space and views Earth from orbit, a sense of the planet’s fragility takes hold in an ineffable, instinctive manner. Author Frank White first coined the term in 1987: “There are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through human behaviors. All the ideas and concepts that divide us when we are on the surface begin to fade from orbit and the moon. The result is a shift in worldview, and in identity.”
Elephant rock, Iceland
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