An astronaut’s view of a changing world

As a NASA astronaut, Mark Kelly got to look down on the earth from space. While the view was breath-taking, he told me that within the space of ten years he has seen how the world is changing.

After hurricane Irma I received a lovely message from Mark, who is an old friend, who wished all of us in the BVI a speedy recovery. He also said how we need to get the US government to wake up and face the fact we have a looming catastrophe on our hands that could kill millions before the turn of the next century.

I experienced three storms – including the devastating Hurricane Irma - within the space of a month in the BVI last year, all far greater than have happened before. Sadly, I think this is a start of things to come.

Mark flew his first space flight in 2001 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. Around a decade later he commanded that same space shuttle on its final flight. In an article for CNN, Mark has detailed how a planet that is 4.5 billion years old has changed in just a decade. He has seen the scars that climate change is leaving on our planet.

He writes about how you can see the pollution and deforestation as you look down from space:

“When I first looked down upon the Amazon rainforest in 2001, I saw vast areas of jungle and a wide and winding copper coloured river that went on and on and on. A river that was impossible to miss and like no other on the planet. 

"By 2011, however, the part that was most noticeable wasn’t the river or the jungle but the large swaths of empty land.  From space, it looks empty because we are far away.  We don’t see the crops or the cattle but we do see the loss. We see the loss of an incredibly diverse ecosystem that once held endless possibilities for new medicines and other discoveries. We see the loss of a home for so many species who will now have to learn to adapt and survive somewhere else - or not. And we see the loss of a large amount of carbon, sequestered in a living and breathing ecosystem which created massive amounts of oxygen for all of us. That carbon, once the giver of life to millions of species all over our planet, now has a new role: greenhouse gas.  It will sit in our atmosphere as CO and CO2 for millennia, but in this case as an invisible blanket, warming our planet, changing our climate, and creating a cataclysmic mess for future generations."

He added: “As an astronaut, I’m often asked about the climate, our environment, and how we are destroying the Earth. My response often surprises people. ‘Don’t worry about the planet, the Earth will be just fine,’ I tell them. ‘What you need to worry about is us - all of us.’” 

I hope his words serve as a wakeup call to world leaders who hold the power to make the changes needed to save our species. We must all keep up the pressure for change.

As Mark says: “If we don’t do this, who will?”


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