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Timeline Events / The First Image of Earth from Space

“Earthrise, December 1968 – the first picture of our world taken from space was published 40 years ago this week and still retains its haunting power” (headline from an article in the Independent newspaper from 10th January 2010).

From my own experience, a significant event in the history of science and technology is the first image of the Earth from space. The photograph was captured on Christmas Eve 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission, and was published over 40 years ago in January 1969. That a team of astronauts could travel to space is a great feat and of huge significance for science and technology. The creativity and intelligence of the human mind astounds, and surely has much to offer to sustainability and development.

However, the significance of the image is also symbolic. This image inspired the environmental movement as the social movement as we know it today. This image brought an awareness of a global environment. Seen as the ‘blue marble’ suspended in space, the potential fragility and finiteness of the Earth became apparent. Focus widened to an awareness of more global or transnational threats, and a dialogue between the green movement, which became institutionalised in environmental NGOs, and the private sector and governments was established worldwide.

The significance of the environmental movement today can be seen in its “impact on cultural values and society’s institutions”, in its “distinctive place in the landscape of human adventure”, and how it is “at the root of a dramatic reversal in the ways in which we think about the relationship between economy, society, and nature, thus inducing a new culture” (Castells, 1997). The importance of this ‘new culture’ for sustainability and development is that it links the public with ideas and progress in innovation and technology.

The pursuit of science and technology does not take place in a vacuum, it is given legitimacy by civil society. The environmental movement served as a two-way bridge between the research, design and development in innovation and sustainability and their intended sites for use and implementation, the public sphere. This is a two-way communication whereby civil society informs innovation and sustainability and vice versa, a symbiotic relationship driving science and technology forward on a greener path.

Source: Castells, M. (1997) The Power of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell Publications.

Entry submitted by Orla Martin

Link: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0309/lm11.html

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