Hundreds of millions of equinoxes have passed before humanity had opened their eyes to life on Earth, and many more hundreds of millions of equinoxes will pass after humanity is gone. The equinox: the orbital point between the two solstices, the orbital point where light – day and night – is half-shared between the two hemispheres that form this tiny rocky blue planet. Spring has started in the southern hemisphere, autumn in the northern one. The cosmic dance around the star ‘Sun’ will go on and on until the next solstice and equinox and solstice and equinox, completely independent of us.
Planet Earth will always survive us, but the fragile conditions that make life possible as we know it will not, and this is because of us.
As paradoxical as it might sound, we – the people rich in money and poor of time – need to slow down as soon as possible.
We need to start listening to the rest of the planet.
We are all part of planetary life, and the way we have been living our lives for the past decades has drastically unbalanced the conditions needed for life to thrive with tranquillity on Earth.
Space news is not great for the biosphere of this gorgeous tiny rocky blue planet; but it is clear that on the surface of planet Earth the conditions are rapidly changing. It really is necessary that we stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies, and start thinking hard and smart about a replacement for the aerosols in our atmosphere in a global way, so as to be ready for when the CO2 level in the atmosphere finally starts declining.
We are all in this situation together. We all share the same planet.
Planet Earth — Mother Gaia — provides everything needed by any form of planetary life to thrive.
A great shelter from cosmic weather, rich food and clean fresh water for all, materials to build shelter from local weather, clothes, instruments, crafts, materials to do art. An atmosphere where winds can blow, and music too. A great wealth of life forms! From winged birds to deep underwater fishes, a myriad of insects, large mammals with a very very long memory, acrobat marsupials, camouflaging reptiles, eternal jellyfish, beetles orienting themselves with the Milky Way galaxy; and gigantic trees hundreds of years old, huge rivers, waterfalls, deep-sea corals, rocks of an incredible variety of consistency and color and structure, and Earth herself, the fertile Earth mixed with fire, water, air, that gives us fruits and plants from seeds left in the ground — her womb.
Planet Earth has everything is needed by all her children and grandchildren and grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren to live and thrive.
However, we are 499 days away from 2025 and the planet’s biosphere is far from stable.
The northern hemisphere is burning — Greece first, then Portugal, Tenerife on the Canary Islands, Maui on the Hawai’i Islands. Canada is burning its wild forests at an astonishing rate. An area twice the Island of Ireland has burned down so far, and the Canadian fire season is not even over.
Asia went through a historical heatwave during spring and summer, which has not ended yet.
The southern hemisphere is experiencing a winter with temperatures above 35C, even in the mountains.
Meanwhile, when water comes down, it makes it with gigantic strength and power.
Gigantic hails is formed.
Huge tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones.
What is going on, and how did we get here?
Answering these two questions seems to be very important; mistakes were made, but mistakes are good, as long as they are recognised and memorised — we do not want to repeat them never ever again, if we want to live and thrive on planet Earth.
People in northern/central Europe are asking, “Why is so cold here in April?”, while Iberia is already burning.
(There were 38.8C registered yesterday — April 27, 2023 — at the airport of Cordoba, Spain)
We cannot understand what is going on unless we look at the planet as a whole.
We need to consider planet Earth as it is — a single planet, all connected.
Everything is interconnected on planet Earth’s biosphere, among this everything: the air currents.
So what is going on with the currents of air on planet Earth? Simplifying quite a lot:
What we used to have was the stable presence of cold air at the Earth’s poles. Humans call this a polar vortex. Like two little hats made of cold air, the northern and southern polar vortices used to stay there: at the north and at the south pole.
This made the air at latitudes just below the northern polar vortex/just above the southern polar vortex, to be circulating predominantly horizontally, from west to east or from east to west. And so we used to have more or less the same weather at the same latitude, on planet Earth.
The latitude is the “vertical” distance of a place on Earth from the equator. It is positive above the equator, and negative below it; for example, Madrid has a latitude of about 40 degrees (or 40 degrees north), while São Paulo has a latitude of about -23 degrees (or 23 degrees south). The longitude is the “horizontal” distance of a place on Earth from Greenwich: it is negative westward and positive eastward; for example, Madrid has a longitude of about -3 degrees (or 3 degrees west), while Milan has longitude of about 9 degrees (or 9 degrees east).
Iberia used to share the same kind of weather of central and eastern Europe. There were differences, but not that big, because the climate equilibrium on planet Earth was making all the places at the same latitude to share more or less the same kind of climate zone.
That equilibrium has broken, because of the large (and growing) increase of the average temperature of the planet.
The little hats made of ice are no more stable at the poles: at the poles now, there is often warm air.
It was raining this year in February, close to the North Pole.
This makes the air below the poles to be much more wavy, unstable, but especially, this makes that air to move predominantly vertically. In the northern hemisphere, huge masses of air are now able to move south from the north pole, while giant masses of warmer air can move northern from the equator. In the southern hemisphere, huge masses of air move north from the south pole, while giant masses of warmer air move southern from the equator.
Everything in the movement of our planetary air mass is much more unstable, and moving more vertically (north/south and south/north) than ever.
For these reasons we can easily have difference of twenty Celsius degrees or more between places that are just a few degrees of longitude away. This has happened a few months ago already in the US/Canada, and it is happening now in Europe/Asia. Huge cold air mass, and just a few kilometers west/east, huge hot air mass. The first coming from the North Pole, the second coming from the equator.
In the image below you can see the reconstruction of the temperature anomaly with respect to the average — blue is colder than usual, red is hotter than usual — for the day of yesterday, April 27, 2023. One can see a huge cold air mass over central Europe, and just a few kilometers west/east, huge hot air masses.
If you zoom out to the north, you can see that that cold air mass is coming down almost vertically straight from the North Pole.
If you zoom out to the south, you can see that that hot air mass is coming up almost vertically from the North African region.
Iberia shares the weather with the Sahara desert, these days, while the Benelux, Germany, Poland, the Balkans, are sharing the weather with the North Pole.
This is our present, this is our future, these effects are going to intensify yes or yes, and the velocity depends mainly on us (collectively as humanity).
During my life on Earth (40 years), (a part of) humanity has burned as much fossil fuels than in all the rest of the history of humanity, all summed together, all the thousands of years before. We are increasing these emissions and our production, as the craziest of lemmings all together toward the big nothing (ashes).
We need to understand the problem we are all in.
We need to stop and understand the problem, I am not sure in which order but we need to do both.
We all share the same planet.
(and those who talk about Terra-forming planet Mars must be among the foolest humans ever lived.)
Pale Blue Dot Revisited (2020) – Image credits NASA/JPL-Caltech
I am in this picture.
If you are at least 32 years old, you are in this picture as well.
That tiny pale blue dot is planet Earth: it’s us.
“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
— Carl Sagan
Picture taken on February 14, 1990, at 6,000,000,000 km from home.
The temperatures have been extremely high this year on the land that hosts most glaciers on this planet (after the poles), reaching 48 Celsius degrees (118.4 °F) in the cities of Nawabshah and Jacobabad on April 20, 2022.
Higher temperatures mean more humid weather and heavier rains — higher temperatures also mean that ice melts more easily.
It almost looks like the Himalaya is coming down, fellow humans of planet Earth.
Looking from space, this is a madness that is going to end soon, one way or the other.
The images below show the Sindh Province of Pakistan seen from space in September 2019 (left), and in September 2020 (right), when the heavy monsoon rains made the Indus river inundate, and almost 70,000 people had to be relocated from the places where they lived. The situation was concerning enough to be monitored from space.
Almost two years later, this is the situation in the same piece of land: this time more than 30,000,000 people had to be relocated. Thirty million. A new lake has formed, tens of kilometers wide. All that area was land, and now it is under water.
This is the calmest, quietest time of our lives, until us living in the Global North (mainly rich countries in the northern hemisphere of this planet) keep on extracting, burning, and selling fossil fuels.
Today is the land we call Pakistan to have 1/3 of its inhabited land submerged, but before tomorrow is going to be the land you are living in, my fellow human.
There is no escape, we all share one single planet, one single beautiful planet with a delicate biosphere that is in deep danger and requires our attention. It is the place where we are all living in: breathing its air, drinking its water, eating its food. It’s us.
There is one big tear on planet Earth, on the land humans call “Pakistan” these days, on the land with most glaciers after the poles, there is one big tear that space travellers could see.
This madness must be stopped: fossil fuel production will end one day, and that day needs to happen soon.
Today is the day of the year – the spacetime point of Earth’s orbit – where we are furthest from the star whose gravity shapes our orbit: today we are at aphelion, the day when planet Earth is at the maximum distance from the Sun.
And since an orbiting body moves at maximum speed at the closest point, and at minimum speed at the furthest point from the system’s center of gravity, today we can enjoy an orbital speed of about 500 meters per second slower than the average.
Today we are traveling in interplanetary space at only 29.3 km/s, against the 30.3 km/s of perihelion (which occurs in early January).
The cosmic advice of the day is: take everything slowly, enjoy these 500 m/s of cosmic slowness compared to the average.
Good morning from the Vanguard of Climate Collapse in the rich part of the world: the Iberian Peninsula.
This post was written as we were just coming out of a heat wave about ten days long: a heat wave that happened even before the solstice, which, I remember, marks the time of the year when the incidence of sunlight on the surface of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth is maximum, ergo: we were still in spring, here, during the first heat wave of 2022.
I will not dwell on the known and now almost banal effects of prolonged heat waves, but on some new emotions and sensations that, I think, will accompany us from here to the distant future. As a famous meme goes: This isn’t the hottest summer of our lives: this is the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.
𝟏) 𝐂𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧
After a few days of rising accumulated heat in the atmosphere, the sky becomes saturated. The color of the sky fades and gives way to a diffuse gray. It looks like fog, but it’s not; they look like clouds, but they are not clouds; it is a hood of heat that pervades the whole lower part of the atmosphere, the one in which you live and move and breathe, and creates a very strange and disorienting effect in the sky. The sunlight is dimmed, but the solar heat is not. The full Moon stands out against an intense gray sky, which should obscure the light, but does not. The sky is suddenly disorienting.
When the heat wave goes away, your body feels a pre-limbic joy, which does not go through any kind of rational processing and is not containable. In a directly proportional way to the lowering of temperature, a physical-spiritual euphoria pervades you: the sky turns blue, the Moon is clearly seen with its craters, the air enters your body as if it were water from a primeval river waterfall. You can’t help but rejoice, feel alive and livable again.
𝟑) 𝐆𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐦𝐞
The heat wave is hard for all humans: but for those at the extreme end of the age distribution (the youngest and the oldest), it is harder. A generally dormant consciousness begins to simmer during the spring heat wave: while the elderly have lived a long life (precisely by the definition of the elderly himself), children have a whole life ahead of them (precisely by the definition of the children herself). The kind of life they will have stands out mercilessly before your eyes, and childhood discomfort is very difficult to sustain without anguish and shame, shame proportional to the number of Earth orbits already lived. Here on the Iberian Peninsula, children collapse during heat waves. Circulatory disturbances, headaches, dizziness, fainting, convulsions among elementary school children are a steeply rising phenomenon.
Humanity adapts to everything, and quickly forgets everything.
I thank this 2022 spring heat wave, which a) reminds me of the discomfort of 2021 heat waves, which I had wisely removed; and b) reminds me that my adaptability is already very close to its limit.
This was the longest heat wave I have ever experienced in my 39 years of life on Earth.
Good luck to us: we will need it along with a lot of action; and the sooner we start, the less the worse it will be.
Mosaic of four distinct lines of sight toward of our galaxy — the Milky Way — photographed from Earth over the course of two years by Alvin Wu.
From Earth’s northern hemisphere, the galaxy was photographed from China: from Qinghai in the summer and from Sichuan in the winter. From Earth’s southern hemisphere, photographs of the galaxy were taken from New Zealand: from Lake Pukaki in the winter and from Lake Wanaka in the summer.
Result: a single composition that contains a couple of hundred billion stars and immense piles of dust and gas, our entire cosmic neighborhood — ring-shaped.
At the top of the ring the galactic bulge is shining, and two special little glitters shine at the top: the planet Jupiter reflecting the light of our star the Sun, and Antares, an orange supergiant star almost a thousand times the size of our Sun. The region of Orion is visible at the bottom of the ring, and within the ring, our neighboring galaxies are visible: the two clouds of Magellan on the right, and Andromeda on the left.
I have no words to describe what this photographic composition makes me feel. The original words by the author: “It is an extreme romance of the Universe” – it is an extreme love story with the Universe.
“Little” Cosmic Eyes: the difference a century of human advance can make.
The barred spiral galaxy NGC 1398 as seen from Earth: today (ESO telescopes, photo on the left) and about 100 years ago (Telescope of the Palomar Observatory, photo on the right).
The photons arriving on Earth are the same; we have changed.
This galaxy is just one of the trillions of galaxies out there, each with its own hundreds of billions of stars like our own star, the Sun. About 65 million light-years from our galaxy, NGC 1398 is relatively close, “just behind the corner”, cosmically speaking.