Last week, our CEO Bill Nye joined The President of the United States for an Earth Day visit to The Everglades, one of the country's renowned National Parks and a vital global ecosystem. The Washington Post covered the news, and we at The Planetary Society shared in the excitement.
Bill's deep interest the wonders of our planet, Earth—and the need to protect it—are exercised in many ways, from his focus on planetary defense to his passion for climate action. His Earth Day conversation with Barack Obama was the latest example of an extraordinary commitment to science education. Bill’s contagious can-do spirit and unwavering optimism breathe hope into a scenario of growing concern, or worse, stagnation, surrounding the big issues of our time, issues that jeopardize our future and require momentum today. Bill works tirelessly to engage people in collective effort—including tomorrow’s great thinkers, innovators, science and social leaders—reminding us all: “We can change the world.”
This year, the space science community recognized Earth Day in creative, widespread ways. NASA’s #NoPlaceLikeHome social media campaign was among the most prolific of all online, sharing Earth images and appreciation among hundreds of thousands of people. NASA’s missions and focus on climate science have empowered people and communities to understand the human, environmental and economic impacts of a changing world. While sound data has been available for years, and consensus is well established among the scientific community, facts about climate change impacts have not been as readily available to public audiences as they should be. NASA’s satellite images of Earth demonstrate stark changes, from disappearing glaciers to melting polar ice caps, which only people in affected communities would otherwise see. Space science has helped make this urgent Earth science issue more tangible and accessible than ever before.
Like planet Earth within the cosmos, scientific challenges faced by humanity are not separate: they are inherently intertwined. Our CEO is passionate about our mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration. His focus on good science—proven facts and principles that help us understand the cosmos and our place within in it—is not bound to one issue, place or planet. Whether exploring the natural wonders of Earth—from balmy cypress swamps of the Everglades to frozen Patagonia terrains—or other worlds, galaxies, and distant phenomena, our place in the cosmos comes with both great potential and responsibility. Like space exploration, climate science requires vision, leadership, innovation, hard work and collaborative effort among inspired people.
Through all strands of Bill’s work, he reminds us of how precious Earth is. Bill’s spirit of civic duty—and his unwavering efforts to bring others on board—are of his own unique brand, inspired by a family history of service.
Carl Sagan, extraordinary science communicator, Planetary Society co-founder and Bill’s professor at Cornell, was an outspoken advocate for Earth. From urging nuclear disarmament to tackling environmental crises, Dr. Sagan deemed climate change the crisis of our time back in 1996. Carl Sagan pioneered early climate studies, including of Venus, and communicated about this urgent issue for Earth. His final book (1997), Billions and Billions, has an entire chapter dedicated to climate change, its impacts, and the need for a clean energy future.
As we celebrate Bill’s Earth Day visit with the U.S. President, we reflect on Carl Sagan’s messages. We think about our Pale Blue Dot, its beauty and biodiversity. We think about its people, music, poetry, art and history. We contemplate our natural resources, and accomplishments in science, medicine and engineering. Most of all, we think about our future: what’s next for our planet, Earth? Who will emerge as our science leaders, problem solvers and greatest thinkers? As Dr. Sagan eloquently stated in his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space:
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. 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.
We congratulate Bill, our leader and good friend, on his latest science advocacy achievement. We are so proud of his work, energized by his community of optimists, and inspired by his shared devotion to our planet Earth, people and future.