Yesterday here at SXSW I met an exceptional human being. To me one of the most inspiring speakers I've met, astronaut Ron Garan.
In the political and environmental chaos and fiasko of a situation the world is at the moment, hearing his perspective was like arriving to the oasis of truth.
He shared many wise words of what he has learned after seeing our planet from the space. What stroke me most were these stories:
After his six month mission in space on the way back their landing wasn't really the smoothest. It included flames, crash and parachutes. Once landed, Ron found himself inside the spaceship, strapped to his seat next to a window facing down on the ground...where he saw a flower, grass and a rock. His first thought was "Home!". But he was in Kazakhstan, when what he used to call home was in Houston, Texas.
His perspective changed - Planet earth is his home, where everywhere and everybody is home to him. And home is something that everyone protects. If sending a couple of political leaders to space would make them realize the same, what a difference it could make!
He also described how the life supporting system for a spaceflight is designed. Recycling everything and making absolutely sure that no more is consumed that the system can support. Doesn't really sound like our lives on the earth does it? He stated no opinions, but simply the truth, the earth's life support system cannot sustain how we are using it. Period.
The first thing that stroke him when he saw the earth from space for the first time was how thin our athmosphere is. He talked about his perspective from the space station: What an astronaut sees from space is the biosphere. The biosphere that controls everything we have here on earth. What he does not see, is the economics. Yet it's economics that control humanity and ultimately the biosphere here on earth. He ended by asking how the hell can we think of building a life support system on Mars if we can't even figure out our's here on earth!
Only a few can travel to space, see the wonder of earth rising behind the moon to put things into perspective. But we can still have this point of view and remind ourselves of the big picture. All the nations with all their people are home to me.