Love letters to Earth
On Christmas Eve, 1968 William Anders a US astronaut on Apollo 8 took at photo known as ‘Earthrise’ and this beautiful picture changed the way we think about Earth – our home planet. 50 years later we are gathering people’s feelings, hopes and dreams for Earth. Here are your responses.
Letter by Alice Lungs
"This is earth, our heaven, for a while" - Mary Oliver
Thank you for holding me.
Thank you for the lessons of patience, of beauty, of the cycles that form a life.
Your soils, your seas, your skies are both home and heaven to me.
Your grace has sustained me.
Earth, thank you, for walking me back from the darkness and bathing me in your light.
Letter by Casey
Dear Earth, I am sorry that we don't seem to know how to appreciate you I am sorry that we have suffocated you with our fossil fuels I am sorry that we have destroyed your biodiversity I am sorry we don't appreciate you and all that you have to offer I am sorry that people think that we need to escape to another planet instead of fixing the one we have I have hope that future generations, if they can survive on your soils, will cherish and look after you.
Words and image by Lyn
Dear Earth, I am one of your 'unthoughtful well-wishers' as one of my favourite writers said, forty years before I was born. Time enough for turning wishes into more loving action. I hope you will give us more time, even though it would be only for our own sake. My picture is of regenerated bush at the end of my street. It is young bush, younger than I am.
Letter by Luca Giannessi
Thank you for providing us some care for people big and small. Our animals loved the way you treated them carefully and respectfully. Thanks also for providing the resources to the people in the world! Great job Earth! Luca Giannessi ;)
Letter by Ibyang
My beloved Earth, I've been searching for the meaning of life and love. I've swum the sea the deepest I can. Climb mountains that I can climb to. Travelled through land and air. Run. Walk. Sing. Dance. But never have I found the true meaning of life and love, as these are incomprehensible and intangible. Aside from God, you are the closest to life and love. You've sacrificed your personal space and share it with us so we may live. Despite the things that we have done to you, including exploiting and hurting you, you still graciously choose to love us and give us hope that there are beauty and kindness in everything. Indeed, there is no other place like you (except heaven). You are beautiful. Your beauty is timeless and will never fade. Some people may destroy you but still, you manage to amaze us how gorgeous you are. Thank you, Earth. Continue to be safe and amused us as we embark in the journey of life. XOXO
Letter by Grace Casey
Sometimes when I am standing on the fringe of one of earth’s natural wonders, like the ocean, or looking up at a tall tree in the forest, it reminds me of how small I am, and how insignificant my worries really are. Feeling small amongst nature is a really grounding experience, similar to looking at the earth from afar. My hopes and dreams for earth is that humans will eventually adopt clean and sustainable living practices, where landfill and ocean dumping catchments are a thing of the past.
Letter by Hannah Carle
I grew up in a place we humans call Woy Woy Bay. It means ‘deep water’ in the language of the Darkinjung people, the traditional custodians of that land. Here, the scrubby Eucalyptus-Acacia woodlands of Brisbane Water National Park tumble across sandstone ridge and down; down to meet the serpentine backwaters of the Central Coast, New South Wales, Australia.
Growing up, that snake and lizard-ridden bushland was our backyard. The mangrove mudflats–with kookaburras and yellow-crested cockatoos careening overhead–our playground. On a sunny day, the water glittering like diamonds, this place is a kind of godly heaven incarnate (mind the sharp oysters hiding in the mud).
On holidays, my father pioneered long drives in search of humble, grassy campgrounds, coral reef and surfing waves. These places–the collective product of more than a billion years of tectonics smashing volcanic island chains into the east coast of the Australian continent–came to feel as much like home as the towns I went to school in.
Through this our parents instilled in my sister and I a profound respect for you; our natural environment. We grew with you. We learned to tread lightly. We were taught to be inquisitive and learn the language of the land. In part out of respect, in part for survival.
When I was lonely, I would wander into your arms, stepping barefoot into the bush and climbing onto sun-soaked boulders that could comfort me. When I felt unsure, I sat with you and listened to your council, by way of intonations in the wind amongst the eucalyptus leaves. When I wanted strength, I sat in dusk-light and let fat raindrops crash on me as coastal thunder rolled into the scrubby hills, rocking all of us. When I needed love, I turned my tummy to the beach sand and felt the humming heart of your Pacific Ocean sooth and settle me. A constant, earthly drone in backdrop to the scratchings of some tiny creatures burrowed in the sand.
Home planet, for all that you have given me and those I love, I fear that I will never truly understand you. Never know you in your complex, beautiful entirety, as a good lover should. Never be certain of our future together. Love note in transit, I am your Juliet, gulping poison and not knowing if my words will reach your heart in time.
Across your surface there are countless ‘other worlds’ that I have never even seen, and so many that I sadly never will. Some need help and many are sick and troubled. One human life is such a short amount of time.
For all my efforts, I simply cannot get enough of you. Dear Earth, I am infatuated, through and through.
Yours until the end of time,
Letter by Alicia Sometimes
Apollo 8 noticed you. Looked back and framed you perfectly in its story, a vulnerable planet isolated in darkness. Launched on December 21, 1968 Apollo 8 became the first crewed spacecraft to leave earth with the moon orbit as its destination.
In the early stages of the flight, with the earth receding, James Lovell noticed how he could put out his thumb and little finger to demonstrate the span of the Atlantic Ocean. Frank Borman said, ‘Tell the people in Tierra del Fuego to put their raincoats on, looks like a storm...’ After 68 hours of traveling they reached the moon for their lunar orbits. When their spacecraft came out from behind the moon for its fourth pass, for the first time in human history, the crew witnessed first-hand the stunning earthrise. William Anders took a black and white shot then asked Lovell for some colour film and captured the earth, half hidden in the shadow of the sun. It was later picked by Life magazine as one of its hundred photos of the century.
Apollo 8 paved the way for the moon landing and advanced space travel. But that photo immediately signified more, it was for humanity. It was about seeing beyond ourselves, beyond borders and lines we arbitrarily draw up. It was about sharing one space within space. A planet that has a thin sheet of air extending from the surface of the Earth to the edge of space. An atmosphere that counts on all of us working together to protect it. It is a photo of perspective.
This photo has been forgotten by some in recent years because when we think of you, we think of the photo scientist Carl Sagan made famous in his book Pale Blue Dot: a photo taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 staring back from the fringes of our solar system, 6.4 billion kilometres away from home. In this photo, you are only a tiny point of light, 0.12 pixels in size, a minuscule blue smudge amongst scattered rays of light emanating from our sun. Sagan begins ‘Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us…’
Both of these pictures reflect all of us, continuing our daily lives while the vastness of space cushions us in its arms.
Apollo 8 gave us a personal, stunning view of home taken with human hands. Borman later recalled, 'It was the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia, of sheer homesickness surging through me. It was the only thing in space that had any colour to it. Everything else was either black or white. But not the Earth.'
Earth, you hold within your globe all colours. You hold everything we love. Our past, present and future. We gaze upon you today as Apollo 8 did fifty years ago and we know, we have to promise to take care of you.
Letter by Dr Lynette Bettio
The field of meteorology has benefitted enormously from the technology foreshadowed by the Earthrise image. Earthrise showed us the Earth as a whole connected system. It started the growing awareness that any changes and actions we take have the ability to affect the whole of the planet.
With satellite technology we are no longer limited by where we have observing stations. We can observe extremes such as tropical cyclones as they form over the ocean, potentially impacting on life and land. Importantly we are now getting a long enough record of this satellite information so that in many instances we can start to examine any long-term changes.
The Earth's climate has seen large changes in the fifty years since the Earthrise photo was taken. Australian and global temperatures have warmed by over 1°C, with much of that warming happening in the last fifty years. This warming is affecting us now with an increase in the frequency of extreme events such as heatwaves.
With further warming projected it is important that we take this chance to look back at the Earthrise photo, and the perspective that it offers us, to choose what path we want to be on as a planet for our children and grandchildren.
Letter by Robyn Williams
Love letter to the Earth,
There have been many moments when flooding emotions created memories that changed my life.
One was on hearing Dylan Thomas for the first time. My family is Welsh, hence this note paper, sent by a Welsh listener. It is older than I am.
Another was my first broadcasts – in 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon: 16 & 17.
Then there was Cathy Freeman’s win in the Olympics in Sydney. I couldn’t bear to watch and had to be called downstairs to hear the news.
And there was Earthrise, fifty years ago. I was overwhelmed! Then I heard the conversation as the astronauts discussed taking the picture, just right. Our planet, the Gaia Effect: one whole blue home in the sky, floating, so small.
It made sense of our green feelings, in the year Paul Ehrlich, my friend, wrote The Population Bomb, when the politics of the word convulsed. 1968.
Love + hope for 2018 + 19
ABC Science Show
Letter by Lisa Harvey-Smith
6 December 2018
As you are approaching middle age, I want to make sure you know how much I love you.
We may both be getting a little more oblate around the middle, but unlike those flat-Earthers, I do appreciate you being round. I always feel like I’m home when I’m with you – so comfortable and like I can breathe. I know you have the Moon, but it’s more like a sister to you, so would you consider being mine? I want to grow old with you and hold your hand when the Sun becomes a Red Giant and engulfs you in its warm flow. Until then, I promise to look after you, care for your needs and love you always.
I know I haven’t always treated you well in the past and I’m sorry. I promise to do better and to stop squandering your precious resources. I love you from your molten core to your glorious and complex atmosphere. From the edges of your tectonic plates to the outer reaches of your ionosphere. I love how you know just where to stand to see the best solar eclipses. How you show me meteor showers and aurorae. Don’t change–you’re perfect as you are.
Yours in love and admiration
Words and image by Dr Simon Torok
I loved you when I first saw you from afar. That was 50 years ago, the year I was born.
You nurtured me, gave me everything I needed. I welcomed the food, water, home and outlook you gave me. You asked for nothing in return. But I took you for granted.
So you’ve changed over the past 50 years. Your face has aged, crisscrossed with lines of telecommunication and transport. Your skin has been parched by the sun, drier than it used to be. You are now angrier, stormier.
We can’t turn back time, but we can try harder. I will appreciate you now that, thanks to science, I can see what is going on. It’s not too late.
Dr Simon Torok, Scientell
Letter and image by the Mitchell Family
To our earth,
We have a picture of you in our kitchen—a hand-painted primary school creation.
Our daughters water-coloured, cut, and pasted their own collage gluing you in between a very yellow Venus and blood red Mars with your moon a scribbled dot beside you.
We see you in this playful state each morning as we eat our breakfast. But at night, with a clear view of the stars above our kitchen, we stretch the limits of our imagination to picture this scene at a scale beyond our understanding. We map your moon with our hands, and swear we can see the planets beyond.
It’s too easy to forget this vastness and our place with you in our universe. But when we picture you next to your planetary neighbours, we see ourselves as part of this magic and we are so grateful to be here. When we look up, we see living on earth as a dream, with possibilities beyond what we can make believe.
The Mitchell Family
Letter by Jenny Gray
Thank you for all the care and support you have provided us over the years. You provide safe harbour and shelter to millions of creatures, great and small. You always share the perfect amount of light, water, gravity and seasonal variation to support diversity and beauty.
You are the perfect host.
I am sorry that humans have made a bit of a mess on your surface. The people of Zoos Victoria are working hard to fix that mess and to secure a future rich in wild life. We look forward to a long and happy time together sharing our love of incredible animals.
CEO Zoos Victoria
Words and image by Tess Magor
I truly love you Earth
I only realised how much recently
I love how you spawned
Life in so many intricate forms
From deep sea "monsters"
To delicate flowers and fungi
I'm amazed at the sensitivities and capacities of creatures and plants and so many things
How my cat snuggles in my lap
How the tides flow
Beautiful kindness and love between humans
My wish is only that all people turn their hearts to you
Love you and take care of you now and in every moment
We are privileged to be here
On this gorgeous blue planet
Letter by A/Prof Alan Duffy
The Solar System
There in the infinite blackness of space hangs you, us, everything. You seem so small to house so much.
In this image we can see the incredible, cosmic vertigo-inducing truth that all of humanity clings to the surface of a ball of metal, rock and soil under a barely visible wafer-thin atmosphere. You are a spaceship in a void that is hostile yet uncaring. The madness that we have so negligently damaged the life support systems on this craft is made clear. You are home and the barren surface of the Moon visible below is a poor substitute.
Yet to explore is to be human, and we have always left our home under incredibly tough conditions to find new worlds. Crossing melting icesheets to the newly exposed lands of Northern Europe, island hoping across your vast Pacific Ocean or migrating into the harsh Australian interior. Humans will travel. This photo is a reminder of how beautiful our home is, of how beautiful you are, but how much more extraordinarily beautiful you look as we move away and see Earth in its precious isolation.
Like anyone lost alone will do, we call out. From sending radio waves of welcome, to golden records affixed to spacecraft, we are looking for others in that vast dark void.
We know that there are billions of Earth-like worlds out there similar to you.
But, so far at least, truly there’s nowhere quite like home.
With best wishes for your continued health and biodiversity,
A/Prof Alan Duffy
Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology
Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia
Words and image by Kate Phillips
How beautiful you look from afar!
But I know you from close up.
Today your fine rain made the air soft. A wet magpie sang her lovely warble and the leaves glistened on either side of my path.
I crossed the creek swelled with rain, passing girls on their way to school. Earth, you are home to 7.5 billion people and I reflect that your human population has doubled in my lifetime.
Fifty years ago when men visited your satellite the moon, they breathed Earth-air carried all that way. And looking back to the rest of us they must have felt strange on Christmas Eve, so far from home. As far as anyone has been.
And this Christmas Eve? I’ll be gazing at the night sky and listening to the sounds of the bush. Taking time away from the city to walk and swim and soak up the beauty of your atmosphere and life. I’ll be glad to see the moon on high and even gladder not to be there.
Dear Earth, I am one of your small creatures, but have access to a huge wealth of human knowledge. I wonder - can we truly become Homo sapiens. Can we be wise as well as clever? Can we live within your bounds, recognising life’s abundant bounty without destroying it?
Dear Earth, my wish for humanity today is that we learn to live by a deep respect for the fabric of life and together prevent further damage to the oceans, atmosphere and land on which we depend.
You will sail on through time and space, with or without us humans. But I’d much prefer it to be with…
Yours in awe,
Words and image by Belinda Cabatas
My Hopes for Earth is that if we loved ourselves a little more and learned to forgive ourselves a little more we would feel so much more love for the world and each other. If we learned to be able to sit with ourselves in peace and silence we would be able to listen to our inner being. Learning to have values and standards for ourselves and understanding that sometimes less is more and celebrating life can happen every day.