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Photo: ESO/Y. Beletsky

As a child I was always fascinated with astronomy, the stars, planets and galaxies.

I can still remember my parents taking me to stargazing events on those clear somewhat-cool Florida “winter” nights. We were members of our local astronomy club.

I can remember staring for hours through a telescope, admiring the beauty within the known universe; but largely seeing what was in our own backyard, within our own galaxy.

The Milky Way's Galactic Center in the night sky above Paranal Observatory. (By ESO/Y. Beletsky [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

The Milky Way’s Galactic Center in the night sky above Paranal Observatory. (By ESO/Y. Beletsky [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

The most amazing night sky I can remember was when I was 16 years old, sleeping in the Negev desert of Israel. A close second was at a summer camp in Georgia. That night happened to be a most beautiful shooting star evening.

Now it’s been over a decade since I’ve been able to see more than a handful of stars in the sky. Mainly, because I live in a city with extreme light pollution

However, this past Labor Day weekend, I was in a remote locale, with minimal lights in the area, and was once again able to see a beautiful night-time sky filled with stars and even a glimpse of our own beautiful Milky Way galaxy.

It was then that I felt not only small, but a renewed sense of why it is that I care so deeply about conservation, sustainability, and protecting the species of our planet and, the planet, Earth, itself.

When you peer into the center of the Milky Way you’re looking millions of years into the past. It is then that you realize our time on earth is not only short, but completely insignificant in the whole presence of the universe.

Yet, we humans, with our fairly short lives have made dramatic and profoundly significant changes to our home, Earth. In fact, scientists are calling this the Anthropocene period of our planet.

Smokestacks of a Philadelphia refinery. (Source: Creative Commons)

Smokestacks of a Philadelphia refinery. (Source: Creative Commons)

It took Earth billions of years to get to where it is now, with millions of species of animals, plants, algae’s, fungi, etc.

It is only in the last few hundred years that humans have started to understand and make sense of our planet and the wildlife around us. But, it is only in the last 50 to 60 years that we have made the largest impact on the planet and its species.

We humans have single-handedly managed to release hundreds of millions of years of stored carbon into our atmosphere, allowing for a domino effect on ocean health, our health, tropical rainforest and habitat health, and the health of many living things.

In this extremely short timeframe, we have managed to cause several species to go extinct or to move closer to extinction.

We have developed toxic chemicals, plastics, and other types of materials that endanger the lives of several species including ourselves.

The Bramble Cay melomys. Believed to be the first mammal to go extinct due to climate change. (Photo courtesy of Luke Leung, University of Queensland)

The Bramble Cay melomys. Believed to be the first mammal to go extinct due to climate change. (Photo courtesy of Luke Leung, University of Queensland)

We have found systematic ways to kill hundreds of millions of animals a year, both domesticated, and wild; sometimes for food, sometimes for a trophy or a trinket, or sometimes even for a piece of art.

We have found systematic ways to kill other humans through genocides, wars, extermination. All of this accomplished in a mere blink of Universal time.

We have organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the United States Endangered Species Act, and others that are supposedly designed to protect species we deem to be endangered.

Unfortunately, it often feels like these organizations sit at the table and declare the fate of a particular species. But, of course without them, I suppose there would be no oversight or regulation on anything.

The level of discourse seems to have fallen dramatically too recently.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party's 2016 Presidential Nominee, denies climate science and has called climate change a "hoax" created by the Chinese. (Photo Credit: Michael Vadon / Flickr)

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s 2016 Presidential Nominee, denies climate science and has called climate change a “hoax” created by the Chinese. (Photo Credit: Michael Vadon / Flickr)

It seems like today, if you disagree with someone, particularly if it’s on the Internet, you will receive nasty comments, cruel emails, and phrases that I don’t believe people would utter in person. And in fact, some of my blogs about conservation and sustainability have really shown me the power of money and greed.

It pains me to think that we put money, things, ahead of life; any life.

When you look up into a dark night sky, that is not polluted by lights, and see the gorgeous magnificence of our own galaxy with somewhere around 200 to 400 billion stars, you realize that this is all we have.

Earth can rebuild itself, if we let it. Fish stocks can recover, coral reefs can rebuild, rain forests can expand. Wildlife can grow. But, when we continue on the path that we are on, taking from earth faster than she can rebuild, or reproduce, then we truly limit our resources, and those of all the other species on earth

It’s always interesting, when you hear about the concept of colonizing another planet, say Mars. At least in my circles, all you hear about are people recolonizing. Nothing is said about all the other animals. The ones we kill for sport, or for amusement parks, or for their ivory.

It saddens me to think that while we evolved from other apes; our technology, our greed, and some of our desires destroy almost everything natural and unique about our blue planet

Earth from space. (Photo Credit: NASA via WikiMedia Commons)

Earth from space. (Photo Credit: NASA via WikiMedia Commons)

So, when I looked into the night sky this Labor Day weekend, and for the first time in almost 20 years could see thousands of stars and our gorgeous Milky Way, I didn’t just see beauty, I didn’t just see vastness, I didn’t just see our smallness in our galaxy in our universe, or even on our planet. No, I saw all that we were and all that we have managed to take away from earth in just a few short years.

While I believe that these organizations are necessary to try and protect whatever wildlife we can, I desire a world where we don’t need these organizations. I desire a world where I don’t need to pray for six months of the year that dolphins will swim far and swim deep to escape murder. I desire a world where we don’t need articles describing how many species are at the risk of extinction because of our ill will.

I desire a world where we and other wildlife can coexist in peace and harmony.

And, finally, I desire a world where I don’t need to be writing this article.

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