Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, … once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain to every man whatever his nationality or creed, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.

British astronomer Fred Hoyle said this in 1950. The astronauts of Apollo 8 took the “Earthrise” photograph 18 years later and shared it with the world for Christmas.

The new idea has been on the loose ever since, but what is it? Why is it powerful, and what’s the connection with history?

For Hoyle “the idea” was that of the human species as a single entity. 

He was speaking just a few years after the end of World War II, hence it was indeed a powerful and historical idea, but now, more than 40 years since we saw the first glimpses of our home planet from without, we have an endless supply of photographs and ever growing steams of observational data recording every aspect of the life of the Earth. We monitor the planet continuously and observe changes over time, and in the process we have come to understand irrefutably the singularity of life and the Earth.

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