This spring day, we look at Earth and see that it
is good. The University of Houston's College of
Engineering presents this series about the machines
that make our civilization run, and the people
whose ingenuity created them.
Saturday afternoon, the day
before Easter, I went to an Earth Day celebration
in a large house that doubles as an environmental
consulting office. It was nice. A table was filled
with fine herbal vegetarian dips and canapes. Live
music in the hallway. Upstairs I walked through
computer-intensive offices where experts could scan
NASA photos of our Island Earth. Serious science
was going on in a counter-cultural setting.
That evening, the Easter Vigil began throughout
Christendom with the powerful words from Genesis,
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the
earth." For me, the text brought back another view
of our Island Earth:
It was the most dramatic moment in the whole space
program. On Christmas Eve, 1968, astronaut Frank
Borman rode his orbiter around the far side of the
moon. He was the first living creature to gaze on
that surface. As he did, he read the same Genesis
text to all of us down on Earth's surface.
That rhythmic episodic text flows flawlessly
through the elements of creation -- the planets,
the seas, the grass and trees, the beasts, and
Frank Borman's moon. It is punctuated with the
recurring mantra, "and God saw that it was good."
Aaron Copland wrote his most powerful work around
the Genesis text. It's a setting for virtuoso
contralto and unaccompanied chorus. The solo voice
drives us insistently -- let the sun and moon "be
for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and
years." The chorus gently replies, over and over,
"and God saw that it was good."
So I walk through this office home and trace the
satellite photos of our good earth. I see the great
red stain of contaminated rivers in Madagascar. I
see the muddy blur hovering over Houston. I see
gray reaches in the Amazon Rain Forest.
A peculiar Easter theme has touched me this spring.
It has been an acute awareness of the magnitude of
the gift of the world we live in. It has also been
a resurrection theme. For we have nearly killed the
world we ought to love above all things. Now we
must bring it back to health and vitality.
There is, after all, no perfect "balance of nature"
that would exist in our absence. We are part of
nature's equation. Any definition of nature
includes us and our actions in it. We are
responsible parts of nature. We take greater
responsibility in that equation every year.
We well may tremble for the responsibility! What an
awesome, life-giving, obligation! What a stern
demand that we keep our wits about us -- and our
hearts in the right place.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds