There is a tiny blue ball, whizzing through space.
Quite a bit of the surface of this ball is wet, but on the bits that arenít, there are a very large number of tiny organisms, clinging on for life. They canít jump off even if they want to Ė there is nowhere else to go.
The ball is cracked. Every so often, the pieces adjust, shaking some of the creatures, making them lose their grip, and crushing them or washing them into the wet bit where they canít survive.
I am one of these creatures. I am hanging on. I am here only because countless other creatures of my kind have fought and won the harshest battles for survival. Through their efforts, they have not merely survived, but also managed to improve their environment, and make it an easier and safer place for me. I cannot repay this enormous debt.
I will not be here for long Ė barely time enough for this little ball to do eighty circuits of its local star. I have a duty to understand what it has taken for me to be here, and to appreciate that I enjoy better conditions than those who made it possible could ever hope for, for themselves.
I would like to borrow a tiny patch of the surface of the ball for a while, to cling on to. I realise it is a heavy responsibility, as what I do will affect the thousands of generations of my descendants who will also have to rely on this for their survival.
The resources we need to survive are not distributed evenly across the surface of the ball. Unfortunately, those with more resources are not very good at sharing them with the less fortunate. This causes a good deal of resentment.
My fear is that if we become preoccupied with squabbling amongst ourselves, we could lose our understanding of the fragility of this tiny ball, and break it. And make no mistake, we could break it, even though we are only distributed in an extremely thin layer on the surface. It would take very little to make it uninhabitable.
We could break it by wasting the limited resources that exist on the ball, and which we need for our survival. Or we could break it by our lack of preparedness to cope with possible threats that arenít of our making Ė there are several that we know of.
For example, we could collide with another ball whizzing through space. Or, the centre of our ball is molten, and some of this could spurt out through the cracks. Either of these could cause the temperature on the surface to change drastically (as could burning our resources), and unfortunately, we can only survive in a very narrow band of temperatures. The whole of the surface of the ball could become wet or even frozen, and there would be nowhere to cling onto any more.
The highly developed structures we have put in place for our well-being are also very fragile. Our intelligence has made us very powerful. We can only repay our debt to the past by using that power to protect the future.
I will produce children. I must pass this important message on to them, and teach them the importance of passing in on in turn. As long as the message is passed on, there should be future generations, to enjoy what I have enjoyed.
Chris Moller, 01Jan2005.
(Inspired by the Indian Ocean tsunami catastrophe on 26Dec2004, which caused the death of at least 150,000 people. )