Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dead as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. If you had been looking a very long, geologic time, you would have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held aloft by the fire beneath. It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun.
– Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. 1974.
I first read Thomas in the late 70s and have read all of his books, but it has been 20 years since I last read him. If you are not familiar with Thomas, and you are interested in science writing, especially reading an excellently written literary discussion of scientific ideas, or if you are interested in observations about nature, our planet and ecology, I would recommend The Lives of a Cell. Since I no longer own this book, I think I need to put it on my wishlist so I can re-read this.
I came across this quotation in Earth Community, Earth Ethics, by Larry L. Rasmussen (1997). In a discussion with Emily earlier this week, she mentioned Rasmussen and his theological perspectives on nature and the environment and our part in it (not just an agent acting on behalf for or against nature). I immediately went to the web to find book titles by him. I’ll be posting on this book here and at the Eco Justice Challenge blog in the coming weeks. You can read Emily’s explanation of why it’s eco-justice and not environmentalism here.