Carl Sagan’s reflections on our home, the Earth, a “Pale Blue Dot”

Voyager 1 image of Earth as seen from just beyond Saturn

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Carl Sagan reflecting on the photograph of Earth sent from Voyager 1. Originally spoken by Sagan during a commencement address delivered May 11, 1996 (have reference?). Adapted by Sagan in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of The Human Future in Space, (1994). Embedded video by David Fu with audio by Sagan and music by Mogwai.


Carl Sagan Posted on behalf of on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 under Quotations.

One comment so far

  1. I believe this might have been my graduation ceremony at The Claremont Graduate School in May 1996. I had a lot of adrenaline going that day, it’s been a long time and I don’t have a recording, so I don’t remember what he said exactly. But, he did do an address to us. It was an honor to have him there!

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