It is now the year 2019. Twenty-nine years since Voyager I sent the above photo of our planet. In a world seemingly bent on a path of self-destructive madness, when human-induced global warming and the quickly growing threat of nuclear war threaten the very existence of life on Earth, it is worth it, perhaps critically so, to recall the words of astronomer Carl Sagan in his 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot.”

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

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.” – – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Like Sagan, but writing almost two decades earlier in his book, Utopia or Oblivion, R. Buckminster Fuller also implored humanity to see the larger picture, to see the real stage upon which we live.

“Think of it. We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance. We know now what we could never have known before – that we now have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime.

Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe. If man chooses oblivion, he can go right on leaving his fate to his political leaders. If he chooses Utopia, he must initiate an enormous education program – immediately, if not sooner. The World has become too dangerous for anything less than Utopia.” – – R. Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion, 1972

Fuller’s words are both a great, realistic hope and a prescient warning. This is especially so today, in 2019. Now, more than ever before, we have the knowledge to “feed everybody, clothe everybody,” and exercise our “option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet.” But now, more than ever before, humanity risks failing Universe’s “final exam.” We can overheat, we can blow ourselves into oblivion. Repeating Sagan – – – “there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

It is now the year 2019. There is really only one question facing humanity. “How do we make the world work for everyone”? Nothing else matters – no less a goal will do. We choose Utopia or Oblivion.

Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s co-author and widow

Part II will discuss: Forget Everything You Were Ever Taught To Believe