Earlier this month we published Earth Heroes by Lily Dyu, a wonderful new non-fiction book featuring twenty inspiring stories about climate change activists from around the world. And today we’re excited to be sharing a piece from Lily herself, on the message behind the book…
Half a century ago, humans stood on the moon for the first time. Perhaps the most important image from the moon missions wasn’t of astronaut Neil Armstrong taking his first step on to the grey lunar desert, but actually one taken a few months earlier on Christmas Eve, 1968. It was then that the Apollo 8 mission sent the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The team were searching for future lunar landing sites, and one of the astronauts took a photo as our planet appeared over the moon’s horizon. This picture became known as Earthrise. It shows the dull, lifeless surface of the moon and behind it our beautiful blue planet, alone in the blackness of space. The astronauts remember it as being the most breathtaking sight, filling them with love and longing. It was the only thing in space that had any colour, and it struck them that they’d come almost a quarter of a million miles to photograph the moon, but it was the Earth that was really worth looking at.
I grew up with dreams of looking upon the Earth from space. As a teenager, I wanted to be an astronaut and, instead of pictures of my favourite bands, my room had a poster of a NASA astronaut floating above the Earth. Winter evenings were spent stargazing from the garden, picking out my favourite constellations. I wasn’t really an outdoorsy child, and I only discovered nature in my twenties when I took up running. Muddy trails led me to forests, rivers, mountains and clifftops, with their rich abundance of life. I fell in love with the natural world; it was where I felt most at home and running in the wild filled me with an intense connection to the living environment around me.
I have learned that astronauts too feel a deep connection with all life on Earth once they see our planet from space. Below them is a world without borders – a miraculous swirl of land, ocean and clouds. They realise that humans are just one species alongside other creatures on Earth and are shocked to see our planet’s fragility and vulnerability. Our atmosphere, nurturing all life, looks like a paper-thin shell. It is the only thing protecting us from deadly cosmic radiation and the hostile environment of space, and the only thing preventing us from becoming like other lifeless planets in the solar system.
Humans have created an environmental emergency here on Earth, dangerously warming our atmosphere. Climate change is the biggest threat humankind has ever confronted. And we have already destroyed so much of our astonishing natural world. We need to act urgently so we can continue to share our one home planet with each other and all life. Scientists say it is achievable, but we are running out of time. In October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report saying that we have 12 years to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It argues that if temperatures rise beyond this, many of the negative effects of climate change will be irreversible. Our beautiful world will be changed forever.
Faced with such a shocking statement, it’s easy to think that there’s nothing we can do. News headlines often focus on negative stories, so we rarely hear about any of the good things that are happening. But there are in fact countless people doing amazing things to protect our planet and conserve nature. These are ordinary people, most of whom aren’t looking for the spotlight, and in this book, you will meet Earth Heroes that you have heard of and many more you have not, whose stories show that we can all make a difference.
From Chewang Norphel, the engineer building artificial glaciers in Ladakh, to Doug Smith, the biologist returning wolves to America, and from Stella McCartney, the designer creating sustainable fashion, to Melati and Isabel Wijsen, the schoolgirls saving Bali from plastic pollution, these Earth Heroes show that one person, no matter how small, really can change the world. And if nations can work together to put people into space, then imagine what we could achieve together for Planet Earth if only we tried.
As conservationist and tiger defender Bittu Sahgal tells people, who ask how they can help protect nature, “Be who you are and do what you do best.”
Everyone matters. The future is in our hands.
Thank you, Lily! Earth Heroes is available now, here. You can take a look inside the book below: