What I Would Tell A Future Generation About Us On This Tiny World, by Kenn Orphan

NASA’s Webb Reveals Cosmic Cliffs, Glittering Landscape of Star Birthby Kenn Orphan
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Halifax, Nova Scotia
July 26, 2022

What is it about this photograph that is so intriguing? This is the Carina Nebula taken by the James Webb Telescope (NASA). We are looking at a nursery of stars, many far bigger than our own sun. And we are also looking back in time. Deep time. Yet there’s something intimate about it, even though there aren’t any pareidolic references for us to easily latch on to.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this image. Perhaps it has such power to so many because we can imagine our souls being birthed alongside these behemoths of condensed energy in great flashes of light. And even with all that bombast in expression, the colourful gasses appear as a gossamer veil that comforts new skin. Any birth is both violent and caressing at the same time, after all. Maybe, therefore, so many of us can relate.

And I keep thinking of where I am viewing it. The living crust of a tiny world, in a tiny solar system, on the edge of a tremendously vast galaxy. A tiny world whose thin, life-giving and sustaining ribbon of air and water is imperiled by the supposed “apex species” that resides upon it. Where the sea and the atmosphere are boiling and seething ever greater with each passing year thanks to the excesses and greed of just a segment of our kind. And for what gain? Power? Status? Access to luxury? Nationalism and flags? Celebrity? Religious dominance?

I think about the video of an orangutan attempting to fend off a bulldozer from her home with only her arms. Being knocked to the forest floor, broken and bloodied. Her home to be razed to the ground likely to become a piece of disposable furniture to be sold in some big box store thousands of miles away, then to be set out on the curb a year later after the trend has run its course. Or maybe to extract palm oil to be used in some overpriced latte at a Star Bucks in LA, where rich people complain about the homeless.
Admiral Blandy Mushroom Cloud Cake
And then I think about that photograph taken in 1946. The one with the military generals and the lady with the atomic bomb hat, slicing into an atomic bomb shaped cake. This was barely a year after hundreds of thousands of human beings were incinerated in two cities by similar bombs. It was celebrating the beginning of years of nuclear detonations on a once pristine atoll in the Pacific, forever polluting the waters and the people who called it home. Celebrating it all, with cake. And I remember how that chapter of madness in history did not end. That the world stands at the precipice of nuclear annihilation again.

I keep thinking of what I would tell a future generation about us on this tiny world. But I’m less and less certain there will be future generations to tell. At least, not of our kind. Perhaps, in deep time, there will be another sentient race of beings who evolve on this celestial stone to create a powerful mirror to see back in time, into the heavens, like we have. Perhaps crows or ants or hydra. Will they be in awe of it too, enough to pause the great wheel of self-destruction that is consuming us now, even just for a moment?

If a nebula can tell us of our beginning, can it tell us how we will end?


Kenn Orphan is a writer, artist, antiwar and anti-capitalist activist, hospice social worker and radical nature lover living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and his blog you can do so via PayPal. He may be contacted at KennOrphan.com.

Previously published on Kenn Orphan, July 23, 2022

From the archives:

Our Climate Crisis Paralysis: How, in the Face of Unprecedented Signs of Climate Collapse, We’re Still Being Failed by Politicians, the Media and Ourselves, by Andy Worthington

Helen Caldicott: Why This Is More Dangerous Than the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Finian Cunningham

John Bellamy Foster: The Financialization of Nature

Daniel Ellsberg: Nuclear War and Ukraine

Another Global Warming Worry: Parts of Earth Could Become Uninhabitable, by Pete Dolack + A Dire Warning About the End of Human Civilization

David Swanson and Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Missiles

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine, Parts 1-13

4 thoughts on “What I Would Tell A Future Generation About Us On This Tiny World, by Kenn Orphan

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  4. Our ancestors are uncovered every day. The great Pyramid-like structures found in many places tell us stories of once populated civilizations. The architecture of Rome is used to this day. When we look at the pictures from the Hubble or Webb we might be seeing our future not the past. Humans invented time and it is likely a human error when looking into the vast universe that we are told we are looking into the passed. It does show human arrogance by showing we have yet to find our place with all life forms on Earth.

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