An image taken by the Voyager space probe on February 14, 1990, exactly 30 years ago, showed the Earth as a pale blue dot described by scientist Carl Sagan as a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
Speaking to students at Cornell University in 1994, Sagan showed the photo, to point out that “our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light… In our obscurity, in all its vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
“The Fires of Wrath: Global Warming is Here” was the theme of a forum held at the University of Mindanao on Feb. 12, 2020. The main speaker was prolific author, communication and journalism professor Dr. Crispin Maslog, the most recent being the “Science Writing and Climate Change.” This book is a collaborative project with David Robie, Phd, and Joel Adriano of SciDev. Net.
Dr. Maslog said that the US Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report in 2017 presented the global average surface air temperature has increased by about one degree Celsius in the last 115 years (1901 to 2016), the warmest in history.
He explained that human activities, especially greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions, are the main cause of global warming since the 20th century that has wrought so much destruction. So what is the role of science media and journalism schools in addressing this problem?
While media are aware of the climate change phenomena and the implications for the region and the planet, media coverage is rather confined to disaster reporting, physical destruction and damage to property – as it should be. But, there is a need for more contextual reporting and explanation of why these natural disasters are happening more often and more violently.
As a case in point, he said that the melting of polar ice caps melting will have deleterious effects on the atoll islands in the South Pacific, with nation states like Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu slowly feeling the salinity in their fresh water and the sea level rise that is predicted to put their islands under water in the next 50 years.
We are next.
There were more than a hundred students from different disciplines who attended the forum. The discussion that came after the input of Dr. Maslog was insightful as they put into context actual calamities they have experienced like the typhoons Pablo and Sendong, and the recent earthquakes that jolted most areas in Mindanao.
Dr. Maslog was also able to talk briefly about the Martial Law during the time of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and the People’s Power Revolution in 1986, as we move closer to its anniversary on Feb. 25.
With the warm reception of the science forum, the organizers are looking at a possible lecture series not only for students of mass communication and the humanities but also the science department because educational institutions need to shape the critical minds of students.
As Sagan said, “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.”
So we have to take care of our earth, to treasure it – because we have nowhere to go, at least in the near future.
The forum was made possible through the organizing efforts of UM Masscom head Din Hernandez, Mindanao Times, Mindanews, the Philippine Press Institute, GET Institute of Journalism and Hedcor.