Friday, 24 June 2016

Earn Your Place on this Little Blue Dot

Upon viewing an image of Earth taken from 4 billion miles away and with Earth appearing as merely a tiny dot, the astronomer Carl Sagan made an observation on the nature of humanity and our place in the universe, “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.… 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… 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.” https://youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M

When you look at humanity from this perspective, the inequality that exists in our world seems all the more perverse. The news is filled with stories of hatred, war, terrorism, starvation, separation by state lines - we are living in a state of fear. Our fear is because we have forgotten our place in the universe. One of my favourite memories is looking up at the stars with my father when I was a little girl and being told about the infinite possibilities that are up there in the universe and of the poetic beauty in starlight reaching the Earth long after the star itself has died. It is a metaphor for life demonstrating that anything is possible and we will have an impact on future generations long after we’re gone – it is up to us to determine what that impact will be but one thing is clear; poverty is stunting our ability to grow as a species.

One chance meeting with a woman in a rural community called Kpunduli, in Northern Ghana, really allowed me to see life from another perspective and experience first-hand the inequality that poverty is causing in our world. She told me that she can’t afford to send her two daughters to secondary school at a cost of £100 per child per year. In the West, for an average person, this is what they would spend on a weekly supermarket shop or on a night out. Instead of fighting for money or power, why isn’t the human race fighting for equality. There are 6 billion of us on this planet; we are not alone yet many of us are suffering alone. 

 Educating the next generation is where our focus must be. Education is the universal tool that unlocks a pathway to a different world. No matter where you are, from the UK to West Africa, education is the one thing that allows a person to improve their personal circumstances. Education does not discriminate based on race, religion or sex – if you are willing to learn then nobody should be able to stop you. We must educate young children to not just accept the status quo - they must work hard and fight harder to lift themselves out of poverty. Tackling poverty has no easy answer and I won’t pretend I know what it is but looking at human achievement during our relatively short time on this planet is awe-inspiring; from cave dwellers to deep space explorers. Surely then we can ensure that every child has access to a basic education, has enough food to survive and has a chance at a future.

During a sexual health session at a senior high school
The three months that I have spent in Ghana have been an eye-opening experience and a time that I will look back on fondly in years to come; ICS is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would urge any young person to take part whilst they can. It has been a luxury being able to just stop, think and consider my place in the world; being able to do this has changed my entire perspective on life. I am extremely lucky to be British and I am returning home with a newfound sense of gratitude, humility and optimism for the future. The world is an amazing place and the next adventure is always just around the corner; life is for living and I don’t want to look back on my life with any regrets. Whilst optimistic about my own future, I strongly feel that I absolutely should not be the only one to feel like this. Chances in life should not be determined by geography. Because of your geography, you may have a chance to change a life for the better, if you can then don’t just read this, do it and make the world a better place, then you will have justified your place on this little blue dot.

 Written by: Emily Wilkinson

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