The Earth


In a burst of heavenly awe, Astronaut Edgar Mitchell exuded in lunarscape: “Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth … home.”

The Earth is this season’s center of attention, though not as viewed from its splendor at the surface of the moon as it is with what we do in heating up its temperature and the consequent drastic climate warming in its biosphere.

The climate took center stage in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference for almost two weeks ending Dec. 12. One-hundred-and-ninety-six nations were in attendance. They adopted an agreement that is only legally binding if a number of nations producing a percentage of global greenhouse emission actually do something through their legal systems, which is to say, a lot of barks without much bite.

The United States through its executive office is often a leading party to an international agreement only to be denied muscle by the U.S. Congress, e.g., it refused to ratify a treaty on biodiversity. The numbers in international agreements guide national targets adhered to by nations that are already poor because of their compliance but ignored by the big guys that emits them. A good example is COPS 21 (on biodiversity).

Mei mei is a cute little girl’s nickname used in China. Mei is also the black mineral that is dug in Dong Bei, and the coal in Shanxi west of Beijing where 90 percent of the land allegedly is black gold. The increase on investment in China on manufacturing was due to the low cost of coal energy that devastated China’s countryside and biosphere.

Attempts to stifle the economic progress of China focused on its use of coal as its energy source. China does not have extensive fossil fuel source to rely on though its assertive occupation of the Spratlys moves in that direction and is severely criticized by the U.S. and its business interests in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The United States can fly all kinds of B-52 over island structures that China built but the new economic superpower is not going to budge, as the immediate issue of South China Sea is energy source rather than sovereignty, which China considers historically to be a closed issue. Besides, the place is not called China Sea for nothing!

The United States’ current use of coal at its most efficient level emits carbon 130 times what the Paris Conference aims for it to do if the nations across the planet attains economic parity to the U.S. in 100 years. This is illusion of the worst kind. The Summit’s intentions were worst than a mirage in the desert. It lacks operational basis.

Meanwhile, the planet reels as water from melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions continue to add more fluid into the ocean, making it heavier to effect the tremors that dislodges plates, which then causes half of the land areas of the Pacific islands disappear at the same time it induces stronger quakes and a change in weather patterns in many parts of the globe. Not a lively prospect especially since we do not operate as a globe yet but do so as the archaic leftover nation-states from the divisions imposed by colonizing powers of the previous century.

Mitchell was perhaps prescient in his pronouncement. A less polite quote: “From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you sonnavabitch.’” Apologies to the sons amongst us who heard their teacher do math and said: “2 plus 2, the sum of which is 4.” As my Sino tindera would say, the sum of which and sonnavabitch, same same.

If our Apollo 14 astronaut is distraught over our treatment of the planet, his use of the SOB word is on the charitable side. The Obama administration refuses to extract coal on federal land and met opposition. The corporate sector is aghast at this executive act. The Supreme Court intervened on their behalf.

I made a supplementary workbook for my class using the Mitchell picture on the cover. Students just added the word “earthrise” into their vocabulary. A paradigm shift is corroding the defining fealty once held on political structures the Europeans named, like Spain on Señor Felipe’s behalf (thus, the Philippines) during the medieval and colonial eras, and unwittingly inherited by the U.S. military in its post-WWII presence in the rest of the world, but now simply a fragile blue orb in the sky.

“We live in the Universe. On the Planet Earth,” they sing. “We look for life in the sky so blue, down on Marianas for something new, we look at the world we have on our hands. Oh, what shall we do?” Then they whisper to each other at the end: “We’re gonna build it.”

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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