In all the silliness about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world, I failed to note a significant anniversary.
On Dec.7, 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts on their way to the moon snapped the photograph that has since become known as the Big Blue Marble.
What's significant is what it doesn't show. There are no national boundaries, no multicoloured patchwork quilt of countries. No religious symbols defining territories. No barriers to exclude undesirable immigrants, diseases, or ideas.
There's just one planet. One blue globe spinning in the endless empty blackness of space. That's all there is. The concept challenges every system humans have devised to divide us - governance, economics, health, education, religion.
Scientist Bob Crawford analyzes the detritus that accumulates where surface water runs off glaciers in the Rocky Mountains.
His technology can identify, with absolute confidence, that last summer's precipitation included dust from the Great Wall area in China, smoke particles from forest fires in Siberia, radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
Anything that happens anywhere affects everywhere else. Nothing stops air from circulating around the world. Ocean currents don't respect national boundaries either.
Brian and Joan Stewart of Naramata sealed a message in a wine bottle while on a cruise around Cape Horn. Two years later, a father and his 14-year-old daughter found the bottle on a beach near Perth, Australia.
Economies cannot operate in isolation. Austerity in Greece makes U.S. markets plunge. Interest rate manipulation in London creates a chill in Indonesia. An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes Saudi sheiks salivate.
An advantage in one place creates a disadvantage somewhere else. Both situations cause ripples that criss-cross their way around the globe. A finite planet makes a lie out of the belief in endless growth.
The SARS panic in Toronto began in China, the deadly Ebola virus in a tributary of the Congo River in Africa. Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes came from southern Russia. Knapweed infesting western grasslands arrived from eastern Europe.
Boundaries become meaningless.
If you think the world has problems dealing with refugees now, wait until 750 million people in low-lying Bangladesh have to seek higher ground to avoid flooding.
If climate change is a reality - as I believe it is - no nation will remain immune. Some will be drier, some wetter. Most will get hotter; a few may get colder.
Whatever happens, rising populations and standards of living, especially in the so-called developing world, will increase energy demands.
Look the Blue Marble again. Tell me where we'll look for energy when we have drilled into every area of the surface.
The only energy source we have is the sunlight that falls on the Blue Marble's spherical surface. The fossil fuels we consume so recklessly are ancient solar energy, stored underground. We're not only
using up the planet's energy revenue today, we're drawing down the energy endowment accumulated over millions of years.
After Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin first orbited the earth in 1961, he's supposed to have said he had looked for God, and didn't see him.
The world's religions scoffed.
They should have reconsidered how their ancient doctrines stood up in the light of this new vision of our planet.
Instead, most religions clung ever more dogmatically to their traditional teachings. And so Judaism has seen a rise among its ultra-orthodox. Islam has come under the dominance of fundamentalist mullahs. Hinduism has abandoned its historic tolerance and become xenophobic in India.
In the U.S., the Christian right has kidnapped politics, media, and education. Rejecting any knowledge attained in the last 20 centuries that might challenge the Bible, it focuses on more and more vehemently on reaching heaven - or hell - in some other dimension. This life is only temporary. So it doesn't matter what we do to the planet because we're ultimately destined for somewhere else.
Really? Show me where.
The Big Blue Marble picture tells us that if there is a heaven, it is here. If there is a hell, it is here.
The only legacy we can leave to our grandchildren is the heaven or hell we create here, on this Blue Marble floating in empty black space.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. His column appears Sundays. He can be reached at