They say that many astronauts who fly into space and then turn around to look at their home planet have something wonderful happen. From their orbital perspective, the explorers sense the interconnectedness of all the processes on Earth, human and non-human, oceanic and continental, sentient and geological. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, described this “overview effect” most eloquently. “I experienced what has been described as an ecstasy of unity. I not only saw the connectedness, I felt it,” Mitchell wrote in his book The Way of the Explorer. “I was overwhelmed with the sensation of physically and mentally extending out into the cosmos.”
It’s a beautiful vision of our planet from on-high. But what about down on the surface? Here, people don’t equally create environmental problems, nor does pollution fall on everyone equally. Some countries and corporations and people are much more responsible for the destruction or protection of the planet.
Our home faces major challenges. Of course, there’s climate change. But a host of regional and local environmental problems are also massively important. Our oceans are overfished. Many species are dying out as they lose habitat or food sources. Regular old air pollution threatens the quality of life of a generation of young people in the world’s megacities. The environmental problems generated by our food and transportation systems are well-documented.
The decisions we make—from what we buy to where we live to who we vote for to the experiences we value —shape our globe's future. The vast mechanics of the global economic system can be reengineered. The industrial infrastructure that our parents built can be retrofitted and reimagined. The diversity of life on earth can be preserved.
Here at Fusion, we’re committing to covering the environment more in the coming years. We champion a diverse, inclusive America. We focus on young people and the stories of what they do, what they care about, and how they live. And while it might seem like we live most of our lives on the Internet, we don’t. There is no escaping that we live in ecosystems, somewhere on this small planet in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way.
So, this is Project Earth, our new environmental vertical, and these will be the pillars of our coverage.
The environment as a social justice issue. Across the country and world, pollution flows where money doesn’t. That means brown and black folks are often stuck with the worst consequences of industrial society. The fight for a cleaner environment is often also a fight for a more just world.
The environment as a generational justice issue. Both companies and individuals can make their current lives easier by foisting environmental problems onto the future. Our current society is running up environmental debts that young people will have to pay.
The environment as a way to understand what it is to be human. The environment really is the space where we negotiate between our technological species and the natural world. And that raises a bevy of interesting questions: Should we preserve wild spaces? Is there any such thing? Should chimpanzees have some rights? Should whales? Should we make our decisions based on ecological economics and what species do for humans—or should we attempt to preserve beauty and uniqueness when we find it in the world? These debates are fascinating and we intend to track them because of what they mean for our future and what it is to be a human on a hyperconnected globe.
So, that’s where we’re starting from, and we’re launching with the stories from our expedition to Cocos Island, one of the world’s most unusual marine ecosystems. Cocos demonstrates both the beauty that still exists on our planet, as well as the problems that plague even its most remote locations.
Alexis Madrigal is Fusion's Editor at Large. He was a senior editor at The Atlantic and a staff writer at Wired. He's the author of Powering the Dream.
Nicolás Ibargüen is an environmentalist and director of the Planet Initiative of the Americas Business Council Foundation, an organization that supports innovative social and environmental impact projects.
He is the environmental Correspondent for Fusion and Univision.
Nicolás organizes expeditions and events with world leaders to raise awareness about our relationship with the planet. He produced the award-winning documentary “Amazon Gold” and he is a board member of NRDC’s Voces Verdes and the Humane Society International. He was the Editor and Publisher of Poder Magazine.