The 3rd Rock from the Sun is a Fragile Oasis

This entry was originally posted on August 19, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

I want to devote this post to explaining the part of Fragile Oasis called “3rd Rock.”

The focus of the “3rd Rock” will not be on the problems of the world, but on how the problems of the world are being solved by amazing people. The 3rd Rock page will be dedicated to improving life on our planet, and highlighting those people and organizations making a difference.

It is very difficult to look at our beautiful Earth from space without being moved in some way. My own experience is described on the “3rd Rock” page:

Light from One of 16 Daily Sunrises strikes Solar Arrays as seen from the windows of the Japanese “Kibo” (Hope) Laboratory shortly after it was installed to the International Space Station on STS-124

“It was a very moving experience to see the absolute beauty of the planet we have been given. But as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful, fragile oasis — this island that has been given to us, and has protected all life from the harshness of space — I couldn’t help but think of the inequity that exists. I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, social injustice, conflicts, and poverty. It was an amazingly stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants.”

You may wonder why a “Space” website would devote a section to highlighting solutions to some of the problems facing the world. For me personally, it’s because those who fly in space have been given the unique perspective of living and working off the planet while still being close enough to our planet to see its beauty, vulnerability and to appreciate what an incredible gift it is. Just as this unique perspective continues to inspire those who experience it, the goal of the “3rd Rock” page is to share that unique orbital perspective, and hopefully to share the inspiration to protect our Fragile Oasis and its inhabitants.

Fortunately, we live in a world where many problems faced by previous generations have been solved. Yet, vast numbers of people still do not benefit from those solutions.

Children are the most vulnerable people on our planet. Adults have a responsibility to them not only because they rely on us, but because they are our future. Let’s take a moment to look at some sobering facts about the children of our world:

  • Despite the fact that diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are preventable and curable, The World Health Organization estimates that in 2006 there were over 1 million deaths as a result of malaria. In 2005, 1.6 million people died from tuberculosis worldwide. In both cases, most of these were children.
  • Despite our capacity to provide clean water to every person on this planet, 29,000 children die every day from problems associated with drinking contaminated water
  • Despite resources to feed every person on this planet, 16,000 children die daily from hunger-related causes
  • 22 million infants are not protected from disease by routine immunizations
  • 2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV

These are not just numbers on a chart. These are children. These facts represent just a fraction of the immense problems facing our planet. When faced with such insurmountable challenges, one can become overwhelmed and frustrated and be left feeling that the problems are too big for them to really make an impact. They ask themselves, What could I possibly do? Is it worth my effort to even try?

Even those people who have made a commitment to improve the world eventually face periods of frustration. However, it is precisely those people who commit to making a positive change, and it is precisely at those moments when they feel discouraged, or when they don’t think they’ll be successful — people who persevere through those obstacles and step outside of their comfort zone are the ones who achieve success in reaching their goals and dreams, and who affect real change in the world. I for one, do not want to look back in the twilight of my life and ask “What would have happened if I really gave it a try, if I really put everything I had into trying to make life better on our planet?”

The first step to affect change is to believe that real change is possible. Here are some things that I believe are true:

  • That it is possible to live in a world without poverty
  • That it is possible to live in a world where no one dies from preventable and curable diseases
  • That it is possible to live in a world where everyone has access to clean water and no one goes to sleep hungry
  • That it is possible to live in a world that educates all its children
  • That we do live in a world where the possibilities are endless, and where we are limited only by our imagination and our will

Peaceful Sleep in Rwanda

We are challenged to make the part of the world we come in contact with a little better; simply because it came in contact with us.  The goal of “3rd Rock” is to encourage people to look for opportunities to better their communities and the world, and to inspire people to go out and make a difference.

Above all, the vision of “3rd Rock” is to encourage everyone, in all that they do, to look for opportunities to make life better for those with whom they share this Fragile Oasis.

Please stay tuned as this part of the website takes shape. As always we are open to your suggestions.

One thought on “The 3rd Rock from the Sun is a Fragile Oasis”

  1. Thanks Ron for caring about the 3rd Rock. Encouraging others to go out and make a difference to the world around us should be a requirement for planetary citizenship. I’m glad we have someone like you to shine a spotlight on our planet and those of us who live here. 🙂

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