When the Apollo 8 mission first crested the lunar horizon to see a tiny blue and white orb poking past into the infinite black, the astronauts scrambled around the cramped capsule to catch a snapshot. The result: Kodachrome proof that we are truly alone together. In other words, what became coined the Overview Effect, reminds us that our planet is a small ship sailing across a vast, inky black sea—and there are no lifeboats or alternate location to run to.
Don’t worry, there’s a silver lining
It’s true this effect has a sobering impact on how we view ourselves in the grand scheme. But when you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time, you should feel inspired to treat the resources we so often take for granted with some more solidarity.
The fact that we have reached a place outside of the planet enough to have someone take a picture of it proves that anything is possible. Not only to be able to record that image (only capable within the last 200 years) but by a person (only possible since 80 years ago) and shared across the planet (by the internet which is only 20 years old), it puts us at a time in history unlike any other.
In the face of this, I think Sage’s tagline, Your Gadgets Have More to Give™, says it all. There is an incredible amount of value still left in many of the devices being tossed aside for the next best thing. And, when it comes to something as exponentially potent as technology, we should drink deep this Overview Effect to help curb that over-consumption.
The Overview Effect: not just for space travel anymore
The problem with our psyches is that things become cliché far too quickly. Memes are a great example of how transient our appreciation for things is; most memes only last a few years. It’s no different with the Overview. We’re barely a few decades from this historic moment and we already take celestial imagery for granted.
If the overview effect is the ability to have a holistic perspective, then how often can we see that? Are there other things that might give us a snapshot into what our little planet is capable of—or not capable of? When posed with this question, my mind immediately went to the externalization of recycling costs.
When we push the cost of being responsible with our waste onto the planet or onto other countries, that’s an example of being too narrow in how we view things. We need another Overview to broaden our perspective—to remind us that we are stuck on this small planet floating in the vast expanse of space—so that we start to behave as if this is it.
Sustainability as a terrestrial Overview
Sustainability is the best answer we have to making this ship we’re sailing last. And this kind of thinking is mindful of the whole system—since extending the life of our resources requires a holistic view. When you look at things through a sustainable philosophy, it promotes an overview mindset of its own.
Keep in mind that sustainability isn’t a once-and-done action. Being green should be a lifestyle shift. When we make that shift, the gravity of our circumstances take on the same revelatory feel as what those astronauts first felt as the shutter snapped on that iconic view.