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ç 1 Setting the Stage for Our Modern Understanding of Climate Change I n 1960, the United States entered a new decade with a new sense of energy and purpose.President John F.Kennedy began his administration with a call to explore a “new frontier” of opportunities, whether that meant securing civil rights for all citizens of the country, helping the poor in other nations create economic growth, or going into outer space. President Kennedy told us to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for the country. And many of us responded. As a young man, I found myself caught up in that spirit of adventure and discovery. I, too, wanted to do something that was not only exciting, but would also make a contribution to the world. Thus, my scientific career began in college (1964–1968) during a time of tremendous change and excitement in almost every area of human life, but especially in fields driven by science and technology. The seeds of one of these—the International Geophysical Year (IGY)—had been sown in the 1950s, but the impact would reverberate throughout the 1960s, exerting a major influence on me and on my field. Scientists had conceived of the IGY as the first study of the Earth system in all its complexity, involving researchers from almost every nation on the planet. They planned to investigate the Earth from several different vantage points. This meant monitoring the behavior of the ocean, atmosphere, and processes on land, then combining this information to get more from the sum of the parts than would have been possible by single individual or even single country investigations. The plan emerged from international scientific circles at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, presenting a noble vision of international cooperation that would take place, ironically, at a time of intensified national competition. Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 19 The military and scientific dimensions of the Cold War merged in the IGY plan to launch the first artificial satellite of the planet Earth. Both the United States and the Soviet Union committed themselves to use their weapons of war (missiles) to launch a satellite that would be used for peaceful purposes. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union sent Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, roaring into orbit on board one of their Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The “Space Age” had begun because of a program that was originally meant to focus attention on the Earth. In response, the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to coordinate all space-related activities and meet the challenge of the Soviet program. President John F. Kennedy gave NASA its primary mission: to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. The United States achieved its goal in only seven years. Ironically, just as the International Geophysical Year was intended to focus on the Earth, but instead shifted attention to outer space, so Apollo was oriented toward space, but turned our thoughts back to Earth. Some have even said that the Apollo missions to the moon triggered the ecology movement on the Earth. While this may be an overstatement , it’s hard to deny that the two events were linked—Apollo 11 landed two astronauts on the moon in July 1969, and the first Earth Day was celebrated less than a year later, in April 1970. In the words of shuttle astronaut Joe Allen, “With all the arguments pro and con for going to the moon, no one suggested that we should do it to look at the Earth. But that may in fact be the most important reason ” (White, 1987, 1998). The view of the whole Earth serves as a natural symbol for the environmental movement. It leaves us unable to ignore the reality that we are living on a finite “planet,” not in a limitless “world.” That planet is, in the words of another astronaut, a lifeboat in a hostile space, and all living things are riding in it together (White, 1987, 1998). This realization formed the essential foundation of an emerging environmental awareness . The renewed attention on the Earth that grew out of these early space flights also contributed to an intensified interest in both weather and climate. The weather satellites launched after Sputnik are so common today that we take...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781611683844
Print ISBN
9781584650614
MARC Record
OCLC
648480990
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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