Eclipse offers glimpse of mankind’s place in the universe
The Park Record editorial, Aug. 19-22, 2017
Monday morning, all of the usual hustle and bustle in Park City will likely come to a temporary standstill as residents and visitors pause to acknowledge a rare astronomical event: a near total eclipse. By all accounts, the weather is expected to cooperate and we will have a clear view of the unfolding drama.
While Park City is not on the path of totality (a cross-country arc that goes from northern Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina) the light will dim and rustling aspen leaves will cast myriad crescent shadows as we gape toward the heavens and contemplate our place in the universe. Along the Wasatch, the eclipse will reach its peak at 11:34 a.m. when the moon covers 91 percent of the sun.
In Park City, where his new environmental film “An Inconvenient Sequel” debuted last January, former Vice President Al Gore recalled how his first glimpse of the Earth from space awakened his environmental activism. We hope Monday’s eclipse will do the same for citizens throughout the United States.
The now famous photo, “Earthrise,” was taken in 1968 by the crew from Apollo 8 and has come to represent the vulnerability of man’s shared home, planet Earth. In a similar way, watching the moon blot out the sun, as we stand on a tiny patch of ground that is both orbiting and being orbited around, is both dizzying and humbling.
This particular eclipse comes at a time when environmentalism is under siege but, hopefully, the public’s enthusiastic embrace of the event will foster a surge of interest in science and nature.
It will be difficult on Monday not to feel the spiritual pull of greater forces. The fact that man can now predict and prepare for an eclipse, a cyclone, blizzard or drought, is evidence of how essential science has become to humankind’s well being.
It remains to be seen though whether our current elected officials will apply the same resources to human-caused environmental upheavals.
Throughout time, eclipses have roused mystical interpretations. Among the Navajo tribes when the daytime sun grew dim and stars came out in the middle of the day, they set aside time to discuss their connections to each other and to the universe.
On Monday morning, we hope that Parkites will set aside their work, their cell phones, bikes and other distractions in order to contemplate our beautiful planet and our obligation to protect it.