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The Overview Effect

A much-needed shift in perspective.

"Once a photograph of the earth, taken from outside, is available . . . a new idea as powerful as any history, will be let loose" – Fred Hoyle, 1948.

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is a perspective-altering experience that somehow immediately transforms anyone who has been able to see planet earth from afar. After launching into space, the crew of Apollo 8 circled the moon and then turned the camera back on the earth – the image of a pulsing blue-green orb hanging precariously in black space was beamed back to humanity on earth. The crew realized that far more important than journeying to the moon was the sight of the earth from this new angle, forever changing their perspective on the planet and mankind’s place upon it.

Common features of the "Overview Effect" include a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. It's commonly bemoaned that the first "space tourism" flights that could launch in the next decade or so will be available only for the rich and powerful elite. But let us hope that it is they who have the transformational experience of the overview effect.

29 comments on the article “The Overview Effect”

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Anonymous

An Overview might be that the raw footage is beautiful, awe inspiring and some. But if someone was brave enough to take out all the needless talking, and add a 2001 type sound track, then it really would be Out-Of-This-World.

Anonymous

P.S: Far from adding anything, all the the talking-heads do is to take-away from the truly wonderful footage.

Anonymous

There's hundreds of YouTube videos like that. I thought it was wonderful, fascinating even to hear of the astronauts insights. Thank you Planetary Collective x

Anonymous

P.S: Cynthia Brown, founding member of the International Big History Association, says that this is "the best visual piece" on Big History she has ever seen.

Anonymous

Overall, there isn't a strong enough consciousness about how destructive we are to the earth and it's other inhabitants. I made the decision one day to go out and pick up litter and was amazed at the amount of garbage I found in a place that appeared relatively clean on it's surface. If it's allowed to "sit" it sinks right into the earth and goodluck fishing it out. Certain types of plastic will just shatter to bits. I am concerned about biomagnification up the food chain. I don't know how to educate people on this that really need to be educated. Some seem to pass everything off as "those crazy liberal environmentalists". I don't know how they can't care about the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat. It's not paranoid, it's caring about and appreciating the gifts that keep us alive and healthy. Yes it's in our nature to consume but we don't have to be irresponsible about it.

David Beaver

As co-founder of the Overview Institute (http://www.overviewinstitute.org), the primary organization in the space community that researches and disemnates information on the astronauts' experience, I'd like to clarify a bit. The essential nature of the OE is a cognitive shift in "world view", much the same as that produced by multi-cultural travel and experience, a good education or extream experiences such as mountain climbing or wilderness trekking. Arguably, the direct perception of the Earth as a planet in space moving through a star-filled universe is the largest physical "worldview" shift possible. While the environmental shift is frequently mentioned, the OE extends to political, resource and humanitarian issues of all kinds, depending on the individual. Many astronauts stress that not all the space media that they had seen prepared them for the viseral direct experience. The comment about 2001 is a good example. Douglas Trumbull, visual effects director for 2001 (and many other SF films) is an OI founding member. Here is the Harvard event where we premiered "Overview" (http://bit.ly/Vdxhs4). Listen to Doug discuss the limitations of conventional space media and what it takes to convey a sense of its reality.

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