Today's Beautiful Gem: `Who Speaks for Earth?' by Carl Sagan.

"The Cosmos was discovered only yesterday. For a million years it
was clear to everyone that there were no other places than the Earth.
Then in the last tenth of a percent of the lifetime of our species, in
the instant between Aristarchus and ourselves, we reluctantly noticed
that we were not the centre and purpose of the Universe, but rather
lived on a tiny and fragile world lost in immensity and eternity, drifting
in a great cosmic ocean dotted here and there with a hundred billion
galaxies and a billion trillion stars. We have bravely tested the waters
and found the ocean to our liking, resonant with our nature. Something
in us recognises the Cosmos as home. We are made of stellar ash. Our
origin and evolution have been tied to distant cosmic events. The
exploration of the Cosmos is a voyage of self-discovery.

"As the ancient mythmakers knew, we are the children equally of the
sky and the Earth. In our tenure on this planet we have accumulated
dangerous evolutionary baggage, hereditary propensities for aggression
and ritual, submission to leaders and hostility to outsiders, which place
our survival in some question. But we have also acquired compassion for
others, love for our children and our children's children, a desire to
learn from history, and a great soaring passionate intelligence-- the
clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of
our nature will prevail is uncertain, particuarly when our vision and
understanding and prospects are bound exclusively to the Earth-- or worse,
to one small part of it. But up there in the immensity of the Cosmos,
an inescapable perspective awaits us. There are not yet any obvious
signs of extraterrestrial intelligence and this makes us wonder whether
civilisations like ours always rush implacably, headlong toward self-
destruction. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth
from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a
little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue
crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the
bastion and citadel of the stars. Travel is broadening.

"There are worlds on which life has never arisen. There are worlds
that have been charred and ruined by cosmic catastrophes. We are
fortunate; we are alive; we are powerful; the welfare of our civilisation
and our species is in our hands. If we do not speak for Earth, who will?
If we are not committed to our own survival, who will be?"

om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao