Captain Kirk: The Earth is our only home. Everything out there in space is hellish. We need to start taking care of our home before it, too, becomes a hell.

At age 90, the actor William Shatner got to ride briefly into outer space. He was expecting an epiphany of connection to the Universe out there.

He was not prepared to feel a deep sense of grief.

(I have been making the same argument on this as Shatner for many years now.)

Here is what he wrote:

The age of extinction

My trip to space made me realise we have only one Earth – it must live long and prosper

William Shatner

Star Trek prepared me to feel a connection with the universe. Instead, I felt terrible grief for our planet. At Cop15, our leaders must negotiate to protect it

Wed 7 Dec 2022 10.00 ESTFollow William Shatner

Star Trek actor William Shatner, 90
Click to see figure captionThe age of extinction is supported byAbout this contentLast year, at the age of 90, I had a life-changing experience.

I went to space, after decades of playing a science-fiction character who was exploring the universe and building connections with many diverse life forms and cultures.

I thought I would experience a similar feeling: a feeling of deep connection with the immensity around us, a deep call for endless exploration. A call to indeed boldly go where no one had gone before.

I was absolutely wrong.

As I explained in my latest book, what I felt was totally different. I knew that many before me had experienced a greater sense of care while contemplating our planet from above, because they were struck by the apparent fragility of this suspended blue marble.

I felt that too.

But the strongest feeling, dominating everything else by far, was the deepest grief that I had ever experienced.

While I was looking away from Earth, and turned towards the rest of the universe, I didn’t feel connection; I didn’t feel attraction. What I understood, in the clearest possible way, was that we were living on a tiny oasis of life, surrounded by an immensity of death.

I didn’t see infinite possibilities of worlds to explore, of adventures to have, or living creatures to connect with. I saw the deepest darkness I could have ever imagined, contrasting starkly with the welcoming warmth of our nurturing home planet.

I worry about the world my grandchildren will be living in when they are my ageThis was an immensely powerful awakening for me. It filled me with sadness. I realised that we had spent decades, if not centuries, being obsessed with looking away, with looking outside.

I played my part in popularising the idea that space was the final frontier.

But I had to get to space to understand that Earth is, and will remain, our only home. And that we have been ravaging it, relentlessly, making it uninhabitable.

I was born in Montreal in 1931. During my lifetime, this world has changed faster than for any generation before us. We are now at an ecological tipping point. Without the bold leadership that the times require, we are facing further climate breakdown and ecosystems collapsing before our eyes, with as many as one million species at risk of extinction, according to the latest scientific assessments.‘We are at war with nature’: UN environment chief warns of biodiversity apocalypseRead more

And of all places, it is in the city where I was born that a crucial meeting of the United Nations is being held. At Cop15, the UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, taking place from 7 to 19 December, world governments will negotiate a global deal to stop the loss of biodiversity by the end of the decade. We need world leaders to give their diplomats a powerful mandate for these talks: agree on strong targets to change the way we produce food, to drastically cut pollution, and to conserve 50% of our planet’s land and ocean, with the active leadership of Indigenous peoples and local communities, who have historically been pioneers on all these necessary actions.

I was the oldest man to go to space.

I worry about the world my grandchildren will be living in when they are my age. My generation is leaving them a planet that might pretty soon be barely livable for many of Earth’s inhabitants. My experience in space filled me with sadness, but also with a strong resolve. I don’t want my grandchildren to simply survive. I want them, as an old friend used to say, to be able to live long and prosper.I will do everything I can so that we can protect our one and only home. Our world leaders have an immense responsibility to do the same in Montreal.

William Shatner is a Canadian actor who played Captain James T Kirk in Star Trek for almost 30 years.


He is also author of Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and WonderThe age of extinctionCop15OpinionEnvironmentConservationBiodiversityStar TrekWilliam ShatnerArticleCommentWilliam Shatner

The age of extinction

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