The renowned astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, coined the expression, “The Pale Blue Planet” for our home in the vast universe.

The future of our planet rests in our hands. Its health and wellness are our responsibilities.

For astronauts, the view of earth is so spectacular that it can transform their perspectives on life and even draws these scientists toward religion and spirituality.

“Something happens to you out there,” Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell has said. “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.”

“It was too beautiful to happen by accident,” said astronaut Gene Cernan. “There has to be somebody bigger than you, and bigger than me, and I mean this in a spiritual sense, not a religious sense.”

Astronauts called it the “overview effect.” It is where the spirit and science converge.

A Young Lady’s Local Solution

In 1882, the Association of University Women (AAUW) was started by 17 like-minded woman and today boasts 150,000 members. It is one of the nation’s leading voices promoting equality and education for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

In 1997, AAUW received a grant for science and math camps to provide an opportunity for girls to learn about STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math – during weeklong Tech-Trek camps in a college environment.

Tech Trek is a unique experience that cannot compare with anything else. It helps girls to develop a wider knowledge and understanding of what they want and what they can achieve. Science and math teachers recommend students for the program with guidelines given by the local AAUW branch coordinator. Recommended girls and their parents are contacted, and the students are asked to write an essay.

From the AAUW Palm Springs branch nine students were selected to attend Tech Trek STEM camp at UC Irvine in July of this year. Miss Tiffany Baik of Indio Middle School is one of those chosen.

For the application process, Tiffany wrote an essay entitled Garbage Bags. She is a seventh grader who recognizes how harmful and potentially lethal refuse and garbage is for our planet. Her suggestions for a solution center around more coordinated collection periods to minimize waste of space and time. She is surely not alone in expressing her concerns about this pressing issue, but at her young age she presents impressive action for a solution.

By advancing an idea for a portion of the challenge, she invoked the “butterfly effect,” the concept that seemingly small causes and solutions can have a large impact. It is a metaphor used in and out of science; the theory explains that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world might cause a hurricane far away.

For us today, and all generations to come, how we flap our wings just might determine our future and the future of this beautiful planet we call home.

George Adolph can be reached at [email protected].

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