There is a recognized cognitive phenomenon known as The Overview Effect. This is experienced (mostly during space flight) upon a firsthand holistic view of earth from a distance. This phenomenon is typified by an awareness that is best described as euphoric and peaceful. This reflective moment seems to resolve the tension of individual conflict that typifies the human experience. It addresses the volatile, unstable, complex, and ambiguous world we live in and acknowledges the fragility of our planet. It ignites the view of life as both momentary and limitless; something best described as sacred. The human instinct is then to protect the planet, to protect life, to protect the sacred.
Post-space flight transcripts reflect on The Overview Effect in a way that sits somewhere between mythology and philosophy—that ranges from the deeply personal to the radically political—where the individual has a potent self of sense while having a deep awareness of their interconnectedness. In further articulations these scientist, engineers, and astronauts speak of ideals and compulsion to radically reexamine and reinvent our world—to dream of that ever-unachievable utopian world—not as a goal—but as a journey and responsibility for every citizen.
At a moment where it is clearer than ever that the future of our planet—both environmentally and socio-politically—is very much in our hands and that action is needed now, this piece invites us to consider, reflect, and propel ourselves on this journey. Engaging NASA transcripts, science fiction narratives, space philosophy, and a range of utopian models, this interdisciplinary work seeks to achieve even a sliver of this Overview Effect—and in so doing reignite an awareness of our shared responsibility, the impact of our actions, and the urgent need for us to intentionally build our future—our utopia.