On the social impact of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo, or the lack of it?

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Fred Spier


In this article, the various forms of contemporary news reports are explored of the Apollo 8 Earthrise pictures and whole Earth images photographed by the astronauts. Already during this flight to the Moon, that took place at the end of December of 1968, remarkable differences in perceptions, emotions, and interpretations emerged between the United States and Western Europe and, more likely than not, the rest of the world as well, concerning the Earth and humanity’s place on it. Furthermore, it appears that within both continents a considerable portion of the population was hardly affected by these pictures, if at all. These differences in perceptions have evolved over the past fifty years, while many of them continue to exist today. All of this will be examined in some detail with emphasis on what happened during and right after the flight of Apollo 8.

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Author Biography

Fred Spier, Senior Lecturer Big History emeritus, University of Amsterdam

Fred Spier is senior lecturer big history emeritus at the University of Amsterdam. He studied biochemistry at the University of Leyden (1970-1978), and cultural anthropology at the Free University Amsterdam (1981-1987). His Ph.D. cum laude at the University of Amsterdam dealt with the history of religion, politics and ecology in Peru, where he did extensive fieldwork in the Andean village of Zurite between 1985 and 1996. As of 1993, he became the driving force of big history at the University of Amsterdam. He is now formulating a fresh theory of the history of the biosphere, of life, and of humanity.