Earthrise

DEFINITION
Hannah Harrison
Climate Organiser and Communications Delegate

Perhaps the most influential environmental photograph ever taken, Earthrise captures the Earth and the surface of the moon from lunar orbit. Taken by Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve in 1968, Earthrise reaffirmed some of Earth's all too often forgotten characteristics: its fragility, deep beauty, and its status as our only home.

Though its philosophical significance was not immediate, Earthrise soon sunk into popular consciousness, complemented by Adlai Stevenson’s UN speech on Spaceship Earth and the publication of Rachel Carson’s best-selling “Silent Spring”. Both from the same decade as Earthrise, these hallmarks propelled the global environmental movement. Reiterating humanity’s connection with nature, they articulated the ecological issues facing the planet, and how much we have left to save.

Echoing values expressed across world religions, culture, and science, environmentalists hoped that Earthrise, showing the Earth at its most vulnerable, would reassert humanity’s place as part of nature. Hope grew that Earthrise would catalyse the action needed to save the non-human and human lives housed on our Spaceship Earth, as well as those to come. Individual lives are not visible in the photograph, but upon closer inspection, we are numerous and have the capacity to transform the world.

NASA Apollo8 Dec24 Earthrise

Earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders. Lunar Orbit, 1968.
Photography By Public Domain