Talk to any astronaut who's had the experience of looking down from space at our big blue ball called Earth. They all share the same sentiment. Just how fragile it is, and how wondrous.

Netflix's One Strange Rock looks at our planet through the eyes of the astronauts. If you haven't seen it, it's probably because you're too busy stressing about more earthly matters – traffic, work, health, money - which is precisely why you should make time to see it.

Sure, it's slightly jingoistic in a way that only Americans have perfected, and the commentary by Will Smith leans towards the saccharine at times, but it really is a viewing must. Why? Because anything that elevates us enough to pull our heads out of our bums is a good thing, right?


The cinematography is lush, the conversations meaningful, and the message clear. Without mentioning those two little words starting with "c" even once, the message is stark. Life on Earth is tenuous, miraculous, and worth saving. In fact, the total absence of the words "climate change" makes it even more powerful; more urgent.

On the International Space Station, Earth is orbited once every 92 minutes, and at a speed of around 17,150 miles per hour or 5 miles per second. In 24 hours it has completed 16 full orbits, and seen 16 sunrises. The crew sees the shapes of entire continents, and all the rivers that run through them, and the heaving cities that those myriad rivers feed.

The closest we earthbound mortals get to such a state of transcendence is by getting on a jet and flying a few miles high above the globe. Suspended between your life back there on the ground, and the destination ahead. A time of contemplation.

The irony? The jet is spewing forth the gaseously mortal enemy of life. A cocktail of pollutants. Yet it is the least discussed driver of climate change. It is the one thing that most humans will not even contemplate giving up. For a moment. And the aviation industry knows that our addiction to travel is solid and unshakeable.

It's also the thing that, if removed as a form of transport, would make a difference to our chance of saving ourselves. But, no. We demand to feel connected to every corner of the planet, and have the luxury of going to said corner whenever we choose, and at speed. So much connection with the world beyond our shores. Yet, so much disconnection as to be deliciously perverse.

Earth rising over the moon's horizon ... but will this last forever? Photo / Nasa
Earth rising over the moon's horizon ... but will this last forever? Photo / Nasa

The disconnection I speak of can be found squarely in the ever-growing mental health and suicide statistics. In a world gone mad, humans are feeling more alone than ever. Social media mostly feeds that isolation, but the addiction is strong. Even if people eventually figure out it's hurting them – their self-esteem, view of the world, carpal tunnels – they still cling on like a drunk to the bottle.

Which is why One Strange Rock resonates. While Attenborough prefers showing walruses hurling themselves from cliffs, starving polar bears and orangutans fighting to the death with bulldozers so as to keep their home amidst the palm kernel plantations, I prefer the less heartbreaking, but still deeply bittersweet, method of turning humanity's attention towards its own salvation.

Putting aside the mantra from some of the astronauts that humans are "incredibly adaptable" and "advanced technology" will mean "we will get to Mars and a new life on a new planet" – you know, because we've stuffed this one – it's a profoundly moving series.

Because we can see, with the benefit of distance, what we have done – and are doing – to our home. Our one and only home.

I don't want to go to bloody Mars! I want to see us sort this mess out here on Earth. Send Elon Musk, and all the other soulless robots sucking on the teat of capitalism. Be gone with you. Go and choke on some red dust.

In fact, I don't need to see Earth from space to know I need to feel connected. And if the way to feel connected is to disconnect from man-made technology, then that's what I'll do. Call me a Luddite. I don't care.

Humanity is in deep trouble. Psychologically and spiritually we are at the crossroads. We have lost so much by gulping down the poisonous neoliberal soup, we don't even know how to save our own souls anymore.

I've got a pretty strong hunch that the only way back to the realm of the divine is to start listening – and fast - for the place where the wild things are. A place we all belong, even if we've forgotten that we do.

Mars be damned.