When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon on July 20th 1969 there were five million people watching the event live on television. At that time this was the biggest ever live television audience. For those of you who were not alive to witness that event I can try and give you an idea of the world we lived in at that time.
I was 12 years old and in my first year of secondary education. Our teachers would hit us with rulers, beat us with canes and slap us across the head on a regular basis. Everyone wore school uniform and no-one had seen a calculator. Maths lessons were completed with logarithm books.
In our homes most of us had black and white television sets. Television transmissions began at 4.30 in the afternoon and long before midnight had closed down. There was ITV and BBC 1 as the main choice of channels, the other option (and there was only one other option) was BBC2 which had launched in 1964 as a minority channel. From 1967 BBC 2 was the first television station to broadcast regularly in colour and the moon landing was one of the events that helped to boost sales of colour television sets.
If you take a good look at the roofs of London homes you will see strange structures called chimneys. These would pour out the dark smoke from the coal fires that heated our homes. Coal delivery lorries would all and fill your coal bins with sacks of black dusty coal which you would then shovel onto the fire in your front room.
If you looked up into the sky you would see planes, not as many as today and the large majority of them were driven by propellers not jet engines. People were beginning to go to Spain for a holiday but in nothing like the numbers that holiday abroad today.
Perhaps the biggest cultural difference of the time was the twelve minue warning. Everyone in the country knew that it took twelve minutes from launching for Russia's nuclear missiles to explode over London. We lived with the knowledge every day that we were only ever twelve minutes away from complete annihilation.
Our government's advice films told us to hide under the kitchen table if a warning siren went off. We all knew how futile such advice was.
I am telling you all of this because into that dim grey world that had only just recovered from the Second World War came this amazing image, Earth Rising. never before had we seen ourselves as a small blue green planet, a celestial dot within the huge void of space, never had we looked at our world and said, "That is us, all of us."
This is the moment that I cite, as an historian, which marks the beginning of the global age of humanity. This is the first moment of collective global consciousness, when millions of people all around the world looked at their televisions and didn't just realise we are all one but saw the physical evidence of that fact. What was more amazing was that the physical evidence was transcendentally beautiful, we lived on a planet that sparkled in the blackness of space and the cause of that sparkle was life, teeming, breathing, living, dying, growing spreading life in all its glory.
This is why we have chosen the image of Earth Rising as the logo for HumanRights TV, it represents all that we stand for.
In Earth Rising we see all of our global aspirations.
In Earth Rising we see we are all one and can only go forward together.
In Earth Rising we see both how fragile we are and how beautiful we are.
If we are to preserve our world, to value our humanity and to create a better future for our children then we need a global understanding of Human Rights. In order to achieve that we have to change the whole focus of the process of globalisation. To date, December 2008, globalisation has been driven by the corporate world, business has been the lingua franca of global ideals. This corporatisation of our world has led to a moment in history in which we face an economic disaster and that disaster has occurred because of a complete lack of regulation of financial practices. Regulation is merely a term that covers the articles of law so it can be said that we have allowed business not to act beyond the law but to act without the law. This has been our mistake, this has been the error of all of us not just the financiers, not just the business community but all of us. For if the image of Earth Rising tells us one thing it is that we are all in this together, we sink or swim together and we have to resolve issues together.
The conclusion is very simple, it is law that should be the driving force of globalisation, law not business, and that law has to be grounded in human rights as an expression of the global identity we want to create, the global identity we need to create and the global identity we have to create if we are to survive.
If our global future is going to look back at all of us today and say that we were honourable ancestors, who established the principles and practices whereby humanity could live with itself then we will have served that future well. The alternative is quite simply that we today take responsibility for the extinction of humanity for that will be the unavoidable outcome of failing to establish workable, desirable global laws giving all their human rights.