Gordon Price's email announcement of the upcoming Stewart Brand on New Urbanism event in Vancouver BC reminded me of something I’d long ago forgotten. Gord wrote that Brand
“…thought the image of our planet might be a powerful symbol, so in 1966 he campaigned to have NASA release the then-rumoured satellite image of the entire Earth as seen from space. He distributed buttons — for 25 cents each — asking, “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” In 1968, a NASA astronaut made the photo public, and in 1970, not coincidentally, Earth Day began to be celebrated. Brand explained that the image “gave the sense that Earth’s an island, surrounded by a lot of inhospitable space.”
I remember the button vividly (At least the event of the button.). I was a student and someone (presumably Stewart Brand) was standing at the corner of 116th and Broadway (main entrance to Columbia) and gave me out one. I don’t remember having to pay for one, though I may have. Nor of course did I have any knowledge of the guy who (presumably) gave me out the button. It was only decades later did I — “BINGO!” — see the connection between Brand’s the button and the Whole Earth Catalog.
I also recollect that I was stumped by the question — I was a teenager and it was too allusive and obscure for me. But I do absolutely remember receiving one — it was striking — and considering the time and location, the button was freighted with sinister government overtones of something to hide.
I’ve emailed to my old roommates asking if they have any memory; I wonder if the button came up at our vigorously-debated dinners and what it meant.