This is the starting point for my plan to circumnavigate the Earth by land and sea at latitude 45° north, the 45th parallel. Why?
The word latitude has its roots in the Latin latus, or broad. My goal is to experience our planet in this broad sense, tracing a single line around its girth, knowing it as a planet. I'm a child of the age of Earth as planet, the great coming together of our view out into space, and our view of ourselves from out there. The first time we saw our planet in its glorious global entirety was in November, 10th 1967. I want to extend this global view, with a global perspective at the 45th parallel.
There's another aspect that's pulling me on this journey. I'm drawn to humanity's great diversity, in part because of my mongrel origins, born in Israel to a Danish mother and Jewish-American father. DNA analysis reveals that 5000 years ago my ancestors were in what we now call Scandinavia and Anatolia: Vikings and Byzantines; proto-monotheists and the children of Odin; wanderers and conquerors.
As a mongrel, I've never been attracted to, or felt connected with, nationalisms. I've always felt more drawn to my connection with the Earth and to other people, of all kinds. Always fascinated and awed by the beauty of different women and men: Japanese, Nepalese, Senegalese; Chilean, Mongolian, Italian.
With all this diversity, however, I'm equally intrigued by what connects us. My book The Stardust Revolution tells the story of our common ancestral connection, our origin in the stars. In writing The Stardust Revolution I was struck by the fact that you don't have to leave Earth to find aliens. On Earth, we often see the alien, the fearful other, in one another. Until we meet and share tea or coffee, smiles, laughter, talk of family, of history, of hopes.
This 45 Degrees journey is a Stardust Revolution sequel, exploring our common connection and origin with the Earth, the ways we're connected and share this in our everyday lives. My journey will add one piece of string to the multicoloured weave that knits us - you, me, all 6 billion of us - into a tapestry of humanity, to see not just our planet in space, but us together.
Why the 45th parallel north?
The field of psychogeography explores "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." (It's notable that the field was cemented in 1955 by French Marxist sociologist interested not so much in geography, as in the role of urban landscapes in shaping class struggle.)
I've lived almost my entire life within several hundred kilometres of this mid-line between the Equator and the North Pole. How has living at the 45th parallel in a place called Ontario, Canada, shaped who I am? How would it be similar or different to live on the 45th parallel on the exact opposite side of the Earth, in Kazakhstan? Similarly, I'm interested in how the act of travel, or journeying, changes us.
Finally, 45 Degrees of latitude is for me a metaphor for mid-life, the symbolic half-way point between the verdant equatorial lands of childhood and the final stark Arctic chill of death. It is the middle, a vantage point from which it's possible to look south with experience and north with an inkling of what's to come. So, for me, 45 Degrees is also a journey of self, of exploring who I am at mid-latitude and mid-life.
In this way, I hope to learn about myself and reflect on our shared journey on our planet.