In 1968 Buckminster Fuller popularized the concept of Spaceship Earth.
But have we paid attention to this concept? Are we aware of the use of limited resources and now are we aware that the spaceship is overheating? Are we aware of our own impact on Spaceship Earth?
One way of looking at this spaceship is from a macro-economic view.
A pilot flying a plane or an astronaut in the controls of a spaceship have to be very aware of the instrument panel. Any blinking yellow or red lights any unusual readings on the panel require attention.
The doomsday clock is at 5 minutes since 2012. Could be worse even though back in 2011 it was at 6 minutes.
The global hunger indicator shows improvement in the feeding of the passengers.
The temperature gauge indicates a serious problem.
Then again, spaceship Earth is not only being piloted by one astronaut, it is piloted by humanity.
Think of humanity as a the meta-organism piloting Earth. A meta-organism is an organism of organisms. The human body is an organism formed of living (and reproducing) cells, each one an organism of its own.
Each cell or each human being is specialized. This is something that Buckminster Fuller warned about as one of the keys problems we faced. Jacques Ellul, another philosopher of the last century, also warned us about a meta-organism he called “La Technique” in his book The Technological Society;
Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.
So we are all unconscious cells in a meta-organism piloting Spaceship Earth.
What if the cells in the piloting meta-organism became conscious and what if they acted and started making decisions that took into account the survivability or sustainability (same thing) of the planet?
One way to look at Spaceship Earth is from a macro-economy perspective. Macro-economics is one of the instruments the meta-organism piloting the spaceship looks at.
The Gross World Product is about $80 trillion/year, the sum total of the Gross Domestic Product of all countries. The instrument on Spaceship Earth that shows it is running out of dial. We may need a new GWP indicator. Of this $80 trillion, approximately 60% of the sum total of comes from household consumption. In the US it’s 70%.
So, overall, human consumption by all households is about $50 trillion/year. This $50 trillion is a function of the purchasing decisions made by billions of human beings. The sum total of these decisions by “consumers” is one way that the humanity meta-organism is affecting the sustainability of the planet.
What if the individual consumers became aware of the impact of their purchasing (consumption) decisions on the planet?
Technology makes this possible now.
Many propose there too many human beings on earth and as others say we as consumers have to consume less. Whatever reduces population growth (higher per capita GDP?) or lowers consumption (lifestyle change?) are welcome.
But what if it was possible for consumers to choose one product vs. another by having easy access to the environmental (and workplace justice) footprint of any product by just scanning a barcode?
To the degree that consumers can make better purchasing decisions based on the sustainability of a product, giving each consumer a new “instrument”, they can be not just passengers on Spaceship Earth, they can also be on the pilot’s seat.
The change may take time, but the moment is now and the technology makes it possible. This is what Earth Accounting is all about.