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Spaceship Earth is a world view term usually expressing concern over the use of limited resources available on Earth and the behavior of everyone on it to act as a harmonious crew working toward the greater good.

It may have been derived from a passage in Henry George's best known work, Progress and Poverty[1] (1879). From book IV, chapter 2:

It is a well-provisioned ship, this on which we sail through space. If the bread and beef above decks seem to grow scarce, we but open a hatch and there is a new supply, of which before we never dreamed. And very great command over the services of others comes to those who as the hatches are opened are permitted to say, "This is mine!"

In 1965 Adlai Stevenson made a speech to the UN in which he said "We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil".[2] The following year, Spaceship Earth became the title of a book by a friend of Stevenson's, the internationally influential economist Barbara Ward.

Also in 1966 Kenneth E. Boulding used the phrase in the title of an essay, The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.[3] Boulding described the past open economy of apparently illimitable resources, which he said he was tempted to call the "cowboy economy", and continued: "The closed economy of the future might similarly be called the 'spaceman' economy, in which the earth has become a single spaceship, without unlimited reservoirs of anything, either for extraction or for pollution, and in which, therefore, man must find his place in a cyclical ecological system". (David Korten would take up the "cowboys in a spaceship" theme in his 1995 book When Corporations Rule the World.)

The phrase was also popularized by Buckminster Fuller, who wrote and published a book in 1969 under the title of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.[4] This quotation, referring to fossil fuels, reflects his approach:

"...can make all of humanity successful through science's world-engulfing industrial evolution provided that we are not so foolish as to continue to exhaust in a split second of astronomical history the orderly energy savings of billions of years' energy conservation aboard our Spaceship Earth. These energy savings have been put into our Spaceship's life-regeneration-guaranteeing bank account for use only in self-starter functions."

United Nations Secretary-General U Thant spoke of Spaceship Earth on Earth Day March 21, 1971 at the ceremony of the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell: "May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."[5]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The text on wikisource differs from versions available here and here.
  2. ^ Speech to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, July 9, 1965
  3. ^ Boulding, Kenneth E. (1966). "THE ECONOMICS OF THE COMING SPACESHIP EARTH". http://dieoff.org/page160.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-07.  
  4. ^ Fuller, Buckminster (1963). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.. ISBN 0-525-47433-1. http://reactor-core.org/operating-manual-for-spaceship-earth.html.   The quotation is from Section 8: The regenerative landscape.
  5. ^ Lawrence, Lee; John McConnell (July 3, 1999). "EARTH DAY: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE". Wish Only Well. http://www.wowzone.com/mc-lee.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-07.  
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