Provision #356: Spaceship Earth

Laser Provision

This Thursday, April 22, will again see Earth Day celebrations around the globe to celebrate the earth and our responsibility toward it. The value of protecting the planet, including all life forms and natural resources, has ancient roots in the world’s religions and cultures. It has become even more important now that we know we are “all astronauts aboard a little spaceship called Earth.”

LifeTrek Provision

It’s clear from our reader feedback that we have moved into the territory of values. As soon as we write about values, those “principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable,” we inevitably raise the ire of some and the hope of others. That’s because values are also “beliefs in which a person or social group have an emotional investment.”

Last week’s Provision on “Eschewing Violence” Click was no exception. Given the state of world affairs, that certainly came as no surprise. One reader argued that we had the luxury of writing about nonviolence only because others had violently protected and defended our right to do so. Several readers celebrated our worldwide reconnaissance of nonviolence as the right word at the right time, to counterbalance the current wave of brutal hostilities and bloodshed around the globe.

The point of this series on common values, however, is not to promote a particular strategy or course of action. It’s not to answer the question, “So what do we do with this value?” You must answer that question for yourself, and different people will arrive at different answers.

The point of this series is to recognize the values that religions and cultures hold in common around the world so that we can use them as a starting point in formulating our own personal core values. Each of us needs a clear sense of what we’re about, what we stand for, and what we work for in the world. Rather than inventing our values from scratch, this series gives us some things to ponder from the wisdom of the ages.

And that wisdom clearly eschews violence against human beings and other living things. We would all do well to review our life and work in that light. What connections do we see between this value and how we live and work? What changes, if any, would we make?

When the Parliament of the World’s Religions and cultures met in Chicago in 1993, they recognized that the time-honored command to “do no harm” extends far beyond physicians and their patients, and even beyond one human being to another. Embedded in their lifting up the “commitment to a culture of nonviolence and respect for life” was the recognition that the biosphere itself must be valued and protected.

“A human being is infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected,” asserted the Parliament in their “Principles of a Global Ethic,” “but likewise the lives of animals and plants which inhabit this planet with us deserve protection, preservation, and care. Limitless exploitation of the natural foundations of life, ruthless destruction of the biosphere, and militarization of the cosmos are all outrages”

“As human beings,” they continued, “we have a special responsibility • especially with a view to future generations • for Earth and the cosmos, for the air, water, and soil. We are all intertwined together in this cosmos and we are all dependent on each other. Each one of us depends on the welfare of all.”

“Therefore the dominance of humanity over nature and the cosmos must not be encouraged. Instead we must cultivate living in harmony with nature and the cosmos.”

This is hardly a new idea. R. Buckminster Fuller was the first to coin the term “Spaceship Earth” in the early 1960s, to reflect the shift from seeing the earth as the illimitable center of the Universe to seeing it as “a tiny sphere, closed, limited, crowded, and hurtling through space to unknown destinations.”

Fuller explored the ramifications of this shift in his classic book, “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,” first published in 1963. In 1965, Kenneth E. Boulding, speaking to the Washington State University Committee on Space Sciences, summarized those ramifications as follows:

“In what we might call the ‘old days,'” he noted, “when human beings were small in numbers and earth was large, we could pollute it with impunity, though even then we frequently destroyed our immediate environment and had to move on to a new spot, which we then proceeded to destroy. Now we can no longer do this; we must live in the whole system, in which we must recycle our wastes and really face up to the problem of the increase in material entropy which our activities create. In a space ship there are no sewers.”

“It is therefore absolutely necessary for us to develop a technology that is different from the one on which we now base our high-level societies. For one thing, high-level societies are now based on the consumption of fossil fuels and ores, none of which, at present rates of consumption, are likely to last more than a few hundred years.” Alternative, renewable energy sources must be explored and developed.

“We are also going to have to face the fact that we are a biological system living in an ecological system, and that our survival power is going to depend on our developing symbiotic relationships of a closed-cycle character with all the other elements and populations of the world of ecological systems.”

Finally, “the consequences for the social system are profound and little understood. It is clear that much human behavior and many human institutions in the past, which were appropriate to an infinite earth, are entirely inappropriate to a small closed space ship. We cannot have cowboys and Indians, for instance, in a space ship, or even a cowboy ethic. We cannot afford unrestrained conflict, and we almost certainly cannot afford national sovereignty in an unrestricted sense.”

“We must find cybernetic and homeostatic mechanisms,” he concludes, “for controlling the total numbers of the population; there must be machinery for controlling conflict processes and for preventing perverse social dynamic processes of escalation and inflation. One of the major problems of social science is how to devise institutions which will combine this overall homeostatic control with individual freedom and mobility. I believe this problem to be not insoluble, though not yet solved.”

In this summary, Boulding touches on the relevant issues, voicing a modern-day expression of the ancient wisdom to protect the planet. Waste management, pollution, energy, ecology, biology, and sociology are all impacted profoundly by the realities and limitations of spaceship earth.

This concern led to the organization of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Since that time, Earth Day has become an annual event to celebrate the earth and our responsibility toward this little spaceship we call home. Now is the perfect time, on the occasion of the 25th Earth Day celebration, to ponder the implications of being on spaceship earth and to incorporate spaceship values into our daily life and work.

You can visit the Earth Day Web site to find activities in your area Click. Far more than a celebration, however, Earth Day is a year-round movement based upon the principles and values acknowledged as universal by the Parliament of the World’s Religions and cultures.

When my children were small they had t-shirts with a picture of planet Earth and the admonition, “Love Your Mother.” It’s time we all learned to love, care for, protect, and defend our planet. It is, after all, an integral part of what makes life possible.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time you participated in an Earth Day celebration? How does your life and work reflect the values of living on “spaceship earth.” What is one practical action you could take to protect the planet?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

Thanks so much for your timely article on eschewing violence. Do you mind if I share that part with the different peace groups in my area? We have the Interfaith Association which has members from eight religious bodies. When we meet, we spend much time talking about how we all need to pray for our government and the many other countries’ governments who struggle daily in their quest to be in power to control rather than to use peaceful means to have win-win for all their citizens. We pray mostly for leaders that will rise up such as the ones that you quote to lead by non-violent means that we all may overcome and have harmony, love and peace in our lands. (Ed. Note: Sharing of Provisions is always encouraged! Thanks for spreading the word.)

I was recently alerted to your Provision on eschewing violence through a sub-group of Community of Faith for Peace members in our area. Thank you!

I just want to say thank you to you and your staff for providing this wonderful e-mail newsletter. I really look forward to receiving it and I read it thoroughly! I have gained many great insights and look forward to the day when our financial situation improves so that I can partake in some personal coaching. Until then, thank you for providing this service. It is a great blessing to me (and many others I am sure) who are not able to work one-on-one with a coach. (Ed. Note: Don’t forget that your first session is complimentary, as is our on-line Coaching Chat Room Click).

Thinking of our culture and government as “rejecting the use of violence” prior to 9-11 is too convenient an explanation for this man to handle. We have long relied on violence to secure our place in the world. That said, your weekly emails help me get through the tough times and I wish you nothing but peace, love, and understanding on this Easter Sunday. (Ed. Note: You are right about that, but “the war footing” since 9-11 has made spare-no-expense, preemptive violence even more acceptable to even more people. Thanks for your Easter greetings.)

We live in New York with two small children. We are surrounded by a war mentality, with no understanding of our enemy. The terrorists of 9-11 were not “cowards.” They knowingly gave their lives for what they thought was important (although wrong). We should learn from this.

I absolutely believe in non-violence and the sanctity of Life. I also served our nation proudly and faced evils you could not fathom, including death on many occasions and on many fronts! You are welcome for your freedom given to you by the very nation you reside in and the men and women who fought valiantly to assure you the privilege to feel safe in your belief of “non-violence” and also “the sanctity of Life” for there are many in the world who do not share your “core” beliefs and would prefer your existence would no longer be required! I also will pray with you and offer my prayers for the people willing to take a stand and yes even make an ultimate sacrifice to allow me the undeserved privilege to live in this Great Nation Under God called The United States of America! Just remember in this world it takes all kind, and it just so happens you are one of them.  

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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