Thursday, February 15, 2007

T minus 10, T minus 9...

When you look at a picture of our round world from space, it is incredible to see how much detail can be made out. The lush green of the rain forests, white patches in the poles, or the dark brown of the deserts. Most impressive though, is the blue expanses of ocean lapping at the small chunks of land. Ever since man stepped off the planet, our perspective of Earth changed dramatically. Our space emissaries returned to us with stories of how the globe spins the most beautiful colours and images; famous man-made landmarks, natural wonders and even some unfortunate eyesores.

Even now, the image of the world is ingrained, and our concept of how humans interact has moved to a globalised world... a global village. We have heard of this time and time again, but today, I was exposed to a different perspective I want to share.

“Our species has gone through three major shocks in history,” spoke Oystein Dahle to the audience of a sustainable urban seminar. Mr. Dahle is the Chairman of the Worldwatch Institute, a Nordic think tank which develops environmental public policy. The first was the discovery of a round earth, debunking the popular flat earth theory. European’s were shocked to find out that the dragons and monsters did not exist at the edge of the map. Of course, a few still cling to the notion of a flat earth, but the perspective of the world changed.

Then came Mr. Galileo. He shocked European pride by stating that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. His calculations found the Sun to be a monstrous gravitational force, swinging all the planets around it. This shook the bejeezus out of the population and kick started a scientific revolution, tremors we still feel today.

The third shock is more recent. Our age of globo-info is learning that our Earth is Small. Our Earth has only a limited amount of resources, a limited amount of space, a limited about of air etc. This has shocked some into action, others into denial. Our post-industrial society is still dragging it’s feet in frontier economics; extracting natural resources like they are unlimited. “We have to move into a new economy, what I call a spaceship economy!” explained Mr. Dahle.

Exactly! A closed system, where what you take up with you is all you have to survive. What do we take up? How do we extend the life of resources? Can we recycle, reuse, reduce, recover, refuse enough? Think back to the movie, Apollo 13. The astronauts had only a few things to keep them alive until they returned back to the warm arms of Earth. Their capsule economy had to sustain them. Our system, Earth, is exactly like this, a capsule, where what we have left is all we have to use. So lets rethink our business models, rethink our logic, and rethink our lifestyles. Tighten up your space suit and start cleaning our Capsule.


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