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Spaceship: Earth

“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable, half confident, half despairing, half slave to the ancient enemies of man, half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all.” ~Adlai Stevenson, US Ambassador to the United Nations, 1964

The early years of our first tenuous reaching into outer space brought with them many culture shocks—not the least of which was the fact that we are already travelers on a spaceship called Earth.

As we painstakingly calculated how to reduce waste, recycle air and water, and optimize supplies in order to keep Earth’s first so-called astronauts alive on their short journeys into the void, we realized that we face the same problems on a much larger scale here on Spaceship Earth.

In space, it is a “no-brainer” to use the clean, renewable energy freely provided by the sun whenever and wherever possible, rather than burning a ship’s limited store of fuel. On Spaceship Earth, we make our energy decisions largely based on dollar signs while discounting the negative impacts of burning polluting fossil fuels on the health of our spaceship and its occupants.

Does it make sense for one astronaut to hog the vast majority of a spaceship’s resources and travel in luxury, while the rest of the astronauts struggle even to eat, locate fresh water, and keep warm? This kind of behavior would have doomed early space missions, yet we tolerate, excuse, or even venerate it here on Spaceship Earth.

On a spaceship, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female. The color of your skin is irrelevant, as are your religious and political views. Disputes over such matters are dangerous distractions from keeping the spaceship in safe operating order and completing the mission. Yet we destroy vast quantities of our spaceship’s limited supplies and even kill our fellow astronauts by waging war over such things here on Spaceship Earth.

Perhaps we still haven’t realized we are on a spaceship after all. During this season of “Peace on Earth” and goodwill toward our fellow humans, let us extend that goodwill to all our fellow astronauts. I’m not just talking about humans who look, speak, or believe differently than we do. I’m including the plants and animals that not only are our fellow travelers, but also are vital to keeping Spaceship Earth in working order.

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964

 by Kyle Crider

Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.