“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Bad News Spoiler Alert: This post has nothing to do with Disney World’s Epcot.
Good News Spoiler Alert: It does have something to do with Dr. Bronner’s soap labels!
I’ve heard the phrase “Spaceship Earth” before but didn’t know much about it. Recently, I went down a rabbit hole where I read the labels of multiple Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles. You know, those labels with thousands of words? Emanuel Bronner is often remembered for his references to Spaceship Earth:
We have a peace plan where we unite the spaceship, where we unite all mankind.
In all we do, let us be generous, fair & loving to Spaceship Earth and all its inhabitants. For we’re All-One or None! All-One!
He’s not the only one. The concept of Spaceship Earth goes back in time before he ever put it on his soap bottles.
What is Spaceship Earth?
Here are some of my favorite definitions and descriptions of the Spaceship Earth concept:
- “Spaceship Earth or Spacecraft Earth is a world view encouraging everyone on Earth to act as a harmonious crew working toward the greater good.” — Wikipedia¹
- “More and more environmentalists and scientists talk about the planet as a complex system, one that human beings must aggressively monitor, manage and sometimes reengineer. Kind of like a spaceship.” — The Washington Post²
- “A growing number of thinkers believe the Overview Effect heralds nothing less than the next ‘giant leap’ of human evolution. As breathtaking space-down views of our world seep into our cultural consciousness, people are waking up to the ‘Spaceship Earth’ analogy that casts our planet as a natural vessel with limited resources that must be steered responsibly by its crew.” — Vice Motherboard³
The history of the Spaceship Earth concept dates back to at least 1879. Henry George, George Orwell, Adlai Stevenson, and Barbara Ward all played a role in developing the concept over the next century. But if you search the concept today, you’ll see that the popularization really came from Buckminster Fuller.
Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
Today, Spaceship Earth is probably best known from Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (free PDF). Here was Bucky’s perspective:
- “I’ve often heard people say: ‘I wonder what it would feel like to be on board a spaceship,’ and the answer is very simple. What does it feel like? That’s all we have ever experienced. We are all astronauts on a little spaceship called Earth.” — Buckminster Fuller
- “Bucky was fond of making up phrases when he felt that ordinary words did not express what he meant to say…He felt that all human beings were passengers on Spaceship Earth, and, like the crew of a large ship, people had to work together in order to keep the planet functioning properly.” — Stanford4
- “Spaceship Earth, popularized in the mid-60’s, was used Buckminster Fuller in the context of his primary concern- a vision for comprehensive planetary planning that resulted in new strategies intended to enable all of humanity to live with freedom, comfort and dignity, without negatively impacting the earth’s ecosystems or regenerative ability. He emphasized that the technology and know-how already exists, so that humanity can successfully surmount global challenges. Although, Spaceship Earth was often employed as a rhetoric device to emphasize the common plight of mankind and life, treating it as such would negate the rich meaning which this term has come to hold over time…The planet is a system, and a resilient one. However, humanity’s presence on Earth has set about significant changes, and we must now learn to command this Spaceship to avert global crisis and catastrophe and ensure the long-term success of humanity of our beautiful ‘blue marble.'” — Buckminster Fuller Institute5
The Future of Spaceship Earth is Recognition of our Interconnectedness & Oneness
It seems like many areas today are converging on the Spaceship Earth concept: science, physics, spirituality, biology, astronomy, religion, and more.
Forest bathing is reconnecting us with nature. Author Thomas Moore says:
Earth is not a platform for human life. It’s a living being. We’re not on it but part of it. Its health is our health.
Scientific American recently wrote about new research regarding a belief in oneness6.
Humanity is on a heroic journey of awakening into the stunning reality that we are beings of cosmic connection and participation who are learning to live within a living universe.
The Dalai Lama recognizes our interconnectedness at the smallest levels:
Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. — Dalai Lama XIV
The Dalai Lama also recently called the “global family” to action:
In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Each one of us has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) September 14, 2018
Carl Sagan called us to “preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Astronauts experience the “orbital perspective” or “overview effect“:
The Earth is one system. We’re all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all. — Frank White
Your definition of the word ‘home’ would rapidly expand to encompass the planet in its entirety, and for the first time, you might fully understand what it means to be one human family. — Ron Garan
What do you believe? Do you believe we are all interconnected? All one? Do you believe we are living in a living universe? Do you believe we are all in this together? All part of the crew on Spaceship Earth? Let me know in the comments!
Also published on Medium.