Once upon a time there was a great civilisation that wanted to explore the stars. They knew that this would be a very long journey, so they built a great spaceship that contained everything necessary to sustain life indefinitely, provided that the cosmonauts abided by the ship’s rules and shared their supplies fairly. The great day came, and they launched the spaceship into the sky.
Years passed. The spaceship forged on through the cosmos. The first generation of cosmonauts died off, and were replaced by their children.
More years passed. Generations came and went. Now there was nobody on board who remembered where they had come from, or even where they were going to. Their spaceship was the only home they had ever known.
The cosmonauts forgot who they were, and they forgot about the ship’s rules. Some of them wanted more than their share of the resources, and they started to fight the other cosmonauts so they could take their share. The other cosmonauts fought back.
Soon everybody was fighting everybody. They shot at each other and threw bombs at each other. They damaged and spoiled the very things they were fighting over. With all this fighting going on inside, the very fabric of the spaceship began to come apart.
That’s as far as the story goes. It hasn’t ended yet.
With thanks to Zach Ho who told a version of this story during SEEDS Leadership in Toronto a couple of months ago.
And thanks to Buckminster Fuller, who popularised the term Spaceship Earth. His original Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969) is available here. There is a good summary/commentary by Balint Bakos here. And another one at Gaia.com here. Also many resources on the website of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. I strongly recommend finding out more about the work of this extraordinary visionary.
I leave next week for a trip to the US, where I’m speaking in the San Francisco area (for two corporate clients), Baltimore (National Aquarium), and Los Angeles (Outward Bound and the Ocean Institute). Do please come along to the public events if you’re in the area – I’d love to see you!