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Twelve Big Ideas

Southern Right whales were almost hunted to extinction, but now their numbers are increasing.
Nature rebounds when it is given the change to do so. Image used with permission from copyright owner, Jaimen Hudson

Eearth is underpinned by twelve big ideas. They are described below.

1: A Long Future awaits us, maybe

Long term in business cycles is three to five years; in politics, it is a week. This is Small Time. However, Eearth is concerned with Big Time, and offers the possibility of the human race to living prosperously on our home planet until our Sun expands and makes life on this planet impossible, a billion years or more in the future. This is called the Long Future.

The diagram above shows the habitable zone. With about 275 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere our orbit around the sun where it is not too hot, nor too cold for life to flourish. Earth will remain in the habitable zone for about another two billion years. Beyond this time, the sun will expand and Earth will become too hot to sustain life. So, while the Earth's biosphere will survive - in one form or another - the big question is, will the humans.
The Planterary Boundaries diagram by the Stockholm Resilience Centre shows that we have already busted through four of nine major biophysical boundaries that must be protected if we humans are to enjoy a safe operating space for humanity. If humans continue to degrade the structure of the natural environment then we humans will be swept off the face of this planet for ever. For the planet, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. But for we humans, it would be a global tragedy.

The Long Future diagram below shows the decline in availability of natural capital and increase in demand for natural capital due to human behaviour.

The red dash line shows Business as Usual that leads to ecological collapse, possibly by mid-century. The green dash line shows an approach where small efforts are made to reduce the ecological impact of development. Under this model, the result is the same, just the end date is a little further out. The blue dash line shows a trajectory where natural capital is restored and demands on natural capital are reduced due to efficiencies. The blue path creates the opportunity for the human family to enjoy the Long Future.

The diagrams illustrate that the biosphere will enjoy the Long Future, in one form or another.

The question is, will the humans?

At time of writing, it's not looking good, although there is much promise.

This is why it is time for the Eearth People to stand up.

2: We are by and of the environment

We humans made of water, air and minerals from the soil. We are in effect packets of condensed gas - CO2 and oxygen - and minerals from the biophysical flux that surrounds us. We humans are composed of the environment.

Every day we absorb air, water and food from the environment, and we exhale gas and excrete material. Thus the environment flows through us.

We are intimately connected via our breath to the atmosphere and we share our breaths with every other person on Earth and with every other breathing organism. The atmosphere joins us all, friends and enemies alike.

The oxygen in every breath we take has passed through the metabolic pathways of phytoplankton and terrestrial plants. Oxygen occupies every one of cells. This is so fundamental to our existence that if we stop exchanging air with the atmosphere, we are pronounced dead: 'stopped breathing'.

Because we are comprised of our environment, and the environment pulses in and out of us, we must ensure that our environment is healthy, otherwise it will pollute our bodies and make us sick.

We must protect our environment because we are the environment.

3: Out-of-sync with nature

The biosphere is the living skin on the surface of our planet. It extends from kilometers below the deepest ocean trench, to the mid-stratosphere. Bacteria are known to live at these two extremes. In between can be found all the other organisms.

The biosphere is big, complex, and diverse. It has existed in different forms over its 3.8 billion years of existence. It has suffered all manner of global-scale catastrophes - including five major extinction events - and it always bounces back.

However, in order for the biosphere to be a suitable home for the humans, it needs to be in a certain condition. For example, there needs to be 21% oxygen in the atmosphere.

Presently, humans activities are collapsing the biosphere. If we do not radically change our ways, the biosphere will be so radically altered that she will not provide us with the services that we humans need to survive.

While we won't survive this, the biosphere will, and she will rebound again.

Unfortunately, our predominant belief systems do not place value on maintaining the earth systems. This is why we need a belief system that honors earth systems.

Human civilization has emerged in the past 12,000 years, in a geological era known as the Holocene.

However, humans have become such a dominant force on Earth that geologists talk of us having created a geological epoch of our own: the Anthropocene.

One we humans were in-sync with nature. We co-existed with all the other species.

Later, we developed civilization and fell out-of-sync with nature. This is where we are now, spoiling the natural balance and imperilling our own future.

With the right belief system, we humans can get back-in-sync with nature. This will allow us to live in balance with the biosphere, and enjoy the Long Future with her.

With wise husbandry, we can grow the biomass in the biosphere by planting the deserts and nurturing the ocean pastures.

4: We are over the precipice

In the Road Runner cartoon, Wile E. Coyote frequently over-reaches and runs off a cliff. The unlucky canine then spends a few seconds in suspended gravity contemplating his fate before he plummets to the bottom of the ravine.

This is an appropriate analogy for human civilisation with respect to the global sustainability crisis. We humans have run off the cliff and we are now half-way through our two seconds of mid-air contemplation. We have just one second left to pivot, and grab the edge of the cliff.

Some commentators who are familiar with the situation suggest that we are already falling. The question is whether hitting the valley floor will kill, or merely maim us. Will we lose all of the humans, or just most of them?

Wile E Coyote, momentarily suspended in mid-air, has just a second to pivot and grasp the edge of the cliff, or plummet to his death.

This is where humanity is today, with respect to climate change & sustainability.

Will we pivot or plummet?

While much attention is focussed on climate change, the real peril to human civilization is the synergystic interplay of a dozen simultaneous crises, that also include ocean acidification, loss of species, ocean dead zones, an economic model that demands constant growth — not to mention that the global superclass elite who run the world so badly are totally unplugged from reality.

If you are unsure about this claim, consider the facts

Our planet is already one degree Celsius hotter than it ought to be, and is rapidly heading for 2 degrees plus because we are yet to start rapidly cutting CO2 emissions;

We have lost half of the terrestrial wildlife in the past 40 years;

We have lost 40% of the plankton biomass to climate change caused by burning fossil fuels;

The ocean is 30% more acidic than it should be and this is also stressing the plankton;

There are 18,000 nuclear weapons on Earth and over 400 nuclear powerstations;

There are 7,300,000,000 million people on Earth, and an additional 75,000,000 are added to this total every year...

Today, human civilization is on the brink of triggering a global ecological collapse; we need to find the will to change, now. This is why the Eearth People need to stand up.

It is often said that we humans are insufficiently proactive, that we have to be in a crisis before we react. The sentiment is expressed in the movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Here, Keanau Reeves plays Klaatu, the spaceman who has come to wipe the humans off the Earth in order to preserve the biosphere. John Cleese plays Professor Bernhardt who argues 'it's only on the brink that people find the will to change'.

5: The purpose of the firm

We often hear that the purpose of the firm is to maximise short term profit for shareholders. This is a relatively new idea and it's totally unsustainable. Eearth believes that the purpose of the firm is to support the natural living systems of our home planet and to foster human happiness, and then to make a profit.

In the video below, John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, tells this story.

6: Our existing worldview is insufficient

Our existing world view is inadequate to deal with the sustainability crisis.

  • consumerism is a natural human trait;
  • capitalism is the best economic model;
  • the purpose of the firm is to maximize profit for shareholders;
  • corporations can to be legal persons, but animals (e.g. whales) can’t;
  • humans deserve rights, but the atmosphere and the ocean don’t.

We often try to understand things using our own lives as a frame of reference. An individual human only exists on Earth for very short while. Compared to the great duration of the time before our conception (our pre-life), to the great duration of time after our death (our post-life), we are here but for a mere blip of time, as shown in the diagram below.

Humans rarely live more than 100 years. While this may seem like a long time, it is a mere blip in the big scheme of things. Even sharks outlive us!

The Greenland Shark, for example, is 150 years old before it even hits puberty! They are believed to live for more than 400 years.

There is a tree in California, a bristlecone pine tree, that is believed to be over 5,000 years old.

It is difficult to understand the sustainability probelmatique through the frame of reference of a human life or the things that we have been taught to date. We need humility to accept this, and wisdom to replace it with a belief system that can lead to the Long Future.

7: We need solutions of scale and speed

We need to make changes to our planet that are widespread, and fast. We need to get into action, now.

Specifically, we need to close down most of the global fossil fuel industry ASAP. This means that we need to replacemuch of this energy with renewable energy and implement super-energy efficiency, economy-wide.

We also need to stop the production of petroleum based plastics because there is no sustainable way of disposing of these materials. This means that we need to find replacements, such as bioplastics.

Also on the to-do list is the massive replanting of trees, and the production of vast amounts of soil-carbon, to help draw down the CO2 already put into the atmosphere.

There is a huge amount of work needs doing, quickly. Start today.

8: We have many good ideas, already

Understanding the sustainability problematique and knowing how to respond can be informed by understanding a range of existing and interconnected ideas that include, but is not limited to:

Planetary Boundaries - The Blue Economy - The Long Future - UN Human Rights - The Earth Charter - The Doughnut - The Natural Step - Ecocide Legislation - Permaculture - Gaia Theory

Planetary Boundaries : The work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre suggests that there are nine biophysical systems that need to be protected in order to ensure a safe operating space for humanity. Four of these boundaries have already been exceeded. See: <>

Blue Economy : A concept by Gunter Pauli about a global economic system that restores natural capital. See: <>

Human Rights : United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: <>

The Earth Charter : A global consensus statement of values and principles for a sustainable future, the Earth Charter is a declaration of responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. <>

The Doughnut : Alternative approaches to economics including ecological, feminist, and evolutionary economics, along with systems thinking and Earth-system science – have valuable insights if we are to achieve human rights and well-being for all within the means of this one planet. <>

Long Future : A concept of the Long Future Foundation which states that, as that Earth will be in the circumstellar habitable zone for a billion years or more, this period is the alloted time of humans on Earth and should form a temporal framework for our strategic planning. <>

The Natural Step : A framework by Karl Henrik Robert that simply explains key elements of sustainability. <>

Eradicating Ecocide : as it stands, it is not illegal to destroy the environment. Plans are afoot to change this with a proposal to amend the Rome Statute to include the crime of Ecocide. The Rome Statute underpins the International Criminal Court that presently focuses on the most serious crimes against the international community including crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and the crime of aggression. <>

Permaculture : shorthand for permanent agriculture. <>

Gaia Theory : A scientific theory by James Lovelock that Earth's living systems behave as a single super-organism that maintains homeostasis, creating conditions suited to its own wellbeing. <>

Eearth believes that humans have been formed by Gaia in order to do things for Earth that the other natural systems can do themselves. Here is an engaging interpretation of Gaia by Michael Kleider, with Eearth commentary, below.

Eearth commentary on the Michael Kleider video:

The idea of humans populating other planets is theoretically sound, but practically not something that needs to be attempted for maybe another 500 million years. The major challenge for humans is not space engineering and going to Mars but learning how to live on our planet planet without destroying its living systems. Also, we humans are not yet emotionally developed enought to go to other planets. The last thing that we would want to inflict on another planet is humans, carring their ecocidal belief systems. Likewise, the laser that shoots down the asteroid. Nice in theory, but right now, the biggest threat to humanity is humanity, not an asteroid.

9: We don't have all the ideas we need, yet

Talk to anyone who is versed in the subject of sustainability and they will tell you that humans and the natural systems of Earth are going to suffer greatly in the coming years. The biosphere will survive, but we humans may not. They acknowledge that we don't have all the ideas we need to become sustainable yet.

Well, this just won’t do.

We can only get out of this mess if we have something that we don’t presently possess. So let's get busy using what we have, but keep an ear open for the things that we do not currently possess. It is in the realm of the unknown unknowns.

10: We are all responsible for our actions

Corporations don't make decisions, boards don't make decisions, individual directors do. Whether we work alone on in a group, the smallest unit of action is that of the individual.

People often ask what they can do to change the outcome when they are just one person, and the world is so big. To the extent that they are only 1/ 7,448,000,000th of the human population, they can contribute on an equivalent amount of the solution. That's a great start!

What did you do last Saturday? Were you actively working towards the Long Future, or ambling around a shopping mall buying socks? Sure, we need socks, but we also need a biosphere that is sufficiently robust to ensure that it provides the humans with the natural capital and ecosystem services that we need to survive for the Long Future.

How do you make your money? Do you make it doing things that add natural capital, or not?

How we earn money, and how we spend money, and how we spend our time, are important considerations with respect to Eearth.

One needn't buy expensive cars, as there are so many other things worthy of your money. 

You are more likely to be remembered if you spend your money on something enduring, like fostering happiness and sustainability, for example.

11: Planet Earth is for Earthlings

Earth is the home planet for the humans and the only planet we need. It's got a great atmosphere, oceans, mountains. We should celebrate what a great planet it is and that we won't need another planet for at least another billion years, if we look after this one. We should stop 'looking for' another planet to live on as this is a distraction from 'looking after' this one. We do not need to go to Mars nor find distant planets that might be habitable. This planet is just fine for another billion years, or so lets look after it.

12: The biosphere is sacred

Living organisms have intrinsic value as components of the biosphere, just like your skin cell has value as a part of you. Living systems and organisms come in a dazzling array of colours and shapes and lifestyles. One can't help but be boggled and humbled by it all. This story about an octopus, highlights just how awesome living things are.