What do we mean when we say “planetary”, and why “planetary” and not “global”?
We don’t live on a globe. “Global” is our computer networks, our financial networks. It’s abstract lines covering a sphere. When I looked out of the window of the International Space Station, I didn’t see the economy—I saw an iridescent biosphere teeming with life. The economy is a subsystem of society, which in turn is part of the biosphere.
This means that our global economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the biosphere and not the other way round. To “dolly zoom out” means to zoom out to the big picture while keeping in focus the worm’s-eye details on the ground.
Since our political, business, and cultural systems put the complete focus on growing the economy at all costs, and since our human-made systems treat everything, including the very life support systems of our planet, as the wholly owned subsidiary of the economy, it is obvious from the vantage point of space, that we are living a lie. We need to move our thinking.
Our society is dependent on our planet, and our economy is dependent on society. Sustainability from the Orbital Perspective is essentially the reorganization and reprioritization of our systems not out of any ideology or eco-philosophy, but rather because this is the reality of the world we live in.
There is no single organization or nation that can effect the magnitude of change that’s necessary to put our civilization on the correct course toward the future. We will need the help, input, and creativity of all.
We need to do all we can to ensure that all humans on this planet are part of our planetary conversation. We need to ensure that every one of the more than 7 billion creative, problem-solving minds are brought to bear on our collective challenges, including connecting everyone to the internet. In doing so, we will find solutions we never dreamed of coming, from places we’ve never heard of.
What I mean by “ideas are highly overrated” is that while every great accomplishment starts with a great idea, ideas without action are empty. Every great accomplishment will require dedication and hard work for sure, but it also will require that we sometimes step outside of our comfort zone, outside of the way we’ve always done things, to look at things from a different perspective.
It’s precisely those individuals and organizations that step outside of their comfort zones, and it’s precisely at those moments when they have the courage to embrace new and innovative approaches and partnerships. Those moments also allow individuals to collaborate across different stovepipes, industries, boundaries, and borders—those are the ones that make real progress in this world—positive, disruptive progress.
Motivation usually is sparked either by fear or by awe and wonder. Starting from a foundation of fear divides us and closes the mind, cutting us off from others with whom we share challenges. It also separates us from the solutions they bring. Starting from a foundation of awe and wonder, on the other hand, opens the mind to new ideas and solutions and encourages cooperation.
Our civilization is currently based on an image of the world as a two-dimensional map of nation-states, corporations, NGO’s nongovernmental organizations, special interest groups,nation-states, corporations, and political parties fighting and competing over resources and ideologies.
But what’s obvious from space is that this two-dimensional landscape is not the real world. From space, it’s undeniably obvious that we are one people traveling through the universe together on one planet toward one shared destiny. We cannot continue as a species with a two-dimensional map as the guide for our actions.
Our view of the planet from space is the appropriate guide for our actions—it is reality. In order for humanity to progress and prosper, we must deal with the very real problems and challenges facing us in the context of the real world. We need to design and build a future that is based upon three key pillars: interdependence, long-term thinking, and profound collaboration all wrapped in the blanket of empathy and compassion.
Our definition of the word “home” has profound implications for how we problem solve, how
we treat our planet, and how we treat one another. Broadening our definition home does not come with a requirement to abandon where we came from, or our national, political, cultural, or organizational affiliations. It simply means seeing those things in the context of the bigger picture.