In 1972 the Apollo 17 spacecraft shared a picture of the whole earth and called it the Blue Marble. Although the evolution of sustainability began when philosophers like John Stuart Mill, David Hume and Adam Smith began criticism of the industrial revolution’s impact on the environment, it wasn’t until the Blue Marble was sent from space that people began to see the world as a finite place that should be protected. Upon viewing this image, the environmental movement began.
Since the photograph was shared from space, the idea of a sustainable earth has evolved. We commonly see ourselves as connected and interdependent whereas before, we felt separate. There are still residual forces, however, that operate under the paradigm of a divided world. These forces are succumbing to new generations of people and processes that value our floating blue marble.
The evolution of sustainability has come to the point where now, the United Nations includes universal health coverage, improved health for women, air quality, food systems and poverty issues in the definition. This is because we now not only see the planet as finite and needing to be preserved, but we increasingly see ourselves as included in the planet and part of the ethic. We, as a species, need to part of the values that drive how our society operates. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Small steps are important, but it isn’t until we fully embrace the the transition to a new economy that we can fulling integrate these values.
This is an important shift, because we have spent centuries looking at sustainability as merely a profit concept. And profits and economies are only important as far as they serve the planet. As the definition evolves, we realize that we must be part of what is sustained as well as part of the process of sustaining. And as we shift from profit consciousness to sustainability, we can make our decision based on planetary implications rather than cost-benefit analysis.
We haven’t yet fully embraced a shift in how we see the world. Environmentalism is often coupled with business tips on lowering the cost of going green and different ways to reduce consumption, recycle and reuse. These small steps are important, but it isn’t until we fully embrace the the transition to a new economy that we can fulling integrate these values. Currently, we are still operating from greed, scarcity and dominion. But the environmental consciousness that grew from seeing the blue marble is less than 50 years old. We must reprogram our ways from the millenia of aggression and dominion. And even though 50 years isn’t a long time, we might want to hurry.