Planet B: Giving rights back to Spaceship Earth

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After the way we've treated our Earth, granting personhood rights only seems fair (Image via Pixnio)

Having stripped our planet of resources and damaging it in the process, we should consider granting it legal rights for defence, writes Dermot Daley.

AUSTRALIA HAS RESOLUTELY avoided agreement on carbon management, we have squandered opportunities for our nation to become leaders in innovative alternative energy technology, our recyclable materials no longer able to be exported are sent to landfill or are stockpiled and catch fire or end up choking our waterways, and we ignominiously sell our common-wealth resources cheaper overseas than what we charge to our domestic market.

Australia exists not only in a bubble, but also in a vacuum.

Yet there remains a belated but positive action that a revitalised gregalitopian (gregarious, egalitarian, utopian) Australia might bring to the world forum to address climate change.

According to a sequence of United States rulings over a number of years, a corporation has the legal rights of an individual to defend its actions in a court of law, an arrangement which appears to have been eagerly adopted across the global economy.

In 2017, New Zealand gave personhood rights to the Whanganui River, giving it legal standing to defend itself against attempts to exploit the resource.

Australia can redeem itself and legislate for the whole of planet Earth to be granted legal individual and personhood rights to defend itself against destructive influences, as the Earth is patently a major global corporation of which we are all stakeholders.

Could this become a game-changer that defines a new age of mutual prosperity and survival?

In 1969, the engineer, architect, mathematician and philosopher Buckminster Fuller published a book titled ‘Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth’ that presented the view that we are travelling through space at sixty-thousand miles per hour on a vessel that provides all the requirements necessary for our survival. He recommended that all we need to do is to manage these resources well and our trans-generational journey can continue smoothly through time and space.

Albert Einstein’s elegant formula, E=mc2, provides the insight that energy cannot be lost, but only ever changed from one form into another.

When the Industrial Revolution began, it seemed that there was unlimited fuel to fire the boilers of the new technology. The potential energy in coal was converted into kinetic energy as heat, light and sound. Then, as Europe expanded into the New World, forests and jungles were progressively stripped of vegetation capable of taking carbon dioxide from the air and photosynthesising it to stored carbon and atmospheric oxygen.

Over time, the reserves of coal and timbered land have been radically depleted and the latent energy that was locked within them converted into heat and light and gases that have become absorbed within the layers of atmosphere enveloping the Earth.

Ironically, coal is a product of ancient forests that have been buried and transformed in Earth’s oven over the millennia. Even older carbon deposits have been transformed into diamonds through this pressure and heat. There are many who lust over the vast energy contained within uranium, but this potential energy is better preserved as a resource for future generations after we figure out how to extract all of the benefits without leaving a toxic residue for others to deal with.

It appears that we have not yet given suitable consideration to the effects of transmutation of materials within the subterranean crucible of our Spaceship Earth.

For at least 50 years we have witnessed numerous conflicts between those who would dam rivers at a cost to rare and fragile ecosystems, or who would clear-fell extensive tracts of woodland destroying habitat for diverse animal species, or who would construct obsolete coal mines on food-bowl land, or who would jeopardise heritage sites.

These have all been waged against passionate environmental protesters portrayed as obstructions to progress by a small few with vested business interests who enlist the aid of media-owning allies to manipulate public perception of the state of play.

That media seldom pauses to analyse who benefits and who loses from the result.

Over this time, scientists using finely-calibrated measuring equipment have methodically recorded and demonstrated that global temperatures are increasing. Our bushfire season is longer and wildfires are occurring in unprecedented areas of the globe. Polar ice caps are shrinking, glaciers are receding and ocean levels are tipped to rise. The seas act as heat sinks absorbing incremental temperature rise from our consumption of carbon-based fuels and this, in turn, influences ocean currents and wind patterns that can create cyclones. To any observer, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, more severe and more widespread.

Our Spaceship Earth has shown that it also can disperse elemental bursts of energy through plate tectonics resulting in volcanos and tsunamis. It would be reasonable to say that human presence on our living spaceship does not contribute to these historical phenomena, but it defies logic to suggest that our planetary environment has not suffered from our cumulative carbon fuel addiction over the past 250 years.

Many people accept the evidence of man-made climate change, many people do not understand it due to their day-to-day struggle to survive and many people refuse to discuss it because they consider that it will impinge upon their lifestyle.

So, who has the most to gain or to lose from inaction on climate change? As they say: follow the money. Of the more than 7 billion inhabitants of Earth, 1% of the adult population owns 50% of global wealth.

For the total population including children, around 2% holds economic power over the remaining 98%. Climate change will not destroy the Earth, it will simply make it unfit for human habitation as we know it. The controlling 2% believe that their extreme wealth will offset their immediate personal risk and they are staking our future on it.

It is time to take a vote.

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