In the preparation for a long, deep space voyage, the brains of a group of astronauts were inadvertently altered. These alterations had a very unfortunate effect on the behaviour of the crew, and every time a member carried out a spaceship maintenance operation, an important wire leading to the life support system was disconnected. The crew did not realise the effects of these operations and did not realise the dangers of their behaviour.
The spaceship had been designed with a great degree of durability and the damages went undetected for some time. After a time, the damages became apparent; the development of problems with on-board oxygen levels, contamination of drinking water and odours from the faulty waste system alerted the crew to the problems on board. Procedures were initiated to identify the problems and to find their causes. The problems were discovered, but not their causes and the crews damaging behaviour along with the destruction of the spaceship’s life support system continued.
In an attempt to control the damage, temporary patch-up repairs were initiated. However, the crew found themselves unable to keep up with the damage, which seemed to be growing worse with each day, along with their standard of living.
Eventually, the captain brought his crew together for an emergency meeting to assess the damage and the future of the ship. There were many conflicting interests about what should be done. Although it was clear that the emergency patch-up operations had not worked, many believed that the emergency repair work could sustain the ship for a very long time. The outcome of the meeting was that the patch-up repair work would continue, and a detailed document called the “Agenda for Survival” was prepared, describing the responsibilities of the crew in tending to those sub-systems of the ship requiring attention.
This approach did not work for long and it was decided that the operations performed by the crew should be checked and counter checked. After a time, the true cause of the problems was traced to the minds of the crew on board and eventually to the surgical operations performed before the mission. With the equipment available the medical team was able to rectify the minds of the majority of the crew and the rest of the crew were kept under close observation.
The story of the spaceship provides a metaphor for mankind’s environmental impact on the Earth. As with the spaceship, the Earth is being polluted by its human residents, its resources are being used up, and its climate is being rapidly changed. In 1992, governments from around the world met at the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil to negotiate the “Agenda for Survival”, Agenda 21. Although providing a blueprint for sustainable development and the environmental protection of the Earth, Agenda 21 has yet to really bear the fruits of success. Populations continue to grow, the Earth continues to warm, pollution is increasing and resources are consumed at an ever-increasing rate. Unlike Spaceship Earth however, such problems with mankind’s development cannot be solved with a simple operation. Changes in behaviour and the way we treat the environment must come through changes in the way we value nature and the resources it provides us.