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The Big Picture





Big Picture Story


This is a human story.

Once upon a time, there was life. Humans became part of life, and found magic. They could travel at the speed of sound, they could travel on land, in water and air and space, they could see and talk to each other from opposite sides of the planet, destroy mountains, and preserve life. And they did. In fact, they were well on the way to controlling the planet they lived on. It was an amazing place, with so much magic. But all was not as it seemed.

One day a child asked why grown-ups do things that they're not supposed to; like poison water, kill other people and lie. Everyone ignored her at first. After a while, more children started noticing that things were not quite what they seemed. People started to realise that all magic has two sides, a positive and a negative, an in and an out, a yin and a yang. People had used powerful magic to create luxuries for fun. They did not need a lot of them, and these wonders did not make people happy inside. Everyone started to have a magic hangover!

But they kept on using the powerful magic because they thought it was OK, even right. Then stranger things started to happen. Animals, even people started to die from strange new diseases, the weather got freaky even in places where they used alot of magic, like Turtle Island. It was sad too, because while some people used magic all the time for fun, lots of others were not allowed to and many children were still dying from simple diseases, even starvation and thirst. Some of the most powerful magicians started to worry, but most of them didn't. In fact many people kept trying to persuade the children to join in the magic extravaganza.

Life started to change even faster and more people started to worry. People started to ask for change. They asked the magicians to change. They asked others to change. And people even started to be the change themselves. They started living with nature. They started to use less magic and more happiness. They hoped they could change before life ended ...



This book is a collaborative work of compilation. Many of us spend increasing time on developing our consciousness, our spirituality. We want happiness. We want to know the meaning of life.

This book tells much of the story. Like the table of contents of a book, it gives a good idea of the story, but more exploration, reading, experimenting, experiencing and thinking, is required for the detail. You'll see the whole picture but have to work for the detailed brushstrokes. For extra detail, some links and a bibliography are provided. Otherwise do a search on the internet to test the soundness of ideas.

The online version is useful because it is non-linear - you can use hyperlinks to jump from idea to idea and back again. You can navigate the three-dimensional thought process.

There are entertaining videos, presentations etc on The Big Picture in the Holonics section here.


The book follows this general plan:

The Situation on Earth

Human Behaviour

Here's the table of contents:

Big Picture Story

1: The Accident: Life
The Accident
Life on Earth
Laws of Nature

2: Future of Life:
Three Choices

The Three Choices
Virtual reality
Biosphere 2
3: The Biosphere
Water & Weather
Nature's Diversity
4: Human Impact on the Biosphere
Human Impact
Carrying Capacity of the Biosphere
5: Understanding Human Behaviour
Understanding Human Behaviour
The Meaning of Life
Humans: Different And The Same
Spiritual Dimension, Gods and Values
6: Planet Management
Management Systems
Market Economics
Global Politics
Complex issues 
Motivation and Pay

What Te Future Holds?
keep on smiling! 




This book describes Astraea's view of the world -  The Big Picture according to Astraea. This changes as new thought and critique occurs but the themes are the same. It is about values, actions and consequences.

values/beliefs -> actions -> consequences

It is about life, the way of life, the tao, the balance of life.

In summary:

values/beliefs -> actions -> consequences

Astraea supports awareness of the consequences of human behaviour, sharing information and technology to promote understanding so that humans protect our home (earth) and live with nature, and we promote peace and cooperation.

Our principal values include

Please enjoy browsing this book and www.astraea.net. If you want to check a statement or opinion please search the term in wikipedia or yahoo and go from there. All you want to know is on the internet.

We hope you find your meaning in life.

Big Picture Story

1: The Accident: Life
The Accident
Life on Earth
Laws of Nature

2: Future of Life:
Three Choices

The Three Choices
Virtual reality
Biosphere 2
3: The Biosphere
Water & Weather
Nature's Diversity
4: Human Impact on the Biosphere
Human Impact
Carrying Capacity of the Biosphere
5: Understanding Human Behaviour
Understanding Human Behaviour
The Meaning of Life
Humans: Different And The Same
Spiritual Dimension, Gods and Values
6: Planet Management
Management Systems
Market Economics
Global Politics
Complex issues 
Motivation and Pay
What The Future Holds?

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


The Accident

Alive. Not alive. These are two states of being.

In the beginning ...

First imagine nothing. Absolutely nothing. Its weird and not easy, but hold that thought. If you can imagine everything or god, you should be able to imagine nothing. Imagine nothing: no time, no space, nothing. Its not easy; trying to conceptualise what there was prior to existence appears to be beyond our capability (for the time being). But that is where the story begins, with nothing.

" B A N G "

The accident. Time began. And space, without which time is not. And of course energy. With these three on the scene matter was soon to follow. Or was it another way around. Or did they happen at once.

E = m c2 means

energy = mass (i.e. standardised matter) multiplied by the speed of light (a function of distance i.e. space and time)squared. The speed of light is 300 million metres per second and was determined in 1675!

So, from nothing, all of a sudden there was a spec of energy holding matter together, in space and time.

The Story of Time

This accident started exploding about 15 billion years ago.

After 10.5 billion years Earth was formed in this exploding space. This space (our universe), as you imagine, is pretty big after growing for 10,500,000,000 years. (Its radius is 10,500,000,000 light years if it has been exploding at the speed of light.)

Then came life.

After another 3 billion years (or a total of 13.5 billion years) the ozone layer happened and life as we know it started to evolve.

Humans started to show up after another 1 billion years and have been around for about 450,000,000 years (or 450 million years or 0.45 billion years or 0.01% of the life of Earth).  Homo sapiens sapiens has been around for only a couple of million years.

Humans started domesticating animals and civilisations started to emerge at most about 10,000 4,500 years ago.

And in the last 50 years humans has harnessed the atom, conceived of the dimensions of space, travelled to the moon, changed the face of Earth and disturbed the equilibrium of the biosphere.

There are two states of being in this existence: alive or dead. On a planetary scale, Earth happens, by accident, to be alive.

Where to from here?

It is proposed that the exploding space will retract such that the volume of the universe shrinks back to nil. This will occur in the next few billion years. At our current rate of technology development, ample time to understand time. If we make it through the next hundred years.

Although universal and natural resources will exist for billions of years, life may be extinguished by humanity in the coming decades.

So, the big picture is: emergency on planet earth. Humans must behave within the laws of nature if life is to survive.

A Chronology of the Earth


Years Ago

In a year: Date, Time

Big Bang

15,000,000,000 yr

Jan. 1 12:00 AM

Galaxies form

14,000,000,000 yr

Jan. 24 12:00 AM

Sun forms

4,500,000,000 yr

Sept. 13 noon

Earth forms

4,400,000,000 yr

Sept. 13 12:17 PM

1st life appears

2,800,000,000 yr

Oct. 24 8:48 PM

1st higher forms

570,000,000 yr

Dec. 19 3:07 AM

1st land animals

280,000,000 yr

Dec. 25 4:29 AM

Earliest "human"

5,000,000 yr

Dec. 31 9:05 PM

Neanderthal - CM

300,000 yr

Dec. 31 11:50 PM

Last Ice Age

11,000 yr

Dec. 31 11:59:37 PM


3,500 yr

Dec. 31 11:59:53 PM


220 yr

Dec. 31 11:59:59.6 PM


20 yr

Dec. 31 11:59:59.96 PM

In the table above, the time from the Big Bang until today is compressed into one year; it is a scale model of the time history of universe with a scale of 1/15,000,000,000. Adapted from The Evolution of Life, by Frank H.T. Rhodes.

The Laws of Nature

Life on Earth

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?

Life on Earth

Earth is the only known place in the universe where there is life, as we know it. It is an accident of molecular coincidence.The ingredients for life include the following:

Elements: The earth's atomic composition is suitable for life to exist. No other planet has anything like the right ingredients or combinations of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen (e.g. 21% of lower atmospheric air), plus numerous other elements in appropriate quantities.

Light: Photosynthesis (the conversion of light energy to chemical energy by plants) occurs at wavelengths from 0.4 microns to 0.7 microns, the electromagnetic spectrum extends from 0.01 microns to 10 centimetres. A stable light source providing the correct wavelengths is required by all plants.

The Atmosphere: The layers of the atmosphere protect the earth from cosmic particles, ultraviolet radiation and facilitate an equable temperature.

Temperature: The temperatures in the biosphere have remained equable for hundreds of millions of years because of temperature feedback systems including carbon dioxide and water cycles and plant cover. Carbon dioxide insulates the planet, water vapour (clouds) reflect radiation (albedo effect), and vegetation affects the amount of both CO2 and water vapour.

Plants: Plants through photosynthesis harness the sun’s energy and store it as chemical energy. This energy is used by other life forms as the basic building block of life. Ocean microfloral algae provide 70% of the earth’s oxygen.

Self-preserving: Earth's systems of management appear to operate its own life support systems (keeping the requirements for life in balance) like a living organism itself. The space where this self-managing life system exists is termed the biosphere.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?

Laws of Nature

Laws of nature are not made by human will. They are an accident of existence. They are derived from the basic qualities of space, time, matter and energy. Matter and energy must coexist. Space and time must coexist. The space-time continuum provides a relative scale of reference for matter and energy (the Theory of Relativity).

Observation suggests that there is a common thread in behaviour at all levels of organisation. For example, within the biosphere all systems seem geared toward preserving life. As well as species preservation, this includes, for example, atmospheric homeopathy to maintain temperature, CO2 concentrations etc. The earth's biosphere tends to preserve itself.

Understanding nature begins with basic science of physics, chemistry and biology. These offer insight in to the laws of nature. From these other studies, e.g. medicine, sociology, chemical engineering, geography, production management, astronomy etc may flow. Even spiritual studies reference basic sciences in order to have a frame of reference.

In order to clarify and help compare systems, consider your body to be a system. Use it as a frame of reference to compare with other systems, such as family, business, nation state, global governance etc. Use the analogy of human's body (with its sophisticated interdependent systems such as communication, distribution, energy, waste, administration, production, reproduction) in comparison to other systems. Consider the functions that a system might perform whether a nerve cell, family, company, ecosystem, species. Consider how those functions ought to work. Similarities prove useful in comparisons between the body and the subject syste (such as a business or family).

Levels of Organisation

Levels of organisation spread along a spectrum of increasing complexity and physical size.





Space-Time; Matter-Energy

















considered alive


considered alive


considered alive







Subatomic particles




It appears that there may not be a direct relationship between complexity and size. So a doubling of size does not mean a doubling in complexity. The increase in complexity of a population compared to an organism is relatively less than the increase in size. If this holds true, the complexity of existence may not be that far from human understanding!


Let's consider this spectrum in the context of planet Earth: Where does life begin and end? Is a cell alive? (Perhaps only to the extent that it is part of a living organism.) Is planet Earth alive? Is existence alive?

What is certain is that without a living biosphere, humans can not survive. humans might build a virtual biosphere, but this will be of human design (glass and steel, not wood and leaf). And it might not work ("Biosphere 2" failed).

The laws of nature can not be broken.

The Accident

Life on Earth

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?

The Future of Life:
Three Choices


The biosphere is the only known natural habitat for humans. The earth is the only place in the universe where humans can survive. Let that idea sink in. Repeat it to yourself.

Because of overconsumption the lifespan of the biosphere is now measured in 100s of years, rather than 100s of 1,000,000s of years.

The equilibrium of the biosphere has been upset in the last 100 years or so directly because of the invasive activities of humans. Humanity has consumed far more resources in the biosphere than have been produced during the last few hundred years. Unless humanity actively redresses the balance, the biosphere will deteriorate rapidly within a matter of decades.


What to do?

While humanity has fouled its habitat seemingly beyond repair, it has also developed the technology to maintain comfortable, stimulating lifestyles and repair the damage. There is a critical mass of technology and infrastructure to allow communication and reasoning at a global level. This activity now takes place in what is broadly termed the noosphere or the global consciousness. And the basic values of global consciousness appear to be concordant with the laws of nature (which do not change).

There are two reasons why most adult human individuals fail to respond to information that they are contributing to the destruction of the biosphere: carelessness or stupidity. Not ignorance: once individuals have the information they are not ignorant. And it is now accepted that human behaviour must change (re Kyoto, Sarbannes-Oxley etc).

It is rarely stupidity that is the cause: literacy and understanding are a key differentiation of all humans today in comparison with humans of 300 years ago. Five hundred years ago virtually no one knew the shape, size relative orbits of the earth, today most people (that impact the earth - modern consumers) come across it before they are 20. Literacy is becoming universal among consumers. We have seen flight, TVs, computers, cars etc. The basic knowledge contained in the same physiological structure(a human) is uncomparably more sophisticated.

Today the richest 20% of humans consume 80% of resources, like oil, food, transport, education etc). And now there are available nature friendly technologies that allow us to reduce our impact on nature but retain the luxuries of life and be happy. Continuing destructive behaviour appears to be merely a lack of care for others, for life on earth and oneself (since the behaviour is self-destructive). It may be very difficult to reduce one's level of consumption voluntarily, but is easier once we recognise the need to do so. (And change is coming. Two comparable economies may have very different recycling cultures: Switzerland has had recycling culture for decades, whereas recycling in the UK is a new phenomenon and is becoming a requirement by law and by what people want.)

Opportunity to Choose a Future

A choice may be made by humanity for humanity's future, and that of the biosphere: whether existence is to be more natural or more human made, whether humans tend to exist with nature or without nature.

Technology seems to give the option of existence in an almost completely unatural, even dead, world. The spectrum of lifestyle from natural to virtual may include the following:

<----> Papua New Guinea tribe <---> organic farming community <---> conventional farming community <---> developing world metropolis <---> developed world metropolis <----> ? adult in an incubator, with ventilator and a drip ?---? a world in a bubble ?---? a virtual reality ???

As a species we have to choose consumption priorities, because we must share the resources of our effectively closed system (the biosphere) with other life and because our impact as a species demands global management of global comon resources (nature). (And a natural choice is unobtainable unless those choosing to exist without nature do not pollute or damage nature.)

Humans, on a species level, appear to be in control with immense technology resources (eg sustainable energy, organic farming, IT and the atom bomb, nuclear power, junk food etc). On an individual or sub-global level, ability to choose is limited by personal/local resources, including technology and opportunity. Thus, a global redistribution of resources, especially technology, is required. It is necessary for rich societies to reduce pollution and for poor societies to be given appropriate technology to enable efficient use of resources. Technology is increasingly recognised as a global common (eg open source software, DNA of natural remedies, parallel technological evolution etc).

Those in a position to make a difference, because of wealth and understanding, do set an example. If that example is an unsustainable consumption of resources, so be it. The biosphere's life will be measured in decades. And a world without nature will occur. Virtual reality.

Three Roads to Choose For The Future

Humans must choose one of three futures, for life not just humanity. We have a choice from three simple patterns of future:

It is certain that we can happily exist in a human made world. In fact we may prefer it. We have conditioned ourselves to prefer sitting in a tube, made from metal a few millimeteers thick, flying 800 kilometers an hour 10 kilometers above ground to spending time with family and friends and living in this world. We live in cities choking with pollution instead of bursting with nature. We kill in the name of peace.

let us calm down,
let us understand our situation,
let the planet live.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


The challenge facing humans today is the imbalance between resource consumption and production.

The natural rhythms of the biosphere have been forced out of balance by expanding and extending patterns of consumption by humans in the last hundred years or so. All qualified and rigorous analysis now agrees that current trends in consumption will result in the end of life as we know it. The lifespan of the biosphere is now measured in 100s of years rather than 1,000,000s of years. In order for the biosphere to continue, resource consumption and production must be brought back in to balance.

We must reduce consumption, but not necessarily happiness. Although the rich must eat less, there is plenty to go around. There is sufficiency of material wealth for all. The development of spiritual wealth is untapped and certainly offers an area of personal fulfillment and happiness. And its development and consumption does not degrade the biosphere; in fact evidence suggests spiritual development may have a positive effect on the biosphere.

Behaviour change must take place at both personal and popular levels. Consider at what organisational level balancing consumption and production should be practised:

At the individual level production and consumption will never be balanced. A baby and septuagenarian will be net consumers whereas a middle aged human is a net producer. How to design and effect resources transfers between individuals is a recurring challenge that humans attempts to resolve. How to exist within the resource dynamics of the biosphere has not been yet been recognised as an issue, let alone a necessity, by most individuals, and some governments presume that it is not pressing enough to warrant sufficient attention.

But all that is changing. Since the first edition of this book in 2000, astraea has become convinced by increasing regulation, media coverage and changing consumer and voter habits that sustainability is a necessity.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?

Virtual Reality

What is a virtual reality? It is a human-made environment. But only human-made. No nature.

Imagination tends to suggest steel and glass units in which homo sapiens (humans) exists, protected from an alien desert landscape resulting from the destruction of the biosphere. Individuals make life in these biodomes (also called office blocks and apartment blocks joined by closed vehicular transport).

The global human population is only 0.5 billion. Few other species exist.

Food is manufactured from the lithosphere and energy and presented as pellets.

Work is not available, nor necessary. Automation provides all physiological needs.

Entertainment is taken by plugging in at home to your personal "VR appliance" which attaches to one's spinal cord or via a "VR helmet", which can take you to the beach, or skiing, or on a trip to the moon. Senses controlled by computers perfectly attuned to human physiology make a dream a reality. People may be lining up to feel rain on their faces because it doesn't happen any more. This is the utopia of a human made world.

It will be very difficult to emulate nature. Biosphere 2 was stillborn.

Biosphere 2

From 1991 to 1993, 8 people lived in a human-made closed ecosystem, designed to emulate the planet's biosphere, which cost around $ 200 million. It was equipped with a wide range of life systems which were expected to be able to maintain a stable, natural equilibrium to provide for the ongoing life cycles.

It did not work.

Results indicated the far higher level of complexity of natural systems than the designers had planned for.

Additional oxygen was needed before the end of the experiment because of deterioration in air quality to 14% oxygen (from ~ 21% normal concentration), nitrous oxide was at toxic levels and carbon dioxide fluctuated widely. Water systems deteriorated and became contaminated. Of 25 vertebrate species introduced, 18 became extinct. All insect pollinators became extinct threatening plant pollination and therefore food supplies of humanity. Weedy vines and predatory insects flourished. At $ 25 million per person, Biosphere 2 failed to keep its inhabitants alive for 2 years.

Earth's biosphere is free and worked properly until humanity threw it out of balance. Climate change, ozone holes, BSE and other phenomena suggest that change is coming fast ... watch out!

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


The Biosphere

There is only one biosphere. It is the zone of life on planet Earth.There is no other planet within reasonable travelling time where life exists. Earth has the only known habitat for humans.

We can not close our doors, or minds, and assume our actions have no consequences. We are not separate from nature or the earth. We are one.

All systems associated with Earth are required to maintain an environment habitable by life. Without the atmosphere, temperatures on Earth would be 100s 0C and uninhabitable. Without the presence of elements in appropriate proportions, Earth would be uninhabitable. Without elemental cycles Earth would become toxic in a matter of years and become uninhabitable.

This chapter outlines some basic physical features of planet Earth.

Earth's Structure

Planet Earth would be a barren planet if it was not protected by the atmosphere. The atmosphere keeps out cosmic material and excess radiation from the sun, and keeps in water and other elements and compounds required for life.

The crust of earth is of variable thickness and is comprises of slowly moving plates of solid matter. At the junction of the plates molten rock breaks through in places (volcanoes etc) and jerky movement of the plates may result in earthquakes. The Earth is approximately 12,500 km in diameter.

Various resources are extracted from the rocks in the Earth's crust and converted to forms used by humans. Key resources consumed by humans include iron ore (iron and steel), bauxite (aluminium), crude oil and gas, coal, lead ores, copper ores, manganese ores (steel alloys), chromium ores (steel alloys), gold ores and silver ores.

Elemental Cycles

Carbon Cycle

Carbon is a fundamental element of organic systems. It is required in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun's light energy into chemical energy for use in food webs. Carbon is in every part of every human.

The processing of carbon in the biosphere is necessary to keep concentrations low enough for animals and high enough for plants. The excess production of carbon dioxide by human systems (eg combustion engines, fossil fuel poser stations etc) is disabling the cycle.

Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen is required for construction of amino acids and proteins without which organisms can not exist. For example, DNA, the genetic code of reproduction, is made of amino acid chains.

Certain plants and bacteria fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and soil and convert it to a form useful for amino acid construction.

Phosphorous Cycle

Phosphorous in required in the conversion of chemical energy (eg from glucose and other carbohydrates) into kinetic energy and heat. It is required therefore for growth and movement in animals. The concentrations in the environemtn affect the rate of growth of organisms. Excess phosphorous can accelerate growth in part of a food web imbalancing the whole web, eg phosphorous from fertiliser run off accelerates growth of marine algae which invade other food webs, by reducing available oxygen, and affect weather patterns.

Sulphur Cycle

Although sulphur is normally present in large quantities in mineral deposits, the amount involved in life cycles is normally relatively small, but important for use in protein construction. Human activity, principally burning fossil fuels, releases significant amounts of sulphur, which cause environemntal conditions to become too acidic for life.

Energy Cycles

The movement of energy through the biosphere is the critical element of life.

Energy enters the earth from the sun and leaves by reflection and radiation of heat.

Weather patterns cycle energy as wind, rain and clouds transfer, absorb and expend energy.

And food webs cycle energy. Light energy from the sun is converted to chemical energy by plants (primary producers). Plants are consumed by animals (usually herbivores) which use the chemical energy contained therein; the efficiency of conversion from plant to animal is about 15%. Some animals eat only other animals (carnivores) - additional resources are lost at this transfer thus requiring greater production of plants to support one individual.

Humans are top feeders and omnivorous, requiring at least 1,000 its biomass of primary producers to support one individual. A human adopting an average lifestyle in a developed economy requires significantly more energy to maintain this lifestyle: it requires energy for production of clothes, housing, transport etc and consumes further energy in use of many products eg lighting, heat, transport, cleaning etc.

The pyramids shown to the side illustrate the results of similar studies showing the vast biomass of primary producers required to feed a top carnivore. (These scales are insignificant compared to the consumption by a human consuming a modern lifestyle).

It is estimated that production of 1/10 of a hectare of good agricultural land will support one top carnivore. It is estimated that a human requires approximately 2 hectares to provide the energy and resources for a "modern lifestyle". This implies that a human requires 20,000 times its biomass to be supported in a modern lifestyle!

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Energy: The Currency of Life

This chapter introduces important issues concerning energy.

Energy is the potential to do work. Energy takes many forms, such as light, heat, motion, chemical bonds, electromagnetic potential etc.

Energy is the persistent constant in change. physical change (including chemical and biological), mental activity (- the brain is a dense agglomeration of neurons) and even spiritual change (the Bell experiment suggests that there is a role of energy changes in seemingly unexplainable phenomena). The science of quantum physics - the zen of science - indicates that at the smallest atomic levels, energy and matter are indistinguishable. It is transferable through time, space and matter. Energy is the currency of life.

Energy is the currency of the biosphere. The only thing that enters or leaves the biosphere is energy. It is the common denominator of all production and consumption of resources, and is becoming the currency of the future.

Biomass accumulation is an indication of the rate of conversion of solar energy to chemical energy. Approximately 0.1% of solar energy reaching Earth's surface is captured by plants. About half of the chemical energy converte through photosynthesis is used in metabolic activities (living, maintainence, reproduction) and the rest is stored as biomass. Biomass is the only renewable solid fuel source available and is therefore of great importance.

Fossil fuels, while being a convenient, easy to use fuel are unreplaceable inventory. The Earth's supply of mineral oil, gas and coal can not be increased, it is only decreased (in a human industrial time scale).

The following table indicated the most valuable land areas for biomass accumulation. Note that the two most productive areas are both targets of pollution and destruction by humans. Tropical forests are being destroyed, estuaries are poisoned by pollution and coral reefs are destroyed by pollution and cyanide fishing.


Biomass Accumulation

Relative to Most Productive Ecosystem

Tropical rainforest



Estuaries/Coral reefs



Intensive agriculture



Temperate deciduous forest



Coniferous forest



Coastal waters









Open ocean






Energy Production and Consumption by humans

Fire was the first energy technology developed by humans. Other early technologies were muscle power of animals, wind and water power.

The industrial revolution of the 1800s saw the development of fossil fuels and derivative technologies: the steam engine and later the internal combustion engine. Humanity now relies heavily on fossil fuels to power a lifestyle well in excess of the ability of current biospherical cycles. Fossil fuels are energy stores that take millions of years to form whereas their consumption takes moments.

Energy use in developed economies is extraordinary. On average an individual in United States uses more than 300 GJ per year, whereas an individual in one of the poorest places will consume less than 1 GJ annually - that's 300 x more or 30,000% more. The richest 20% of human population consume 80% of natural gas, 65% of oil and 50% of coal produced globally each year.

There is a close link between wealth and energy consumption. However, it is possible to have an affluent consumption pattern and reduce energy consumption: Switzerland with a GNP per head of US$ 35,000 consumes under 150 GJ per person compared to the USA which has a GNP per head of US$ 25,000 but consumes 300 GJ per person per year.

As an example of energy consumption patterns, energy consumption in the USA at the turn of teh millenium was about 38% for industrial use, 36% for residential and commercial use and 26% for transport.

Efficiency of Energy Conversion

Efficiency is a consideration in selecting conversion technologies. Here are some comparisons.

Electric Power Production

% Yield

Transport Vehicles

% Yield

Heating Space

% Yield


% Yield



Gas pipeline


Electric resistance


Sodium vapour light


Combined cycle steam


Liquid pipeline


High efficiency gas furnace


Fluorescent bulb


Hydrogen fuel cell




Typical gas furnace


Incandescent bulb


Coal fired generator


Diesel electric train


Efficient wood stove


Gas flame


Oil fired generator


Diesel automobile


Typical wood stove



Nuclear generator


Petrol automobile


Open fire place



Photovoltaic generation


Jet engine aircraft



* much energy lost as heat.
** electric heat and light appliances have already suffered yield losses in electricity production.

Net energy yields are important benchmarks for planning energy production. The net energy yield is a ratio of the energy produced compared to the total cost to build the infrastructure, produce energy and decomission infrastructure. Fossil fuels have high net energy yields (gasoline 7/1, coal 20/1, natural gas 10/1). Renewable resources are not as efficient (wind 2/1, solar 1/1 to 2/1, biomass 2/1) although well planned and executed hydroelectric projects can reach yields of 20/1. As technology for renewable resources improves and the cost of fossil fuels rises, net energy yields will tend to favour renewable sources.

Traditional Energy Sources

Fossil fuels, petroleum (oil), natural gas and coal provide about 91% of energy. They are cheap and convenient.

however, there are problems of rapidly increasing consumption. Conversion of petroleum and coal fuels is of particular concern because combustion emits dangerous pollutants. Combustion of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming induced through increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels raised by CO2 emissions. Toxic hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide (which prevents respiration) are also released.

Coal extraction releases particle pollution that inhibits life systems and coal burning releases radioactive and toxic metals that have been concentrated during coal formation (under normal conditions a coal fired power plant is more radioactive than a nuclear power plant). Coal release sulphur and nitrogen derivatives as well as hydrocarbons, CO and CO2. These toxins damage life systems, natural resources and human made infrastructure (buildings etc).

About half of the potential energy in primary fuels is lost during conversion, transport or use. Electricity from coal production loses about 75%, as does petrol. Natural gas is the most efficient and looses only 15% to 35% of potential energy.

Nuclear fuel energy, providing 7% of energy production, has the benefit of not emitting carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. However, safety risks and other pollution (residue can not be disposed of safely or economically) makes it undesireable.

Sustainable Sources

Renewable sources such as solar, biomass, hydoelectric and others provide only 3% of energy production. Technologies in development, such as hydrogen fuel cells, may provide cheap, clean fuel opportunities within a decade. If these are developed and implemented in the right way they would make an invaluable contribution to preserving the biosphere and raising the quality of life of poor individuals.

Technology for renewable fuels does not yet offer attractive economic returns. However, increasing cost of fossil fuels and improvements in technology will make sustainable energy use a possibility.

Storage of electricity is a further challenge and battery technology is not as efficient as it might be. Battery disposal can also add to the problems of pollution because they generally contain toxic chemicals.

Burning biomass, while producing CO2 and other emissions, is not invasive to the biosphere when combined with managed biomass production which provides a carbon dioxide sink. However, it does increase the rate of the cycles.

Energy in The Food Web

Energy consumption patterns are influenced strongly by the type and production method of foods as shown in the table below. Energy intensive foods result in greater demand for resources and greater pollution. A simple and useful reference is that any food source where the calorie invested per calorie output is greater than 1 is not sustainable.

Food Type

Calories Invested per Calorie of Food Produced

Distant fishing


Feedlot beef


Fish protein concentrate


Grass-fed beef


Coastal fishing


Intensive poultry production


Milk from grass fed cows


Range-fed beef


Intensive corn or wheat


Intensive rice


Hunting and gathering


Traditional wet rice culture


Shifting agriculture



Energy Requirements in Metal Production

Similarly energy used in production of materials and products that individuals in developed countries demand and poor countries yearn for, strongly influences energy consumption.



Energy Requirement
('000s KJ/kg)

Glass (new) *


(scrap) *


Steel (new)






Aluminium (new)






Copper (new)




Paper (new)




One might wonder if its worth recycling glass because the energy demanded is the same for new or recycled production, but recylcing saves in material consumption, if not yet energy consumption.

Energy Mismanagement

Humanity has increased individuals' potential to do work through technology. (Eg. with the same physiological composition a human individual can today produce more work in a given task than a human individual 5,000 years ago - because it knows how to and has the tools.)

Energy consumption (conversion to heat and light) results in a decline in the store of energy ( a decline in resources) and by-products (pollution) which disturb the equilibrium of the closed system (the biosphere).

Energy mismanagement is at the root cause of most imbalances in the biosphere. Energy consumed for transport, industrial materials and products, consumer products, food production and domestic comforts is largely from non-renewable sources and results in high pollution. It is necessary to reduce energy produced from fossil fuels and build infrastructure that relies on natural and clean energy sources. It is necessary to support the move from modern farming to ultra-modern organic farming. It is necessary to share responsibilities and use communication and information technology to reduce commuting and business travel. It is necessary to allow time for food preparation so that fast food and packaging, which are priced well below their real cost because pollution is not priced, are reduced. It is necessary to move modern social systems from a throwaway culture to a conserving culture.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Of Earth's surface only about 30% is covered by land, the majority being ocean. Much of land is uninhabitable by most species because of extreme weather conditions, and the remainder is of variable productive use.


Billion hectares

% of total




Other (desert, tundra, marsh, scrub land etc)



Pasture and grazing land






Temperate forest and woodland



Tropical forest and woodland



While forests are not used to produce food, they do contain more than 60% of plant biomass and more than 50% of species. They are also critical to operation of the biosphere's carbon cycle as they remove carbon dioxide from air and produce oxygen. Destruction of forests reduces the carrying capacity of the biosphere and destroys land quality as rapid degradation takes place after clearing. Restoring forests takes hundreds of years.

Productive Land

The productivity of land is largely dependent on the soil. Soil provides an anchor and nutrients for plants. It supports a varied ecosystem comprised of plants and animals promoting fertility. Without soil organisms, soil would be a sterile medium for holding plants. The texture of the soil (coarse to fine; gravel, and, silt, clay) influences the productivity of the soil. Its source influences its chemical composition and nutrient profile.

There are approximately 1.44 billion hectares of cropland on Earth. With a population of around 6 billion people this is an average of 0.24 hectares per person. Indications of human carrying capacity of the biosphere indicate that an individual consuming resources at the rate of the average person in a developed economy requires 4 hectares of land under production.

Although land is being degraded not just by natural processes, but also by invasive human activities, there are untapped land resources. For example, some sub-tropical areas and South American grasslands might be put into production with little damage to their ecosystems.

Degradation from water and wind erosion or chemical degradation results in soil being impoverished or eroded, vegetation being diminished, water running off, water being contaminated etc more than would normally be the case.

Main causes of degradation:


The principal activity on crop land is agriculture, and agricultural practices determine the sustainability of the productive resource of land.

Soil management involves ensuring a suitable supply of nutrients to support growth of crops. In simple systems, this may be done merely by farming a plot of land for a period and then leaving it to regenerate naturally. Modern farming relies on the addition of human-made chemical compounds (fertilisers) to the soil. Ultra-modern organic systems manage crop rotations so that natural systems improve nutrient profile and soil texture. If the biosphere is to support a human population of over 6 billion individuals, organic systems appear to be the main system change required because yields are high enough to produce enough food, and pollution is low. Conventional systems, requiring human made fertliser, pesticide and herbicide degrade the soil by removing soil organisms, polluting water systems and not allowing build up of humus. In addition the energy requirement of conventional agriculture is very high: energy for production of chemical sprays, energy for farm machinery etc. To illustrate, United States uses about 11.9 billion giga joules, or 46 million kJ per person, in agricultural energy, compared with developing nations agriculture (generally simple systems) using 17 billion GJ, or 6 million kJ per person.

Water control may also be managed. Irrigation systems are developed to supply water during peak growing periods and to drain water to prevent water logging. About 70% of water taken from rivers, lakes and groundwater is used in agriculture. Water control systems remain inefficient, either because they are too exposed and thus losses from evaporation, seepage etc reduce their efficacy or because they require significant energy inputs to operate.

Crop diversity is important to maintaining healthy soil and good yields. Modern agricultural techniques reduce diversity specifically attempting to remove all other species from crop land with pesticide and herbicide use and mono-culture planting. The extreme control is using genetically engineered species which terminate the reproductive ability of other plant species, which once released into the biosphere may spread with wind and weather patterns wiping out species across the planet. Alternatively, encouraging diversity promotes healthy soil, which maintains potential yields, and can reduce invasion by "pests and weeds" which are allowed to exist, but not to flourish. Organic systems using rotation, companion planting and mechanical controls maintain yields and diversity.

Although not directly related to land use, transport of food consumes further energy and further pollutes air and water supplies. Consumption patterns in a developed economy provide food variety by transporting food long distances. On average, a food item travels 2,000 km from farm to consumer in the United States market. This consumption pattern is being forced to change as fossil fuels become scarcer and soil and water resources become degraded.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Water and Weather


Earth is the only place where water exists as a liquid in substantial quantities. It entered the biosphere as icy comets entering Earth's atmosphere, from which it enters the biosphere's hydrological cycle.

It is an unusual compound that remains in a liquid state for a wide temperature range; most compounds move from solid to gas almost directly. It is unusual in that the density of solid water (ie ice) is lower than liquid water just before it turns solid (freezes): ice floats.

Water is critical to life systems. On a macro scale it is essential to the biosphere's weather, on a micro scale it is essential for cellular functions. 70% of Earth's crust is covered in water, the oceans holding 97.6 % of Earth's water. Ice and snow accounts for 2.1%, leaving little for rivers, lakes and atmosphere. 60% of a human body is water. Thirst will kill in days, hunger will take weeks.

Water resources available for use on land are basically limited to precipitation. Whatever runoff is left after evaporation and infiltration may be used by surface life systems. Some places have more abundant useable water supplies than others. South America receives 25% of the Biosphere's precipitation but only has 12% of the land area.

WHO considers 2,000,000 litres per person per year to be a minimum standard supply of clean water for healthful life. Some places have far less than this (eg Malta with only 85,000 litres per person per year) and must produce or import water.

A developed economy has more requirements for water. Water pollution becomes an increasing concern even in well supplied places.









Food Production






1 kg of beef


1 car


Shower (5 minutes)


1 egg


1 kg steel




1 ear of corn


1 kg synthetic rubber




1 loaf of bread


1 kg aluminium


Flushing WC







Earth's weather is unique among planets. It is a key player in maintaining a stable environment for life.

Solar radiation entering the atmosphere is filtered by clouds and atmosphere so that acceptable wavelengths and quantities of radiation enter the troposphere. Clouds and atmosphere also reflect radiation from the Earth back.

Long-wave, infra-red radiation reflected off the Earth's surface is rereflected by gases released by humans keep the Earth's surface warmer than it would normally be. This is the greenhouse effect.

Water is critical to the cycle of energy. It has a high specific heat capacity (4,200 Kj / cm3) which means it takes a lot of energy to warm it up, and it takes longer to cool down (than say steel). Energy from the sun heats water which is stored in clouds as potential energy; the energy is released as heat energy when the water condenses. Convection currents and movement of water vapour move heat energy from oceans to continents and from low to high altitudes.

Oceanic phytoplankton play a key role: increased radiation increases their population, which increases their output of dimethylsulphide, which causes cloud formation, which reduces solar radiation hitting Earth's surface, thus reducing the phytoplankton population.

Rotation of the Earth causes changes in temperature (seasonal changes). These temperature changes provide potential energy for movement of air. On a large scale this causes jet streams of air 50 km wide and 5 km deep travelling 5 - 10 km above Earth at 200 km an hour which stimulate global weather patterns. On a small scale air movements result in local weather pattern.

Weather patterns result from the interaction of massive movements of air across the planet. Masses of air of different temperatures and moisture contents collide and cause winds and rain. Global patterns are consistent: warmer near the equator, cooler near the poles etc.

Global temperature level stability is important to maintain the balance of life in the biosphere. The Earth's surface temperature level has fluctuated in a range of + or - a few degrees centigrade. For most of the past million years temperature has been colder than now (1-3 0C less). For the last 8,000 years temperature levels have been fairly stable in a range of + to - 1 0C. The medieval warm period was the warmest period in the last 1,000 years. Concern has been raised because temperature levels have risen by 0.5 to 0.75 0C in the last 50 years as CO2 concentrations have increased. The greenhouse effect is forcing rapid, rather than gradual, change in the temperature, which causes other elemental cycles of the biosphere to be disturbed.

Although a review by a UN working group of 2,400 scientists in 1995 concluded that human behaviour is causing climate change, this is still disputed by groups which do not want consumption habits to change (eg fossil fuel producers (oil companies) and consumers).

Activities contributing to global warming are burning fossil fuels (49%), industrial processes (24%), deforestation (14%) and agriculture (13%). (Note that although burning wood releases CO2, trees consume CO2 and release oxygen, thus if wood is sourced from managed forests, the forest drains the CO2 produced by burning. Fossil fuels can not be regenerated.)

Greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) (50%), chlorofluorocarbons (20%), methane (16%), ozone (8%), and nitrous oxide (6%).

The principal effects of climate change is destruction of ecosystems by changing climate: change in temperature or precipitation patterns becoming unsuitable for resident species. Destruction of ecosystems then influences changes in climate further increasing volatility.

At the extreme an increase in temperature may melt polar ice which would raise the sea level destroying many coastal areas, and release methane hydrate locked under permafrost. Oxidation of methane hydrate on its exposure to the air would produce CO2 contributing further to global warming.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Biodiversity and Preserving Nature

Earth is the only place where life exists. For this accident to occur took billions of years; Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago, life began about 1.5 billion years ago and homo sapiens (humans) took 1 billion years to evolve.

During the last 1.5 billion years of evolution of life on Earth tremendous variety has been explored. While some species have come and gone there are an estimated 9 million species. This number may be as high as 50 million depending on the unknown number of invertebrate and fungi species. Over 2 million species have been classified.

This variety of species coexists in a natural balance of life. Biodiversity may be seen at the ecosystem level, ranging from deserts of Africa to tropical jungle to artic tundra, at the species level, ranging from oceanic phytoplankton to blue whales to ants to monkeys, and within species, with a range of size, shape, colour and behaviour. This comlpex web of life works together in cooperation to support life. Food webs require variety of species for efficient transfer of energy and elemental resources through the biosphere. Behaviour of some species is critical to weather patterns (eg ocean phytoplankton), soil fertility (eg soil microorganisms), removing toxins from food systems (eg decomposers, detrivores etc) and so on.

Species classification is debated, but its basic methodology is sound and an important tool in recognising, understanding and preserving life systems.

Variety in species offers great benefits: variety in food, natural cures for disease and aesthetic benefits. Variety in food is demanded by wealthy individuals and economies. It is from plant remedies that most modern medicine have evolved and been synthesised. Gardens and zoos have been developed and preserved to display the wonders of variety of life for education and entertainment.

Unfortunately, human invasion of the planet is threatening biodiversity. Habitat destruction (e.g. land clearing, introduction of non-native species etc), hunting and fishing, pollution (including pesticides and herbicides) and human caused disease epidemics are primary causes of species extinction on both an ecosystem level and a planetary level. Although there are estimated to be at least 9 million species, at most only 4,300 are mammals, 9,200 are birds, 12,000 are reptiles and amphibians and 23,000 are fish. When a higher species, one with a rich genetic history and complexity, is killed the reduction is extremely destructive. Unfortunately, humanity as a group is primarily responsible for species extinction and does little to change destructive behaviour until it is too late.

Species extinction on the scale now observed is a symptom of the biosphere being killed by one species, homo sapiens, like a bacteria population rapidly eating all food available oblivious to the impending scarcity and the lack of another food supply (no other planet supports life).

 ... Florida Panther - virtually extinct.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Human Impact on Earth

Human activity in the last hundred years or so has changed the face of planet Earth.

Humanity currently appears to manage itself as if exponential growth in consumption is possible, despite the evidence that it is not. The carrying capacity of Earth is unable to support the current human population in the manner it wants (developed economy standard of living). It appears that this information has not been widely available and accessible to the principal consumers (ie the richest 20% of human population).

If people become educated of the fact that individual changes in consumption are inevitable, then life as we know it may survive. Otherwise it will not. Either way it will be a significant evolutionary step on Earth.

Evolution By Numbers

Taking Over Earth: Human Population Explosion

If Africa maintains its current population growth rate of 3%, its population will grow from 0.63 billion now to 12.5 billion in 100 years.

Power to People: Energy Consumption

Shrinking the Universe: Technology Development

Speed: Human Mobility

Guns and Bombs: Military Spending

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Human Carrying Capacity of Earth

The ability of the biosphere to support life is limited by the laws of nature. The natural systems (matter and energy cycles) must remain in balance for life to exist. For example: deprive an ecosystem of light and plants will die. Once dead they can not be resuscitated. Species extinction is final.

"Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth."
"Okay, now what?"
("Now try to site a landfill - ")

What human population is the biosphere able to support?

It is estimated that continuous production of 4 to 6 hectares is required to support one human in the lifestyle of the average developed economy citizen. In those terms the carrying capacity of Earth is about 2 billion or about 1/3 of the current global population.

Lifestyles affect the carrying capacity.


If all humans are vegetarians and all space is devoted to food production, say the carrying capacity is 100%.

If 50% of human food is meat, the carrying capacity is 20%.

If space is devoted to other amenities, such as industrial production, sports facilities, parks etc, the carrying capacity is reduced by the proportion devoted to these uses.

The denominating consumption difference between rich and poor is energy consumption. The productivity of rich nations is possible only because of consumption of the Earth's energy inventory (principally fossil fuels).

Human Population Growth

Global population age structure suggests the trend of growth of a population. An expanding population of pre-reproductive individuals tends to predict an increase in population, a decreasing population of pre-reproductive individuals tends to predict a decreasing population. The majority of populations in developing countries are in the pre-reproductive ages. The growth in the human population will predominate in developing countries.

If Africa maintains its current population growth rate of 3%, its population will grow from 0.63 billion now to 12.5 billion in 100 years. In other words, in three generations (or 5 African generations) the population of Africa will be 2x the global population today.

The richest 20% of the earth's population consume about 80% of its resources. If the population remains around 6 billion, but all people have a similar consumption pattern to a typical developed nation, the demands on planet earth would be unbearable:

(all estimated numbers)


Individual Target

Global Today

Global Prediction *

Prediction as a
Multiple of Today


$ 25,000

$ 30 trillion

$ 150 trillion

5 x

Energy (coal equiv.)

10,000 kg

13,000 million tons

60,000 million tons

5 x

Solid waste

2,000 kg

6 billion tons

12 billion tons

2 x

CO2 emission

15 tons

22 million tons

90 million tons

4 x

Nitrogen compounds

60 kg

45 million tons

360 million tons

8 x

Sulphur compounds

70 kg

50 million tons

420 million tons

8 x

* 6 billion people multiplied by individual targets.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Problems Caused by Human Behaviour

This chapter is to help raise our awareness, offer perspective on which problems are big and to offer some examples.

Relativity of Risks

Most of us are not aware of the danger we are in. Like a frog slowly boiling in water, we have not realised the danger we are in.

For perspective, high risk problems include habitat destruction, species extinction, ozone depletion and climate change, medium risks include herbicides and pesticides and acid deposition and relatively low risks are oil spills and ground water pollution.

High risk

Climate change, species extinction

Medium risk

Pesticide use

Low risk

Oil spills, ground water pollution

Groundwater pollution and oil spills are close to home and highly visible and considered very damaging. High risk problems like climate change get no special attention in everyday life but are urgent and highly damaging problems.

Personal health risks are increasingly pressing. Smoking 1.4 cigarettes, drinking 0.5 litre of wine, living 2 days in Boston or New York or travelling 150 miles by car (or 5 days use for an average user) will increase chances of dying in a given year by 1 in a million. (That seems to be an increase of 1 in 200 for a 20 a day smoker.) Ground water pollution would affect whole local populations and certainly be riskier than smoking a cigarette.

Example Health Problems

Risks are generally exacerbated by poor nutrition, poor hygiene, pollution and poor education of prevention.

Disease Control

Humanity has directly tried to control nature in its attempts to control disease. Whether on the small scale of taking penicillin or the large scale of spraying crops with pesticide. The benefits are lower mortality rates and more pleasant lives. Epidemics of violent diseases, such as malaria, have been brought under control. And much pain has been reduced or eliminated. But many unnatural compositions and concentrations of chemicals have been and are being released in the biosphere.

Problems recognised but not resolved include:

Chemicals, Chemicals, Chemicals

The following high risk chemicals and their derivatives are used in many household products including detergents, plastics and other human made materials, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, coatings (eg paper and packaging), cosmetics etc. Please read the label!

Benzene, Cadmium, Carbon tetrachloride, Chloroform, Chromium, Cyanides, Dichloromethane, Lead, Mercury, Methy ethyl ketone, Methyl isobutyl ketone, Nickel, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene, Xylenes...

Food Toxins

Some poisons occur in regulated foods. The principal ones are alcohol and nicotine. Many non-food toxic products enter food production such as fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, colourings, flavourings etc. Generally if permitted, this is because they are considered to be at low levels which the human organism can process.

Greater information in what goes into food production will allow consumers to reduce their intake of toxins and encourage producers to adopt more sustainable and healthy production systems.

Poison in the Food Web is Persistent and Accumulates

Consider also that degradation of toxins in the biosphere may take generations. Meanwhile consumption of toxins by seemingly insignificant organisms (such as marine plankton) can accumulate through food webs to fatal concentrations. Exposure to two or more toxins can increase risks logarithmically, e.g. exposure to lead or asbestos increases risk of cancer by 20 times, exposure to both increases risk 400 times.


Organisational changes. Eg crop rotations.

Companion planting to attract pest predators, as might occur in a natural environment.

Mechanical controls (fleece, vacuum appliance).

Organic farming methods can have similar yields with lower inputs.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?



Analysis of pollution includes natural sources, such as methane emmission from decomposition of vegetation. However, natural systems in the biosphere are self-managing and this pollution is generally able to be absorbed or processed. Human pollution is in addition to natural pollution and there are no natural sinks for this pollution - there is not sufficient capacity in natural systems to accommodate the pollution. Therefore, the impact of human pollution on a global scale can destroy ecosystems and is destroying the biosphere.

"There was an environment before human beings
and there will be an environment after human beings,
so what's the big deal?"

Air Pollution

The following table summarises significant air pollutants.



Annual Influx
(million tons/year)

Human Causes
Annual Influx
(million tons/year)

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Respiration, fossil fuel burning, land clearing, industrial processes.

(normally 100% reabsorbed by plants)


Methane (CH4)

Rice paddies, wetlands, gas drilling, landfills, animals, termites



Carbon monoxide (CO)

Plant metabolism, biomass burning, methane oxidation.



Non-methane hydrocarbons

Fossil fuels, industrial uses, biogenics



Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Fossil fuel burning, biomass burning, soil microbes



Sulphur oxides (SOx)

Fossil fuel burning, biomass burning,indstry, volcanoes, ocean planktons



Suspended particles

Biomass burning, dust, sea salt, biogenic aerosols



The next table summarises major sources of some human caused pollutants in a developed economy.




Power plants

Non-road engineer














Carbon Monoxide









Volatile organics (VOC)









Nitrogen oxides









Sulphur dioxide










There are also a number of pollutants which have virtually no natural origin and are highly toxic. These include materials such as asbestos, benzene, beryllium, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and vinyl chloride.

Non-toxic human made (anthropogenic) pollutants include noise, odour and light (at night) pollution.

Indoor air pollution can be the most risky for humans because concentrations of pollutants can be much higher. Building materials and furnishings as well as certain activities produce toxins and particulates. Examples include tobacco smoke (estimated to significantly contribute to 450,000 deaths in USA per year), formaldehyde, radon and combustion gases.

A major concern of air pollution must be the destruction of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. This is exacerbated by chlorofluorocarbons and halon gases. The ozone layer protects the surface of Earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation causes cancer in living tissue and in itself could destroy life on earth. About 10% of stratospheric ozone has been depleted, with some areas of declines over 40%.

Other concerns include disturbance of plant life resulting in destruction of ecosystems. Growth patterns are disrupted and food chains are broken. Acidity changes prevent life systems operating.

Water Pollution

Water pollution occurs when water quality becomes unsuitable for use in living systems. Common pollutants are:

Land Waste

Land wastes are treated differently based on whether they are toxic and hazardous or not.

Most people consider that disposal by dropping the waste away from their personal living space is sufficient. In fact, in developing countries this method is the formal method of waste management: open unregulated dumping.

Open dumping results in spread of disease and damage to local ecosystems, but is often ignored as they provide a livlihood to the very poor.

Landfills are the next step in controlling waste. Resources are used to put waste in to plastic lined pits dug in the ground. Once full the pits are covered with soil and landscaped. While the land fill is in operation it attracts pests, such as birds, fleas and vermin, while giving off foul odours making living conditions nearby unsatisfactory. Leaching from the pits can contaminate water systems.

While non-toxic wastes can be controlled in sealed land fills, toxic wastes must be treated carefully to avoid pollution of water and air. For example it is estimated that in the United States 200 million litres of waste motor oils are released into sewers or the ground every year; this is about 5 times the volume spilt by Exxon Valdez in 1989.

Incineration of waste may also remove the waste. However, if not done properly can release worse polllution such as suspended particles and toxic fumes. If waste is incinerated, the heat energy released may be captured and used.

Recycling of materials reduces waste significantly and contributes to reduction in production costs for many materials. However, most human societies have not yet organised themselves to offer this option or to do it well.

Effective recycling or energy production systems require sorting of waste which may only be efficiently done at source. Domestic waste sorting is not undertaken by most households.

Hazardous waste disposal requires much greater care and expense. Hazardous wastes must be converted to non-hazardous substances prior to reuse or deposition. This can be costly. Generally this conversion does not take place and it is not priced into common substances, e.g. rubber, plastics, oils etc.

Nuclear waste deserves special attention. The nature of radioactive materials is that they are difficult to convert or store. In fact, the necessity of storing radioactive waste hundreds of metres underground in lead cyclinders highlights the fact that there is no safe disposal method. It is questionable therefore whether any benefits from use of nuclear substances, can outweigh their costs.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Understanding Human Behaviour

The earlier chapters focussed on earth, how it works and some of the problems facing life: the consequences of human overconsumption. The following chapters discuss humans, in particular human behaviour and the values that drive our behaviour.

The basic principle applied in understanding behaviour (of any organisation) is "What You See Is What You Get". Technology helps us understand what we're seeing. (It was once common practice to drill holes in skulls to relieve migraine! Technology has helped reveal that the pain is not caused by excess fluid!)

Human Experience of Existence: Physical, Mental, Spiritual

So, from the premise that existence is defined by matter, space, time and energy (accident), understanding behaviour begins with an understanding of physical interactions and the laws of nature. Individual humans have a good sense of their physical characteristics, and also recognise mental characteristics and spiritual characteristics.

The physical dimension is well defined and understood (physics, chemistry, biology). We have the ability to develop physiological characteristics to a high degree, note the performance of athletes, even amateur athletes, even athletes with metal feet can run 100m in 11 seconds!

The mental dimension is more difficult but still well understood (neurology, psychology). The mental characteristics are derived from the physical characteristics, particularly of brain and central nervous system. Understanding of development of the mind is good, but incomplete; this is reflected in education systems and programmes. With appropriate training humans can read, write, speak various languages, build a house, play video games etc.

The spiritual dimension is least understood (spirituality, philosophy). It is a derivative of the mental dimension. There are many propositions for understanding the spiritual dimension and there appears to be much common ground; however, there is little agreement. In fact, the areas of disagreement are often enough used as an excuse to destroy life (eg Middle East, Northern Ireland, Southern Thailand ...).






Derivative of physical characteristics


Derivative of mental characteristics

Understanding of dimension*




Ability to develop dimension in an individual*




* The percentages are "guestimates" based on technology development trends through history. They are offered as a common sense guide to relative understanding of technology. All percentages are increasing more rapidly because a critical mass of technology allows parallel technology development.

Link Between Body Mind and Spirit

It appears that there is a link between physical, mental and spiritual dimensions, seemingly proven by experiment. It is proof enough to know that, when someone emotionally close, but physically distant, feels pain and somehow one knows that something is wrong - this is the spiritual dimension. Although we don't yet understand how it works we know its there. (We can't putgravity in a box to examine it, but it's there. We can't touch a magnetic field, but can see its effects. ) Frontier science, like quantum physics and consciousness science is bringing us closer to seeing the links - at the sub-atomic level matter and energy are indistinguishable!

Going back to the basic principal that time, space, energy and matter are the irreducible elements of this existence, assume the spiritual dimension is another way energy works, and, because existence is a closed system, there is always effect from cause:

John Stuart Bell and friends split a molecule in half, took one half to North America, leaving the other half in Europe, changed the rotation of one half; at exactly the same time the other half reversed rotation.

Or another look at the energy cycle: Food keeps the body alive, the body keeps the mind alive and the mind keeps the spirit alive. Food is energy, the mind is manifested by electricity (energy) and the spirit is manifested in energy again (electomagnetic fields or radioactivity).

Behaviour Motivation and Resource Allocation

Behaviour at all organisational levels results from:

It is broadly speaking instinctive or voluntary.

In life, and in humans in particular, these two broad ingredients lead to

  1. primary motivation for survival of self and of species, followed by

  2. physical comfort of self, family, community, on to species, (material wealth) and finally

  3. to self and group actualisation (mental and spiritual wealth).

Within a closed system, such as the biosphere, it is necessary to satisfy these demands with resources available, otherwise competition for resources ensues between species and among species.

Sufficiency of Resources

Technology is widely available for humans to satisfy the primary needs of survival. There is also technology available for realising a comfortable co-existence in the biosphere. Technology for self and group actualisation (psychology, neurology etc) although well developed, is less widely understood or available.

It appears that the biosphere can provide sufficient resources to satisfy physical needs and demands. It appears that mental and spiritual resources are virtually untapped and unlimited (or at least limited only to the extent of space and time).

However, systems in use today have resulted in the apparent and real limitation of resources in many areas. Food in Africa (and even in rich nations), ozone in the upper atmosphere etc. There is within human society competition for food, shelter, industrial wealth, technology, even spiritual righteousness.

Thus, improvements in systems and implementation of sustainable resource allocation are required to sustain humanity and rejuvenate planet Earth's biosphere. Planet management is necessary by humans. How this will be done will be determined by humanity's values.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


The Meaning of Life, A Meaning in Life and Values

There is no meaning of life. Life is an accident.

A meaning in life, gives direction.
One's meaning in life moulds one's values.
One's values are the blueprint for deciding behaviour.
One's values are the blueprint for deciding behaviour.
One's meaning in life moulds one's values.
A meaning in life, gives direction.


Although humanity is not fundamentally different from other life systems, it has historically impacted its environment in a very destructive manner on both individual and community levels.

While human behaviour is determined by physical composition (instinct etc) it is also motivated by mental and spiritual characteristics, which are complex, not yet widely understood and changing as technology changes.

The mental and spiritual differences are reflected in value differences. The differences in values between humans are so much greater than the physical composition between humans that value differences have far greater influences on behaviour differences in humans than physical differences.

Recognising and understanding value differences is essential to cooperative behaviour at all organisation levels: eg nervous system, family, company, society, nation, global community etc.

Understanding values allows communication.

Sharing values allows cooperation.

(Since the first edition, Astraea has learned the memetic language of spiral dynamics which provides a valuable psychological framework for defining, understanding and developing values of individuals, organisations or communities.)

Which Values?

What values are appropriate in life of humans? Not killing? Honesty? Courtesy? ...

More importantly what are prime values for the sustainable operation of earth (the biosphere)? Truth, love and equity.

Is truth a prime value? If not, then lying and deception are fair, as well as useful tools. The consequences for a social model operating where truth is not a prime value may be self destructive.

Truth is an absolute. It either is, or is not, even if it is not known which. If truth is a prime value then the social model would tend to favour truth (openness, etc).

Relative values may be adopted but a trade off will ensue between values. Tolerance may be more important than persistence.

The values adopted by individuals in a society are reflected in the changing social model of that society. The aggregate of values of individuals is the value system of a society. It is institutionalised in laws and reflected in customs. We may call it culture.


Western society generally demands minimum standards and disclosure in food sales. This is reflected in relevant laws. These minimum standards are changing as consumers demand more information regarding ingredients, especially concerning genetic manipulation in food production. This results in changes in laws effected through media and legal mechanisms; and changes in supply as the demand for poorly labelled food declines and the demand for clean, healthy and properly labelled food increases. (In smaller community trade reputation was sufficient, but even here more disclosure is expected than before.).


In Western Europe distribution of toxic narcotics to small children may be dealt with by society by imprisoning the offender. In parts of Asia, possession of non-toxic narcotics for personal use may be dealt with by death. Is either one right? Each society chooses its own values. Some prefer to standardise private behaviour as well as public behaviour. Some prefer punishment to rehabilitation. Until the individuals in the community change their management systems, by changing behaviour or laws etc, it must be assumed that the model reflects the society's values. Individuals may change their systems by fighting (competition) or negotiation (cooperation).

Humans, individuals and groups, have tended to put pride and prejudice before equity and intelligence, to be motivated by greed and fear rather than by sharing or love. Early humans naturally had this aggressive profile because individuals fought for survival, and were primitive. As the species developed technologies and individuals became interested in other pursuits (eg entertainment, learning, charity etc), behaviour began to reflect values required for interdependence within and between species. The strength of mind is apparent in the species, illustrated by extraordinary acts such as suicide to save others or preserve honour (martyrs, hari kari etc). However, the majority of individuals today still appear to be ruled by greed and fear. It is a requirement for survival of the biosphere that individuals become less independent and more interdependent. And that the change happens in tens of years not hundreds of years.

The challenges of life are illustrated by the prisioners' paradox:

Two individuals are in prison for foul play. Both individuals are told that if they give evidence on the other, they will be let free. Separately, each knows that if they give evidence that they will be free. But if neither gives evidence, there will be no evidence and they would both be free. Individuals are tempted to expose the each other in order to gain. However, if they both give evidence, they both will be convicted. What to do?*

Similarly, in the biosphere, if individuals pollute, they assume that they benefit at the expense of others, but if everyone pollutes everyone suffers.


The Three Rules

Some like rules, and they can be useful. Like the laws of nature. For simplicity, together with our simple values of honesty, love and equity ...

Our three rules:

(Try it at home or work. The rules work. And even children can understand their logic.)

*If they were innocent it wouldn't be an issue.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Humans: Different And The Same

Many human tragedies have been caused by presuming differences where there are none. The similarities within existence provide valuable benchmarks for global management.

Is humanity fundamentally different from other species? Much of its behaviour suggests that it thinks it is, particularly in its efforts to control the biosphere rather than live with it.

Starting by looking at some differences between humans and closely related primates today, it appears that other primates live nearly completely by instinct. There is little willful change to their environment, whereas humanity proactively changes its environment. Humans use tools. This distinguishes them from other species. Humans communicate in a very sophisticated way, even communicating metaphysical ideas and abstractions. The biological rationalisation may be that thumbs and brain characteristics play a big role in this evolution. The result is behaviour that is more objective oriented rather than instinctive. But the creature is not fundamentally different. Other creatures use tools and communicate. (It is possible that other primates which use tools in an infantile way may in the course of evolution become more sophisticated.) Humans may create an existence without nature, but has not appreciated the consequences of this objective.

Behaviour is used as a reason to differentiate species. Although genetic formulae are used to define species, sub-species may defined by differing physical presentation of the same genetic code. A brussel sprout and a cauliflower are the same species. An oriental human and a caucasian human are the same species.

No Fundamental Differences

Are life forms fundamentally different? Is a human fundamentally different from a chimpanzee? Is a negro human fundamentally different from a oriental human? It appears that the differences are of degree rather than absolute differences. They are a result of evolution and environment.

If you believe that there are fundamental differences, please suggest how they are different and what the implications are for species interaction. And what the implications are for definitions of death which cause "humans" without brains to have their bodies kept functioning, but non-humans to be tortured.

If the answer is no, there are not fundamental differences, an important implication is that the spirital dimension is shared by other life forms, and even all matter. Most spiritual systems account for this although some of the most widespread religions (e.g. Christian) do not. Whether religious or not, we can agree that the universe has connections that we hardly understand and can use a common terminology of spirituality to further understanding of this dimension.


Recognising that there are no fundamental differences between homo sapiens and other living organisms brings a clear perspective to behaviour analysis. We start to apply more critical thinking or moral judgments. We may apply the ethic of "putting oneself in another's shoes" more rigorously. This simple approach quickly brings ones values and thus behaviour into line with nature's.

If we apply equity rigorously we are faced with ethical challenges. For example, in the same way that over-aggressive dogs or horses are neutered to control hormone levels, should certain male humans be neutered? Some cultures say "yes". Ouch! Or, looking at the big picture, should the population of humans be culled to save the biosphere?

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Spiritual Dimension, Gods and Values

Technology of the Spiritual Dimension

Discovering the technology of the physical dimension started with little understanding and many widely diverging opinions. Varied opinions enable complex, comprehensive, resilient and adaptive evolution of technology understanding. Similarly, variety in species has allowed their complex and adaptive evolution.

Understanding of the spiritual dimension is at an early stage. It displays many widely different opinions. Common understandings of the spiritual dimension are emerging as opinions are exchanged and modified and influenced by the increasing level of understanding of technology of the physical dimension.

Gods and Goddesses

God occurs in many spiritual systems. Defining characteristic dimensions include:

a general spirit <-----------> single or particular spirit/power

part of this existence <---------> not part of this existence

equal in this world <----------> unequal (bigger and better)

But today the "g"word so loaded with prejudice and abuse that it has lost its sense. Astraea therefore must put aside the idea of god and approach spirituality without god.

Spirituality without god

Consider the following:

This rationalisation of unsustainable behaviour is an issue.

Living without god

With god, god may be blamed as the higher power; "the one that made me do it".

Responsibility is the price of power.

Responsibility is personal.

Without god, but with knowledge and an understanding of our physical environment (resources, demographics, technology etc) it appears that self-motivation is sufficient to satisfy needs and maintain the ever evolving balance of existence.

Without god, we have ourselves to blame for the choices made. Without god, actions are all personal (not withstanding one's circumstances). No blame may be attached to another power. (If existence is an accident, god id not needed.)

If motivation is from one's self then actions are immediately satisfying - actions reflect personal motives. Self-actualisation is attained.

It does not matter whether or not god exists or one believes in god, provided common values exist among individuals. It is inappropriate to presume values are "right" because of a belief in god. God is not a value.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Planet Management

Introduction - sustainable economics in a nutshell.

The basic ingredients of existence are space, time, matter and energy. Space and time provide a reference for matter and energy, which are transferable through space and time. (see the accident)

Technology, knowhow or understanding, of these elements of existence and their derivatives, is a secondary resource. Human technology is expanding in depth, breadth and coverage (i.e. more available). (Note that other species have technology and can transfer it. For example bees technology for building hives is shared by bee communities.) Technology shared by other species is relatively constant. Technology shared by humans is expanding and may be used to satisfy expanding demands for material and spiritual wealth if managed appropriately.

Material resources are broadly either renewable or not, within relevant time frames.

Energy, the principal currency of change in the biosphere and therefore a critical resource, must be managed with utmost care. Energy comes in to the biosphere as heat and light energy from the sun, is stored (in plant and plant derivatives like coal, oil and gas) and leaves the biosphere when radiated or released from conversion of materials (including consumption).

The principal aim of resource management is to balance consumption with production. This is not achieved now.

In order to manage resources efficiently, resources, particularly, time and energy must be priced properly.

Current benchmarks for time include interest rates and this is generally efficient. Benchmarks for energy price include prices of various fuels. Importantly the price of energy should include the cost of pollution - this can only happen if there is a requirement to clean up the pollution immediately ie any production or consumption of energy must be a closed system. (Similarly, other production systems should be required to be self contained, eg cosmetics, water, fertiliser.)


This is a choice for species/society/community to make.

If society wants pollution (and its consequences) then the pricing is OK.

Otherwise humans/society/community must change consumption habits. Humans, being rational, will volunteer the changes and compromises if it understands the situation created by the impact of humans. It will understand the situation if information is always in good faith and relatively complete and available (e.g. consumption of junk food discloses the impact on the food web).

Resource Allocation: Need and Greed

Planet resources are limited. That is, demand is greater than supply. This overconsumption occurs at many levels of organisation, most importantly biosphere, ecosystem and species level.

These resources are

(Depending on interpretation, these will also include social power, economic power, recognition, etc.)

Humanity continues a perennial debate about how to allocate resources. With other species the allocation of resources is easier to analyse and predict, largely because of the low level of need for material or spiritual wealth, and the relative absence of greed. Their societies are balanced and in harmony with nature. The allocation of resources by humanity is more complex than with other species because of its more sophisticated mind/brain. Resource allocation systems at social levels may be described in terms of politics and economics.

Humanity has evolveed with the mindset of insufficiency of resources. It has operated as if: there's not enough, more is better, and that's just how it is. But in the last half of the 20th century the rules changed and humanity is now adapting. There is enough to go around and satisfy need for food, material and spiritual wealth for all life. The principal economic change that this creates is that values change to recognise that change is part of life, but continual growth is unattractive. (If a human didn't stop growing it would be several metres high by age 70.) Spiritual wealth can only be achieved with nature - no nature, no spirit, no feel good inside.

Economic System or Ecosystem?

Historically resource allocation has been based on the premise that humanity is insulated from the rest of the biosphere. Recognition of the limits of natural systems and the interdependencies between nature and human produced systems, is now forcing economists to price natural resources far higher reflecting scarcity in the biosphere. Human made capital is relatively less valuable. This is now being reflected in market prices (eg carbon credits).

Market prices of natural and human built capital must adjust rapidly if the biosphere is to survive.

The principal area of change will be in pricing pollution, which has hitherto been considered to be free because Earth could recycle it. This is not the case. Earth’s biosphere (an accident of time) remains a delicate balance. The violent change in the biosphere instigated by humanity will cause equally violent repurcussions. Working for a soft landing is the best that might be done though a crash may appear to be inevitable.

A sustainable system that prices natural resources and pollution properly should price natural resources and pollution such that

This is unlikely to happen soon, unless consumers change behaviour. Humanity must change its consumption patterns to be based on a cooperative approach to resource management, rather than a competitive approach. In body, mind and soul we are being more modest. This is being driven by consumer. Consumers decide what products are avialable, how they get to us, how they're regulated, and how much they cost. We vote with our wallets.

As we obtain/provide information on a product's life cycle our decisions are becoming more sophisticated.


Pencil - 100% wood (ie lead and casing) chopped from sustainable managed mixed forest or non-GM species, processed in zero pollution factory using energy produced from the forest resources, 100% biodegradeable.

Pencil - wood, lead (toxic, harmful if swallowed, dangerous in food web, dispose of carefully), manufactured in factory power on fossil fuels and emitting over 250 "Standard Pollution Units" per pencil).

Changes in behaviour would reflect values that appreciate resource scarcity in the biosphere.

Skip to Planet Management Objectives or read on to a note on interest rates.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


The World of Money:
a note on interest rates and the value of time

Interest rates measure the cost of resources over time. (If time is not valuable, interest rates are zero.)

The interest rate reflects the opportunity cost/value of a resource. It is dependent on the expected change in value of a resource (expected return), the probability of that change in value occurring (risk) and the length of time over which this change is to be measured (time). (The most efficient return for a market appears to be 10% to 15% annually at moderate risk (risk free is around 2 to 6% per year).

The resources of Earth will grow at a far slower rate than this. A whale population may grow at only 5% per year. There is no commercial return on this investment, unless the whale is valued more highly.

Interest rates are a tool for using money as a conduit for transferring material wealth (economic value) over time.


Person A has assets today, but does not need them. Person 1 does not have enough assets. Person 1 uses person A's assets for a while to make more assets for their own use, by engaging assets in productive enterprise. And then later Person 1 gives back the assets, plus a bit more. The difference between what Person A gives and what Person 1 returns is the interest rate. It is normally positive and accounts for inflation, the risk of not getting the assets back and the cost of administering the transaction.

Information technology will reduce risks of lending/sharing assets back because:

Opportunity cost/value

The opportunity cost/value refers to the potential (or missed) value of an asset or activity.


The benefit of not going to school may be considered to be saving the cost of school and income earned while not at school.

The (opportunity) cost of not going to school may be considered the potential value of going to school. Not getting the education means not having the opportunity to get a valuable job which would generate a certain income.

Thus not going to school may be considered to be more costly than going to school even though, at the time of going to school, costs are higher. The future marginally higher income is considered to be greater compensation.


A 2 hour commute not only incurs the cost of travel, but there is a lost opportunity of doing something else which has value e.g. sleeping in, working, playing. It may be preferable therefore to work close to home for less pay, than far from home for more pay.


Expected return and risk

Other resources relevant to money and finance.

Some learning resources.

Various data and info resources on GRI Equity.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Objectives for Planet Management

The resources of the biosphere are required for life to exist. They are global. Many important ones are not location specific. Global management is necessary. The return on natural resources may be low, but their preservation and nurturing is necessary. Global management implemented on a local scale is necessary because our society is community based and common, enlightened ethics must be applied.

Start first with the most limited resources:

  the ozone layer

  the oceans and their species



  arable land



Because the task is so extensive global self-management according to a value system based on cooperation rather than competition is required. Benchmarks such as quotas, harvest techniques, regeneration targets etc may be shared globally.

Biosphere management requires:

  nature comes first (before humans)

  managing globally, using feedback, monitoring and controlled experiments. Managing across ecosystems, landscapes, and water systems.

  managing for an ecological time scale (measured in generations at least)

  nurturing biosystems

  provision of sustainable economic communities for humans

  developing cooperative institutional arrangements

  providing information to promote individual commitment and involvement and allow community decision making

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Human Management Systems

Market for Values

A market for values appears necessary because the interdependencies of human individuals requires the species to form communities. Communities are defined by the common code of conduct observed by those in the community. This code is derived from the values of the individuals in the community.

A natural system operates on complex systems of demand and supply to allocate and process resources. Humanity attempts to provide a market for values by development of economic and political systems/institutions.

Human Resource Allocation Systems: Politics and Economics

The spectrum of opinions on how to allocate resources among humans rests on two philosophies, whether resources should be equally shared or unequally earned. Implementation of both systems has required compromises.

As a group humanity is better off if unequal earnings are a direct function of competence and effort. If basic resources, especially education and opportunity, are equally available then differences in output are a direct function of differences in effort and choice. The physical profile of humans is broadly similar across individuals and potential competence is broadly similar. Thus, it appears that given similar opportunity and resources, that potential output is similar. If motivation is also similar, then productivity between individuals should also be similar.

Allocation decisions must be met less through competition and more by cooperation. Competition is important to ensure that individuals are competent to do a job; fitness for purpose should be ensured. If an individual is to take on significant responsibility (eg a nation's president) they should have a minimum set of skills and experience and appropriate commitment.

Market Economics and Politics

Economics is an attempt to quantify interpretation of human behaviour.

It is a reflection of human needs/wants. A market economy (capitalism) is democracy in economics - one uses money to vote for preferences. The only reason not to advocate capitalism is that individuals start off with different amounts of money. (Democracy does not give different quantities of votes to individuals based on personal differences (e.g. education, intellect, strength, agility etc). Those with advantages might attempt to buy votes with advertising, pay-offs, public appearances and so on, and thus have a greater influence on political events.

A market economy for assets provides a mechanism to satisfy sophisticated and dynamic needs (including values). Democracy provides a mechanism to satisfy community values (i.e. everyone in the commmunity has the same voting power).

A market economy provides a way to impartially benchmark performance. It allows the species to engage in another form of evolutionary competition. Competition provides a (not the) motivation to do; to do anything more than what is instinctive. Competition for food demands that individuials fight for survival. In a local environment in which basic needs appear to be satisfied, the market economy provides the mechanism for competition for resources to provide material and spiritual wealth.

Technology provides humans with the ability to mobilise resources to satisfy the survival needs of all species, but does not provide the will or motivation. Humanity can only achieve this if individuals in control of resources decide to make this choice.

Democracy (or a vote market) provides another market for values. But note that individuals do not vote for a set of objectives and principles based on their values, they vote for an individual who is supposed to represent their values. An individual is elected to "carry out the will of the people".

Democracy is a way of achieving the code of conduct without resorting to destructive behaviour (e.g. killing competitors). It is rarely used as it is defined to be used. Look for example, to the traditional family; while there is likely to be a minimum age at which one's opinion may be voiced, there is often a hierarchy of "voting", for example by age, or income, or experience, or education etc. It is rarely a one voice, one vote system.

Democracy's strength lies in the fact that everyone has a say, an equal say. It keeps those with power, responsible. Or should. If it does not, it is all too easy to resort to destructive behaviour (vandalism, public disturbance). Perhaps this is appropriate. Reflecting on the family example, a parent knows that it is physical abuse to use more force on a child than the child can return (under any circumstances). It is necessary to listen in good faith, for both child and parent. Perhaps the noosphere will provide the means to allow individuals to change community values more quickly and less violently.

If money and votes don’t work, humans invariably have resorted to destructive behaviour (military spending, the bomb).

A global market for votes is increasingly necessary because 80% of the human population consumes only 20% of the resources. The minority consuming the bulk of resources is facing problems of abundance (e.g. waste remediation) and the anger of the minority at inequality is becoming global.

For example:

Global warming is occurring. It is a fact acknowledged by all participants in the debate.

A principal cause is pollution derived from energy production/consumption sourced from fossil fuels. An agreement was made in Kyoto in 1995 to reduce this pollution. Some communities want to change the agreement and maintain their level of pollution in exchange for paying for pollution to be cleaned up in their own and others' communities. Other communities say that this is not in the spirit of the Kyoto agreement and is not a realistic solution to the destruction of the biosphere - the matter should be dealt with in a precautionary manner rather than a permissive manner.

We shall see if the noosphere can sway opinion in the communities that currently want to pollute. Whether media and internet communication will encourage individuals to modify behaviour, because individuals find out that they are directly responsible. It is very difficult. It rests on the ability of humans, individually and collectively, to do the right thing the right way. It is a function of human nature and humanity's consequential values and behaviour.

Will humanity, knowing the consequences of its actions, continue to be self destructive, not only at a species level, but also at an individual level? Will humanity knowingly foul its own drinking water? Public disturbance by individuals seeking to change behaviour (e.g. vandalism around international discussions at Geneva and The Hague in late 2000) does not honour the spirit of communal behaviour. However, it is a damning reflection on the lack of responsibility observed by those in power (who supposedly accepted the responsibilities), that individuals resort to destructive behaviour as a method of communication. A lack of compromise and cooperation naturally results in beligerent competition for resources.

Market Economics


Global Issues

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Global Politics

Global politics are required because global management of resources is necessary. It is necessary to agree a way of sharing resources globally. This has historically been more by competition (i.e. destruction of the "enemy") rather than cooperation.

National Politics

Differences of opinion are relatively slight within the framework of national politics. Elections in developed economies show general consensus of opinion e.g. few differences between electoral propositions, 50/50 voting.

National self-management will be made possible by technology allowing broad rapid information distribution and feedback. Political institutions will become more administrative because policy may be developed on a more popular basis (voluntary frequent voting ). Public interest polling may be used as an intermediate step to gauge the views of people.

National politics are not focussed on community issues but on national resource management and international interdependencies. Private issues are increasingly being removed from national politics, while public issues demand more attention. Individuals are increasingly prepared to respect differences of other individuals, provided these differences do not impact the public domain. (What one's neighbour does at home is private, until it affects public affairs. For example, domestic pollution is acceptable; if pollution enters the public domain by for example, air or water or dumping, then the values of the public community dictate whether or not it is acceptable. Similarly, pollution in a nation only becomes an issue for the global community when it spreads outside the nation's borders, e.g. acid rain, ozone depletion.)

National leaders are expected to have a minimum of ethics, skills and experience and they should exercise due care in executing their responsibilities. They should get on with the job in the best possible way (do the right thing the right way). A requirement for self-management in good faith will become a minimum expectation, in all activities, especially national administration. Performance auditing will become more rigourous, accessible and cheaper as information and communication technology develops. This will encourage individuals to focus on administration rather than seeking and accumulating political power.

There will be no nations if there is no biosphere. Many individuals sacrifice attention to personal or national agendas to raise their nation’s awareness of global responsibilities. Humans at all levels need to correct the imbalances inflicted on earth by human activity. Thus the importance of global politics increasingly overshadows that of national issues.

Global Politics

How global management should be effected is far more complex than anything achieved by human society so far.

Informed people are more concerned with global self management than national politics because they know that global resource management is failing miserably, while issues of national management are broadly agreed.

Technology will be used to facilitate self-management at all levels of society from individual to global, by provision of adequate information and education. The emergence of the noosphere makes it possible to approach global management. However, the noosphere is still an emerging phenomenon, so its usefulness is now being developed and tested.

The direct implication of global management is a global president, according to humanity's seemingly preferred socio-political systems. However, it would be irresponsible to offer such responsibilities to an individual and irresponsible for an individual to take on such a responsibility. Far more likely is a forum for consensus building. There are likely to be institutions providing infrastructure to do this. And the noosphere is likely to be the forum, or a large part of it. In fact, since the first edition of this book, we have noticed forums for concensus building emerging, like web based opinion organisation (www.moveon.org), or public interest polling initiatives.

Because there will be no global president, but there are global issues of greater importance and urgency than national ones (for individual nations), Humanity must improve self management of the species now, beginning through institutions available eg UN, EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, WTO, WSF.

Do it fast. Do it smart. Do it right. "Just do it!"

Market Economics


Global Issues

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Complex Issues

There are highly emotive issues of resource allocation which have economic and political implications. They are highly complex. There is no set of rules to make decisions. The approach to solving them must be flexible and rigorous. Critical thinking should be applied.

The one rule is:

"do the right thing the right way"

It is certain that humans individually and in groups knows whether behaviour is right or not. Even if well intentioned, the means does not justify the ends, if the means are not in good faith and concordant with the ends. All too often history has proved the fallacy of ignoring innovation or differences for the sake of expediency, when expediency has not been required.

The best decisions will be made based on the best available information, the fairest interpretation and fairest approach. In critical situations caution will prevail over permissiveness.

Global Decisions

Here below are some issues to illustrate the complexity of global decisions that are required to be made.

Food Production Systems

While many people in developed economies throw away food daily most people in the world survive on minimal nutrition. And food production has become dislocated from natural systems so that it relies on chemicals, fossil fuels and forest clearance to produce required foods. Both problems may be solved quickly.

Food production using a modern organic system produces high yields (80% of intensive chemical farming yields) and uses a small fraction of the energy and chemical inputs. Read "Playing God in the Garden" to see a colourful picture - a "McDonalds potato farmer sprays mineral oil derived fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide 15 times in a season, variable costs are $ 1,965 per acre for a revenue of $ 1,980 per acre!; the organic farmer may apply green or brown natural manure once and incur variable costs of $ 500 per acre for a revenue of $ 3,000 per acre. Organic systems are sustainable and may be implemented on small or large scale in various climates.

Energy Consumption - Fuel and Energy Tax

Economies rely upon the consumption of energy which is currently taken from fossil fuel resources. The cost of pollution from acquisition and consumption of these resources is not accounted for. Therefore consumption is far higher than it would be if prices where increased pay for cleanup. The opportunity cost of not being able to replace fossil fuels is completely ignored!

Taxes are applied increasingly to provide for the cost of cleanup although "pollution taxes" are still inadequate and often tax revenues are spent in areas different to those for which they are charged. Carbon credit markets are now being used as a method of allowing pollution pricing.

Sustainable alternatives are available, the simplest perhaps being the use of vegetable oils in diesel engines - growth of the vegetables sequesters carbon dioxide, and they are renewable - an easy and low cost alternative which may be adopted immediately.

Transport and Travel

Transport of people and goods consume a significant amount of energy. The real cost of energy is far greater than the dollar value because the pollution is not costed nor is the depreciation of energy inventory properly valued (eg mineral reserves). Poor quality information results in suboptimal resource allocation.

Transport and travel is fun but not necessary, especially if production and consumption are local. If production and consumption are localised at the community level transport costs are greatly reduced. However, production today is only affordable if it is done on a high volume basis, which tends to be centralised (not local); craft production is uneconomic. This may change as technology grows, spreads and becomes cheaper. Give it away on the internet!

Cosmetics, Drugs and Medicine

A significant but often ignored source of pollution is medicine - preventative, curative, cosmetic and recreational. We group these together because of the similarities between the operations of these industries.

Some of the pollution includes: chemical wastes, destruction of natural remedies, disinformation and misinformation, conflicts of policy, animal torture and so on.

War and Crime:
conflict and punichment or prevention and rehabilitation


For teh time being we need a guardian function in our social web. The guardian monitors the compliance with public/common laws. And increasingly intends to help people perform better, rather than punish people. Rehabilitation is far more resource efficient that punishment and incarceration. Even in the case of hardened offenders, leading criminla psychiatrists would prefer to create an positive environment and educate these people for normal life, despite the seeming impossibility of reform. Education is important.

Military Spending

Defense and offense have always been core to any beings in nature. In the case of humanity, huge resources have been committed to military spending. Decisions on military consumption by nations is tied up in economics and politics. However, it is quite clear that humanity does not relish killing and would rather be engaging in other sport, if it could. Even hardened soldiers and meat processing slaughterers will agree that it takes mental fortitude to kill at close range. And all societies recognise that murder is unacceptable.

Killing has been a natural consequence of evolution and limited resources. However, there now exists the technology to remove the need for killing. There will be a need for policing at all levels until the noosphere is a more integral and active part of existence. In the meantime, national military budgets should be managed at a global level, since there is no need to fight. Nations would have armies and military assets managed and owned by, say, the UN. There would be a global deterrent against military aggression. National security would be satisfied. Domestic policing would be a national prerogative.

The savings would allow resources to be committed to bringing the biosphere back into balance.

The Bomb

In the 1950s a fear of nuclear bombs emerged among people, especially richer people and nations.

Today it is not such an issue. It has been an issue for so long that the shock has dulled and other pressing issues such as the destruction of the protective ozone layer of the biosphere are more urgent and important.

The bomb is still there. It is used (as in tests by France). It is more widely spread. It is now in the hands of dictators as well as government institutions.

The Doomsday Device

A nuclear deterrent of awful proportions. Automatic nuclear retaliation to invasion which may not be disabled, ie there is no human intervention - you can not change your mind. There is no override because it is only a deterrent if retaliation is 100% ensured. Thank you Dr Strangelove.

It would be preferred not to have nuclear weapons available at all.

At first all military assets will be owned and allocated by a common administration, such as the United Nations. Therefore military engagement would be only after global consensus. Military aresenals will be allowed to wither as their usefulness declines. Much has been said about the financial benefits to a few of having wars ongoing. These must be recognised and a general ethical policy of non-violence recognised.

Private vs Public Domain

This is one of the thorniest issues.  We learn to love ourselves from youth.  We are given a personal name in many cultures which is used to distinguish us from all else (as opposed to include as part of the whole system as in some natural cultures).  Yet we know that inherently we can own nothing.  Even the richest, most powerful people wake up to the realisation during their lives that they can not take it all with them - Carnegie the steel baron tried to give it all away and Gates has established one of the largest charitable foundations.  It is usually at the edge of ownership that the tension is highest.  Traditionally this has been land, rivers and beaches.  If you own a beach you value the privacy.  However, many would say that beaches are for the people!  In fact that develi's advocate walking across it may tell you it is public property and it is appropriate for anyone to enjoy it.  That person, however, will value private property - at the most basic level they wish to keep their name.  And generally they would be shocked if you showed up on their porch one day demanding access to their balcony or garden!  We will retain our possessiveness in this world of inequality and lack of respect for others, but it may become a non-issue in an enlightened world.

In practical terms today we must recognise the public nature of natural assets like wind, air and water.  Without shared responsibility they will be destroyed by us. And today a most pressing concern is the imprisionment of natural technology - the attempts made by organisations to control the use of DNA and DNA containing organisms.  One can sympathise with the logical legal mind that extrapolates ownership of one's name to the the ownership of air and DNA.  But is is misguided and based on false base premise that we can own anything on earth over and above nature's will.

The answer is no doubt freedom of information, shared responsibility for the biosphere, open technology culture, combined with self-restraint over intruding on others' space - be they people or other habitats.  But getting there is a challenging process which involves a choice by each person until it becomes natural behaviour again.

Rich vs Poor, North versus South

It is an accepted generalisation that the wealth of developed nations has in the past and is now made possible by the provision of resources from developing nations. This may be fuel, mineral or labour resources. Today the wealthy wear clothes made by low waged people in emerging markets, they conceive food manufactured products made by low waged people. In return they offer technology.

As technology spreads, developing countries will soon realise that they have the resources to add value to their resources themselves. Political maturity will be encouraged by freer information flows (as demonstrated throughout the world and through the history of humanity. As these countries increase their industrial and economic infrastructure there will be far less that they need from developed nations. Their bargaining power will grow rapidly, while that of developed nations will not. Developed countries' exports of commodities will drop and value added product will become the rule.

This global exchange of value is so complex. The world of money helps keep track of what's going on. And new barter and community exchange systems are enhancing the matrix.

Market Economics


Global Issues

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?


Competition, Cooperation, Pay

Cooperative resource management requires self management at many levels: species, global, national, community etc. It recognises the interdependencies of systems.


Do you do what you do
because you have to or
because you want to?

What is it that you want? How much is enough?

Is it money and the things it can buy? Is it power and the things it can buy? And are you happy to kill to get it? Do you use a car? Everyone should answer yes to these questions!

Destruction of the biosphere (destruction of life as we know it) is directly caused by burning fossil fuels (including in cars, trucks, planes etc.) But we, as individuals, do this. And many other destructive things besides, such as: using detergents (inc. shampoos etc) that pollute water, using unnecessary packaging (plastic bags etc)*, leave electrical appliances on but unused, using pesticide on crops* etc.

(* individuals demand packaging and pesticide use on crops, otherwise it would not be provided. If individuals change their behaviour, e.g. asking for and buying organic vegetables and reusing their own shopping bags etc, then pesticide use will decline and packaging will decrease.)

Convenience and economic constraints are used as the reasons for pollution, notwithstanding that economics has only begun to price pollution and are recognising the time value of reputation. Abundance has costs as well as scarcity - principally the costs of waste remediation. Even while pricing is inefficient ...

Know what you do.

If it must be done, do it with respect.

If you kill (a tree, a chicken, a human, an ecosystem, the biosphere) do it with respect.

Know yourself.


Is self management a possibility?

All current conventional systems, whether domestic, corporate or government rely on carrots and sticks, on pay and disciplinary procedures. It is possible to have a system in which pay is merely hygienic (it distributes resources rather than compensates players) and performance is merely driven by pride and passion. It might require self auditing to a code of conduct and monitoring by a third party. But given the technology available now and soon to be available it will soon be a privilege to work. Pay will always be enough.

How much is enough?

$500 per year for long hours of careful commitment making clothes or buildings in China.

$50,000 per year for a forest/conservation worker in USA.

$5,000,000 per year for running a major agriculture business in a developed market.


Considering pay

The idea that pay is a distribution of resources rather than compensation is interesting. It reflects the key function of financial/economic currency - to carry value. This barter function is the reason for the invention of money yet its been lost on many of us. It also reflects on the relative characteristics of compensation arrangements.

Question: Should a medical doctor get paid more than a janitor? Only if the janitor had the same opportunity, but chose not to make the effort (school, training, diligence).

Question: Can a janitor be as productive as a doctor? Apparently not. But, perhaps "yes", if high levels of care and technology are applied (eg the janitor that is responsible for robots cleaning 500 commercial units).

Question: Does competition select the best people for the job? Perhaps, but implementation (in a range of systems from centrally planned to free market economies) appears not to, because the criteria for selection are rarely developed to get the best people for the job and too often the job itself is dysfunctional.

A multi-millions dollar-a- year trader rarely has the fiduciary ethics and technical understanding to justify the resource commitment, even if the profits appear to be the most (in a short term). Consider the bankruptcy of Barings Bank and evidence suggesting that a very few traders consistently outperform the average market (read "The Story of Risk" by Bernstein).

Traders (bankers), doctors etc also demand more compensation because of their commitment of care and because the assets in their control are valued more. As care becomes a minimum requirement in all activities the premium for care will decline.

Competition for educational resources, which are apparently limited, is the principal method used to select doctors from those trying to become doctors. As technology becomes cheaper the opportunity to become a doctor will become more of a priviledge and doctors' earnings should become closer to that of janitors. As data collection and analysis becomes cheaper and faster, the earning power of traders will come more in to line with those of janitors.

The issue of pay in agriculture remains contentious. Although agriculture requires high commitments of time, technology and care and is exposed to relatively high natural and market risks, the return on assets is generally below a risk free rate (ie well below average). Pay is low. This will change as local food production becomes demanded and good food is prefered to industrial food.

The functional choice will be driven more by commitment and care and less by greed for money and power as technology becomes more widely spread.

Technology and Nature

There is a lot of information technology allowing transactions to be automated and open market auction prices to reflect far more information than they do today. When this technology is used in market economies, intermediaries will become unnecessary. Brokers will be computers, research analysts will be computers, bankers will be computers ... Production will be done by robots and administration by computers.

Thus, the demand for labour will decline and it will appear to be oversupplied. There will be an excess labour resource.

What will people do?

There is a lot of music out there and everyone wants to be a performer. The audence will be local communities or virtual communities (physically diverse, but immediately connected by information and communication infrastructure (the web, telecomms etc)).

People will:

Not drive to work. Grow a few vegetables. Go mountain climbing. Play a concerto. Write a software programme. Teach the children how to build a log cabin. Run a marathon. Make wine. Have a party. Whoops! Stop fantasising.

How to pay for this?

If communities are balanced, individuals will produce enough value (music, vegetables, houses, art, sport, computers etc, whatever they chose) to balance consumption. And, normal value exchange systems (like money) will operate, and far more efficiently. Efficient markets will be closer to a practical reality.

Will human individuals each have enough?

For the basics, it is possible today.

Current carrying capacity of Earth does not allow for more than 2 billion people to live in the manner of the average individual in a developed economy.

So, for additional wealth, how much stuff is enough? How many cars does a family need? How much animal does an individual want to eat? How many books can you read at once? Do you want to fly to the moon? Or just be able to fly to the moon? For what? If you are so inclined, recreational drugs and biotech will enable you to engineer paradise for yourself, though virtual. The opportunities are there. Enjoy your world. Its heaven, isn't it!?

It has been demonstrated that money does not buy happiness. Material wealth does not translate well into spiritual wealth.

If resources are shared, it is likely that the standard of living could be raised for all human individuals. For example, using a "computer" to provide access to a common store of music, video, literature, education etc would remove the need for billions of copies of music and video recordings, books, etc.

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?



The brain of the human world. The noosphere defines humanity's global consciousness. First defined by paleoentologist and jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in the early 1900s it has been developed and supported by great modern thinkers like VladimirVerdansky, Julian Huxley and Mikhail Gorbachev.

This is a phenomenon only in existence for a few decades at the most and really is only just emerging. Derived from the Greek for mind, noosphere is a phenomenon evolving rapidly and still without secure definition. However, the core ideas are understood and recognised. Advances in information and communication technology and infrastructure (especially the world-wide web of internet users) increasingly provides the ability for humans to communicate freely around the world almost instantaneously. This permanent, low cost communication network is allowing for the emergence of common global values and philosophies: a global mental awareness. The cost of the communication is affordable allowing an increasing proportion of the human population to participate in humanity's self determination.

The noosphere is a self-censoring environment where all ideas may be raised, but ideas based on fairness and truth are more likely to survive and grow because possession of economic or political wealth does not increase one's audience or credibility. Common sense takes hold more quickly.

It is not like a crowd, in which, like sheep, people follow any loud leader. Naturally advertising helps to attract participants to a community (e.g. a web portal) but communities only exist because individuals participate. It is not a situation of having to opt for a single provider. Because information is increasingly available and cheap, providers increasingly have to offer the best product at the best price and give away the information to allow consumers to judge performance against benchmarks (eg travel services sourced, screened and bought online).

Each individual, while being part of the whole, because of the increasing exposure to information, also increasingly recognises one's personal impact on earth. Increasingly individuals are faced with their personal responsibilities to shared objectives in all communities from personal to global to universal.

The noosphere may be described as the brain of the world. And, in time, its evolution may be the spirit of the world.

A good place to find more ideas on the noosphere is the internet (which yields the greatest wealth of information) and one of the first primers on the concept: "The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader" published by Routledge; the foreword is by Mikhail Gorbachev. On the web, try technoetic.com

Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?



Technology is know-how. It is not a physical entity. Technology may be transferred by education: teaching know how.

Technology is often used to refer to products. For example, "communication technology" may be used to refer to modern products used for communication such as a telephone or modem or pen. However, recognising technology as "know how" is critical to making it valuable. To teach an individual to fish is far more valuable than giving that person a fish. Giving a person a tool without showing them how to use it leaves the tool useless.

The rate of technology ("know how") accumulation increases as the amount of technology increase. The ability to transfer technology increases as the amount of technology in provider and recipient grows.

It appears that there is available sufficient technology in all dimensions of life, physical, mental and spiritual dimensions to do almost anything; from diving to the depths of the sea to exploring far reaches of space, from living in a desert to living in a jungle, from books to television, from rice to potatoes to wheat, from saving lives to taking lives, from living within the biosphere to living without the biosphere; to choose the future of life.

Basic Ingredients

The basic ingredients of existence are space, time, matter and energy. Space and time appear limited and out of human control. They provide a reference for matter and energy. Matter and energy appear to be transferable through space and time.

Theory Of Relativity

Space and time must coexist. They are the four dimensions of existence against which matter and energy are relatively measured. There is no absolute reference point for their measurement because there is no concept of non-existence. Because there is no reference point for existence in space and time (rather space and time are within existence) space and time may only be measured relatively. There is no absolute reference outside space and time.

Matter and energy also must coexist. The space time continuum provides a relative scale of reference for matter and energy.

Frontier science is proving the connection of the physical dimension to the spiritual dimension. Our reference point of proof is that at the quantum level energy and matter are indistinguishable. It is this level of understanding that the dilemas of physics and spirituality become one: energy is matter, space is time, being without being, "the tao of physics".

Basic Science

Technology development has generally followed the course of recognising patterns in nature and then using them to predict behaviour at different levels of organisztion: atomic behaviour, material behaviour, cell behaviour, individual behaviour, population behaviour, ecosystem behaviour etc. Physics, Chemistry , Biology are the sciences that form the basis of technology. They are useful for understanding and using their derivative technologies, but not essential.

Design Technology

Design technology is of particular importance in management systems. The fitness for purpose of a product, system or service is determined by its design. The means is as important as the ends.

Appropriate design is critical to managing interdependent functioning in complex systems. Inappropriate design will deplete resources.

Design is the activity that allows variety to flourish. And variety is the spice of life. Humans appear to demand variety and this mirrors the behaviour of nature, which also promotes variety for survival and development.

Historical Developments

Fire - controlled fire 1 million years ago

Wheel - 5500 to 3000 BC, with most guesses closer to a 4000 BC date

Iron - first signs of use of iron come from the Sumerians and the Egyptians, where around 4000 BC

Paper - produced as early as 3000 BC Egypt

Printing - Printing using a printing press dates back to the 15th century in Europe, although the technique have been developed and used earlier in China. An example is the Diamond Sutra of AD 868, a Buddhist scripture, which is the earliest known dated work of block printing.

Steam power - first steam device, the aeolipile, was invented by Heron of Alexandria, a Greek, in the 1st century AD, but used only as a toy. Denis Papin, a French physicist, built a working model of a steam engine after observing steam escaping from his pressure cooker in about 1679. Early industrial steam engines were designed by Thomas Savery (1698), Thomas Newcomen (1712), and James Watt (1769), each of whom added new refinements

Combustion engine - Francois Issac de Rivaz built the first internal-combustion engine in 1807. However his engine was impractical for many uses because it lacked power and relied upon a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. In 1858, Jean Lenoir invented the first practical internal-combustion engine. It relied upon coal gas that was sucked into the cylinder at the beginning of each stroke and then ignited to push the piston to the other end of the cylinder. This process was then repeated at the other end of the cylinder making the engine double-acting. In 1867, Nikolaus Otto built the first four-stroke internal-combustion engine. The diesel engine is a type of internal combustion engine; more specifically, a compression ignition engine, in which the fuel is ignited by the high temperature of a compressed gas, rather than a separate source of energy (such as a spark plug). It was invented and patented by Rudolf Diesel in 1892. Diesel intended the engine to use a variety of fuels including coal dust. He demonstrated it in the 1900 World's Fair using peanut oil.

Electricity - According to Thales of Miletus, writing circa 600 BC, electricity was known to the Ancient Greeks, who found that rubbing fur on various substances, such as amber, would cause a particular attraction between the two. The Greeks noted that the amber buttons could attract light objects such as hair, and that if they rubbed the amber for long enough, they could even get a spark to jump.

An object found in Iraq in 1938, dated to about 250 BC and called the Baghdad Battery, resembles an electrochemical cell and is believed by some to have been used for electroplating. There is no "firm" documentary evidence to indicate what the object was used for, though there are other anachronistic descriptions of electrical devices on Egyptian walls and in ancient writings.

In 1600 the English scientist William Gilbert returned to the subject in De Magnete, and coined the modern Latin word electricus from ???????? (elektron), the Greek word for amber, which soon gave rise to the English words electric and electricity. He was followed in 1660 by Otto von Guericke, who invented an early electrostatic generator. Other European pioneers were Robert Boyle, who stated in 1675 that electric attraction and repulsion can act across a vacuum; Stephen Gray, who in 1729 classified materials as conductors and insulators; and C. F. Du Fay, who first identified the two types of electric charge that would later be called positive and negative. The Leyden jar, a type of capacitor for storing electric charge in large quantities, was invented at Leyden University by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1745. William Watson, experimenting with the Leyden jar, discovered in 1747 that a discharge of static electricity was equivalent to an electric current.

In June, 1752, Benjamin Franklin promoted his investigations of electricity and theories through the famous, though extremely dangerous, experiment of flying a kite during a thunderstorm. Following these experiments he invented a lightning rod and established the link between lightning and electricity.

Radio - The theoretical basis of the propagation of electromagnetic waves was first described in 1873 by James Clerk Maxwell in his paper to the Royal Society A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field, which followed his work between 1861 and 1865.

It was Heinrich Rudolf Hertz who, between 1886 and 1888, first validated Maxwell's theory through experiment, demonstrating that radio radiation had all the properties of waves (now called Hertzian waves), and discovering that the electromagnetic equations could be reformulated into a partial differential equation called the wave equation.

The identity of the original inventor of radio, at the time called wireless telegraphy, is contentious. Claims have been made that Nathan Stubblefield invented radio before either Tesla or Marconi, but his device seems to have worked by induction transmission rather than radio transmission. In 1893 in St. Louis, Missouri, Nikola Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication.

Transistor - December 1947

Nuclear power (bomb) - 1945 (1955 )

Genetic cloning of mammals - 1996 (1963 fish, China)


More Technology

Below is a list of some of the technologies available to humans.

Many overlap. The web of understanding is wide and deep and long in space and time.



Food, nutrition.


Reproduction, genetic engineering

Chinese medicine, western medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture.



Communication & Information Technology

Language and translation.

Paper, writing, printing

Telephone, internet, satellite, GSM.

Radio, TV, satellite.

Computer, processor, storage.

Library, filing system, cataloguing, ISBN.

Domestic Technology

Construction, plumbing, space heating, space cooling.

Food, nutrition, food preparation.

Maintenance, cleaning.


Behaviour technology

Psychology, psychiatry.





Foreword * Introduction * Future of Life * The Biosphere * Human Impact * Human Behaviour * Planet Management * Where to now?



What The Future Holds?

you decide, this is life!

Any individual* has the intelligence to know and understand the situation facing life on earth (the biosphere) now. There is no adult that can claim ignorance as an excuse for overconsumption. Lack of alternatives used to be an acceptable excuse. But now, individuals merely choose not to care enough about the consequences of their overconsumption of planet resources, however serious (extinction of life in the universe).

(*any individual that may take the responsibility to bring up children, vote, drive a car, use a computer ...)

Having read through these pages discussing the astraean view of the world may leave you disenchanted. Often the stereotypical ethicist/environmentalist can appear miserable. And understandably so - they know the problems and that the chance of survival of life is less than certain.

But they also know that the opportunity for life to flourish remains.

The future is being determined by our collective choices. The choice of our future is for each individual to make. The thief only stops stealing if they decide that it is the right thing to do. Coercion consumes resources unnecessarily. The "prisoner's paradox has a solution: do it right because the chance of survival then exists; cheating removes any chance. A rational individual knows what is not the right thing to do in any situation. You decide.

Humanity faces a spectrum of choices. Realistically technology will lead somewhere between natural and virtual lifestyles.

There is sufficient understanding of how the biosphere works, how humans work (e.g. body, mind ...), and of technologies required to choose almost any type of future. It appears that there is a sufficient communication infrastructure (noosphere) to enable humanity as a species to choose a future for the biosphere - more than just humans: life itself. All humans know what is right and what is not, what supports life and what does not. Given appropriate information and acting in good faith, individuals know what the right course of action should be and how to take that course. Although compromise is invariably necessary at some point, individuals know what the right thing is and how to do it. Individuals and groups know how to do the right thing the right way.

Homo sapiens is a very adaptable life form. It can live in extremes of climate. It can endure physical, mental and spiritual pressures. It can change behaviour patterns quickly. It can live in a jungle or in a city. Whether humans choose to turn the biosphere in to a virtual reality or retain a more natural lifestyle, this ability to adapt will be tested in the coming generations. The next 30 years will test the resilience of the biosphere and all life herein.

In the balance, on one hand is the desire of humans to live with nature and on the other the desire to consume NOW.

Many of us may still tend to be careless consumers, pretending that alternatives are too unpalatable or uneconomical. Even having seen and recognised the scale of problems (e.g. capacity, human impact, pollution ...) and their ability to adapt, some individuals and groups think it is better to take a hedonistic approach: to consume as much as possible, as fast as possible before everything runs out. That behaviour suggests that it is better to kill the poor to make capacity for the rich.

As the balance tips away from nature, then a vicious circle of degradation of nature rapidly ensues and a hedonistic rush for survival will be the only chance for individual survival. A human made world (virtual reality) will be the only choice for existence for life. And it may not work. The biosphere may be destroyed before "Biosphere 3" is ready.)

There is certainly technology available to develop a comfortable, stimulating and rewarding natural lifestyle. This requires compromise, particularly from the rich. But it does not mean a step back.

Leaping Forward

In many ways adopting a sustainable lifestyle is a leap forward. It is the rich, powerful and well educated that are in the best position to make appropriate resource allocation decisions. It is these individuals that set the example. The richest may opt to acquire clean fuel transport, clean energy for domestic and commercial use, and benefit from clean air. It is the rich that can afford to use recycled materials and to set up the infrastructure to recycle and reuse materials, and benefit from cleaner countryside and towns and lower material costs. It is the rich that can afford to buy clean food (organic) and reduce packaging waste in their homes and workplace, and benefit from healthier and fuller lives. It is the rich that demand newer, smarter technologies, and benefit from spiritually fuller lives.

Individuals that behave appropriately are role models. Organisations that behave like this build goodwill. Rich countries that behave with pragmatic precaution are offered a greater role in world affairs by the global community. Countries, organisations or individuals that protect vested interests in spite of destruction of global resources will be encouraged to change by the global population of humans.

Global consumption is shifting from convenient solutions to appropriate, considerate solutions and everyone benefits. Trendsetters are young at heart, educated individuals that clearly understand the complex resource allocation issues on a local and global scale and have the enthusiasm to conserve, reuse, recycle etc.

Technology allowing cleaner, renewable energy is now commercial. Rapid adoption is reducing the disruption to the biosphere's elemental cycles. Technology allowing cheap and efficient communication globally is allowing efficient technology transfer and development (e.g. Mozilla, Open Office ...). A range of industrial, commercial and domestic technologies now allows more efficient use of resources and greater functionality.

Signs of The Future

We look for signs of movement to increasing demand for the more natural existence. National elections may reveal the emotional state of people. The change in behaviour of large companies reveals whether companies with market power will set an example or not by decreasing pollution, reducing wage inequality, providing truth in marketing etc. Changes in consumer behaviour may support Earth friendly technolgies, or not:

Moving with nature and toward sustainable consumption is where we want to go. We celebrate the differences of the world but respect the common laws of nature. With each other and with nature, we must live together.

you decide

what the future holds!


Big Picture Story

1: The Accident: Life
The Accident
Life on Earth
Laws of Nature

2: Future of Life:
Three Choices

The Three Choices
Virtual reality
Biosphere 2
3: The Biosphere
Water & Weather
Nature's Diversity
4: Human Impact on the Biosphere
Human Impact
Carrying Capacity of the Biosphere
5: Understanding Human Behaviour
Understanding Human Behaviour
The Meaning of Life
Humans: Different And The Same
Spiritual Dimension, Gods and Values
6: Planet Management
Management Systems
Market Economics
Global Politics
Complex issues 
Motivation and Pay

What Te Future Holds?
keep on smiling! 


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