Category Archives: 10. spaceship earth: the world as a relationship

* summary & further research

Buckminster Fuller: Everything I know



Western science tends to conceive the world as separate from its storytelling; the observer severed from the observed. In Aboriginal “dreamtime” though, place is a story. Earth-dreaming as a relationship. Not as a disenchanted world that we merely exploit “out there”, but as a story still being told, that we are a part of.  Not as sole protagonists in a broken monologue, but as participants in an unfinished choreography, offering a sense of belonging.

This chapter zooms in also on the stature of environmental justice within international law and global politics. Who owns the earth? Who owns the air? Who owns the climate? Who owns outer space? A changing nature of law is redefining how forests, trees and even rivers (e.g. the Whangui river in New Zealand) attain legal status, but who will share these laws and does it take into account indigenous stewardship questioning legal ownership & property rights defined by other cultures in very different ways? Or can corporations like Bayer-Monsanto be held accountable for ecocide by the International Court of the Hague (e.g. 2017 Monsanto Tribunal for ecocide)?

Pollution and garbage have more rights than citizens as they don’t need a passport to cross national and geographical boundaries. Is not pollution also a commons? If we pollute rivers we pollute ourselves. Worldwide we produce 260 million tons of plastic each year, of which 10% ends up in the oceans. Between the coasts of California and Hawaii drifts a plastic patch twice the size of Texas, or nearly half the size of the amazon basin.

Is water a free and basic human right, or should all the water on the planet belong to major corporations and be treated as a product? According to Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe the former CEO and now Chairman of the largest food product manufacturer Nestlé, corporations should own every drop of water on the planet. The world that we share, the water, the forests, the atmosphere, the climate, as well as outer space (think the International Space Station), are part of the commons trust that has been overrun and plundered by corporate neo-liberalism set on a suicidal ecocide course. How can we mend our broken relationship with our biotope the world?



Richard Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth (1968)

Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)

T.J.Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (2016)

Eben Kirksey, Emergent Ecologies (2015)

Eben Kirksey on “Living with Parasites in Palo Verde National Park.” at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (2015)

Buckminster Fuller,Everything I Know’ series’ (1977)

Christopher Miles, Alternative 3 (1977)

Jeremy Rifkin, The empathic civilization | TED Talk (2010)

Richard Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth (1968)

Peter Barnes, Who Owns the Sky? Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism (2001)

Vandana Shiva: Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit (2002)

Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (2007)

Eric T. Freyfogle, The Land We Share: Private Property And The Common Good (2003) 

Maude Barlow, “Our Water Commons:  Toward a New Freshwater Narrative” [report] (2009)

José A. Rivera, Acequia Culture: Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest (1998)

Michael F. Brown, Who Owns Native Culture? (2004)

Cormac Cullinan: Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice. White River Junction, Vt,: Chelsea Green, 2011

Maude Barlow, Our Water Commons: Toward a New Freshwater Narrative (2009)

Fritjof Capra &Ugo Mattei: The Ecology of Law: Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community. Oakland, California: Berrett-Koehler, 2015

Crottorf Castle report of international retreat on the commons

Alain Lipietz’ essay on the commons  / on political ecology

Barcelona Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge

World Social Forum, Reclaim the Commons 

Commons Manifesto:  Strengthen the Commons. Now!   

David Martin:  Global Innovation Trust and heritable trusts for indigenous peoples

Maria Mies & Veronika Benholdt-Thomsen: Defending, Reclaiming and Reinventing the Commons



Transition Network

Water Retention Landscape 

Global Ecovillage Network 

Barcelona Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge

j. World Water Wars


Blue Gold – World Water Wars, USA
1975, 4 min 51 sec

A fragment of this great documentary on the available 3% freshwater worldwide and all problems associated with the use and abuse connected to this resource. This part shows what happened in Cochabamba, Bolivia, when the government gave up the water resources to a corporation who tried to force people to pay 33% of their salary just for access to drinking water. This decision was not accepted and the people rose to resistance and won.

l. Colores Acequia


New Mexico PBS USA
2009, 25 min 57 sec

For centuries, Native Americans of the arid Southwest used a system of ponds and gravity-fed ditches (acequias) to grow crops with the little water they had. When the Spanish arrived in 1598, they were quick to adopt this system, establishing a unique tradition of irrigation and agriculture.

o. How Rainwater Harvesting Created a River


Philadelphia, USA
1975, 2 min

The Alwar district of Rajasthan had become a desolate scene in the mid-1980s. A “dark zone”. And sand had replaced water and trees. Then a group of volunteers led by Rajendra Singh took the cue from an old man. They started making johads, earthen dams that impound rainwater. By the hundreds. The result was a miracle, a river, the Arvari. Today, the sands are clothed by wealth, water and trees. Rajendra Singh won the 2001 Magsaysay Award in recognition of his community leadership. See and experience this miracle in the video Arvari: A late twentieth century folk tale, produced by the Centre for Science and Environment.

k. Kamal Meattle, How To Grow Your Own Fresh Air



Kamal Meattle, TEDtalksDirector Long Beach, USA
2009, 3 min 50 sec

Researcher Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air. With its air-filtering plants and sustainable architecture, Kamal Meattle’s office park in New Delhi is a model of green business.

Kamal Meattle has a vision to reshape commercial buildings in India using principles of green architecture and sustainable upkeep (including an air-cleaning system that involves massive banks of plants instead of massive banks of HVAC equipment). He started the Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC-STIP), in New Delhi, in 1990 to provide ‘instant office’ space to technology companies. PBC-STIP’s website publishes its air quality index every day, and tracks its compliance to the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, a corporate-citizenship initiative.

i. Yogi Lives Without Food and Water


Reuters Video, India
1975, 1 min 08 sec

Prahlad Jani claimed he was surviving without food and water for the last 70 years. The Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences kept him under surveillance to conduct a study in order to expose the phenomenon behind his claim, concluding Jani was truthful. Neurophysician Sudhir Shah stated Jani’s survival was miraculous. Initial test reports confirmed Jani’s body had undergone a biological transformation due to yoga exercises. Doctors state there were no signs of fatigue or other symptoms of medical health problems. Not much was known about Jani’s background, since he left home at the age of seven and has been wandering through jungles ever since. The studying of Jani and the corresponding results led to a medical highlight in the world of science.

n. Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change


Zacharias Kunuk and DR. Ian Mauro
2011, 3 min 45 sec

Nunavut-based director Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner) and researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro (Seeds of Change) have teamed up with Inuit communities to document their knowledge and experience regarding climate change. This new documentary, the world’s first Inuktitut language film on the topic, takes the viewer ‘on the land’ with elders and hunters to explore the social and ecological impacts of a climate change on the Arctic. This unforgettable film helps us to appreciate Inuit culture and expertise regarding environmental change and indigenous ways of adapting to it.

Exploring centuries of Inuit knowledge, allowing the viewer to learn about climate change first-hand from Arctic residents themselves, the film portrays Inuit as experts regarding their land and wildlife and makes it clear that climate change is a human rights issue affecting this ingenious Indigenous culture.

r. Lynn Margulis, Interview


Rutgers University Television Network
2004, 26 min 57 sec 

In this interview with biologist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), conducted in 2004 by Jay A. Tischfield of the Department of Genetics at Rutgers University, she articulates the idea of symbionts, the basic entities of symbiogenesis. Her 1967 paper “On the Origin of Mitosing Cells” describes endosymbiosis, a whole new history of biology, and the focus of this field, which Margulis championed, is the evolution of symbiotic systems that generate holobionts rather than the gradual evolutionary mutation of individuating organisms. Take the human digestive system, which is key to our metabolism, for an example: it depends on bacteria that are separate organisms from us to function. On some level, an organism can only exist as a holobiont. In a concise conversation, Margulis speaks of some of those who developed the understanding of life as symbiogenesis and symbionticism, from Ivan Wallin to Konstantin Sergeevich Mereschkowski and from Boris Kozo-Polyansky to Liya Nikolaevna Khakhina. Being together precedes being.

The interview was made available online at

b. Superflex, Why We Flooded McDonald’s


Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
2015, 15 min 26 sec

Superflex’ starting point was to focus on the idea of the mass-production of food, and they felt that the most heavily branded fast food restaurant was McDonald’s. They built the restaurant from scratch, basing it on what a McDonald’s would have looked like in the 1980s, as they believed that this was perhaps the most iconic image of it. Every detail – down to the small boxes for Happy Meals – were handmade in a studio in Bangkok. The adding of water functioned as a melt-down of the restaurant but at the same time made the different things in it come to life: “All these dead objects start to become actors.” Moreover, the water also created limitations in the set, as it was not possible to undo – they could stop more water from coming in, but not reverse the consequences of the water that was already there.

The film is shot around 2008, where there were “a lot of post-apocalyptic scenarios going on.” The financial crisis, global warming and such took up a lot of space in the media, and Superflex wanted to make their own version of this “end-of-the-world” set-up “in a mild Scandinavian way, but still using some kind of global vocabulary – the raising of the water, the most famous fast-food chain.” Though the movie is heavy on the use of symbolism, the approach is also quite humorous: “It’s almost like slapstick.”