In 1969, Richard Buckminster Fuller published his book Operation Manual to Spaceship Earth. It was at this moment that mankind landed on the moon and when it seemed like it would only be a matter of years before humans became a multi-planetary species. But it was also the moment when the fragility of spaceship earth found its visual expression in ‘Earthrise’, the picture taken from the moon by the crew of Apollo 8. Never before had people seen how vulnerable our existence actually is.
Fuller — already back then — understood that to keep our spaceship operating, it needs to be maintained.
Today, 50 years later, we have to conclude that maintenance has been insufficient, resulting in irreversible damage to our climate. To deal with that, and to avoid the situation from becoming worse, we need to take action. With an increasingly larger proportion of the global population living in cities and with building, energy production and transport being the largest source of emissions, cities are key to finding answers to that challenge and it is our task as urbanists to lead this process.
We do not have much time to do that and — to achieve this monumental task — we will need to rethink the city and how we reorganise our habitat in such a way that earth can remain our spaceship in the future.
In recent years, these strategic tasks have become increasingly important. Urbanism is not only about beauty or improvements to the quality of life of individual residents; urbanism is about changing the operation manual to spaceship earth as a whole.
by Markus Appenzeller