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“A veritable universal pledge of allegiance to this planet and to its peoples,” by Adlai E. Stevenson Ⅱ (9 July 1965)


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We travel together,
passengers on a little space-ship,
dependent upon its vulnerable reserves
of air and soil,
committed for our safety
to its security and peace,
preserved from annihilation
only by the care, the work,[1] Genesis 2:15 
and, I will say, the love we give
our fragile craft.
We cannot maintain it
half-fortunate, half-miserable,
half-confident, half-despairing,
half-free in a liberation of resources
undreamed of until this day,
half-slave to the ancient enemies of man.
No craft,
no crew,
can travel safely
with such vast contradictions.
On their resolution depends the survival of us all.

This is an excerpt from a speech given on 9 July 1965 by Adlai Ewing Stevenson Ⅱ (1900-1965), his final speech before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (The US ambassador to the UN passed away less than a week later in London on 14 July.) In 1971, the prominent environmental leader (and then executive director of Friends of the Earth) David Brower (1912-2000), described the quote as “A veritable universal pledge of allegiance to this planet and to its peoples” in his own speech, “What Organizations and Industry Should Do,” delivered at the First International Conference on Environmental Future, held in Finland from 27 June to 3 July 1971. The speech was published in the proceedings of the conference, The Environmental Future (ed. Nicholas Polunin, 1973), p. 478.

James MacGregor Palmer writes in “Spaceship Earth and the Alien Economy: More than a Metaphor,”

The first mention of Earth as a ship traveling through space appears way back in 1879 in Henry George’s book Progress and Poverty. The idea even makes an appearance in George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. But in 1965, four years after Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space and four years before Neil Armstrong became the first to walk on the moon, the image had a new resonance.

Buoyed by the cultural significance imbued upon it by the space age, the Spaceship Earth worldview gained further traction as the decade wore on. The year after Stevenson’s speech, the economist Kenneth E. Boulding released an essay entitled “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.” In 1968, the author R. Buckminster Fuller released his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Both helped popularize the idea.



1Genesis 2:15



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