planet-earth-lowtouch-banner Kenneth E. Boulding () was a British economist, educator, systems scientist and interdisciplinary. “Spaceship Earth”: Boulding, Kenneth E.(). Period of local pollution. Period of global ruin of human sustainability. The capability of nature to clean up by. Abstract. The work of Kenneth Boulding is sometimes cited as being foundational to the understanding of how the economy interacts with the.

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Sythoff, Leyden and Oceana, Closed systems, in fact, are very rare in human experience, in fact almost by definition unknowable, for if there are genuinely closed systems around us, we have no way of getting information into them or out of them; and hence if they are really closed, we would be quite unaware of their existence.

Also inKenneth E. Some isolated primitive societies may have approximated to this, but even these had to take kenenth from the environment and give outputs to it. There may be some justice in this criticism, and my main excuse is that other writers have dealt adequately with the more immediate problems of deterioration in the quality of the environment.

The closed economy of the future might similarly be called kennehh ‘spaceman’ economy, in which the earth has become a single spaceship, without unlimited reservoirs of anything, either for extraction or for pollution, and in which, therefore, man must find his place in a cyclical ecological system which is capable of continuous reproduction of material form even though it cannot escape having inputs of energy.

Her research interests include ecosystem services, protected areas benefits, and the relations between nature conservation and human well-being.

The Ecological Economics of Boulding’s Spaceship Earth

I would argue strongly also that our obsession with production and consumption to the exclusion of the “state” aspects of human welfare distorts the process of technological change in a most undesirable way.

This idea that both production and consumption are bad things rather than good things is very strange to economists, who have been obsessed with tile income-flow concepts to the exclusion, almost, of capital-stock concepts.

Realizing the benefits of technology spillovers therefore also depends on an bouldiny and complementary role for government in supporting private sector initiatives in green innovation.


Here we have an interesting example of a system which seems to maintain itself by the self-generation of inputs, and in this sense is moving towards closure. The phrase was also popularized by Buckminster Fullerwho published a book in under the title of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

Deprivation of input of air, even for a few minutes, is fatal. The essential measure of the success of the economy is not production and consumption at all, but the nature, extent, quality, and complexity of the total capital stock, including in this the state of the human bodies and minds included in the system.

The quotation is from Section 8: If it depreciates rapidly, we go to a lot of concerts; if it depreciates slowly, we go to few. For example, in a survey of 36 global financial institutions by the Finance Initiative of the UN Environment Programme, 75 percent stated that they monitor environmental risks to transactions, and 42 percent accounted explicitly for such risks in their credit assessments. She harked back to images of ships: Given a capacity to draw upon inputs and to get rid of outputs, an open system of this kind can persist indefinitely.

Because of this capital stock of energy, we have been able to maintain an energy input into the system, particularly over the last two centuries, much larger than we would have been able to do with existing techniques if we had had to rely on the current input of available energy from the sun or the earth itself.

Otherwise there would be no demand for variety in food, for variety in scene, spadeship in travel, for variety in social contact, and so on.

Spaceship Earth Economy: Boulding’s lesson on sharing the planet (by Natalia Britto dos Santos)

If there are infinite reservoirs from which material can be obtained and into which effluvia can be deposited, then the throughput is at least a plausible measure of the success of the economy. Our success in dealing with the larger problems, however, is not unrelated to the development of skill bouldding the solution of the more immediate and perhaps less difficult problems. We now have spacesship ability and the responsibility to build new bridges of acceptance and co-operation between us, to create a better world for ourselves and our children as we continue our amazing journey aboard Spaceship Earth.


The gross national product is a rough measure of this total throughput. It may be complained that the considerations I have been putting forth relate only to the very sspaceship run, and they do not much concern our immediate problems.

Piloting “Spaceship Earth” into a Circular Economy – Artemis Water Strategy

Ecosystem degradation and depletion of natural resources are beginning to have far-reaching, bottom-line consequences. If we were to adopt in principle a law for tax penalties for social damages, with an apparatus for making assessments under it, a very large proportion of current pollution and deterioration of the environment would be prevented. This may sound like a rather modest optimism, but perhaps a modest optimism is better than no optimism at all.

There are certainly many examples of social systems and cultures which have lost knowledge, especially in transition from one generation to the next, and in which the culture has therefore degenerated. The shadow of the future spaceship, indeed, is already falling over our spendthrift merriment.

The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth

There are no inputs from outside and no outputs to the outside; indeed, there is no outside at all. In this view, consumption and production are always good the more the bestand success is measured by the amount of throughput of factors of production. These examples represent a promising start of a new sustainable trajectory for the global economy, but more widespread adoption of such initiatives by the private sector is needed.

The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.

In advanced societies this is supplemented very extensively by the use erth fossil fuels, which represent as it were a capital stock of stored-up sunshine. If the bread and beef above decks seem to grow scarce, we but open a hatch and there is a new supply, of which before we never dreamed.

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