The blue marbles

Publish date 03-07-2022

by Sandro Calvani

In August 1972, I took part in a volunteer project in a village near Laisamis, in the Marsabit region of northern Kenya. Getting there from Nairobi took nine hours by car.

In the Consolata Missionary Home in Nairobi I found an issue of the New York Times (NYT) of April 2, 1972 presenting a groundbreaking report on the future of development, published by the Club of Rome in March 1972. Called The limits of growth , the report desired by Aurelio Peccei (1908-1984) launched a simple message: either civilization or unregulated growth must end, and soon.
Continued unregulated growth will deplete the world's minerals and flood the biosphere with fatal levels of pollution and conflict: "If current development trends continue unchanged, its limits will be reached within the next hundred years." At the center of the research was the vision of Peccei, a brilliant Turin business executive: the problems of humanity - environmental damage, poverty, endemic ill health, urban decay, crime and lack of global ethics - were to be seen as correlated between them in a holistic way. The NYT review, which I read while traveling in one of the poorest villages in the world (and which I found in recent days), struck that relationship with a drastic: «So the Earth is kaput? An empty and misleading work, with arbitrary conclusions that want to seem scientific. The authors put garbage in their calculations and more garbage came out of it. ' I had read the report before the summer, and was very impressed by the NYT's level of careless arrogance.

I told some nurse friends in the village of Tuuru about it. They replied: "One thing is certain: you and we can work hard to make a contribution to equitable development, or we can give a damn as that American newspaper suggests." The report then sold 30 million copies in more than 30 languages, making it the best-selling environmental book in human history and a true cornerstone of views on globalization.
On December 7, 1972, NASA released Blue Marble , an image of the Earth taken from space. It became one of the most reproduced images in history, which proved indisputably that that little blue dot was indeed very limited.
In March 2022, we are halfway through those 100 years of hope foreseen by the Report of the Club of Rome for the salvation of mankind, which lives on that little blue marble.

In 2019, I visited a Montessori school in Beijing. The children played on the floor with blue marbles. Each marble hit by another lost and left the game. When there was only one left, the children changed their game: they had to pull it carefully without ever letting it fall. "In this way they learn how precious a very scarce resource is", the teacher told me: "If there is only one, the only possible game is to keep it all together".

Sandro Calvani
NP March 2022

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