Ephemeralization

Buckminister Fuller wrote a book entitled Nine Chains to the moon back in 1938 in which he coined the term Ephemeralization. The word refers to the ability of people to use technological advances to continuously do more with less. Fuller’s vision was that ephemeralization will result in ever-increasing standards of living for an ever-growing population despite finite resources.

In the book he likens the idea to the movement of a ship through the water and notes that the optimal movement consists of minimizing the break, the forward movement of the bow, and maximizing the wake.

The basic premise he was putting forward is that science must, and would find more and more ways of increasing efficiency, thus offsetting the populations growth of the planet and the effects of man’s activity on the earth. In many ways that is happening, but now more than ever the pace needs to quicken. Global warming, a population out of control and dwindling oil supplies are just a few of the reasons the whole concept of ephemeralization needs to be revisited. There is much in Nine Chains to the Moon that is especially relevant today.

The title of the book, by the way, referred to the fact that the population of the Earth at that time was such that if each person alive were to stand on each others shoulders it would form a chain that would reach the Moon nine times over.

In this day and age of nay-sayers who call for us to do less in the face of decreasing resources, I am reminded of a quote I once read.

Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those busy doing it.

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