The Dark Side of the Golden Rule

The Dark Side of the Golden Rule

As I learned it, the Golden Rule was ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ with the goal that such consciousness would lead to doing good, being good and using kindness, graciousness and gratitude as one’s guide. It is a noble ideal and worthy pursuit.

Unfortunately it is not always in the forefront of our brains, our motives or our actions. Maybe if we substituted a descriptor – such as race, religion, socio-economic group, political affiliation, species, community, country, or employment identity into the golden rule our public discourse would be more empathetic and effective.

Perhaps if we were more specific about what we were doing to others, we would be more cognizant of, responsive to and responsible for the outcomes.

I ask because a recent World Heath Organization (WHO) stated that 92% of the world’s population is breathing polluted air. Apparently we have subverted the Golden Rule to mean: pollute unto others (countries, people, places, businesses, species) as you would have them pollute unto you.

Welcome to the Dark Side. And what is so insidious about the path to the Dark Side is that the way is generally invisible to the individuals but the results are manifest. When we drive, we do not see the heat, the carbon dioxide, the particulates or any of the other chemical contaminates that mark our passage.

Air pollution from traffic is linked to childhood cancer; the children of women exposed to high levels of traffic pollution during pregnancy had a higher risk of developing cancer. The Royal Geographic Society found that cars and other vehicles were the main sources of air pollution in 95% of the cities that had air classified as unfit to breathe. That air pollution shortens the life span of 50,000 people per year in the UK, which results in 2818% more people dying than were killed in traffic accidents in 2013. In China, air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, and to 5.5 million premature deaths world wide in 2013. In India, airborne pollutants shorten life span by an average of 3.4 years – 6.3 years for those living Delhi. Other studies have shown that air pollution is associated with low birth weight, prematurity, neonatal death and decreased fertility in both males and females. One new study suggests a link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease. And while there is variation from year to year, the bottom line is that air pollution kills or contributes to death of as many, or more, people per year than all forms of cancer combined.

While I see all types of campaigns and treatments advertised to cure cancer, I have never seen one to end air pollution in our lifetime. We put traffic flow over air safety. We put moving cars ahead of moving people and thus design roads and parking areas for an assumed volume of traffic based on privately owned and operated cars rather than shared economy vehicles and public transportation.

Given the interplay of an aging population, increased urbanization, market forces, increasing preference for and reliability of technological capability as well as shifting priorities in personal economics, the ICE (internal combustion engine) will go away. Already the Germany’s Bundesrat has passed a resolution that bans the internal combustion engine as of 2030. And as more of us understand the connection between traffic pollution and health the ICE will melt even faster and urban design will focus on people first and cars second. After all, transportation and clean air should not be the antithesis of each other – the Golden Rule taught us that.

Tim – 2a174af131d9






Quartermaster’s Update from 4 September 2016

Comparing data from today with the 1st (2015) Quartermaster’s Report (QMR) published in the book “this Spaceship Earth” by David Houle and Tim Rumage.

The Quartermaster supervises, stores, and distributes supplies and provisions. The Quartermaster is also the one responsible for making sure equipment, materials, and systems are available and functioning. The purpose of the Quartermaster’s Report is to put forth the data that describes the status of the ship, in this case “This Spaceship Earth.” The reason for taking a planetary perspective is to realign our individual viewpoints and assumptions about resource quantity, quality, and demand with that of TSE’s current operational capability, capacity, and actual status. This is not about what is preferred or desired, but what is. Therefore, in the world of the Quartermaster, if a 16 oz. glass has 8 ounces of liquid, the glass is neither half full nor half empty – it simply has 8 ounces of liquid.



Human Population

2016 –                        7,448,116, 815 people

2015 QMR –   7,307,492,161

net increase     140,624,654


(the net increase is approximately the combined populations of the Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Mumbai, Beijing, New York City, and Calcutta metropolitan areas.)


Net population increase

2016 –            159 people/min

2015 QMR – 148 people/min

net increase      11 people/min


Food Waste

2016               1,600,000,000 tons

1st QMR         1,300,000,000 tons

net increase –  300,000,000 tons


It takes 250,000 billion liters (66,043 billion gallons) of water,

1.4 billion hectares (14 million sq. km. or 3.5 billion acres or 5.5 million sq. mi.) of land,

and 3.3 billion metric tonnes (3.6 US tons) of CO2 emissions to generate this food waste which has a global economic value of US$750, 000,000,000.




July 2016 was the hottest July ever recorded globally in 136 years of modern record keeping. July continued a streak of ten consecutive months (since October 2015) that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).”



Global Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions

from fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes


2014 –           35,900,000,000 tonnes*

2012 –           34,500,000,000 tonnes (data used for 1st QMR)

net increase     1,400,000,000 tonnes



Translation Equivalency – global anthropogenic CO2 emissions measured in units of 4 tonne Elephants launched into the air/second /year


2014 –            284 elephants/second

2012 –            273 elephants/second

net increase   11 elephants/second


Annual Average Atmospheric Concentrations of CO2

in parts per million (ppm)

2015 – 400.83 ppm

2014 – 398.61 ppm

2013 – 396.48 ppm

2012 – 393.82 ppm


preindustrial levels ~ 278 ppm

net increase ~122 ppm, ~ 143% increase in CO2 concentrations


Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier

2016 –               8 August

1st QMR –       13 August

net change –     5 days earlier

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Minimum safe date for balancing demand with resources and services is December 31st.

Earth Overshoot Day 2016









World’s Ecological Footprint rises to 1.6 Earths


2016 –            1.6 planets

1st QMR          1.56 planets

net increase      .04 planets


Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the renewable resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth 19.2 months to regenerate what we use in 12 months



Fish Stocks (overexploited/depleted/fully exploited)

2016 –           89.9%

1st QMR          87.0%

net increase     2.9%



Quartermaster’s Additional Considerations

Changes in Land Surface


In the past 30 years

115,000 sq. km (44,000 sq. miles) of land is now covered in water and

173,000 sq. km (67,000 sq. miles) of water has now become land.


The increase in land covered by water is due to sea level rise, the reservoirs that result from damming rivers, and the melt of glaciers thus turning them into lakes.


The two leading causes of increased land area are the drainage of lakes/inland seas and creation of artificial islands for real estate development and territorial claims.



Subsidence: The gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land


Due to over pumping of ground water, many coastal cities are subsiding (sinking) faster than sea level is rising.


Extinction Rate:

Extrapolating from the UN Environment Programme estimate, 54,750 – 73,000 species go extinct per year.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours.



Submitted by

Tim Rumage

Co-author, This Spaceship Earth


Chief Science Officer and Quartermaster – This Spaceship Earth


There are two questions you might consider as you review this update.

First – how well do your assumptions about each topic match the reality of the data?

Second – does the information reflect an outcome that you wish humanity to achieve?

Your reflection and your response to your answers of those two questions will determine your consciousness and participation in defining and creating our common future.

The Losses Unrecognized.

Toughie was found dead on 26 September 2016. His precise age is unknown. He was captured as an adult in 2005 while living in Panama. He spent his final years in a secure and protected location at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I have read that Toughie was handsome and really cool. His credits include the film, Racing Extinction (, and his portrait is included in the Photo Ark project


Toughie was a Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum). He was also the last known individual of his species. His death is an extinction event.

On 26 September 2016 the death of Toughie and the extinction of the Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog was just one of the estimated 150 – 200 species that goes extinct everyday.

To me, there are two questions immediately triggered by the numbers. First, do we – humans – believe that other species have the right to exist? And secondly, do we – as a species – act as if other living beings have the right to exist? We cannot say yes to the first question and no to the second and maintain the life support system on this planet that we need to survive and thrive. Nor can we place the burden and sole responsibility for species vitality on a small population of conservation biologist/ecologist and dedicated volunteers. We are all in this together.

In “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold wrote “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” The loss of 150 – 200 species per day would indicate (if not indict) that humanity is tinkering without intelligence. The “World Charter for Nature” adopted by the United Nations in 1982 ( )

provides 5 general principles by which ALL human conduct affecting Nature is to be guided and judged. The first principle is “Nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be impaired.”

The rate of climate change, sea level rise, the increasing number of extreme weather events, increasing exposure to hormone-mimics, habitat loss, land degradation, and pollution demonstrate our functional cumulative, collective and continuous disregard of Nature’s essential processes. Originally, we were creating these conditions without intent. Now it seems many happen as an ignorantia affectata,

or a willful ignorance. We choose not to know, or not think about it, or spend our time and effort trying to discredit the science, the facts or the obvious. Sometimes the rational is that the harm or side effects were unforeseen or unintended consequences; that there were no ‘bad guys.’

No matter what adjectives we would like to use, the reality is that there are effects and consequences with everything we do, so we should consider using a bit more precaution and intelligence in our tinkering. And while I can try to find solace in the conjecture that there were no ‘bad guys’ that begs the issue of the location and number of the good ones.


Passing the 400 ppm Milestone

We’ve done it. In 2016, the last place on earth to obtaining a reading of 440ppm (parts per million) of CO2 did so. That was Antarctica in May. And now, the month of September has topped 400ppm. That is significance as September is the month that has the lowest atmospheric CO2 levels.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere is not Wall Street. There is no way to put a positive spin on reaching and surpassing this milestone. It does serve to show that we are living in a changing, dynamic, planetary situation that has never existed in modern humanity’s time on Earth. This milestone should not only remind us that we live and work at a planetary scale, but that we need to change our consciousness so we can adapt our behavior to the reality that we live and operate at a planetary scale.

There is only one water, one hydrosphere. There is only one atmosphere. We are dependent upon an intrinsic set of biological, chemical and geophysical interactions that operate within a relatively narrow set of parameters. There is only one planet in the entire universe that we know can support our species without augmentation – and we are on it.

Planet Earth is our home – period.

Will we visit and potentially colonize other planets, undoubtedly. But we are not moving over 7.4 billion people to Mars no matter how well Matt Damon can grows potatoes. And 400ppm is not the place “to boldly go” because it is not a milestone, or a goal line or a breakthrough. It is a tipping point. Probably the inflection point, or the point at which fundamental changes have to be made so that the systems that are most conducive to our preferred quality of life can continue to operate.



My Apologies

Sorry that I have been absent from this site for so long.

David Houle and I finished and published “This Spaceship Earth” in December 2015 and then starting giving talks and publicizing the book. The response to both the book and the presentations was incredibly positive and invariably lead to the question – “So what can I do?” To help answer that question we formed a not-for-profit Foundation, had a website created ( ), established relationships with individuals and groups in colleges, communities and different countries, did some fundraising and created public installations to turn the words into actions. It has been my involvement in the start-up phase of these operations that have caused my neglect of this site. Fortunately there appears to be a growing rhythm and a flow to those endeavors so that I can now properly attend to this venue.