Blog No 14. Destination 2050. Planetism: what is it?

December 21, 2012

By Peter Ellyard


A year ago I gave a talk at the Golden Plains Music Festival in a small town of Meredith, 100 kilometres west of Melbourne. It was attended by 10,000 Generation Ys,  almost all of them university undergraduates: three days of music with me standing on the stage on the Sunday morning of a long weekend giving a talk on the future.

         Among the things I said was:

  • Tribalism is first allegiance to tribe
  • Nationalism is first allegiance to nation
  • Planetism is first allegiance to planet

I then asked them to vote on which of these three words most approximated their viewpoint and raise their hand accordingly.  I was blown away by the result. Almost 10,000 hands were raised in support of planetism.  The other two alternatives received less than 10 votes each. Many of them told me afterwards that they had not heard the word before but they knew is expressed perfectly their world view. Many also said to me that it was nice to have a name to describe the way they looked at the world.

         I first used the word planetism in 1993.  A Chapter called ‘The Birth of Planetism’ was included in my 1998 book ‘Ideas for the New Millennium’  (Melbourne University Press) so I think I can claim some copyright for the word. This book is now out of print though copies – mostly of the 2001 second edition – are still available on the Internet. My subsequent books have drilled down more into the meaning of planetism which is now a set of values held by the booming tertiary educated middle class that will reach 4 million plus globally by 2030 and which is growing at the rate of the population of New York City every three months.

         Now others are using the term as well including some who are clearly followers of James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. I have no problems with others using this word but I want to ensure that those who are interested in the word know about the meaning I give to it. If they want to access this discussion they might want to read one of my more recent books – Designing 2050: pathways to sustainable prosperity on Spaceship Earth (2008) and Destination 2050 : a concepts bank and toolkit for future-makers (2012)

         For me Planetism is the result of a convergence of two sets of paradigm shifts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: 

  • From Modernism to Postmodernism to Planetism , and
  • From Tribalism to Nationalism to Planetism

My books describe these shifts in detail.

These transformations involve shifts in 10 core values as shown in the following table:









The Cowboy Culture/Modernism (1960)

The Spaceship Culture /Planetism (2020)

Priority to nation/tribe

Priority to planet





Humanity against nature

Humanity part of nature

Unsustainable production, consumption,

development, lifestyles

Sustainable production ,


development, lifestyles


Gender equality

Intercultural – interreligious intolerance/hostility

Intercultural -interreligious tolerance/harmony

Conflict resolution through confrontation/combat

Conflict resolution through cooperation/negotiation

Safekeeping through defence

Safekeeping through security


The terms ‘cowboy economy’ and ‘spaceship economy’ were first coined by Kenneth Boulding in his essay The Economics of the coming Spaceship Earth (1966) when he was influenced by the Apollo Project, as was Buckminster Fuller with his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969). Much of my work follows on from both of their significant contributions. I describe modernism as the paradigm of the cowboy, and planetism as the paradigm of the cosmonaut.

       I thought it appropriate for those who google the word planetism were introduced to my work as well as the work of others who use this term. As a futurist I coined this term because I believe will be used a great deal more in the future, to describe emerging values and  ethics. Planetism will also inform emerging global markets and shape the global economy in the 21st century.


21 December 2012

peter@preferredfutures .org


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