Project Management Institute

Project Earth

a look back from the future

February 1991

Frank W. King, Canada

This is the keynote address delivered by Mr. Frank W. King to open the PMI ’90 Seminar/Symposium at Calgary, Alberta. While it is a fictitious project, the message was so poignant as to generate positive reactions by many PMI members, two of whom have expressed their feelings; these are recorded as guest editorials in the PM NETwork Connection. (see page 42) We would be interested in your reactions to either the Showcase Projector the editorials, or both.

ANDROMEDA

In astronomy, Andromeda is a constellation in the northern sky, a vast star island containing 200 billion stars approximately 1,500,000 light years beyond our Milky Way. It is the most distant object visible to the naked eye.

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was an Ethiopian princess, daughter of King Cepheus and Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids (sea nymphs), the sea god Poseidon (Neptune), to avenge the insult, sent floods and a monster to ravage the Ethiopian coast. Advised by oracles that these ills would cease if the king would sacrifice his daughter to save the country, the king and queen had her bound to a rock on the coast for the monster to devour. Andromeda was rescued by Perseus (son of Zeus and Danae and slayer of the Gorgon Medusa), who killed the monster and subsequently married Andromeda. After her death, Andromeda was made a constellation in the heavens.

The legend is one of many on the theme of rescue of a princess from a dragon and was the precursor of St. George and the dragon.

Ask yourself this question—if the Earth had only ten years to live unless we changed the way we did things, what would you do differently?

To help each of you reach a personal decision I want to tell an intriguing story about the Planet Earth.

Our story begins in 1980 in London, where two rock stars from the stage show, “Time,” have been suddenly snatched from Earth and taken 2,000,000 light years to the centre of the universe—to the Constellation Andromeda. These two representatives of the people of Earth have been transported to Andromeda to be put on trial. They are expected to show Akash, “The Time Lord of the Universe,” why the Earth should be allowed to continue its existence, considering its record and now that Earthlings were exploring space.

At a public trial the record of the Earth is examined by the prosecutor for the universe.

Prosecutor:

Look at it! This planet is as you see it now.

Ever since they first began they've fought war after war.

Making bigger and bigger bombs to open wide Death's door.

It's hell on Earth!

Two great wars; perhaps a third.

They will never see eye to eye.

Civilized they say they've become and still the people die.

The universe, it does not wish you to bring your hypocrisy here.

But now you're walking on the moon, the threat is now a fear.

You've got suicide, war, starvation and pollution;

homicide, greed and lack of evolution.

You have every sin you could ever imagine—pain, strife, disease.

You've got all of these!

We've given you time to improve life for yourselves, but you don't seem to try.

Children starving east and west and all you do is sigh.

Now you're heading into space with morals that make me cry.

That's the prosecution's case, your excellency, —the Earth will have to die!

Lord Akash:

These facts do not inspire confidence do they?

Earthlings:

What on Earth are we to do?

All the mistakes we made must be faced today.

It's not easy knowing where to start.

While the world we love tears itself apart.

Time will teach us well.

Give us more time.

Are we too young to know or too old to change?

Lord Akash:

You must first identify the problem.

I will give you the key—and with this knowledge comes the responsibility for sharing it.

Throughout the universe there is order.

In the movement of planet—in nature-and in the functioning of the human mind.

Your life is an expression of your mind.

You are a creator of your own universe, for as a human being you are “free to will” whatever state of being you desire through the use of your thoughts and words and actions.

There is great power there.

It can be a blessing or a curse.

It's entirely up to you, for the quality of your life is brought about by the quality of your thinking.

Think about that!

Akash continues:

Thoughts produce actions.

Look at what you are thinking.

See the pettiness and the envy and the greed and the fear and all the other attitudes that cause you pain and discomfort.

Realize that the one thing you have control over is your attitude.

See the effect that it has on those around you.

Your words carry with them chain reactions like a stone that is thrown into a pond.

If your thinking is in order, your words will flow directly from the heart, creating ripples of love.

If you truly want to change the world, my friends, you must first change your thinking.

Reason is your greatest tool.

It creates an atmosphere of understanding which leads to caring.

Choose your words with care.

Go forth with love.

Earthlings:

It's in everyone of us to be wise.

Give us the time and we will improve by and by.

Akash:

But can we wait for you?

Dare we wait for you!

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And so the fate of the Earth is left hanging in the balance as the universe waits for a sure sign that change is possible. Akash decides to give the earth until the Year 2000 to prove that it can manage the greatest project in human history. The earth has only 20 years to save itself from destruction by the Lord of the Universe.

People in every country set out to gather facts which could be used to convince all the people that they must change the way things are on Earth.

A PROJECT TEAM ASSEMBLES

A project team begins by compiling some astonishing facts about the Earth, and the way we abuse it.

  • They find that if Earth were the size of an apple, then the atmosphere would be only the thickness of the apple skin.
  • The atmosphere rotates around the world forty times every year—so boundaries don't count when the air is polluted.
  • The ozone layer is getting thinner—a crucial one percent is being lost every ten years.
  • Acid rain has impeded the growth of trees and reduced agricultural production in 25 percent of North America.
  • There are 400 million automobiles in the world. Each one emits more than its own weight in carbon each year.
  • About 50 percent of all urban space in Canada and the U.S.A. is dedicated to the automobile (driveways, roads, freeways, parking lots).
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Water

They find that if the world were a basketball, then all the water on Earth would be less than one cup and all the water fit for human consumption would be one large drop—a mere 1/100 of one percent.

Yet worldwide water use doubled between 1940 and 1980 and is expected to double again by the Year 2000.

Canadians and Americans use enough water to provide the equivalent of 2,000 toilet flushes per person every day.

Twenty-five percent of all Eastern Canadian and U.S. lakes and rivers cannot support full marine life.

Land

And they find that land covers 30 percent of the planet.

In Brazil we clear 2.3 million hectares/year of rain forest—equivalent to one football field every two seconds, every day all year long. If the clearing continues at this rate, the Brazilian rain forest will be gone in thirty years and nothing grows there after only three years of futile attempts by humans.

Worldwide we lose 40 billion tons of soil each year and 27 million hectares are taken out of agricultural production for urban use (50 percent of which is required for automobiles).

Fossil Fuel

World economic activity is up twentyfold since 1900. World consumption of fossil fuels is up thirtyfold since 1900.

Our annual consumption of fossil fuels is now equivalent to one billion years of nature's production.

Waste

Americans produce more than 300,000 tons of toxic waste each day.

Each Canadian produces one ton of solid waste per year.

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And each year Canadians throw away:

  • 24 million tires
  • 175 million spray cans
  • 300 million litres of waste oil
  • 550 million pounds of soiled diapers

The Americans throw away roughly ten times as much.

Eighty-two percent of all Canadian waste goes into landfills.

Good news—only 28 percent of all Japanese waste goes into landfills.

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Population

And they find out that there is a serious population explosion. The world population has increased from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 5.2 billion in 1990.

The six billionth person is expected to be born in 1998, and the eight billionth in 2025.

Almost 100 million people will be born each year during the next decade—94 percent of them in developing countries!

People in developed countries account for 20 percent of the population and 80 percent of the consumption of world resources.

People in the world currently unleash 15 billion tons of CO2 every year—up tenfold since 1900. Americans and Canadians lead the world in CO2 emissions per capita.

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Global military expenditures are $35,000 (U.S.) per second and still growing. In many countries military expenditures preempt scarce resources and diminish development prospects, thus; creating resentment and conflict.

By the Year 2000, nearly 42 percent of the world's population will be less than twenty-five years of age. Many of these individuals will depend largely on others for food, education, clothing and shelter.

By the year 2025,57 percent of the world's population will live in urban centres compared to 34 percent currently.

What do one billion people look like?

Three times U.S. and Canada combined. England, France, one Germany, Italy, Japan and India combined. All the people on Earth in 1930.

  • They need 875 trillion calories each year.
  • They need 1,627,550 doctors and 10,169,550 teachers to meet U.S.A. standards.
  • They need 700 billion litres of water each day to meet U.S.A. standards.

THE PROJECT

Immediately after the rock stars returned to Earth, leaders of the world began to cooperate and find solutions. International agreements were established to cut the use of CFCs and to reduce the emission of CO2.

The United Nations established “The World Commission on Environment and Development,” and the urgent need for this work was tragically demonstrated by events which occurred in the brief 900 days taken to prepare the report.

  • A drought triggered an environmental crisis in Africa—killing over 2,000 people and blinding or injuring 200,000 more.
  • A leak from a pesticides factory in Bhopal killed over 2,000 people and blinded or injured 200,000 more.
  • Liquid gas tanks exploded in Mexico City killing 1,000 and leaving thousands more homeless.
  • A nuclear reactor explosion at Chernobyl sent nuclear fallout across Europe, increasing the risk of future human cancer.
  • Chemicals leaked into the Rhine River during a warehouse fire in Switzerland killing millions of fish and threatening drinking water in the region.
  • An estimated 60 million people died of diseases related to unsafe drinking water and malnutrition; most of the victims were children.

Akash was right! The Earthlings concluded these facts do not inspire confidence, do they?

THE GLOBAL POPULATION EXPLOSION
1930 1.0 billion
1950 2.5 billion
1990 5.2 billion
1998 6.0 billion
2025 8.0 billion

And even though the people on Earth could see some progress, they became gravely concerned as 1990, the beginning of the last decade, began.

It was true that Americans had eliminated many of their junk habits:

  • Junk food had been replaced by oat bran.
  • Junk dealers from Panama had been jailed.
  • Junk bonds had been replaced by conventional financing.

But it seemed hardly enough!

And so some of the best project managers on Earth travelled back to Andromeda to seek help, for the progress was not enough.

They visited Akash and spoke to him.

Earthlings:

We have heard that you are wise and you have seen how the universe survives—we have only ten years left. Please tell us what on Earth is going wrong and tell us how to make it right.

Akash thought about this and responded:

There are those among you with political agendas and environmental causes which are too radical for practical purposes. The positions of many such groups often lack acumen and accuracy. On the other hand, there are governments and media who often are guilty of misinterpretation, exaggeration and unjustified extrapolation of data.

This has confused the people.

Although environmentalism is riding the crest of a wave of favorable popular and political opinion, that popularity will eventually decline unless you base all your actions on sound science and economic follow-through. This is what sustainable development is all about! This is how the universe has survived!

As business leaders, scientists and project managers, you must become much more involved in the local environmental issues that are politically volatile on Earth today—the future use of landfills, the operation of waste treatment centres, the loss of productive soil, the safety of drinking water and the control of carbon dioxide emissions, to name a few. The time is past for you to react and cure —today you must become involved in anticipating and preventing environmental problems.

From now on you must be seen to be part of the solution rather than just part of the problem. You all must do your part.

Educational leaders must become involved too. They must teach the young about natural science, Earth, and the effect of humans on it. But even before this new generation of informed environmentalists arrive, corrective action must be taken. You must move beyond your present position to a new position where environmental safety and public health are a given, not an afterthought. You must select your best people to start work immediately on a mission to save the Earth. You realize now that this is the greatest project that life on Earth has ever faced.

For this reason, this project will be known as PROJECT EARTH.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to build a future for your planet which is more prosperous, more just, more secure. You must develop a new era of economic growth, one that is based on policies that sustain and expand the environmental resource base.

Your mission is absolutely essential to relieve the great poverty that is deepening today in much of the developing world. There is a human population explosion. The poor countries are expanding rapidly. There are already too many poor, unproductive people living well beneath acceptable human standards. The need for organized development under PROJECT EARTH is critical. The means of support is limited; without access to adequate water and land, there will be mass migrations and environmental degradation. If you fail, the Earth will have to be destroyed before it contaminates the universe. The universe is counting on you-good luck.

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PROJECT EARTH

Then the project managers were called together in Calgary to decide if they were ready to accept the challenge of carrying out PROJECT EARTH. The challenge was clear.

They said:

“If we are to succeed, we all need to play a role, knowing that we can make wise decisions when presented with the facts. We will have to introduce changes—new and better ways of doing things. These changes will have many enemies.

At first, there will be far more questions than answers. Painful choices will have to be made. Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development, PROJECT EARTH, must rest on the political will of the people.”

They knew the job facing them was complex and difficult, so the project managers divided the tasks into manageable parts. They created project teams made up of teams of specialists.

THE FIRST TEAM: Population and Human Resources

The population is growing at a rate that cannot be sustained by available environmental resources, at a rate that is outstripping any reasonable expectations of improvements in health care, food, security or energy supplies.

Urgent steps are needed to limit the extreme rate of population growth.

THE SECOND TEAM: Food Security

Global agriculture has the potential to grow enough food for all, but food is often not available where it is needed. Production in industrialized countries has usually been highly subsidized, encouraging the overuse of soil and chemicals and resulting in degradation of the countryside. Much of this effort has produced surpluses which have been sent at concessional rates to the developing world, where it has undermined the farming policies of recipient nations.

Developing nations need training and incentive systems to encourage production, especially of food crops.

THE THIRD TEAM: Species and Ecosystems

The planet's species are under stress. There is growing scientific consensus that species are disappearing at a rate never before witnessed on the planet. The diversity of the species is necessary for the normal functioning of the world. The genetic material in wild species contributes billions of dollars yearly to the world in terms of improved crop species, new drugs and medicines and raw materials for industry.

There is still time to halt the process of disappearing species.

THE FOURTH TEAM: Energy

To bring developing countries’ energy use up to industrialized country levels by the year 2025 would require increasing present global energy use by a factor of five. The planetary ecosystem could not stand this, especially if the increases were based on non-renewable fossil fuels. Threats of global warming and acidification of the environment most probably rule out even a doubling of energy use based on present mixes of primary sources.

Any new era of economic growth must therefore be less energy-intensive than growth in the past. Energy efficiency policies must be the cutting edge of national energy strategies for sustainable development, and there is much scope for improvement in this direction.

A safe, environmentally sound and economically viable energy pathway that will sustain human progress into the distant future is clearly imperative. It is also possible. But it will require new dimensions of political will and institutional cooperation to achieve it.

THE FIFTH TEAM: Industry

The world manufactures seven times more goods today than it did as recently as 1950. Given the population growth rate, a five- to tenfold increase in manufacturing output will be needed just to raise developing-world consumption of manufactured goods to industrialized world levels by the time the population growth rate levels off. This will take more energy and more resources. But the globe can't give much more and the globe can't take much more. So we will all have to produce more with less.

THE SIXTH TEAM: Urbanization

The 21st Century will be largely an urban world. Few cities in the developing world have the power, resources and trained personnel to provide their rapidly growing populations with land, services, and facilities needed for an adequate human life. The result is mushrooming illegal settlements with primitive facilities, increasing overcrowding, and rampant disease linked to an unhealthy environment. Many cities in industrial countries also face problems—deteriorating infrastructure, environmental degradation, inner city decay, and neighborhood collapse.

Industrialization, energy, and food development strategies must be integrated with new urban development strategies to ensure synergy.

THE SEVENTH TEAM: Global Economy

The sustainability of the ecosystem on which the global economy depends must be guaranteed. And the economic partners must be satisfied that the basis of exchange is equitable. For many developing nations neither condition is met.

Widespread cooperation on development of an effective global economy must be achieved.

For example, governments and international agencies should assess the cost effectiveness, in terms of achieving security, of money spent on armaments compared with money spent on reducing poverty and restoring a ravaged environment. Globally, military expenditures are about $1 trillion (U.S.) per year and continue to grow.

THE FINAL TEAM: The Commons

The shared ecosystems, including the oceans, Antarctica and outer space, raise particular problems that require expertise and sound management. The international community should design and implement a regime for management of the global commons that ensures that they remain a peaceful place for the benefit of all.

A LOOK BACK FROM THE FUTURE

And gradually at the end of the ‘90s, important changes were seen on Earth as it hurtled towards the 21st Century.

Even though coal, oil and gas still provided more than half of Earth's energy needs, more efficient power plants and industrial processes reduced the impact to acceptable levels.

The use of nuclear energy declined and eventually disappeared when the use of nuclear weapons was also totally eliminated.

Wind power became a commercially competitive source of power, providing up to 10 percent of the world's power needs.

The use of geothermal power tripled during the ‘90s.

Solar thermal power plants with natural gas (rainy day) backup became the second leading new power source by the 21st Century—surpassed only by solar photovoltaic power (which converts the sun's radiation directly into electricity using semiconductors).

Hydro power increased its role but reached its limitation, ultimately yielding to tidal power projects.

Biomass sources, such as wood, agricultural wastes and garbage, were used to fuel sustainable energy plants throughout the world—they had learned that these sources do not contribute to CO2 buildup when new trees are planted to replace them.

Power plants that burn methane from landfills were effective in slowing global warming, since methane was twenty-five times the greenhouse strength of CO2. (By the way, cows have also been blamed for the increase in greenhouse gases.)

Power grids were replaced by decentralized independent power generation facilities.

Energy-efficient appliances, lights and machines became a major contributor to our common future.

Aquaculture became a major new industry.

Double-hulled supertankers, with two pilots on board, were used for all oil and chemical shipments by sea.

The curricula in schools throughout the world included broad coverage of environmental science and economics.

Irrigation and soil alkalinity problems were overcome and the loss of agriculture productivity was reversed.

The planting of trees became a major part of every country's solution to the environmental problem, and floods were greatly reduced.

Antarctica became an environmental reserve and millions of acres of new land and water were protected as universal parks or environmental preserves.

New, safer and more efficient ways of treating drinking water were introduced, reducing reliance on chlorine.

Birth control and family planning methods and incentives became common in most developing nations.

The appearance of new urban centres near food production regions was encouraged by all nations.

The amount of landfilling of municipal solid waste dropped to 10 percent of the practice common in the 20th Century—waste-to-energy plants and recycling facilities are used and the consumption of non-renewal resources is curtailed.

Modern automobiles are now fueled with ethanol derived from sugar cane, corn cobs, rice hulls and a variety of other agricultural wastes.

And the project managers from Calgary in 1990, whatever became of them?

LESSONS LEARNED

They found that the only way to manage something as complex and as difficult as PROJECT EARTH was to apply enormous amounts of educated manpower to the front-end planning of the projects in the future.

They found that the world cannot achieve great change without the benefit of superior planning and cooperation.

They saw that the World Bank was limited in its ability to implement new projects by the availability of front-end environmental impact planners.

And when the Year 2000 came, the project managers knew that the important part of PROJECT EARTH had not been finding the technology or finding the resources—but understanding the consequences for which our world is crying out.

And, finally at the end of the millennium, in an effort to prove to Akash that Earth should survive, the managers of PROJECT EARTH developed a new code of human conduct based on new principles of sustainable development. And those principles became the common attitude among people everywhere on Earth.

Respect - First

  • For future generations
  • For other living things

“We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. Care for it as we have cared for it, hold in your mind the memory of the land. Preserve the land for all children and love it.”

Chief Seattle, in a letter to the President of the United States, 1852

Responsibility - Second

  • To take part
  • To keep the laws of nature
  • To teach the young

“The ozone layer has a hole, our water is polluted, our forests are disappearing and the animals are also affected by this pollution. We would like you to save our planet if that is possible.”

Aaron Meyers, Age 10, Montreal

Research - Third

  • To find better ways

“The technology that we use to abuse the planet is the same technology that can help us to heal it.”

Jacques-Yves Costeau, 1981

Reduce - Fourth

  • To use less
  • To share more

“Sustainable global development requires that those who are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet's ecological means-in their use of energy, for example.”

Our Common Future

Recycle - Fifth

“To bring developing countries’ energy use up to industrialized country levels would require increasing present global energy use by a factor of five. The planetary ecosystem could not stand this, especially if the increase were based on non-renewable fossil fuels.”

Our Common Future

Replace - Sixth

“We must change agricultural, industrial and urban practices so that we work with nature, not against her.”

Government of Alberta,
Vision Document

Reap - Seventh

  • Efficiency is a benefit to all
  • Doing better with less is the Seventh Code

“We must all be willing to examine our relations in international trade, investments, development assistance, industry and agriculture in light of the consequences these may have for underdevelopment and environmental destruction in the Third World.”

Rahel Surlien,
FormerMinister of Environment,
Goverment of Norway

Recognize - Eighth

  • Our common future
  • We're all in the same boat
  • Starving children—they are all our children too

“Space exploration has been midwife to the birth of a new global consciousness. The photograph of Earth finally made us recognize that the inhabitants of Earth must depend upon and support each other.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

And Akash, Lord of the Universe, saw all of the results achieved by the project managers and their PROJECT EARTH.

Akash:

I knew you could do it—if only you loved the Earth more than yourselves. You have shown great potential, Earthlings—you deserve more time.

If the Earth had only ten years to live unless we changed the way we do things, what would you do differently?

ACTION
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Frank W. King, a native of Alberta, Canada, is currently president and chief executive officer of Environcorp Inc. He is also director of a number of Canadian public and private corporations, as well as an executive in residence with the Faculty of Management of the University of Calgary.

King and his colleagues won the rights for Calgary to host the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988, which were judged by the president of the International Olympic Committee to be “the best ever” and produced almost three times as much revenue as all fourteen previous games combined—98 percent of which was accomplished with the assistance of motivated and dedicated volunteers.

Mr. King received numerous awards, honours and recognition from his involvement in the Calgary Olympics, including the Order of Canada and the highest personal award of the Olympic Movement—The Olympic Order in Gold from the International Olympic Committee.

King has completed a book about the inside story of, and valuable lessons learned from, the Olympic Games, and has been appointed by the International Olympic Committee to the Commission for Coordination of Future Winter Games.

Mr. King received a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Alberta in 1958. As an engineer, King has been involved in many entrepreneurial activities.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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