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The Launch of Spaceship Earth

In the wake of the WWII internationalists identified science as the cause of and solution to world crisis. Unless civilization learned to control the  unprecedented powers science had unleashed, global catastrophe would be imminent.

But hope could be found in world government. In The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth, Perrin Selcer argues that the metaphor “Spaceship Earth”—the idea of the planet as a single interconnected system—exemplifies this moment. Selcer tells how the United Nations built the international knowledge infrastructure that made the global-scale environment visible. Experts affiliated with UN agencies helped make “the global” as an object in need of governance.

Selcer traces how UN programs fell short of utopian ambitions to cultivate world citizens but did produce an international community of experts with influential connections to national governments. 

He shows how events and personalities, cultures and ecologies, bureaucracies and ideologies, decolonization and the Cold War interacted to make global knowledge.