Holistic Planetary Sustainable Development

Neither “top-down” nor “bottom-up”

Glen T. Martin

January 2019

All human beings require freedom, the freedom to reasonably determine and develop their lives. All human beings have the right and duty to democratically participate in the economic and political decisions that affect their lives.  All human beings deserve to have the entire range of their human rights respected, including political rights, social-economic rights, and their “third generation” rights to world peace (without war), and a sustainable, healthy environment.

None of these rights can be fulfilled without a global framework of world law placed above the corporations, the banks, and the national governments, a framework explicitly dedicated to actualizing these rights and freedoms. Today’s world system of militarized sovereign nation-states interfaced with globalized transnational corporate banking and commercial enterprises structurally denies this entire set of rights for the majority of human beings.  That is why our planet needs to be organized around the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, a document that creates a democratic world government with the authority to modify both national and corporate priorities in the direction of the common good of the Earth and future generations, thereby including and protecting universal human rights.

As stated, true democratic freedom for human beings requires their direct participation in political and economic decisions that affect their lives. Democratic world law can and should represent people’s interests in being free and creative participants in their local communities in ways that solve local problems, deal with local conflicts, and create ever- renewed local solutions.  The World Parliament can establish legal worldwide protections for human rights. It can also establish a range of economic and ownership solutions that become available on the local level in ways that can be adapted to local conditions and needs.  There is no “one size fits all” solution to local problems around the world that necessarily involve a range of local customs, resources, cultures, and needs.

The role of the World Parliament is defined in Article 1 of the Earth Constitution as dealing with all those issues that are beyond the scope of the nations.  The first of these is ending war and disarming the nations. This will be accomplished during the second stage of implementation of the Earth Federation as defined in Article 17. The second “broad function” of the Earth Federation in Article 1 is to protect universal human rights.  There are many ways this can and must be done, including promoting global solidarity among human beings, promoting global education for human rights, conflict resolution programs at the local and aggregate levels, and articulating the meaning of human rights to include democratic economic and political freedom at the local levels worldwide. An entire world agency, the Ombudsmus, will be dedicated to this task, and the fundamental design of the Constitution fosters this result.

Another essential “broad function” of the Earth Federation government, given in Article 1.5, is “to protect the environment and the ecological fabric of life from all sources of damage, and to control technological innovations whose effects transcend national boundaries, for the purpose of keeping Earth a safe, healthy and happy home for humanity.”  In the past half century, Earth System Science as developed on the scientific understanding that our planetary biosphere is one integrated, interdependent whole, and that human beings are inescapably part of that whole.  Without planetary coordination, monitoring, and communications with every locality on Earth, this goal of protecting the environment cannot be reached and the already damaged biosphere cannot be restored (to the extent that this is still possible).  Again, environmental sustainability cannot be top-down, nor exclusively “bottom-up,” but must be holistic and integrated through and through.

Some aspects of our planet’s geology must be under the control of the global public authority. For example, the oceans, now being desecrated by the nations of Earth because there is no enforceable global control over what the nations or private corporations do to the oceans.  The Constitution brings the rule of public law to protection of the Earth’s oceans. On the other hand, local communities need to find creative ways to employ local resources sustainably to address their unique problems. The holistic approach of the Constitution brings in both dimensions. Protecting our planetary home has to involve both the global public authority with its knowledge base, funding, and capacity to really empower sustainable efforts worldwide, but this very funding and capacity needs to empower local communities to address their unique problems of water, pollution, ownership, cultural disparities, waste disposal, disease control, etc. Holism involves both dimensions working together.

The third broad function of the Earth Federation reads: “To obtain for all people on earth the conditions required for equitable economic and social development and for diminishing social differences.”  This goal is carefully detailed in Article 13 in terms of human rights. Everyone has a right to a decent standard of living, to social security, medical care, education, clean air and water, and the other conditions by which to “assure each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential” (13.12).  This is one of the explicit functions of the World Ombudsmus agency—to promote this result as rapidly as possible through transformation of the world system in all the ways necessary to make this happen.

The World Financial Administration is structured to empower economic and political democracy at the local levels through the creation of its global public banking system, with a “Planetary Monetary and Credit System based upon useful productive capacity and performance….without requiring the payment of interest on bonds, investments or other claims of financial ownership or debt” ( Furthermore, it will “establish criteria for the extension of financial credit based upon such considerations as people available to work, usefulness, cost/benefit accounting, human and social values, environmental health and esthetics, minimizing disparities, integrity, competent management, appropriate technology, potential production and performance” (  This means that the monetary and financial system will be used in the service of human flourishing rather than the accumulation of private profit for the few.

The legislation passed by the Provisional World Parliament is not binding on the final World Parliament that is established once the Constitution is ratified by the people and nations of Earth under Article 17.  Nevertheless, these World Legislative Acts reveal the inclusive spirit and letter of the Earth Constitution and elaborate the kinds of global local empowerment that can and will derive from the World Parliament once it is constituted.  There is the “Global Equity Act,” for example, limiting the presently immense disparity between the rich and poor.  There is the Bureaucracy Reduction Act, ensuring that people at the local level are not bound up and constricted by unnecessary bureaucracy.

There is also the Global People’s Assembly Act, that actively encourages direct political participation from the grassroots into the World Parliament. There is the Cooperative Communities Empowerment Act that enhances the conditions for local communities to form cooperatives and to establish common forms of ownership. There is the Conflict Resolution Act requiring that Earth Federation officials address local conflicts by actively involving the local parties to these conflicts in working out solutions.  All these and more reflect the holism of the Earth Constitution directed to empowering participation and synergy between the Earth Federation and local communities.

The Earth Federation government can delineate a legal variety of forms of property and ownership. Personal ownership can be “private property” and limits may be placed on the amount of this any individual can possess. But there can be a variety of other forms of ownership: cooperatives (of different kinds), collectives (of different kinds), social ownership of schools, roads, parks, farms, factories, etc., protections for small businesses, and legally defined ways for larger businesses to involve their employees in decision-making processes.  One such possible way is described by Professor Richard Wolfe:

“The surplus-producing workers themselves would make the basic decisions about production and distribution. They would become, collectively and democratically, their own board of directors….. Capitalist enterprises would thereby be transformed into workers’ self-directed enterprises (WSDEs)”.

The  non-binding work of the Provisional World Parliament continues to make provisional world laws regarding the many issues confronting humankind, most of which are misrepresented by the UN and sovereign nations who do not wish to deal with them—since dealing with them requires changing the system to holism. Under the Earth Constitution, the World Parliament will also likely delineate and promote different kinds of rewards that are not limited simply to monetary rewards, although some monetary incentives should remain at least into the foreseeable future. It should be clear that the Constitution’s system of credit for productive or useful enterprises, quoted above, converts the credit system from a profit oriented debt system directed to profit for the lenders to a system premised on human flourishing and well-being. Good laws can be easily designed, following the model pioneered by democratic socialists in Sweden, to allow for “collective capital formation” in which many workers together create investment capital in order to extend and empower their sustainable development initiatives.

As American socialist thinker Michael Harrington asserts, in agreement with environmental economist Herman E. Daly, the presently disastrous GDP (Gross Domestic Product) measure of economic success can be transformed into a QDP or a QIP.  Instead of measuring economic success on a gross quantitative scale that includes pollution, environmental degradation, creation of self-made disasters, war profiteering, wasteful packaging, and mind-numbing advertising, a “Qualitative Domestic Product” or a “Qualitative International Product” could easily be devised to accurately measure the increase in human and environmental happiness and well-being. The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) has already done considerable work in this direction. However, the UNDP has no legal authority, nor resources, to make the QIP a global standard.  This is exactly one of the broad functions of the Earth Constitution: “to keep the Earth a safe, healthy and happy home for humanity.”

Under the Earth Constitution system, so-called “top down” and “bottom-up” come together in a holistic synergy that mirrors the holism of the human species and our planetary biosphere. The World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), creator and sponsor of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, today encourages progressive grass-roots organizations of all sorts to adopt its logo and operate as members and participants in the Earth Federation Movement (EFM).  The Constitution can only bring the World Parliament to legitimate authority when ratified by the votes of the majority of people on Earth. As much as we also want the support of leaders and politicians in all countries, a global grass-roots movement is absolutely necessary for ratification.

WCPA and its Earth Federation Movement is the worldwide movement of organizations and persons who support ratification of the Earth Constitution and the initiation of a founded, intentional, holistic world system to supersede the present world fragmentation and chaos.  Whatever “world order” exists now is designed by the big banks, transnational corporations, and imperial nation-states to serve only elite interests. It is therefore illegitimate and must be replaced by a holistic world system that represents the flourishing of all and the protection of the biosphere for the benefit of future generations. The chart at the end of this article attempts to show something of this holistic synergy as WCPA includes more and more grass-roots organizations within the Earth Federation Movement.

A version of this chart was published by one of the grass-roots development organizations that participates in the EFM: the Development Organization for the Rural Poor (DORP) in Bangladesh, founded by Mr. AHM Nouman. Voters Party International (VPI), a huge grass roots movement within India, founded by Mr. Bharat Gandhi, also supports the Earth Constitution.  As British Professor Errol E. Harris points out in his 2008 book Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is too Late, “a vigorous and determined global campaign such as we have described above must be conducted without delay for the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth—a concerted campaign, in which all the appropriate organizations and societies must join—to inform and educate the peoples of the world of the enormity of the dangers and the indispensability of the required world order.”

The World Parliament, once constituted, will be tasked to address all of the above broad functions. It will also need to take into account the growing transformation of the world by technology and automation, and the fact that many of today’s jobs will be performed by machines tomorrow. In the light of this transformation and the accelerating climate crisis, the people of Earth may, on the one hand, end up under the domination of a tiny elite of corporations, super-power nations, and banking cartels. On the other hand, they may join together to democratize the world through ratification of the Earth Constitution and begin the creation of enforceable world laws that use technology to fulfill its implicit promise of a better life for all.  It is not inconceivable that the work-week can be reduced at the same time that our planet’s shameful absolute poverty is eliminated. It is not inconceivable that a civilization could be constructed that will include art centers everywhere, hobby and craft centers everywhere, non-denominational spiritual centers everywhere, libraries everywhere, and recreational sports centers everywhere. If we can pacify the current war-system of the world and redirect technology from weapons and war to human flourishing, the possibilities for a practical utopia may well be within reach.

Our choice, in easily conceivable ways, may be between dystopia and a very realistic practical utopia. The on-going technological revolution means that major transformations are on their way to humankind, whether we like it or not. Are the people of Earth going to take advantage of those transformations through creating an effective World Parliament that represents all of us?  Can we “decommodify” the market to the extent that it serves genuine human needs rather than exclusive private profit?

Can we “decommodify” the labor market so that workers are treated as human beings, yet still take note of the responses of the market in relation to supply and demand?  Under the Earth Constitution, the main agencies of the Integrative Complex will gather detailed scientific data on the environment, on the health of the population of Earth, and the social and technical options available. They will be able to submit proposals and cost/benefit analyses to the World Parliament for debate and consideration. In this way, humane and democratic “planning” for the optimum common good will integrate with market demands and free entrepreneurial activity at the grassroots level to allow for the simultaneous well-being and flourishing in freedom of the human population. (And this most certainly will include a dimension of care and compassion for our fellow living creatures on the Earth.)

These agencies are also necessary at the global level for three fundamental purposes: to ensure efficient market interactions worldwide, to ensure reasonable economic equity worldwide, and to ensure a sustainable total scale for the throughput of matter and energy that constitutes the global economy. They must monitor this scale carefully to keep it within the carrying capacity of the ecological system of our planet. A holistic sustainable development model joins global government with the grassroots in complementary ways that mirror the holism of our planetary ecosystem.

To do these things, the people of Earth must take charge of our planet in their own interest, as well as on behalf of the common good and future generations. Are we going to passively allow the present elites of the world to colonize these technological revolutions to make themselves even more powerful, and to perhaps extinguish our hopes for a peaceful, just, prosperous, and sustainable world system altogether?  Or are we going to create a holistic world system that creatively unites humanity at all levels? The Constitution for the Federation of Earth holds the key to making this choice, a choice that must be made now, before it is too late.

Works Cited

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. On-line at www.earth-constitution.org

Daly, Herman E. (1995). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development.

Daly, Herman E. (2014). From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-state Economy.

Harrington, Michael (1989). Socialism Past and Future.

Harris, Errol E. (2014). Earth Federation Now!  Tomorrow is Too Late: Second Edition.

Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence.

Wolff, Richard. (2012). Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

World Legislative Acts of the Provisional World Parliament.  On-line at www.earth-constitution.org

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