What is the meaning of human existence? Who are we and why are we here in this world on this planet? It appears that we are at the end of the line. For the first time in history we understand that we are facing our own extinction. We are courting planetary omnicide with the weapons of mass destruction.
We are engineering in our bio-terror labs the organisms that could wipe out humanity at the same time we are developing nuclear weapons systems that can wipe out humanity. Environmentally, we have so altered the planetary climate-system that a progressive global warming has kicked in that could be unstoppable. Before the end of this century our planet could well become uninhabitable for human life.
The present pandemic has exposed our ideology of fragmentation and rugged individualism as an illusion. It has revealed with stark clarity that we are all in this together. Public health for the entire planet requires that we all work together to deal with disease and remain well.
Environmental health for the entire planet requires that we all work together to find ways of producing the necessities for human life while at the same time reducing our negative impact on our planet’s ecological system. Economic health for the planet requires that the goods and services that we all need be produced, transported, and distributed to human beings everywhere on the Earth through a cooperative effort that protects and addresses the environment, the health, and the well-being of all.
We are one species, one humanity, one civilization that has colonized this small third planet from the sun. Our inability to deal with our problems has now become lethal, omnicidal, suicidal. There is a growing understanding that we are one, interdependent species in terms of public health, in terms of environmental protection and restoration, and in terms of economic production and distribution. Why have we not learned this same lesson regarding politics and political organization? Why is there so little growing understanding that the fragmented system of militarized sovereign nations is unworkable and leading us to extinction?
In global political organization, we continue to maintain a system of absolute fragmentation consisting in nearly 200 militarized sovereign nation-states in conflict and competition with one another. Their competition interferes with all three of the dimensions of interdependence identified here: it endangers global public health, it disrupts global economic cooperation, and it seriously endangers the cooperation necessary to protect our planetary ecosystem. Any number of these nations possessing weapons of mass destruction could unilaterally initiate the process of wiping out humanity, and any one of the big nations in the world could prevent humanity for achieving ecological sustainability simply by refusing to cooperate with, for example, the reduction in carbon emissions.
Under this really stupid system of national sovereignty, for example, Brazil has the legal right to destroy the lungs of the Earth because these lungs happen to be its “property” as a sovereign nation. China has the legal right to produce trillions of tons of non-biodegradable single-use plastics that are burying our planet and destroying our oceans. The United States has the legal right to withdraw from planetary climate agreements altogether because it is a “sovereign nation” recognizing no law superior to itself, and Russia has the legal right to place its nuclear weapons on ever-faster hypersonic delivery vehicles, preparing the world for total Armageddon.
The United Nations itself, is founded on this bizarre system of national sovereignty. The U.N. is a dinosaur, institutionally entirely out of touch with the most basic need of humanity, which is a world system intentionally designed to support both human and ecological life. The U.N. charter is designed to support the system of national militarized sovereign nations. It is not designed to enhance the lives of all human beings.
What is the purpose of life? Leaving aside the many metaphysical and religious theories, isn’t the purpose of life to have each person live fully and develop his or her potential to its reasonable fullest? Isn’t the purpose of life actualizing our social capacity to live in harmony with others whose support and cooperation are necessary to developing our own potential to its reasonable fullest?
Isn’t the purpose of life to live each day to its maximum in joy and peace, love, justice, and harmony with both humanity and nature? Doesn’t the astonishing gift of being alive in this amazing cosmos invite us to dance for joy simply that we are incarnate and deeply aware? Shouldn’t we find fulfillment in simply experiencing this astounding life and in developing all the potential we have for creativity and joy in the positive fulfillment of our human and personal potential?
The present institutions of our world interfere with the process of actualizing our human potential. They defeat, for the majority, the ability to actualize the fullness of life and the joy of living. Some of them even destroy it. The economics of capitalism actualizes the potential for a few to become extremely wealthy while the majority are stranded in debilitating and constricting circumstances of poverty and deprivation.
The possession of weapons of mass destruction, like all weapons of war, causes fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and nihilism in people of all cultures and nations. These weapons represent a tremendous waste of the world’s resources, resources that could be used for healthcare, education, social stability, clinical services, and other ways to actualize the human potential of all persons. The system is bizarre, mad, and simply stupid.
Connected both with an absurd capitalism and a global war-system, both of which destroy human potential, is the political fragmentation of the world into sovereign nation-states recognizing no higher authority than themselves. This bizarre system of fragmentation means that people born into certain nations have vastly greater potential to actualize themselves and experience the fullness and fulfillment of a meaningful life than those in many nations trapped in the enforced poverty of the current world system, as are many nations of the global south.
All the present institutions of the world developed largely by accident, more or less randomly. Capitalism began during the Renaissance some five centuries ago. No one theoretically planned to develop such an economic system. It happened because of contingent historical circumstances. The militarized sovereign nation-state system, many scholars agree, can be dated from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, when nations decided there would be a central “sovereign” government ruling autonomously over its “internal” affairs and independent in its “external” affairs.
Therefore, the lawless system of militarized absolute political fragments began through contingent historical circumstances. No one thought out the political possibilities and said “yes, this system will give us a world of peace, freedom, and justice.” Indeed, right from the beginning, philosophers such as Spinoza and Hobbes in the 17th century pointed out that this system was inherently a “war-system” since sovereign states recognized no effective laws above themselves.
We are failing on this planet because we are living with institutions many centuries old that were never designed for human well-being and the fullness of life. The institutions leading us over the cliff of disaster and extinction were developed long before we understood that we are one humanity living on one tiny spaceship Earth with the absolute need to become successfully interdependent, working together to make our world work for everyone in peace, justice, and regenerative sustainability.
Some 20th century thinkers understood this crisis situation and addressed our failure to live under institutions that serve humanity and human life by creating the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. These thinkers, along with many thousands of world citizens, realized that we need to unite human civilization for the purpose of making a quality, fulfilling life possible for each citizen of the world while protecting the precious ecology of our planet for future generations.
Article 13 of the Constitution, one of its two bills of rights, states that it is the obligation of the Earth Federation Government to “assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.” The entire Constitution is built around this principle—a world system is designed for the fullness of human life. Its purpose is to allow us to live our lives in freedom, dignity, and sustainable integrity, to realize our full human potential.
Humanity is failing because we have no democratic institutional framework to effectively address our global problems and establish the conditions for human flourishing in peace, justice, and sustainability. We are at the end of the line, facing possible human extinction. The title of my forthcoming book is Design for a Living Planet. This title hits the nail on the head. Either we unite humanity under carefully designed institutions that protect and enhance human life and the joyful purpose of living, or we go down to perdition in wars, conflict, hate, confusion, and ultimately destruction of our planetary environment that supports all life.
Our most urgent task is to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. We need institutions designed to democratically protect human freedom, dignity, and capacity for the fullness of life. Now is the time to act. We are passing one point of no return after another. We must act now to ratify the Earth Constitution. Tomorrow it will be too late.
(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University, President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and President of the Earth Constitution Institute (ECI). He is author of 11 books and hundreds of articles about human economic, political, and spiritual liberation in relation to the potential transformation of our regressive human institutions.)