Transitioning to a Sustainable, Post-Growth World By way of the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

The entire cosmos has evolved over 13.8 billion years and has actualized each one of us in the present moment as a synthesis of body, mind, and spirit.  The “Being” of the cosmos is there in the depths of the present moment, a depth that permeates body as well as mind, and awareness of these depths gives life in the present moment infinite meaning, richness, and fulfillment. Each of us is capable of finding joy in the act of living itself, independently of our having, consuming, or achieving temporal objectives.

Each one of us at every moment is a synthesis of these atemporal depths and the dynamic of temporality that characterizes human consciousness.  We live not only in relation to eternity but also in a perpetual present, moving between past and future. We draw upon the memory of our past within a dynamic present and project our lives into a future that we want to be better than the past. On the horizon of that future are images of bliss, truth, beauty, fulfillment, perfection, freedom, etc. I have called this horizon our “utopian horizon” and argued, in agreement with Heidegger, that the future in human temporality carries an ontological priority over both past and present (Martin 2021)

Yet this futurity needs to be inseparably connected with the depths of the present moment. Each child lives as a developing human person in the process of actualizing his or her potential, as Aristotle first pointed out some 2500 years ago. The actualizing of our potential is a temporal process, yet at the same time that potential includes becoming evermore aware of the atemporal depths of the present moment.  To access the depths of existence in the process of living and growing brings meaning and fulfillment into life. This process does not terminate in some static condition called “maturity.” It is an ever-renewed reawakening, a perpetual process of living in the fullness of the present moment that continues throughout life. We become ever more fully aware within such a lifetime journey of self-discovery and self-actualization.

Hence, time and eternity are deeply interconnected within our human condition. This is what spiritual philosopher Ramon Panikkar calls “tempiternity,” an integral mode of existing in the world that embraces both dimensions (1993, 121 ff.). To focus on either aspect to the exclusion of the other involves a fundamental distortion of our human condition that can lead to disaster.

For at least the past three to four hundred years, human civilization by and large has focused on temporality to the exclusion of eternity. This focus by humans as a species and as individuals in particular has assumed that we are exclusively temporal creatures and that we can manipulate factors in the present to determine a positive outcome in the future. In addition, this focus on temporality has coincided with the adoption of a quantitative yardstick for measuring the world and all its processes.  Modern science since the 17th century reduces everything to quantitative descriptors, and whatever is not so measurable is by that token ignored or dismissed.

This scientific reductionism assuming what is real about the world is what is quantifiable has coincided with the growth of capitalism that orients human economic exchanges according to this same principle.  The purpose of exchange is the quantitative increase in one’s own wealth vis-à-vis that of another.  What is not quantifiable (for example, human values) find no place in the calculation, and becomes marginalized. How can we quantify the mysterious depths of reality, or human love, or human dignity?  The capitalist economic system ignores these fundamental realities while at the same time structurally encouraging the quantification of all life and all things.

Capitalism is inherently expansionistic. The increase in quantities is built into the system (increase in profits, economic growth, etc.). To reduce the meaning of life to what can be quantifiably measured (my economic wealth, my possessions, etc.) was a fundamental historical misdirection, and to make this false meaning of life into an ever-growing economic system ultimately encompassing the entire planet has resulted in today’s gigantic human and ecological catastrophe.  We are at the end of the line. You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, and the false meaning of life in consumption and possessions has become “a god that failed” for millions.

The planetary ecological crisis means that the global economy will necessarily experience massive contraction, and that human life will necessarily result in either nihilism (the failure of all meaning and purpose) or in a way of life that finds meaning in the process of living itself, not in some quantifiable future of accumulation, wealth, and prestige. Under the current world system of fragmentation among militarized sovereign nation-states, the contraction of the global economy (as we are forced by nature either to contract to a sustainable level or die) may result in endless wars or even in the final war that will end all wars (because nuclear war will wipe out human beings).

How can we make a transition to a sustainable and regenerative economy and way of living that is peaceful, just, and the least disruptive possible?  The answer lies in the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The Constitution first and foremost takes the one step most fundamental to the transition to a sustainable world system—it unites humanity under the principle of unity in diversity (Martin 2010). It eliminates war and militarism and establishes a democratic World Parliament whose mandate is ensuring peace, sustainability, eliminating poverty, and protecting human rights.

Without ratifying the Earth Constitution, the great contraction and disintegration of global capitalism will likely result in endless conflicts, wars, and injustice. Without uniting humanity to deal with the crisis, hundreds of millions will starve or die in social chaos and misery.  Without uniting humanity, the emerging world society (beyond the obsession with quantification and growth) will not have an organizing principle to maintain order, continuity, sustainability, and justice. The Constitution is our fundamental tool for transitioning to a post-growth, ecologically sustainable global society.

The digital revolution is replacing millions of jobs with robotics.  The environmental collapse is forcing the closure of millions of enterprises and contraction of the global economy. Together these mean that society needs to find sources of income for people independent of the traditional work requirement. Under the capitalist system with its private, for-profit banking that now dominates in the world, a system that is interfaced with the militarized sovereign nation-states each pursuing its national “self-interest,” there is absolutely no way such income can be generated. 

The Earth Constitution is predicated on the common good of the whole and the rights and welfare of each person within that whole. It is premised on global public banking, global public insurance, free worldwide healthcare, education, and social security.  Hence, it does away with the insane competitions of capitalism and also those of sovereign nation-states. The trillions of dollars wasted on militarism can and must be converted to dealing with climate crisis.

 The Earth Constitution establishes not only a peace-system for the world but global public banking that places the economic well-being of every person ahead of private profit and the abstractions of “economic growth.” It also mandates voluntary population reduction to a sustainable level, making possible a world that transcends its current scarcity for billions of persons to a planet in which there is “enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.”

Such a world will make possible a transition for people from finding the meaning of life in endless consumption, possessions, and economic striving to a world in which the fullness of life replaces endless wanting.  The temporal aspect of our being human then becomes self-actualization and self-wisdom, not private consumption and accumulation. The economic and political conditions of our planet can foster or hinder the process of self-realization and the transition to a post-growth society. 

Yet the Earth Constitution is immeasurably more than a mere tool for fostering the transition to a post-growth, sustainable civilization. By creating a peace-system for the world, a justice-system, and a dignity-system, we act as the microcosms that we truly are—participating in the self-realization of the ground of Being in a world manifesting the fullness of life and freedom. It both makes possible and fulfills the transition to the fullness and beauty of life living in peace upon our precious Earth and in harmony with the living ecological wholeness of our planet.

That is why the Earth Constitution is not only our essential tool for making this happen but a symbol of the fullness of life that results from its actualization. It is ready to go and can be easily ratified by the people and nations of Earth. If we want to effectively save the planet for our children and grandchildren, and if we want a peaceful and orderly transition to a post-growth world, then we need to ratify this Constitution. My forthcoming book Design for a Living Planet: The Earth Constitution Solution (2021) describes this process in substantial detail.

Temporal movement into the future by ratifying this Constitution will not alone suffice unless we simultaneously discover the “tempiternal” fullness that will complete the transition. However, the bridge is there—it is a necessary structure for crossing to a sustainable, meaningful, and redeemed world system.  It is a bridge embracing both sides of the abyss over which it crosses and uniting them within the transformed holism of a fulfilled and joyful human civilization.

Works Cited

Martin, Glen T. (2010). Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. 

Martin, Glen T. (2021). “Utopian Horizon Value Theory: A Transformative Power at the Heart of Human Futurity,” in the American International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 7, No. 1, February, 2021:   

Martin, Glen T. (2021b). Design for a Living Planet: The Earth Constitution Solution. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.

Panikkar, Raimon (1993). The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.