Principles of Ecology and the Emerging Earth Federation

Glen T. Martin

(From World Revolution Through World Law: Basic Documents of the Emerging Earth Federation by Glen T. Martin, Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, pp. 238-246)

The principles of ecology and their significance are not widely understood even at this point in the early twenty-first century. They reveal not only the basic processes of the natural world but also the foundations of human societies and social interactions. The principles of natural ecology are complemented by the principles of social ecology. These principles point directly to the creation of an Earth Federation under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Once the Constitution is ratified, these principles are also legally  implemented, enforced, and protected under the Federation of Earth. This essay attempts to both elucidate these principles and show their necessary connections to the emerging Earth Federation.

1. The Revolution in Ecological Understanding

An important event in the emergence of the environmental movement in the 1960s was the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring (1962). The book signaled the dawning of a new awareness among thoughtful human beings of the fragile nature of the planetary environment and the suicidal consequences of economic and social policies that ignore our inseparability from, and interdependence with, the environment. Since that time, the environmental movement has spread worldwide and the new natural science of ecology has emerged to study living natural systems, their integration, and their interrelation throughout the Earth.

Ecology is the scientific study of the interdependence between organisms and their environment. The understanding is growing worldwide that organisms and their environment form a fragile web of life in which disruption of even seemingly irrelevant aspects of an ecosystem can spell disaster for the entire system and the organisms that are interdependent with that system. Millions of ecosystems have spread throughout the Earth during its four billion years of being home to living organisms. These range from tiny microscopic environments to the total environment of the planet. The total environment is sometimes called “Gaia” after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth. Ecosystems form a web of interdependent systems that encompass the entire planet and constitute an integrated weave of life forms within which the evolution of human beings took place and without which human beings could not have survived upon the Earth (Lovelock, 1991).

Human beings slowly became the dominant species on the planet over the course of their more than two million year history. Only after the discovery of agriculture, approximately 8-10,000 BCE, did they become able to form permanent settlements, build ever-larger cities, and begin engineering projects that altered the natural landscape of the planet to suit their designs. The record shows many ancient civilizations that used up or destroyed their natural resource base and either died out or emigrated elsewhere (Diamond, 2005). Nevertheless, human beings did not become capable of actually destroying the ecological foundations of the entire planet until the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

With the vast power placed in human hands by engines, electricity, and specialized machines, the ecosystems of the Earth began to be destroyed at a rate far beyond the ability of nature to heal and repair damages caused by human interference. The technological revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries continued into the electronic and digital revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries placing such power in human hands that human activity in its present forms may well destroy the life-support systems of the entire planet and collapse the fabric of life to the point where higher forms of life can no longer survive upon the Earth.

The forests of the world, for example, provide the planetary ecosystem with much of the oxygen that supports all aerobic forms of life. They bind carbon dioxide that is exhaled by most living creatures and produced by all forms of combustion. They moderate the climate, provide habitats for most of the vast bio-diversity of the Earth, and draw fresh water from the ocean coasts into the interior of continents. Yet the forests of the Earth are disappearing at the rate of an area one half the size of California each year.

In addition to forests, agricultural soils of the Earth are rapidly disappearing.  unsustainable agricultural practices are rapidly depleting top soils of the planet to the point where vast areas have become unsuitable for agriculture and have been converted to grazing lands. Yet overgrazing worldwide is turning even these areas on every continent into desert, places that cannot be used to support most life. Runoff from the use of pesticides is poisoning water supplies and ecosystems. Billions of tons of topsoil are lost each year to erosion because of these unsustainable agricultural practices.

Regarding fresh water, the over-pumping of aquifers and overuse of water is dropping water tables worldwide, causing water crises and shortages in many areas of the world. The cities of the world, in addition, are becoming poisoners of the planet’s fresh air supplies. Hundreds of millions of gasoline and internal combustion engines and other sources of air pollution spew pollutants into the air. Yet the air of the Earth is necessary to support all higher forms of life and is at the heart of the ecosystem of our planet.

These cities also produce immense amounts if polluted water, garbage, and trash wastes that are filling, and poisoning, the country-sides of nations worldwide. At the same time, the human population continues to grow at the rate of 80 million new persons per year, every one of whom requires basic resources, fresh water, clean air, and agricultural and forest resources to support them throughout their life-spans, and every one of whom produces waste materials that are returned to the environment (Caldicott, 1992; Renner, 1996; Daly 1996).

The principle of Gaia, the idea of the entire Earth (as it has evolved over its 4.6 billion year existence) forming an encompassing ecosystem, is only slowly becoming understood by large numbers of people. This awareness grows as planetary phenomena signaling the alteration of the entire global ecosystem become widely known, phenomena such as global warming, melting of the polar ice caps, depletion of the ozone layer, collapsing of entire ocean fisheries, rapid extinction of species on a daily basis, increased planetary disasters and super-storms, and possible inversions of global ocean currents and weather patterns (Lovelock, 1991).

Thoughtful human beings today have understood that human life is inseparable from the web of life on Earth. They have understood that we must alter our economic, social, and political practices rapidly to bring human civilization into harmony with the planetary web of life that sustains us (Daly, 1996). They understand that all development must be sustainable, that it must support human life in the present in ways that do not diminish the life-prospects of future generations. Today, nearly all societies and all nations are living at the expense of future generations, both of humans and other species (Calidcott, 1992). Actualization of our life-prospects diminishes their life-prospects. At the current rate of destruction, it is even possible that we will reduce their life-prospects to zero.

2. Social Ecology

Ecology teaches us that human beings and all living organisms are part of the web of life, the fabric of which can be torn to the point of no return. Social ecology, a science that has also emerged during the late 20th century, teaches us that not only are humans part of the web of life but human societies themselves are best formed around the principle of unity-in-diversity which is the basic principle of a healthy community. Human life has emerged from nature following the same principles on interdependency and interrelationship that are fundamental in the natural world.

During the famous Axial Period in human history that included the six hundred years before the beginning of the Common Era, human consciousness was transformed into its present subject-object structure. This new structure allowed people to self-consciously distance themselves from nature or other persons and objectify the world, other people, or living creatures. This capacity for objectification placed tremendous power into the hands of human beings, power that began to systematically violate the principles of social ecology, as well as those of natural ecology, in the service of the drive to domination, control, and mastery of nature and other people (Martin, 2005).

Systems of domination and disregard of human interdependency developed rapidly and continued into the early modern world until the present. The principles of social ecology only began to be understood with the elaboration of democratic theory in the 18th century through the

work of such writers as Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and John Locke. Even though there had long been ideas of our common human dignity (humans made in the image of God) and of the fundamental role played by human reason (from Plato to Aquinas and natural law theory), the idea of the necessary integration of human communities into democratic forms based on liberty, equality, and community only developed fully during the period of the 18th century Enlightenment. This movement, focusing on universal human rights and a universal human rationality as the basis for democracy, developed the early forms of the principle of social ecology.

In that era, it dawned on many thinkers that reason was a common human trait that made all people potentially capable of exercising responsible freedom and contributing to the well-being of their community. Today, it is becoming understood that the social ecological principle is best exemplified in political life in precisely this idea of democracy whereby liberty, equality, and community point to, as American philosopher John Dewey (1993) expresses it, democracy as a moral-spiritual form of association expressing the relationships of interdependence and cooperation that should prevail among human beings. Human beings are intensely social animals radically dependent not only upon natural processes but upon one another.

The idea of democracy was extended in the 19th and 20th centuries to include the concept of economic democracy. It became ever more clearly understood that industrial and service operations are cooperative in nature with many people working together to produce wealth. It was understood that the private appropriation of cooperatively produced wealth violated not only the integrity of people but damaged the community spirit required in productive and service projects. Twentieth century thinkers such as Gregory Bateson (1972), Erich Fromm (1947), Jürgen Habermas (1984), Errol E. Harris (2000), Robert J. Lifton (1993), and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1959) began to formulate the principles of social ecology in terms of the interdependency and interrelation of persons within communities and the ways in which society best functions as a successful community.

Just as with natural ecology, social ecology has not yet penetrated the awareness of most persons. This is in part because of the gigantic propaganda efforts of imperial governments along with the propaganda that spews forth from immense concentration of private capital that benefit from the older, anti-ecological system of human relationships. Most economic, political, and community processes are still top-down, hierarchical systems that marginalize, exploit, and exclude the majority at the base of the social-economic pyramid.

Social ecology understands that there is a social Gaia principle for the Earth, that human life on Earth is a whole, a fabric of social, political, and economic activities in which activities on one part of the Earth impact human as well as natural life on other parts of the Earth. Human life is a web of tiny communities (families) integrated into ever-larger wholes (social and ecological systems) from the village to the province to the nation to the world. The Gaia principle for the Earth means that human beings must create nonmilitary democratic world government based on the social ecological principle of unity-in-diversity for all nations, peoples, and individuals. Such a principle would do for fragmented and destructive human societies what the natural Gaia principle does for the environment of the Earth. Both are necessary to make sustainable flourishing upon the Earth possible.

3. The Emerging Earth Federation

After the nations of the world discovered the technology for developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction at the close of the Second World War, many thinkers recognized the need for democratic world government. The list includes such eminent personalities as Mortimer J. Adler (1991), Sri Aurobindo (1997) Albert Einstein (1950), Errol E. Harris (1993), Emery Reves (1946), and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1959). Awareness the pending collapse of the global environment did not come until later. Among the earliest to understand the  implications of the impending destruction of Gaia were the founders of the World Constitution and Parliament Association in 1958, leaders and visionaries such as Philip and Margaret Isely, Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, and Dr. Reinhart Ruge.

For the next 30 years they worked continuously with thousands of world citizens from many countries to hold four Constituent Assemblies that developed and approved the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The Constitution, once ratified, will become the actualization of the social ecological Gaia principle for the Earth. The Preamble to the Constitution describes the realization of this principle as “a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace shall prevail,” and “when the Earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.” The World Constitution does for humanity what natural evolution has done for nature. It creates a world order based on the principle of the whole – Gaia. There can be no effective political, social, and economic respect for the whole of nature unless there are political, social, and economic institutions based on the whole of humanity.

These two dimensions of ecology are inseparable. The basic principle of ecology must apply to both our human relationship to nature and the relationship of human beings to one another. Wholeness, as philosopher of science Errol E. Harris has pointed out (2000), is fundamental to the entire human and natural world order. Natural processes have created Gaia, the principle of the whole of the global ecosystem based upon the integration and interdependency of overlapping systems as parts. Both human society and the natural world require this principle. This “synergy” is explicitly understood by Peter Russell in his book The Global Brain Awakens (1995).

Its continued violation will ultimately spell planetary suicide. Our present world order is in violation of the social principle of ecology in at least three fundamental ways. The first way involves a world order divided into approximately 191 so-called “sovereign” nation-states. The very existence of the perverse concept of a “sovereign” nation-state (supposedly independent in its external relations and autonomous over its internal affairs) destroys the wholeness and integrity of human life on this planet. Because it violates the principle of social ecology so deeply, it makes impossible respect for the principle of natural ecology, the whole of the planetary natural environment. The “sovereign” nation-state breeds violence and fragmentation through its political structure that institutionalizes a fragmented and destructive world view. This impacts the thought patterns of most of the world’s population.

The second way the present world order violates the principle of social ecology is through the promotion of aggressive and competitive individualism. This egoistic self-assertion cultivated by economic, social, and political processes in the modern world order finds its consequences in masses of people who do not care about the common good, the whole, or the planetary community. Such people act solely out of naked self interest and are therefore directly destructive of both the natural and social principles of ecology. The social production of this sort of destructive individualism is clearly connected with the existence of sovereign nation-states on the one hand and the global economic system of unbridled greed and self-interest on the other.

The third way that the present world order is in violation of ecology is through the legal institution of corporate personhood and the system of “exclusive-titles-to-nature’s-wealth” (Smith 2005). Corporations doing business for the private accumulation of wealth are legally protected as if they were private persons not responsible to the common good or the communities within which they operate. They are top-down, totalitarian institutions, with decisions made in secret by tiny groups of executives and owners, whose sole mission it to accumulate private profit. If monopolization of these exclusive titles is eliminated, thereby giving full and equal rights to each person, then those exclusive rights will be properly restructured to conditional rights. With that simple change, mass accumulations (appropriations) of wealth produced by others is impossible. The system of corporate personhood involves the denial of full and equal rights to real persons and is at the base of global monopoly capitalism.

This entire system is protected by law in most countries with the result that horror-story after horror-story emerges concerning corporate destruction and disregard of nature, persons, and communities in the pursuit of unlimited private accumulations of wealth (Chossudovsky, 1999; Korten, 2001; Shiva 2002). This global system of corporate irresponsibility destroys both the natural and social principles of ecology and portends the ultimate destruction of life itself. It will mean the end of Earth’s ability to support higher forms of life by the close of the 21st century.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth was written with all three of these failures of the present world order in mind. First, it abolishes the dangerous and fragmented system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states and federates the nations into a whole based on the principle of unity-in-diversity which is at the heart of social ecology. Second, through a number of specific requirements given throughout the document, it promotes human cooperation, a sense of responsibility to the community, to the whole, and to authentic democracy in which liberty is inseparable from equality and community.

Finally, the Constitution explicitly gives the World Parliament the legal mandate and authority to regulate corporations for the common good of humanity and the environment. It recognizes businesses and corporations as important for the global economy but insists that a sustainable economy requires regulation of corporations for the protection of both the environment and future generations. This necessarily means conversion of exclusive titles to nature’s wealth into conditional titles. The principle of social ecology embodied in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is the key to transforming the anti-ecological attitudes and institutions now threatening the very existence of higher life-forms on Earth.

The Constitution also explicitly requires the government of the Earth Federation to protect the ecological fabric of life on Earth, that is, to respect the Gaia principle with all its ramifications. The very first article gives six “broad functions” of the Federation of Earth. Number five states that the Earth Federation must function “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.”

Not only does the Constitution make this a primary mandate of the Earth Federation, but in its second bill of rights (Article 13, which covers social, environmental, and economic rights) the Constitution makes respect for the Gaia principle a right of the people of Earth themselves and a “directive principle for the world government” to actualize this right. Numbers 9, 10, and 11 read as follows. People have a right to “(9) Protection of the natural environment which is the common heritage of humanity against pollution, ecological disruption or damage which could imperil life or lower the quality of life. (10) Conservation of those natural resources of Earth which are limited so that present and future generations may continue to enjoy life on planet Earth. (11) Assurance for everyone of adequate housing, of adequate and nutritious food supplies, of safe and adequate water supplies, of pure air with protection of oxygen supplies and the ozone layer, and in general for the continuance of an environment which can sustain healthy living for all.” (The Constitution is on-line at

Clearly here again the Constitution explicitly recognizes the need for human economic, political, and social institutions to conform to the Gaia principle (which is the principle of sustainability) protecting the whole of the planetary environment for future generations. The key to a sustainable civilization is not only to promote education concerning the principles of natural ecology. For this effort alone is insufficient and will ultimately fail unless the anti-ecological institutions of the modern world described above are also transformed on the principles social ecology.

The entire human community must be joined together through the dynamic of genuine unity-in-diversity. Only through realizing the principle of social ecology in human life and uniting all people under nonmilitary democratic world government can the Gaia principle become a guiding principle for all human political, economic, and social processes. The principles of social ecology are inseparable from the principles of natural ecology. It is necessary to do for humanity what the natural Gaia principle does for nature. The Constitution for the Federation of the Earth joins the two together to create a truly ecological and sustainable world order.

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