The UN Sustainable Development Goals as World-System Ideology

Glen T. Martin

This essay is dedicated to the loving memory of Swami Agnivesh

 (Please note: the views expressed in this essay are my own

and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations in which I serve.)

In the first years of the 20th century, the dominant global world-system entered into a phase of institutionalized “modernity” characterized by militarized sovereign nation-states, the ascendency of corporate capitalism, and the domination of a narrow technological rationality. This essay shows that these forces have deeply colonized the lifeworld (consciousness) of those who developed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the point in which a false idealism coupled with unconscious blindness has placed our entire human project in serious and imminent danger. It also shows the role of the current global empire of the US as framing the background for these goals. It considers each of the 17 SDGs in the light of this dual background. Finally, it argues that a sustainable civilization and viable future for humanity can only be achieved through transcending these “modernist” 20th century assumptions (that linger on from early-modern, entirely outdated, centuries old presuppositions) and ascending to ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (www.earth-constitution.org).

Part One: Colonizing of Our Lifeworld by the System

The evolutionary history of the capitalist system from its emergence during the Renaissance in the 15th century to the early 20th century has been traced by many scholars. The evolution of the militarized sovereign nation-state system from its 17th century origins to the early 20th century has also been widely traced. The development of technology from early inventions like the steam engine in 1698 to its systematic development and pervasive infiltration into nearly all aspects of life on our planet is also broadly known. What is not generally understood is the degree to which this triumvirate of forces has colonized the consciousness of leaders and educated persons worldwide, including those who participated in the development of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1989), building on the work of social scientist Max Weber and other thinkers, presents a penetrating analysis pointing to why human beings seem unable to successfully address our most fundamental problems. He calls this the “colonizing of our lifeworld by the system.”  The economic system and the bureaucratic state systems become so fundamental to the background of our conscious lifeworld, infiltrating the lifeworld with unrecognized presuppositions and assumptions, that even thoughtful, educated human beings lack the ability to deeply examine them in their theories, thoughts, and actions. This essay argues that this is true of those who formulated both the UN system and the SDGs. Reason, as Habermas puts it, becomes mere “functionalist reason” that operates within the lifeworld-colonized assumptions and treats our most serious problems as if they were technical, functional problems, rather than symptoms of a much deeper pathology of modern civilization.

Systems that are so pervasive and completely integrated into our cultural, scientific, institutional and subjective worlds tend to become invisible to thought. They become the presuppositions for thought, assumptions that are the starting place when we attempt to address our problems of conflict, poverty, health pandemics, human rights violations, or sustainability. Since it appears that these presuppositions are the foundations for thought, it is not clear to most people (even so-called educated people) that these “foundations” themselves must be thematized, questioned, and examined. For it is precisely this set of assumptions (sovereign nation-states, capitalism, and technological rationality) that are fast destroying the planetary biosphere that sustains human life.

Many scholars informed by neo-Marxist critical social theory have pointed out the inseparability of capitalism and the competitive system of sovereign nation-states (e.g. Chase-Dunn 1998, 61). Other scholars, like Jeremy Rifkin, have chronicled the three industrial revolutions that have transformed the world technologically, one after the other, to the point where technology becomes a defining feature of the human life-world everywhere on Earth (2011). (Although, for Rifkin, the third industrial revolution shows us a way beyond the growth obsession of capitalism.)

Many scholars and historians have also documented the endless wars that have occurred within the system of militarized sovereign states from the early conquest, theft, and enslavement of peoples by the Spanish and Portuguese to the era of slavery and colonial exploitation of subjugated peoples dominated by the Western European powers (Britain and France) and the United States (for whom slavery was fundamental to its economic success for more than two centuries going back well before the Revolutionary War). Wars today continue over oil, oil pipelines, control of strategic resources, and geopolitical control of world markets. Chinese economic investments in Africa engender the creation by the US of “AFRICOM,” the Africa military command of the US (Engelhardt, 2014). If there is any doubt about the unspeakable carnage perpetuated by system of sovereign nations, reread Jonathan Glover’s A Moral History of the 20th Century.

War and economic rivalry remain endemic to the entire world system emerging out of early-modern economic and political assumptions into the modern world and the 20th century. Linked to this system, United Nations economic ideology asserts that the job of each government is to grow its gross domestic product (GDP). In his study of GDP, John Smith shows that in a globalized economy value production can only be measured in terms of global factors that collectively contribute to any particular local production. GDP, therefore, as an economic measure is an “illusion.” GDP not only ignores all the immense quantity of labor that goes into survival within nations (subsistence agriculture and non-export-oriented work, especially for people in poor countries), this official UN measurement system forces poor governments into economic policies that increase financial and foreign domination of these countries, and at the same time GDP “becomes a veil concealing not just the extent but the very existence of North-South exploitation” (2016, 266).

Capitalism has always been about expansion and economic growth, and the measure of economic success to this day has been tied to nation-states. David Harvey, in The New Imperialism, argues that there has always been “a dialectical tension” between nation-states territorial power and the power of global financial capital. The two are not identical but require one another because of their “internal relations”:

Imperialism of the capitalist sort arises out of a dialectical relation between territorial and capitalistic logics of power. The two logics are distinctive and in no way reducible to each other, but they are tightly interwoven. They may be construed as internal relations of each other. (2005, 183)

Can we imagine a global system of capitalist exploitation not protected and reinforced by imperialist state power?  Noam Chomsky (1996) declares that the US blockades and invasions of numerous countries that have attempted to extricate themselves from the global imperial system through some form of socialism (e.g. Vietnam, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc.) is because they pose the “threat of a good example.” If people cooperatively manage to thrive on their own shared work and resources then their good example would challenge the entire ideology of capitalism and neo-liberal globalization. Military power is needed to enforce capitalist dogma.

Numerous thinkers have pointed out that incremental growth (say at 2% per year) will lead to a doubling of the initial quantity in just 35 years (e.g. Heinberg 2011, 14). Like the population of the Earth, which has doubled four times since the beginning of the 20th century, so the economy of the planet keeps doubling in size every few decades. More economic growth requires more energy. Globally, the trillions of dollars animating the global growth economy require immense, ever-increasing resources of energy. Most of this energy is from heat producing, pollution producing, fossil fuel energy. The planetary biosphere is collapsing under this massive assault (Wallace-Wells 2019).

Under the globalized neo-liberal capitalism that has dominated the world in the early 21st century the Northern developed countries do not compete with Southern countries, as John Smith points out in Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century (2016): “A most striking feature of the imperialist world economy is that, as we have seen, Northern firms do not compete with Southern firms, they compete with other Northern firms, including to see who can most rapidly and effectively outsource production to low-wage countries. Meanwhile, Southern nations fiercely compete with one another to pimp their cheap labor to Northern ‘lead firms’” (2016, 84).

Here again, we should ask if it is possible to imagine an exploitative “imperialist” capitalism without militarized sovereign nation-states?  The two institutions are two sides of the same coin. The United Nations, through its General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), its progeny the World Trade Organization (WTO), and with its cozy relationship with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (both lending institutions involving consortiums of profit-making first world banks and headquartered in Washington, DC) is thoroughly compromised by this world system with its technocratic and functional imperatives.

Some within UN agencies may feel compassion for the suffering bottom 50% of humanity but they are extremely limited in their ability to address the carnage, not only because of insufficient funding of their agencies but because their own assumptions militate against a sane, deeply rational, and humanized world system. Can we imagine an exploitative capitalism taking advantage of third world poverty and misery (in which money and investment are free to roam the world in search of maximizing profits) without a system of absolute, militarized borders preventing human beings from freely moving about the world?  The money must be free to come into your country to exploit your cheap labor and resources and then leave but people cannot be free to leave their poverty-stricken countries in search of a better life.

The present writer has lectured at the UN University for Peace in central Costa Rica a number of times (through connections that have gotten me invited into professors’ classes, etc.). However, the professors tell me after my lectures that what I have to say violates the basic assumptions on which the UN University for Peace is Founded (which, of course, include the UN Charter and the globalized capitalist economic system). The fact is, even though UN University for Peace graduates find positions within UN Programs in countries around the world and do good work at local levels, neither peace, nor viable prosperity for the poor, nor sustainability can ever be achieved under the UN system as it has functioned to date.

Many sustainability economists such as Herman E. Daly, Richard Heinberg, and Kate Raworth have pointed out what is perhaps the most fundamental contradiction of capitalism: you cannot have endless growth within a finite, planetary ecosystem. Infinite growth on a finite world is impossible. Such growth is like a cancer within the biosphere that is rapidly destroying the life of the entire organism. Heinberg writes: “At the landmark international Copenhagen climate conference in December 2009, the priorities of the most fuel-dependent nations were clear: carbon emissions should be cut, and fossil fuel dependency reduced, but only if doing so does not threaten economic growth” (2011, 19).

The UN Development Program (UNDP) even agrees with this idea that “growth” must be converted to quality of life development in its declarations concerning “sustainable development” going back several decades (see Martin 2018, 128-31). However, the UNDP never questions the sovereign nation-state system that we have seen inextricably linked to global capitalism. It promotes local “sustainable development” within countries wracked by global economic imperialism from which there is no escape under the present world system.

At the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, it was representatives of 115 sovereign nation-states that were meeting about the global climate crisis, each of them representing their own economic activities (and hence their capitalist ruling classes), and each of them deeply rooted in functionalist reasoning and the technological imperative. This imperative constitutes the third element in the triumvirate of assumptions colonizing the life-world of most people making decisions that affect the future of humanity. Human ends for wealth, pleasure, power, and security are considered non-rational givens, and reason is reduced to the instrumental-technical function of how to achieve these ends (Habermas 1984). Critical social thinker Jacques Ellul called this third element “the technological system.” Let us note his explanation of how this system works within human consciousness:

First of all, man, achieving consciousness, finds technology already here. For him, technology constitutes a milieu which he enters and in which he integrates…. He is instantly within this universe of machines and products…. Now without realizing it, this environment shapes us in the necessary forms of behavior, the ideological outlooks…. Of course, he does not see clearly what it is all about, he does not discern the “technological system,” the “laws” of technology…. Being situated in this technological universe and not detecting the system is the best condition for being integrated into it, being part of it as a matter of course, without even realizing it. (1980, 311-12)

This paragraph could be written verbatim substituting the phrase “sovereign nation-state” or the word “capitalism” for the word “technology.” Substitute, for example, the “sovereign nation-state”: “First of all, man, achieving consciousness, finds the sovereign nation-state already here. For him the sovereign nation-state constitutes the milieu which he enters and in which he integrates.” Or the capitalist system: “First of all, man, achieving consciousness, finds the capitalist system already here. For him the capitalist system constitutes the milieu which he enters and into which he integrates.” The lifeworld of most 21st century persons is colonized by sovereign states, capitalism, and the technological imperative. They absorb these systems into consciousness. People “see from” this set of assumptions and therefore they fail to see the assumptions themselves.

It is important to realize how deep this “colonization” goes. Marx correctly says that under capitalism we are alienated from other people, the work process, the product of our work (which is taken from us by its owners) and from our true selves, our “species-being” (1972, 66-125).  The militarized sovereign state acculturates us to paying war taxes, to military personnel and recruiters everywhere, to the “problem” of immigrants, to state secrecy as necessary for our protection, to the unquestioned pursuit of “national goals,” etc. Much of the world’s population lives within societies where these pathological phenomena appear as “normal.”  The military as a way of life is “normal,” fear of the other or different human beings in designated “enemy” countries is “normal,” suspicion of the motives of other nations is considered “normal.” Competition rather than cooperation appears as “normal.”

However, as Habermas and advanced thinkers such as James L. Marsh (1995) or Joel Kovel (2007) point out, modernity includes a deeper, critical element that has largely been ignored by the dominant culture and its ideological spokespersons. Habermas calls it the “communicative” element, the possibility of a deeper, non-alienated mutual understanding, growth, and solidarity with others. I submit that this broad concept includes, first, the discovery of the scientific method, properly understood, that emerged during the 17th century, a method capable of pursuing truth even to the point of transformation of our most foundational beliefs about the world.

Secondly, it includes the deeper meaning of the Enlightenment, emphasizing the power of human reason interlinked with human dignity that emerged in the 18th century, a dignity which is both intrinsic to being human and into which we need to grow ever more deeply (Martin 2018, Chap. 2). Third, it includes the dawn of systematic critical social theory through Marxism that was born in the 19th century, the realization that injustice and evil can be structural, that these can inform our institutions as much as they can infect persons. Each of these developments provided positive, liberating elements that remain with us in the 21st century, often ignored or glossed over superficially in the educational process.

Together these dimensions of rationality give human beings access to a deeper moral and cognitive ability, beyond functionalism, that allows us to access our higher human potential for communicative understanding, solidarity, cooperation, love, and creative transformation. (These dynamics of human reason are universal and have corresponding elements in all Eastern cultures, as in the thought of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, or Mahatma Gandhi.) Science gives us an open-ended form of rationality that can be self-critical, potentially paradigm-shifting, and liberating. Indeed, beginning with Max Planck and Albert Einstein in the first decade of the 20th century, science has revolutionized our understanding of the world. It has transformed the Newtonian assumptions that nature (including human beings) was atomistic, materialistic, deterministic, and mechanistic into a holistic worldview in which nature is integrated, relational, organic, and open to emergent freedom.

Today it has resulted in the work of such major transformative thinkers as Ervin Laszlo (2017) and Henry Stapp (2011). Yet we shall see that this transformed paradigm, which loudly calls out to human beings to transform their thinking in line with it, has been ignored by most political and economic thinkers, including by those who stand by the UN system and the dangerously naïve SDGs. As philosophical cosmologist Errol E. Harris points out “If the implications of this scientific revolution and the new paradigm it introduces are taken seriously, holism should be the dominating concept in all our thinking” (2000, 90).

Incorporating holism into our civilization requires both institutional and spiritual awakening. Beyond functionalism, we encounter the unity in diversity of our common human reality, a oneness proclaimed in the best writings of all the great religious and spiritual traditions. Deep reason, love, and justice break down barriers, including economic and political barriers, joining human beings in a common quest for living together on Earth in joy and friendship. As Swami Agnivesh (2015) affirms, the Vedas proclaim vasudhaiva kutumbakam, all men are brothers and sisters.

Empiricism, positivism, and reductionism have long since been transcended by leading scientists who now see emergent human freedom as connected with the very foundations of the cosmos (Teilhard de Chardin 1961; Stapp 2011). Yet the implications of this revolution have yet to deeply reach the consciousness of those who operate the UN or who run the nation-states or those who promote a global capitalist ideology. The total, interdependent structure of human life, both with one another and with nature, is ignored. The fragmentation of dividing the world into nearly 200 militarized territorial fragments competing economically and politically directly violates the holism, the relationality, and the unity of spirit and matter discovered by 20th century sciences.

The Enlightenment gave us not only a revival of the ancient Greek concept of a universal, non-functionalist rationality, now considered fundamental to our collective human project, but also the concept of human dignity as a dimension of our existence demanding a liberation from all that degrades, dehumanizes, dominates, and manipulates (Martin 2018, Chap. 2). Human dignity means that we can transcend and transform our broken institutions. None of these systems (capitalism, sovereign nations, or functional rationality) recognize human dignity as constitutive and fundamental. In the 18th century Immanuel Kant focused a long tradition going back to the Ancient world that articulated human dignity:

Humanity itself is a dignity, for a man cannot be used as a means by any man . . . but must always be used at the same time as an end. It is just in this that his dignity (personality) consists . . . so neither can he act contrary to the equally necessary self-esteem of others . . . he is under obligation to acknowledge, in a practical way, the dignity of humanity in every man. (In Glover 2000, 23)

Where does human dignity arise in the nexus of systems that colonize contemporary consciousness? As human rights scholar Jack Donnelly (2003) points out, ever since the UN Universal Declaration was formulated in 1947, human rights (predicated on human dignity) have routinely taken a back burner to economic, security, and military imperatives in both corporate and nation-state decision-making. Even nations whose constitutions include the idea of human rights are inhibited by the economic system from actualizing these in their own country and by the system of state sovereignty from pointing out human rights violations in other states.

In the 19th century, Marxism gave us a systematic analysis of capitalism revealing its structures of domination, exploitation, and dehumanization. Marx and other critical thinkers such as V.I. Lenin linked this system with nation-state imperialism directed to gaining and securing international markets and cheap resources. A deep understanding of how this system works is liberating, as are the 20th century scientific paradigm-shift and the Enlightenment insights into universal human dignity. Today, our very survival on this planet depends on our ability to draw on these liberating elements, to grow to true “planetary maturity” (see Martin 2005), to awaken morally and spiritually, and free ourselves from this colonized lifeworld.

Modern consciousness has solidified itself into a nexus of these three dominant unspoken assumptions, none of which recognizes the moral-spiritual dimension of human existence as intrinsic and fundamental, none of which allows for a transformational self-criticism that moves beyond this system to a higher and deeper understanding of our human situation, and none of which is fully aware of the revolutionary implications of the new paradigm of holism and interdependence that was to arise from the scientific discoveries of the past century.

Militarized sovereign nation-states have long been understood to operate out of power-politics and unmitigated self-interest, ignoring human dignity, especially the dignity of those considered competitors or enemies. These nation-states are substantially controlled by their capitalist ruling classes. In his 1916 essay, “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism,” V.I. Lenin pointed out the connection between the immense concentrations of finance capital within national ruling classes and their need to use national military power to colonize and protect ever-more markets and regions of the Earth. Today, the exploited nations of the Global South, under the domination of global finance capital (including the World Bank and the IMF), have become locked into a planetary system by the dominating nations and financial institutions of the Global North.

Corporate capitalism has long assumed the private accumulation of wealth as an unlimited right and the “owners” of that wealth as possessing rights to dominate, exploit, and degrade both employees and the public. Technology has long been understood in a one-dimensional way as systems giving us power to dominate and exploit both nature and persons in the service of intertwined state power and capital accumulation. Today that colonization of the militarized nation-state and corporate capital is pervasive over the entire planet. The UN dare not question the nation-state any more than it dares question the capitalist system.

Globalization scholar Ernesto Screponti expresses one aspect of these points in terms of “ideological discipline”:

Ideological discipline also works through a feedback mechanism. Although somewhat complex, the mechanism can be easily understood by reducing it to its simple core. The power structure which within which crucial decisions are made selects its own staff: it coopts the individuals who have chosen the right ideological allegiance and excludes all others…. Power stimulates ideological allegiance; ideology consolidates power. (2014, 95)

Marx sees capitalism as the “repressed community,” according to scholar Roslyn Wallach Bollogh, and he sees post-capitalism as the “self-conscious community” (1979, 237). “Ideology consolidates power,” affirms Screponti. The colonization of the lifeworld by the semi-conscious capitalist, nation-state, and technological systems perpetuates patterns of thinking based on unconscious power-relations rather than freedom, a distorted rather than clear perception of reality, a false-consciousness. And for these reasons, the United Nations perpetuates a destructive system violating the very human dignity that it was created to defend.

These interlocking systems form the presuppositions for thought, but themselves must remain largely unthought within the UN system and other purveyors of the dominant ideology. In the light of this analysis of our colonized life-world, we will examine the UN Sustainable Development Goals that have been formulated, we are told, to guide economic and political behavior of nations and corporations between the years 2015 and 2030. Before doing so, however, it is important to concretize and specify this global system of domination and exploitation as it has existed at least since 1945.

Part Two:  Everyone Pretends to See the Emperor’s New Clothes

Since its founding in San Francisco in 1945 and its establishment in New York City as a main UN Center, the United States has dominated what goes on at the UN. The UN pretends to pursue the ideals of peace, justice, and environmental sustainability but only within the conceptual limits provided by its main financial contributor. As long as the organization is supported by the voluntary contributions of its members, then the actual framework for thought and most decision-making will, of course, be one dollar one vote, and the US always has the lion-share of the votes.

Not that the UN is otherwise structured democratically. It is not. The Security Council, largely under the domination of the US, controls everything that goes on. In Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, William Blum constructs his entire Chapter 20 on lists of votes on dozens of issues in the UN General Assembly over a period of years. On any issue that would increase the peace and justice in the world, the vote has been the vast majority of nations versus the US and often Israel (the latter, when not abstaining, always votes the same as the US).

For example, the proposal to expand the UN’s approaches to “emphasize the development of nations and individuals as a human right” (120 nations for, the US against). On a “declaration of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states” (110 nations for, the US and Albania against). On holding “negotiations on disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race” (111 nations for, the US and Israel against).  On affirming a “world charter for the protection of ecology” (111 nations for, the US against). The list goes on and on. The votes mean little, since the General Assembly has no power and any resolution on such matters that comes to the Security Council is vetoed by the US.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark details the US manipulation of members of the Security Council to get the go-ahead to militarily attack Iraq after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in January 1991. In order to secure a “Yes” vote from the then members of the Security Council, the US provided Ethiopia and Zaire with new aid packages. It awarded China 114 million dollars in deferred aid from the World Bank, it got Saudi Arabia to provide $4 billion to the then disintegrating Soviet Union. It subjected Malaysia to “enormous pressure.” And it subjected Cuba and Yemen to severe punishment for their ‘no’ votes.

Yemen’s ambassador was told this would be “the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast” and immediately a $70 million US aid package to Yemen was cancelled (1994, 153-55). Of course, the invasion went ahead in spite of these ‘no’ votes. The US maintains a global empire and the UN functions as an integral part of that empire. The richest nation not only uses the leverage of its monetary contribution to the UN to control that organization. It also buys, bullies, and blackmails its way to domination within the UN.

Top secret US documents such as Policy Planning Study, 23 written in 1948 by George Kennan for the State Department when planning US policy for the post-war world, declare very clearly that the rhetoric about human rights and democracy (which has continued from that time to the present) was only for public consumption. Kennan says that in the future “we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated on our immediate national objectives…. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better” (in Chomsky 1996, 9-10).

The US knew that it was the sole remaining superpower after WW II and intended to consolidate a global empire. When Kennan wrote this, the UN had been in existence for 3 years and he clearly does not see that as an impediment to US plans to deal from “straight power concepts.” John Perkins, in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, details the way US Embassies worldwide are tasked to promote economic colonization by US multinational corporations.  Douglas Valentine, in The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, details the way in which the CIA operates out of US Embassies in every country supporting bribery, extortion, torture, and murder in the service of supposed US interests, from that time to our present day.

For the majority of the world’s small and weak nations, it is bad enough to have a US Embassy watching every political and economic decision of their government and promoting neo-colonial domination in their midst. But that tragedy compounds if they are unlucky enough to be hosting a US military base. Chalmers Johnson, in Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic details the 725 known military bases that exist outside the US, spread out in countries around the world. The very existence of these bases gives the US another place from which to monitor local movements that might be advocating change or social justice and from which to launch assassinations, coups, or threats against local governments who fail to toe the US ideological line claiming that a “free market” means these countries must open their resources to penetration by US foreign capital.

William Blum, in Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, describes the major interventions (leaving out the additional regular US interference in foreign elections, economic sanctions, and other forms of intimidation and control occurring worldwide). The book has 55 chapters each detailing a major military intervention by the US since 1945.  Close to 50 countries have been invaded or overthrown, several countries more than once. Wars have been conducted in a number of them that have killed millions of people, mostly civilians, in such diverse places as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other places.

A Provisional World Parliament study of the places of US interventions, published as part of World Legislative Act number 64, shows a strong correlation between military imperialism and UN Peace Keeper Operations.  After the imperialists destroy a society and create chaos among the people, the UN Peace Keepers are sent in to clean up the mess and maintain order. Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine and the Rise of Disaster Capitalism details the carnage created in country after country in the service of imposing US “free market” policies on victim populations. In addition, within the UN, no person is allowed into the position of Secretary General of the UN without the approval of the US.  The job of the UN is to create a façade claiming dedication to peace while serving as a cover for the empire.

Military empire is designed to protect and implement the economic empire. As sociologist James Petras writes in Empire with Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-Liberal Capitalism:

The economic interests represented by these capitalist corporations converge with the national interests advanced and protected by the nation-states that make up what can be termed the “imperial state system,” a system currently dominated by the US state…. The US imperial state, both directly (via the departments of state and defense) and indirectly (via control over financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), constitutes a directorate to manage the global system. (2005, 25-26)

Michael Parenti details how the UN General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) produced its brainchild the World Trade Organization (WTO), signed by over 120 nations. The WTO has the power to override the labor laws or environmental laws of these member nations in favor of maintaining the profit margins of multinational corporations (1995, 32). Local democracy does not matter. Corporations, including bankers, rule the world (Korton 1996; Brown 2007). What matters is profit for multinational corporations, banking cartels, and for the imperial center itself. John Perkins writes:

In the final analysis, the global empire depends to a large extent on the fact that the dollar acts as the standard world currency, and that the United States Mint has the right to print those dollars. Thus, we make loans to countries like Ecuador with the full knowledge that they will never repay them; in fact, we do not want them to honor their debts, since the nonpayment is what gives us our leverage, our pound of flesh. (2004, 212)

There is a large scholarly literature describing the US empire and how it works, and what I have cited here simply scratches the surface.  But the UN was born and has grown worldwide within the scope and boundaries of this global empire. We should not think for a minute that the UN is independent of the empire. And the people who work at the UN are required to pretend that they do not see the empire.

In addition, of course, like any government, corporation, or organized social enterprise, the UN has its own subculture, its own criteria for hiring and firing, and its own set of employees who do not want to lose their jobs. All this is carefully watched by the imperial powers, primarily the United States, who monitor the UN very closely to ensure its conformity to their ideological parameters.  Critical thinking is OK, but you are allowed to go this far and never beyond. You never seriously critique the capitalist system nor its sister institution the system of sovereign nation-states.

Self-interest reinforces presuppositional blindness. As Mark Twain is said to have quipped: You cannot get a man to understand some idea if his job depends on his not understanding it. The fate of humanity, in this case, hangs in the balance, but preserving the fragmented modern ideological system takes precedence in every case. Trillions of dollars are invested in the war system and in the economic domination system. These investments (as a system) cannot seriously be questioned. Study of the UN Sustainable Development Goals makes this very clear. It is important to keep this in mind as we examine what is missing from the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as what is explicit within them.

Part Three: The Context for the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The first major UN Conference on the environmental crisis took place in Stockholm in 1972.  The next big meeting was then held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, at which the participants formulated the famous “Agenda 21” document demanding significant reductions in CO2 emissions by the year 2000.  Meetings took place and agreements were formed in the Montreal Protocol of 1987 and the Kyoto Protocol of 1992 committing state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) went into force in March 1994 with membership of 197 countries, nearly all the world. It committed its members to act even in the face of scientific uncertainty concerning climate change. However, at the major UN environmental conference that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, failure to meet the goals of Agenda 21 were unmistakable.

All these agreements have initiated changes in the behavior of many nations and corporations, but there is consensus among climate scientists and environmental experts that changes have been wholly inadequate to address on-going climate collapse (Maslin 2013; Lenton 2016). The most recent “Sixth Assessment Report” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science (IPCC) describes our planetary situation as dire (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-cycle/). Since the UNFCCC began in 1994, representatives of the nations also had been meeting annually with a focus on climate change.

By 2015, UN description of the Paris Agreement that year states that: “Each climate plan reflects the country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities. Guidance on NDCs [nationally determined contributions to CO2 emissions reductions] are currently being negotiated under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), agenda item 3.” (https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs) They have been working on this since 1972, and there is yet common recognition that humans are failing to deal with the problem and the climate crisis is worsening year by year.

Just prior to Johannesburg, this admitted failure of the nations and the corporations to address the crisis in meaningful ways led to a new and more comprehensive set of goals called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were in effect between 2000 and 2015. In 2015, 196 states parties met and concluded the historic Paris Climate Agreement to modify their development priorities so that collectively the planet would not continue warming more than 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science (IPCC) agreed on this limit as absolutely imperative for our human future (https://www.ipcc.ch/).  The Paris conference formulated NDCs in the service of achievement of this long-term goal. Each nation-state must “prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions” to the achieving of the objectives.

Nevertheless, the year 2015 arrived and again failure was plain for all to see. UN groups working together decided that the Millennium Development Goals were themselves not sufficiently encompassing, nor were they sufficiently detailed as to their many possible ramifications.  These groups elaborated a more thorough set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specified and elaborated with some 169 “targets,” spelling these out in more concrete detail. The argument of the UN groups that developed these elaborated goals (approved by the UN General Assembly) was that the failure of the MDGs were due to this lack of specificity. The framework assumptions of our world-system were not examined, only the adequacy with which the MDGs had been elaborated.

The UN Document that embodies the SDGs, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” resounds with high-minded ideals agreed to by all the signatory nations. Of the 91 articles, let us simply take the example of Article 3:

We resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.

This statement is excellent, expressing a fundamental and beautiful ideal, and is similar in tone and content to many other statements within the “Transforming Our World” document. Nevertheless, the first thing to note about the SDGs is that there is no mention of empire, no mention of global economic exploitation, and no mention of imperialism. The words “empire,” “imperialism,” “military,” and “militarism” do not appear in this document of nearly 15,000 words in length. The word “exploitation” appears only 3 times, each time in relation to child trafficking or exploitation of women.

Apparently for the framers of the SDGs, no other significant form of exploitation exists. Apparently, militarism and imperialism are not major world problems. The horrific existence of nuclear weapons or other WMDs appears nowhere in this document. In the document, there is a pervasive distinction between “developed” and “developing” countries, that is, countries are treated as individual units (each pursuing increasing GDP) with no recognition of the exploitative relationship between the wealth of the developed countries (the Global North) and the poverty of the developing countries (the Global South).

As seen above, the UN is required to pretend that the emperor is wearing clothes, to pretend that the obfuscating rhetoric of the empire embodies a good-faith description of the world system. They are required to pretend that capitalism and endless growth, controlled and managed by first world wealth, loans, and economic management (such as the World Bank and the IMF), is the sole legitimate path to sustainability, while at the same time (in contradiction to their economic dependency of financing from the Global North), each country is responsible for increasing its own GDP, just as each is responsible for attaining for itself the targets set by the SDGs.

Second, UN personnel are required to pretend that the immense militarism of the empire, with its perpetual assassinations, blockades, militarized drones, invasions, sanctions, and manipulation of the politics of weaker nations worldwide is really simply an attempt to keep peace worldwide with the help of both the UN Peacekeeping missions and the complicit NATO military organization. They have to pretend as well that the militarism of the competing powerful nations who fear and/or resist the empire (such as China, Russia, and Iran) is not a significant problem with respect to climate destruction or waste of resources that should be used for climate protection and regeneration. Approximately 1.8 trillion US dollars in worldwide expenditures pour down the toilet of militarism annually, a large portion of the wealth of these militarized nations, but this monstrosity is off the table for discussion regarding how to address climate change.

The SDGs had to be formulated within this willful blindness, otherwise the US and other global forces would never have allowed them to see the light of day. As one US insider to the UN recently declared: “Nothing happens at the UN without the US approval.” This may be an overstatement, but it contains substantial truth. The UN has been colonized by the economic and political ideology of the global imperial center.

Third, it is important to note the fragmented approach to protecting our unitary global biosphere. We live on one planet with an integrated ecology spanning the globe, and yet the collapse of the climate can only be addressed (according to the UN system) through each country’s separate plans for reducing emission and other climate endangering factors “taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities,” a system that is not only fragmented by also voluntary on the part of often economically competing and desperate countries. Even though globalization has integrated the global economy into one giant network, each country is “domestically” responsible for its climate protections. Such fragmentation makes success next to impossible.

Even though we have seen the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF place conditions on countries that take initiative out of their hands and put their economies in the hands of private multinationals, global banks with structural adjustment requirements, or transnational WTO regulations that can defeat domestic climate laws, the UN addresses climate change in this fragmented and incoherent manner. Even though environmental collapse crosses all borders and requires massive bioregional, continental, and global cooperation to effectively address it, each country is required to remain fixated on increasing its GDP as a way of ignoring or covering up both the global system of super-exploitation and the interdependence of the real environmental situation.

Failure to address the continuing collapse of the environment has been evident since the 1972 Stockholm Conference. However, the response to repeated failures from then to the present was not to question the presuppositions of the world system itself. We have seen that these presuppositions have colonized the consciousness of many or most at the UN and would have been very difficult to critically raise to the level of conscious critical evaluation. With the help of intimidation conducted by the world’s Superpower, the response of the UN that resulted in the SDGs was, rather, to assume their previous analysis that resulted in the MDGs was simply not sufficiently elaborated, allowing them to come up with the more elaborate Sustainable Development Goals based, of course, on the same set of assumptions about the means to achieve these goals that were behind previous failures.

Under “Means of Implementation” the SDG document describes how this radical transformation to sustainability will take place. Item 41 states:

We recognize that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development. The new Agenda deals with the means required for implementation of the Goals and targets. We recognize that these will include the mobilization of financial resources as well as capacity-building and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed. Public finance, both domestic and international, will play a vital role in providing essential services and public goods and in catalyzing other sources of finance. We acknowledge the role of the diverse private sector, ranging from micro-enterprises to cooperatives to multinationals, and that of civil society organizations and philanthropic organizations in the implementation of the new Agenda.

Apparently, the global economic system as it now exists is adequate to achieve these goals, financing is available and should be on “favorable,” that is, interest-bearing terms. Multinationals can even play a beneficial role (since they apparently are not thought of here as monopoly systems for the exploitation of cheap labor and resources). And the means of success must be focused through the United Nations: “Seventy years ago, an earlier generation of world leaders came together to create the United Nations. From the ashes of war and division they fashioned this Organization and the values of peace, dialogue and international cooperation which underpin it. The supreme embodiment of those values is the Charter of the United Nations.” This statement is simply an ideological lie, simply nonsense. Those values are not the main thrust of the UN Charter.

The authors apparently have forgotten that there have been, by many scholarly counts, some 150 armed conflicts (wars) since 1945, that “dialogue” is extremely short supply in a UN in which Security Council vetoes govern nearly all decision-making, and in which there has been little or no genuine “international cooperation.” Study of the Charter of the United Nations reveals that it does not at all “embody these values.” It places the 5 victor nations from WW II over everyone; it sanctions and further institutionalizes the militarized world system of sovereign nation-states. Under Article 42, the Security Council is empowered to keep the peace by going to war.

Can real peace ever be established by going to war? Real peace is only established and protected by the democratic rule of law requiring an effective judiciary, civilian enforcement, and a constitutional framework guaranteeing equal due process for all. This is precisely what the UN Charter forbids. The only alternative to real peace is Article 42, to keep the peace by going to war. The Charter spends a great deal of wording specifying the subordination of the many nations to the so-called “Security Council,” a body that has never given the world the slightest hint of real “security.” To maintain a system of “sovereign” nation-states recognizing no enforceable law above themselves is to maintain the international war-system, making real peace impossible. This ideological lie that the document is about “keeping the peace” has covered up over 75 years global militarism, endless wars, economic conflict, and systemic exploitation.

Part Four: Do the 17 Sustainable Development Goals require a global public authority?

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth was written by hundreds of world citizens working together through a process of 4 Constituent Assemblies, over a period of 23 years from 1968 to 1991. At the fourth assembly in Troia, Portugal in 1991, the document was declared finished and ready for ratification under the democratic requirements set forth in its Article 17. It establishes global democracy, creates a legal order for the Earth that eventually demilitarizes the nations, ends poverty, ensures global social justice, and institutionalizes environmental protection and sustainability. In other words, it establishes not a “Security Council” that keeps the peace by going to war, but a world peace-system, with an effective judiciary, civilian enforcement, and a Constitution specifying the inalienable rights of all nations and persons.

The Earth Constitution is designed to deal with climate crisis in a systematic and comprehensive way. It makes food, fresh water, clean air, and freedom from poverty fundamental human rights that are legally redeemable under the Earth Federation Government. It also recognizes that human beings have the right to peace and the right to a healthy planetary environment. As we have seen above, you cannot handle global, planetary problems through delegating voluntary responsibility to some 200 mostly militarized sovereign nation-states. They will simply agree and then walk away. Nor can you deal with a planetary crisis without changing the economic and political system that is plainly a central cause of that crisis.

It is important to understand that the Earth Constitution does not abolish the UN but incorporates UN Agencies into its framework. The High Commission on Human Rights integrates with the World Ombudsmus, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court merge into the World Court System, the UN General Assembly into the House of Nations, etc. All major UN bodies are integrated in this way. The only substantive change is that the undemocratic and unworkable UN Charter is replaced by a genuine, excellently designed, democratic Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

If the people of Earth really have the human rights specified in the UN Universal Declaration of Rights, then they also have the right declared in Article 28: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” Human rights are violated just as routinely around the world today in 2020 as they were in 1947 when this Declaration was signed. The UN system is clearly not the “order” that is urgently needed. In 75 years of existence, the UN has failed give us peace, or environmental protection, or to end poverty, or to protect the rights of persons which are routinely violated by countries, corporations, and terror groups around the world. With these questions in mind, let us examine the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Under what “social and international order” can the “rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration be fully realized”?

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.  The noble sound of this ideal goal covers over how ridiculous this is in reality. This SDG document contains no analysis of the global production of poverty by the world-system. Astonishingly, the document never even mentions the planetary population explosion (the word “population” only appears 4 times in innocuous contexts). Yet the uncontrolled adding of millions of new people per year to the Earth is surely a major contributor to global poverty and misery.

We have a planet whose population increases, by many expert estimates, at about 80 million new persons per year, and population experts have been pointing out the calamity of global population explosion since at least the 1960s (Cohen 1995). The SDG document asserts that poverty everywhere can be eliminated by 2030 even though the planet will likely have about a billion new mouths to feed by that date. This goal not only ignores the population explosion but the fact that annually the amount of arable land dramatically decreases due to overuse and desertification and the global fish supply has been steadily dwindling since the 1980s. The Earth Constitution, by contrast, takes a holistic approach embracing all these factors. It makes voluntary population control, through education and worldwide inexpensive supplies of birth control products, available to the people of Earth and comprehensively includes all the factors necessary to genuinely ending poverty on Earth.

Goal 2: End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This goal states: “By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.” How this is to be achieved in the light of the world system outlined in this paper remains an inscrutable mystery. It is a good thing these goals are strictly voluntary on the part of nations, because nations can agree to almost any goal as long as that goal is voluntary and they are free to ignore it. The Earth Constitution makes food security a planetary right and creates the institutions for global planning necessary to actualizing this right.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. Can anyone imagine this being done in Indonesia, a global mecca for cheap labor, resources, destruction of rain-forests, and massive poverty?  Can anyone imaging this being done in the United States, a global mecca for class domination and the idea that no one receives health care unless some corporation can exploit this for private profit, a place where 40% of its population has no health insurance and no resources to visit a physician? The current competition of nations and corporations to keep development of a COVID-19 vaccine secret from one another illustrates the impossibility of “ensuring healthy lives for all” under the UN system. The Earth Constitution makes reasonable equality a binding, legally redeemable, right for all human beings. It makes universal health-care and the other necessities for human well-being into redeemable legal rights.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. According to the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of India, there are between 20 and 65 million bonded laborers in India alone, millions of these are children enslaved within the silk industry and other industries requiring free labor and tiny fingers. Girls in Afghanistan and other countries are often forbidden to get an education.

Without a transformed world system away from capitalism, militarized nation-states, and the UN protection of these institutions, such goals by the year 2030 appear as mere fantasy. The Earth Constitution puts the democratically elected representatives of the people of Earth in charge of transforming our current exploitative economic system into one dedicated to actualizing human potential through education for all, real protection of children, and all other fundamental rights. And it activates the grassroots participation of the people of Earth in this process through Global Peoples’ Assemblies and other means of popular mobilization.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in the United States to give equal rights to all citizens and abolish those legal distinctions between women and men in divorce, property, employment, etc. In the present year of 2020, this amendment remains far from passing.  Immense structural and cultural forces impede such equality in the United States and well as many other countries.  Under this goal it says: “Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.”

If this is next to impossible in the US (where fundamentalist Christians claim that the male must rule in the family), how will it be possible, for example, in fundamentalist Moslem countries around the world? It is deeply ironic that the SDGs recognize what is necessary to achieve such goals as “enforceable legislation.” Yet the UN system of national sovereignty is adamantly opposed to “enforceable legislation” at the world level where it is needed most. Under the Earth Constitution the equal rights of all persons are a matter of enforceable world law.

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all. As global warming increases annually, at the same time that the population of Earth continues to explode, freshwater is becoming progressively diminished. Water tables everywhere on the planet are dropping while the demand for water continues to increase. Hundreds of millions of people, for example, in the countries surrounding the Himalayas, depend on the annual show and ice melt from this mountain range, a melt which is disappearing as warming increases and the glaciers disappear. How can this goal be achieved while ignoring population explosion, shrinking arable land, and the likely future wars between India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries whose water supplies are rapidly diminishing?

Vandana Shiva documents the ways in which multinational corporations, with the help of the World Bank and the WTO, are sucking up immense quantities of water in these countries, causing the water tables to drop, and then selling the sucked-up water back to the people inside of environmentally damaging plastic containers. Everywhere these forces are working to get private control of formerly public water supplies converting what should belong to the people into privately owned monopolies (2002, Chap. 4). The Earth Constitution presents a world system in which all people have an inalienable right  to sufficient quantities of free, clean life-giving water. It is designed as cooperative, unity within diversity system to make this realistically possible.

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Naomi Klein details the way that the big oil companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars publicly calling into question the conclusions of climate scientists about the effects of fossil fuel on planetary warming. Immense economic forces are ranged against this goal of sustainable energy. Even today, five years into the jurisdiction of the SDGs, the nations of the world struggle for oil resources, over building new pipelines for oil and gas, and engage in destructive environmental fracking for natural gas.

As early as 1981 Buckminster Fuller had outlined the very doable possibility for a world clean-energy grid in which solar power can be brought to the entire earth through an interlinked global solar energy system. A truly planetary grid would not need extraordinary quantities of batteries because some portions of the Earth are nearly always experiencing sunlight. This would, of course, require energy cooperation rather than competition and war. It would require a united Earth such as that detailed within the Earth Constitution. Our problems can be solved, but only if we are truly united.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Even elementary theories of capitalism realize that this is impossible. Capitalist profit margins require unemployment, a desperate work force willing to work for low wages or lose their jobs and starve. Secondly, book after book by economists such as Herman E. Daly, Richard Heinberg, and Kate Raworth (as we have seen) proclaim that we are at the end of growth. Daly affirms that development must be qualitative, and can no longer be measured in exclusively quantitative terms.

Environmental experts like James Gustav Speth in The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing the Crisis to Sustainability show that capitalist growth dogma is at the heart of the problem. Even though the Earth Federation government will be employing millions of now unemployed people in environmental restoration and regeneration projects, the global economic system will need to accommodate automation (as Jeremy Rifkin, 2011, points out) and create a civilization with universal prosperity in which machines do most of the production rather than human labor. Real full employment means that nearly everyone is engaged in meaningful, useful, educational, creative, or service activities, not employment at some minimum wage for the growth maximization of some corporation’s private profit.

Rifkin envisions self-sufficient economic communities in which much of production is done digitally and human life is oriented to more meaningful and creative values rather than simply working to survive. Daly (1996) details how everything must be designed for maximum durability, to be repaired, and eventually recycled. Extraction from the Earth must be reduced to an absolute minimum and waste returned to the Earth must also be minimal. The Earth Constitution alone can make this new world possible because it places human beings in authority over the global corporations, over private banking, and over the territorial nation-states. It gives the World Parliament the means to create a world-system that works for everyone.

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. This is precisely what the Earth Constitution is designed to do and what the present world disorder is incapable of doing. World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations contain dozens of pages dedicated to “intellectual property rights” in order to ensure the private profit of multinational corporations in ways that defeat technology transfer, pharmaceutical transfer, or open-source information on sustainable industrialization.

The Earth Constitution establishes global public banking dedicated to making sustainable development available to poor people everywhere on Earth. The private banking cartels that now dominate the world make achieving Goal 9 impossible. The SDG document speaks of giving people greater “access to banking, insurance and financial services for all” but never critically recognizes that the the lion’s share of these services are for private profit and for the exploitation of those who receive them.

Human beings will never become sustainable (in harmony with the carrying capacity of our planetary biosphere), will never end war, and will never eliminate extreme poverty from the Earth without global monetary policy and public banking for the people of Earth (Brown 2007). As long as money-creation and banking are in the hands of these private banking cartels, the means of just and free living are denied to the people of Earth. Just as clean water and air are the responsibility of good government, democratically representing its people, so money as a universal medium of exchange must be democratically owned by the people of Earth. Money creation and banking are just as much a public service as are roads. It is absurd to keep these in private hands.

Philosopher Alan Gewirth (1996) argued correctly that government is responsible for both the freedom and well-being of people. Freedom is meaningless without well-being that makes freedom possible. The very infrastructure of healthy, sustainable living on the Earth must be in the democratic hands of the people of Earth. That is the role of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth as we will see further below. Under the Constitution, money creation and banking are predicated on the common good of the Earth and future generations and not on the absurdity of private profit extracted from every loan and every transaction. Anyone approaching true “planetary maturity” would surely comprehend this principle.

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries. According to the Pew Research Center on-line there are 96 out of 167 countries with populations over half a million that claim to be democratic. Yet we have seen that most of these are ruled by a tiny super-rich class and the other 71 countries are ruled explicitly by some self-interested oligarchy. A documented Wikipedia article states that in the United States “as of 2019, the bottom 50% of households had $1.67 trillion, or 1.6% of the net worth, versus $74.5 trillion, or 70% for the top 10%. From an international perspective, the difference in US median and mean wealth per adult is over 600%.”

top ten percent of the US population have 94.4% of all the wealth in the US.  With that kind of power in the hands of a few, a power that is institutionalized toward increasing their wealth at the rate of billions of dollars per day, how can this goal possibly be achieved?   These goals are simply fantasies. Only a power above the corporations and sovereign-nations (such as the Earth Constitution) would have the ability to reduce inequality. Real democracy must include reasonable economic equity.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Perhaps the authors of the SDGs all live in relatively clean, comfortable European cities like Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, Munich, or Milan. Perhaps they have never walked through the world’s dozens of nightmare megacities like Mexico City, Lagos, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dhaka, or Manila as has the present author. Miles and miles of unmitigated slums, tens of thousands in each city who cannot even find a hovel or tent in the slums but live their entire lives on the streets without shelter. If you walk through these cities early in the morning before sunrise, bodies sleeping everywhere on the pavement with their entire worldly possessions in a plastic bag near their heads.

In the 15 years between 2015 and 2030, there is no way on Earth that these dozens of centers of chaos and misery could be converted to “inclusive, safe, resilient, sustainable” habitats. Even passage of the Earth Constitution could not do this, although the Earth Federation government would have much greater means than those sorely lacking to the many nations that now house the world’s megacities. The key difference is in design. The Earth Constitution creates an integrated approach in which all these problems are seen in their interdependence and interrelationship. All these problems are solved together on a planetary scale or not at all. To fragment the task among some 200 sovereign entities is madness.

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This goal, of course, is absolutely fundamental if the Earth is to have a sustainable civilization. One item under this goal declares:By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.  Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”

There is no critique of the profit motive in this document, and, as we have seen, no critique of capitalism. Yet even elementary analyses of capitalism include its tendency to externalize costs in order to maximize profits. Waste, like unemployment, is essential to capitalism. Externalization of costs is essential to profit maximization. To “encourage” companies is not enough to make it happen. Some multinational companies have more assets and more leverage than the nations who host them. And we have seen that WTO rules prohibit these countries from even making laws that cut into profit margins.

As Annie Leonard points out in the on-line “Story of Stuff,” many companies are famous for calculating how rapidly their can design things to break without losing consumer loyalty. If things break and customers repeatedly buy new ones, profit margins are vastly increased. All the sustainable economists declare that sustainable production and consumption will mean an entirely different lifestyle especially for top ten nations of the world that today consume 80% of the planet’s resources (https://internationalbusinessguide.org/hungry-planet/).

With the US ruling class owning 94.4% of the wealth in the country generated substantially by this unsustainable system, who is going to convince them to give up the current system?  The US government that is run by them?  Both the Democratic Party and the Republican party are run by them. Are protestors in the streets who are beaten up by the police going to make a real difference? Only an Earth Federation government could ensure that sustainable production and consumption patterns happen effectively and equitably worldwide without undue suffering or injustice with regard to any of the parties involved. The top 10% right now (worldwide) who control everything, including the UN, have zero interest in any such equality.

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.* This goal of course hits the nail on the head in that urgent action is clearly what is needed. But this urgent action directs nations to “Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.” The asterisk tells us that this urgent action means “acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.”

Affirming this UN Framework Convention does not constitute the “urgent action” needed. Only addressing the root causes of the entire nexus of global problems will succeed. There is not only climate collapse but global poverty, endless wars, worldwide militarism, mindless competition among nations, and planetary social chaos. Individual nations are directed to take urgent action in the face of their own immense poverty, social chaos, and health pandemics, ignoring their domination by international banking cartels, multinational corporations, and imperial military forces. The UN Convention of Climate Change is in truth a prescription for human extinction. It ignores the root causes of our planetary chaos.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This item is absolutely important because the oceans are dying. If the oceans die, the planet dies, and we die. Volume after volume by environmental experts present data confirming this, and this awareness may be in unspoken background of Goal 14. Environmental leader, Bill McKibben, for example, in his 2019 book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? details the acidification of the oceans, their carbonization, the growing multiple dead zones, the diminishing oxygen production of the oceans (already suffocating some species), their rapid warming, and the immense quantities of plastic waste polluting them. James Gustav Speth in Red Sky at Morning writes in 2004 that “in 1960, 5 percent of marine fisheries were either fished to capacity or overfished; today 75 percent of marine fisheries are in this condition…. Data reveal that the global fish catch has shown a strong and consistent downturn every year since 1988” (2004, 15 & 33). The oceans indeed are dying.

Nations and corporations have developed the technology to mine the natural resources of continental shelves to some 200 miles offshore and a barrage of mining has erupted in the 21st century, with some immense accidents like Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, spewing immense quantities of deadly oil into the ocean. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (that went into effect in 1994 after 60 countries had endorsed it) has clauses that attempt to protect the sea but, of course, all such treaties are hamstrung by the claim of nations to “sovereignty” (i.e. lawlessness) and Law of the Sea Convention is weak and practically unenforceable. Moreover, one of huge nations most abusive of the seas, the United States, has refused to ratify this treaty, claiming that it infringes on its “sovereignty.” Goal 14 urges nations to “enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources.”

Is an unenforceable framework really a “legal framework”?  Ratification is voluntary for each nation including the United States, which means, of course, that the UN “Treaty System” is not a “legal framework” and cannot possibly save the environment. James Gustav Speth (former Dean of Environmental Studies at Yale University) writes:

The bottom line is that today’s treaties and their associated agreements and protocols cannot drive the changes needed…. Typically, these agreements are easy for governments to slight because the treaties’ impressive—but nonbinding—goals are not followed by clear requirements, targets, and timetables. And even when there are targets and timetables, the targets are often inadequate and means of enforcement are lacking. As a result, the climate convention is not protecting the climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, the desertification convention is not preventing desertification, and even the older and stronger Convention on the Law of the Sea is not protecting fisheries. (2008, 71-72)

We are seeing in the present essay that the Sustainable Development Goals clearly will not prevent climate collapse and will not give us effective sustainable development. Ratifying the UNCLOS will not prevent the oceans from dying.  Under the Earth Constitution, by contrast, the oceans of Earth belong to the people of Earth. The oceans are taken out of their absurd condition as a “global commons” which sovereign nations are largely free to exploit for their own interests and placed under the rule of enforceable law protecting them in the name of the common good of humanity.

The atmosphere of the Earth, the waters of the Earth, and forests and other resources essential to the biosphere and health human life on Earth—all these belong to the people of Earth— not to corporations, not to private banks, not to militarized sovereign nation-states. (See my 2019 article on “The Tragedy of the Global Commons” found at www.academia.edu.)  Sustainability is about the common good of the people of Earth and future generations. Yet none of our institutions, including the UN, are predicated on the common good of the people of Earth. They are predicated on the private goods of sovereign nation-states, banking cartels, multinational corporations, and the top 10% who own most of our planet’s wealth and resources.

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Again, reaching this goal by the year 2030 is absolutely essential to the future of life on Earth. Yet this goal tells the nations of the world to “mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems.”  One supposes they are to do this while continuing to pay back their immense intentional indebtedness to first world banking cartels, while at the same time maintaining their military preparedness by buying expensive weapons from first world arms dealing countries, and while dealing with their own internal social poverty and chaos. One supposes they are to do this while carrying out “structural adjustment” programs imposed by the World Bank and the IMF that require them to sell off their infrastructure and social programs to profit-making first world corporations. One supposes that the poor nations that have nearly zero credit worthiness are going to be able to “finance” protecting their environments (and, of course, we have seen that all ecological environments cross national boundaries, making this demand quixotic at best).

Under the Earth Constitution, finance for ecological protection is debt-free and non-exploitative because it arises from the global public banking that is at the heart of the Earth Federation government. Action need not be fragmented by nation-state boundaries and individual nations going into debt to try to protect their national ecological integrity. The Earth Federation Government is designed precisely to address global problems beyond the scope of nation-states. The integrated and interdependent ecosystems of the world must be under the enforceable protection of the global public authority, and easily financed by a global public financing system predicated on the common good and not private profit.

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. It is here that the ideological character of the SDGs perhaps becomes most glaring. Societies are supposed to be peaceful and inclusive internally. There is no mention of international wars, or internal civil wars and terrorist struggles financed and fostered by international actors. There is no mention of the world pouring 1.8 trillion US dollars down the drain annually through wars and military expenditures.

Societies around the world are being torn apart by the attempts of the US empire to maintain its global economic and political domination and by the resistance of competing powerful societies (such as China, Russia, and Iran) to hinder the empire in this goal. Major portions of the world are in chaos because of these struggles, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Libya to Yemen to Lebanon to Palestine. Internal conflicts are raging in dozens of more countries financed by the US-Israel coalition and resisted by the competing great powers. The UN is required to ignore all this and pretend that we have a world order that can really cooperate to bring the SDGs to their goals by the year 2030. As historian Tom Engelhardt writes, since 9/11, when the US government declared its endless global war on terror, this process has intensified rather than diminished:

Since 9/11, the result has been a religion of perpetual conflict whose doctrines tend to grow ever more extreme. In our time, for instance, the NSS has moved from Dick Cheney’s “1 percent doctrine” (if there is even 1 percent chance that some country might someday attack us, we should act “as if it is a certainty”) to something like a “zero percent doctrine.” Whether in its drone wars with presidential “kill lists” or the cyberwar—probably the first in history—that it launched against Iran, it no longer cares to argue most of the time that such strikes need even a 1 percent justification. Its ongoing, self-proclaimed Global War on Terror, whether on the ground or in the air, in person or by drone, in space or cyberspace (where the newest military command is already in action) is justification enough for just about any act, however aggressive. (2014: 7)

The key to achieving true sustainability is through a world-system that is designed to accomplish this goal. The SDGs by and large contain an accurate list of laudable and necessary goals. Their problem is not only that they lack a coherent means for achieving the goals. Their problem is that they are in principle not achievable within the present world system. They are not complete, as we have seen, since they exclude the absolute need for planetary population reduction through voluntary education and systematic provision of birth-control technologies, and because they exclude the need for world peace and demilitarization (both of which are essential if there is to be sustainability, or justice, or any sort of genuine human equity).

These laudable goals are forced into the Procrustean bed of an antiquated world system that is both a major cause of war, poverty, and environment destruction and a major impediment to the accomplishment of these goals. As one article on the SDGs from the point of view of “developing countries” puts it: “promotion of Justice at the national level, which stems from the spirit of the SDGs, particularly for goals 3, 4, 5 and 10, is not pursued.” (Jabbari, et.al. 2020). As the protest cry declares: “No justice, no peace.” Goal 16 is mere empty verbiage, ignoring and covering up a planetary war-system and pretending you can have peace within nations without also having justice and peace between nations.

Our global institutions of capitalism and sovereign nation-states are centuries old, a product of deeply discredited early-modern assumptions about the world. They are simply not designed for planetary biospheric health and protection. The Earth Constitution presents a world-system that neither abolishes free markets nor nation-states. But it does convert markets to democratic, non-exploitative forms of trade and public, common good forms of finance, and it does eliminate the militarism and absurd claims of the nations to recognize no binding laws above themselves (sovereignty). Both of these world-system changes are necessary if there is to be real sustainability protecting humanity from ever-growing environmental chaos and possible extinction.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development finance. This last goal reaffirms the present global economic system of north-south domination and exploitation. It affirms the Addis Ababa Action Agenda which, it correctly states, relates “to domestic public resources, domestic and international private business and finance, international development cooperation, international trade as an engine for development, debt and debt sustainability, addressing systemic issues and science, technology, innovation and capacity-building, and data, monitoring and follow-up.” These are all features that come from the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, that is, from the “international private business and finance” that has kept the poor nations in poverty for generations and is now supposed to reverse this process, as if by a miracle, and help them achieve “debt and debt sustainability.”

Goal 17 makes it clear that this system (of debt enslavement) is not abandoned but modified so they can keep paying on their debt “sustainably,” that is, forever. Yet as economist Richard Heinberg points out so clearly in The End of Growth (2011), the debt-financing system requires growth so that the surplus provided by the growth can be used for debt-servicing. Without growth, no borrower under the present system can pay the interest, let alone the principle, on their loans. Growth is assumed as the background for the SDGs in direct contradiction to the most fundamental principle, discussed above, that you cannot have endless growth on a finite planet.

Goal 17 states:  “We recognize that domestic resources are first and foremost generated by economic growth, supported by an enabling environment at all levels…. Private business activity, investment and innovation are major drivers of productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation.”  Privatization, private banking cartels making “development” loans, multinational corporations penetrating poor countries and buying up their resources to export profits abroad—all of this is assumed by the SDGs. The Global North continues to hold all the cards while demanding that the Global South tighten its belt while striving for environmental sustainability.

By contrast, the Earth Constitution begins the process of rapid transition to a sustainable world by assuming the international debts of the poor nations, freeing them from this exploitative burden. It does not abolish the debt to the exploiters of the Global North, but works out an agreement to repay this to the debt holders with Earth Federation currency while freeing the poor countries from this onerous system. The transition to a global economic system that works for all is thereby smooth and efficient. By creating global public banking and taking money-creation out of the hands of the private banking cartels, it also empowers a public process of debt-free money creation that can provide ample resources for creating a truly sustainable world.

Conclusion

 The SDGs take their stand with a vengeance on the capitalist system, designed for private profit at the expense of the common good, in league with the system of sovereign nation-states, designed for war, power politics, and a system of domination of strong over weak states. By refusing to examine the world system itself, what we end up with in the SDGs is ideology rather than science. Articles critical of the SDGs are not uncommon. An article by Thomas Pogge (2015), for example, calls them “brilliant propaganda.” However, like the majority of these articles, this one also fails to examine the world-system behind the SDGs and only demands that these “goals” should assign “clear responsibilities for achieving the goals” and sent up an independent “measurement operation” to track progress.

However, we have seen that such functionalist solutions do not get at the root of the problem, which goes much deeper. If one examines the world-system behind the SDGs it becomes clear that, in principle, they cannot possibly be achieved within that system. What is needed is a global public authority. What is needed is a democratic constitution for the Earth. The SDGs extend the dogma of the right to the unlimited private accumulation of wealth (the unquestioned “private property” mantra) to the nations themselves under the equivalent dogma of sovereignty: “We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity.” With this statement we have the bottom-line of SDG assumptions. Nations think that the resources all human beings need to live somehow are their own private property.

If a spiritual transformation is required as part of human liberation into a just and peaceful world civilization, then it is important to understand this principle: There are social-political-economic conditions that can sever people from their potential for spiritual growth and others that can facilitate openness to a transformational growth in love, cooperation, solidarity, and justice. The Earth Constitution provides the conditions for this transformative growth, while the present “modernist” world-system inhibits and blocks growth toward human liberation. This egoistic obsession with the private accumulation of wealth, whether for private persons for “sovereign” nation-states, is a prescription of death for human spiritual growth as well as our planetary environment.

The mantra of unlimited private wealth-accumulation is not predicated on human dignity. It violates this dignity. The manta of “sovereign” states owning all the wealth found within their borders is not based on human dignity. Bounded territories on the Earth have no dignity. They are intrinsically power-centers deriving from a 350-year old ideology that has never had any concept of human dignity. The so-called “rights” of sovereign nations are an illusion. Only human beings have rights and dignity as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes very clear.

In sum, the SDG document exhibits the following features all of which violate human dignity and sustainability: (1) The population explosion on the Earth is ignored and not considered a major problem, (2) Global militarism and wars are ignored and not considered a major problem, (3) The economic system in which a tiny handful of people own more than 50% of the world’s wealth while the bottom half of humanity (over 3 billion people) live in a poverty or near-poverty without access to education or other means to really develop their human potential is not considered a problem, (4) The dogma of “sovereignty” meaning that all treaties must be voluntary and that nations each have “full permanent sovereignty” over all their “wealth, natural resources, and economic activity” is not considered a problem.

Consider the implications of this dogma of sovereignty. The government of Brazil happens to host “the lungs of the Earth” that produce nearly 50% of the world’s oxygen and moderate the global climate in a variety of ways as explained in detail by climate scientists.  Under this system, the government of Brazil has the legal right to destroy the lungs of the earth through development by its private, profit-making corporations. The United States has the legal right not to sign the Law of the Sea convention and to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, even though that withdrawal by the world’s largest polluter could mean bringing down the global climate for the entire Earth.

Under the UN system, China has the legal right to produce all the CO2 it wants and send this into a global atmosphere that is daily increasing the greenhouse effect of overheating our entire planet.  All the nations of the world have these same rights, including the legal right to militarize themselves to the teeth, wasting resources badly needed to protect and restore our planetary environment. To understand this is to discern how absurd these SDGs and the UN system that supports them really are.

Is the colonized lifeworld of those who staff the UN system likely to awaken soon to a truly worldcentric and planet-centered morality? It is likely that human beings will draw upon the liberating dynamics that remain largely untapped at the heart of world civilization in time to prevent planetary ecocide?  Is it likely that the nationalistic virus pitting the US and its lackies against China, Russia, and Iran will soon learn to overcome their schizophrenia to embrace human and planetary holism? Is it likely that the empire, whether under an Obama, Trump, or Joe Biden, will grow to the planetary maturity of unity in diversity? None of these are likely, because the present world system itself blocks human growth toward a wider and fuller consciousness. Ecocide appears likely within this world system—the death of the Earth and its human inhabitants.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth does not abolish the nations but unites them within the World Parliament that represents the common good of everyone on Earth. The people of Earth are sovereign and the Earth Federation government representing them is designed to address precisely these global problems that the UN system is not designed to effectively address.  A system is set in place that democratically addresses precisely these four fundamental issues ignored by the SDGs. And perhaps just as important, as system is set in place that makes possible rapid human moral and spiritual growth.

First, the Constitution establishes massive voluntary and educational programs to stop the population explosion and reduce our planetary population to a sustainable level. These programs simultaneously educate the people of Earth for planetary maturity. Second, it sets up programs to carefully reduce then abolish militarism and establish the rule of enforceable democratic law over all nations and persons, so that all conflicts are handled through courts, mediation, and addressing the causes of these conflicts, and no longer through war and terrorism.

And at the same time, it educates them to the real meaning of world peace with justice, that is, to a world based on human dignity rather than power. Third, the Constitution is designed to convert markets to democratic markets that serve the common good while at the same time “reducing social disparities” and eliminating severe poverty everywhere on Earth. Global public banking now serves sustainability and the real common good, not, as at present, the wealth of first world nations, their global corporations, and their banking cartels.

Fourth, the Earth Constitution is designed in multiple ways to bring the world into sustainability and healthy balance with the biosphere of our planet. For example, it places the ecosystems, the oceans, the atmosphere, and every natural resource vital to the health of the planet under the enforceable authority of the people of Earth and no longer considers our planetary resources as the “private property” of militarized sovereign nation-states. With the Earth Constitution, we have truly united humanity to address our collapsing biosphere along with our other lethal global problems such as the threat of nuclear war. It provides the tri-cameral World Parliament representing our planetary common good with the democratic legal means, and institutional infrastructure, to achieve success.

Finally, the Constitution unites all people under the principle of unity in diversity, thereby making possible the moral and spiritual growth that this principle implies. The SDG document also points out that all these problems are interrelated and must be effectively addressed simultaneously. Yet the fragmented world system that it presupposes is hopelessly inadequate to achieve this. The Earth Constitution is designed to simultaneously end war, disarm the nations, protect universal human rights, diminish economic disparity, and to provide effective cooperation among the peoples of Earth to create a truly sustainable civilization.

The Earth belongs to all of us. It can only be all of us, democratically united under a freedom provided by the equitable rule of law, who can really solve our most basic planetary problems and provide a decent, beautiful and healthy planet for all future generations. I have shown that the SDGs and the world system that they presuppose cannot possibly accomplish this. Our immediate and most pressing goal must be to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

 

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(Glen T. Martin is author or editor of 11 books and hundreds of articles concerning our human condition, the world system, economic and political justice, human moral and spiritual growth, and the need for humanity to ascend to unity in diversity under an Earth Constitution. He is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University, founder of Radford’s Peace Studies program, President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), and Executive Director of the Earth Constitution Institute (ECI). His forthcoming book with Oracle Press, focusing on our global environmental crisis, is entitled “Design for a Living Planet.” His website and blog are located at www.oneworldrenaissance.org)

Es hora de que nos hagamos reales:

Revisión del libro de Ervin Laszlo Cambio global ahora: un llamado a la evolución (translated by Leopoldo A. Cook)

En su nuevo libro “Cambio Global Ahora: Un llamado a la Evolución” (Global Shift Now: A Call to Evolution), Ervin Laszlo aborda nuestra urgente necesidad de evolucionar rápidamente nuestros valores, actitudes e instituciones para crear un nuevo mundo después de la pandemia global. El libro presenta listas comentadas de los valores que nos han fallado y describe los valores transformados que serán necesarios para la supervivencia y el florecimiento humanos. Debemos salir de la pandemia global haciendo lo siguiente (2020, 32-33):

• Pasar de la competencia a la asociación

• Pasar de la codicia a la suficiencia y el cuidado

• Cambio de autoridad externa a interna

• Pasar de la separación a la plenitud

• Cambio de sistemas mecanicistas a vivos

• Cambio de la fragmentación organizativa a una integración coherente

Continúa explicando cómo estos cambios en las orientaciones de valores conducirán a una nueva economía de suficiencia, sostenibilidad y resiliencia, a una nueva cultura de respeto por la diversidad en la que las personas “encuentran la solidaridad y el amor que las vincula con sus semejantes y con el universo en general” (ibid., 37).

Necesitamos una economía y una cultura transformadas, pero también un “cambio de la fragmentación organizativa a una integración coherente”. ¿“Fragmentación organizacional”? ¿Podría Laszlo significar la máxima fragmentación absoluta de la humanidad en estados-nación soberanos militarizados? Continúa hablando sobre la imperiosa necesidad de transformación cultural, pero no persigue el concepto de “fragmentación organizacional” que, uno pensaría, también nos da una imperiosa necesidad de transformación organizacional.

En los primeros libros suyos que he leído (ver Obras citadas), no presenta ninguna crítica directa de la soberanía nacional a pesar de que adopta un enfoque de sistemas y reconoce que idealmente “los sistemas sociales, como los sistemas en la naturaleza, forman ‘holarquías’. Hay muchos niveles y, sin embargo, hay integración” (1996, 51). Y reconoce un problema con los estados-nación en su libro de 2008: “Para los estados, el objetivo del crecimiento extensivo es la soberanía territorial, incluida la soberanía sobre los recursos humanos y naturales de los territorios” (2008, 48).

En este nuevo librito llamado “Global Shift Now! Un llamado a la evolución”, nos encontramos con algunos llamados breves pero serios para cuestionar el sistema de estados-nación autónomos y militarizados.

Una de estas características de este nuevo mundo (para el año 2030, dice) será la abolición de las “pretensiones de soberanía”:

El mundo de 2030 es globalmente completo pero localmente diverso. Los estados-nación soberanos, herencia de la era moderna, han dado paso a un mundo transnacional en el que las naciones son una sola, aunque sea un nivel importante de organización política, sin pretensiones de soberanía…. En algunas áreas, como el comercio y las finanzas, la información y las comunicaciones, la paz y la seguridad y la protección del ambiente, la toma de decisiones se confía a foros mundiales. Esto, sin embargo, permite un nivel significativo de autonomía a nivel local, nacional y regional. (2020, 72-73)

Las áreas de toma de decisiones globales que él enumera serán realizadas por “la Organización de las Regiones Unidas”, el organismo de nivel global creado por la reforma de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas” (ibid., 73). Esta organización incluirá “la Unión Europea, la Unión de América del Norte, la Unión de América Latina, la Unión de África del Norte y Medio Oriente, la Unión de África Subsahariana, la Unión de Asia Central, la Unión de Asia del Sur y Sudeste y la Unión de Australia Unión Asia-Pacífico ”(ibid., 73-74).

Anteriormente en el libro, en un error increíble en sus proporciones, Laszlo afirma que la Primera Guerra Mundial concluyó en el “Tratado de Paz de Westfalia” que “confirió a los estados-nación el ‘derecho inalienable’ a tener un gobierno independiente, reconocido internacionalmente fronteras…. El estado-nación formalmente constituido se convirtió en la única autoridad política, la única entidad que posee soberanía legal y política” (ibid., 56). En realidad, la Paz de Westfalia concluyó la Guerra de los 30 Años en el año 1648. Esta concepción de la soberanía nacional ha estado con el mundo unos 370 años, no sólo desde la Primera Guerra Mundial como afirma Laszlo.

Ninguno de los siete tratados de paz que concluyeron la Primera Guerra Mundial tenía este nombre. El tratado principal fue el Tratado de Versalles. ¿Cómo podría alguien con el vasto conocimiento de Laszo cometer este error? ¿Quizás el libro fue escrito por uno de sus asistentes? Sin embargo, su nombre está en la portada.

La diferencia en la datación es tan seria y fundamental porque en 1648 la concepción de estados-nación soberanos e independientes quizás tenía algún sentido, ya que la gente montaba a caballo y los ejércitos luchaban principalmente con espadas. En el momento de la Primera Guerra Mundial, la idea de estados-nación soberanos militarizados que no reconocen leyes efectivas por encima de ellos mismos ya era un absurdo flagrante.

Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, pensadores avanzados como Rosika Schwimmer de la Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad (que también fue fundadora del Partido de la Paz de las Mujeres en 1915) entendieron que esta horrible guerra de masacre en masa era en sí misma el producto del sistema de nación soberana. -estados que no reconocen leyes aplicables por encima de ellos mismos (ver Martin 2010). De hecho, casi todas las asombrosas brutalidades del siglo XX pueden vincularse a este extraño sistema de estados-nación soberanos militarizados e irresponsables, desde el imperialismo hasta los genocidios y la destrucción de nuestra biosfera planetaria.

Ahora los seres humanos nos encontramos en el año 2020 y los principales líderes del pensamiento como Ervin Laszlo parecen estar comenzando a desafiar seriamente la concepción de la soberanía nacional absoluta, algo que no hace en sus libros anteriores. A lo largo de la historia occidental, muchos pensadores importantes ya han desafiado esta noción desde el siglo XVII cuando nació (de Spinoza a Hobbes a Locke a Kant a Hegel, etc.), como he demostrado en muchos de mis libros y artículos (por ejemplo, Martin 2008).

Desafiar la noción absurda de soberanía nacional absoluta es una cosa. Proponer un sustituto creíble para él es algo completamente diferente. Según Laszlo, en los próximos 10 años el mundo debe formar siete uniones regionales comparables a la Unión Europea y luego unir estas regiones bajo un organismo global llamado la “Organización de las Regiones Unidas”. Esta visión y propuesta me parecen nada menos que extrañas.

La Unión Europea por sí sola tardó unos 70 años en desarrollarse y sigue siendo bastante inadecuada porque rechaza la banca pública central y otras características necesarias de una verdadera unión. Esta insuficiencia se puede ver en el trato brutal de Grecia cuando se enfrentaba a la bancarrota. En lugar de trabajar como sindicato para salvar a uno de sus miembros, castró a Grecia y la obligó a adoptar un estado de austeridad radical.

¿Laszlo espera seriamente que nuestro mundo cree unas siete uniones regionales adicionales y luego desarrolle una “Organización de las Regiones Unidas” con autoridad sobre el mantenimiento de la paz, el comercio y las finanzas, y la protección del medio ambiente en los próximos diez años? ¿Un plan que parece no tener un anteproyecto, ningún trabajo avanzado realizado y ningún reconocimiento mundial anticipado? ¿Cómo es que los pensadores serios pueden alejarse tanto del sentido común y la claridad? Laszlo parece ignorar todo el trabajo realizado por los pensadores federalistas mundiales desde la Primera Guerra Mundial.

El hecho es que los seres humanos tienen un modelo simple, limpio y elegantemente escrito para unir al mundo como una “holarquía” sobre la base de los principios democráticos globales. Se llama la Constitución de la Federación de la Tierra y existe desde hace décadas, aunque también se traduce a docenas de idiomas. Es conocido en todo el mundo y tiene decenas de miles de seguidores en todo el mundo. Organiza el mundo como una democracia de abajo hacia arriba de 1.000 distritos electorales en todo el planeta. Quita la soberanía de las naciones, las desmilitariza y las lleva como regiones participantes a una comunidad cooperante global. Otorga una autonomía significativa a los niveles local, nacional y regional de organización socio-político-económica.

Ya está escrito: un documento completo y listo para ratificación (www.earth-constitution.org). Aquí hay algo que realmente podría lograrse en los próximos 10 años, una transformación que salvaría el ambiente, desarmaría el mundo militarizado y crearía la Tierra como una comunidad cooperativa global de unidad en la diversidad. Según Laszlo, las responsabilidades de cualquier “organización de nivel global” serían las siguientes:

El nivel global es el nivel más bajo en lo que respecta a garantizar la paz y la seguridad y regular el flujo global de bienes, dinero y conocimiento. También es el nivel para coordinar la información que fluye en las redes globales de comunicación. Su objetivo es armonizar políticas dedicadas a asegurar la integridad de los procesos que mantienen el equilibrio en la biosfera. (2020, 74)

Esto describe muy de cerca las funciones del Complejo Integrativo formuladas por la Constitución de la Tierra y ubicadas en el corazón mismo del gobierno de la Federación de la Tierra. La paz, la seguridad, el flujo de conocimientos y la economía global son parte del Complejo Integrativo administrado democráticamente. Como afirma Laszlo, nuestro mundo realmente está en una crisis terrible debido a la pandemia global. Como también afirma, tenemos que evolucionar rápida y conscientemente en la cultura, la economía y la organización global.

La Constitución de la Tierra proporciona todas estas cosas dentro de un marco que permite su ratificación e implementación dentro de los próximos 10 años. De hecho, según el artículo 19, podemos empezar a hacer estas cosas ahora. No tenemos que esperar a la formación de uniones regionales globales y alguna unión especulativa de estas regiones bajo una “Organización de Regiones Unidas”. Dejemos de lado las abstracciones y los absurdos y demos los pasos prácticos para la transformación que están disponibles para nosotros aquí y ahora.

Es hora de que nos volvamos reales. Es un paso más allá de nuestras listas de nobles ideales como se encuentran en la Carta de la Tierra y muchos de los libros de Laszlo. Es hora de actualizar estos ideales de acuerdo con un plan práctico que ya ha sido elaborado por cientos de ciudadanos del mundo trabajando juntos durante un período de 23 años a través de un proceso de cuatro Asambleas Constituyentes.

Ni la “Carta de la Tierra”, ni un compromiso de las “Declaraciones de interdependencia” que se encuentran en línea, ni los “Diez mandamientos de vivir en un mundo de diversidad” que se encuentran en este libro de Laszlo (págs. 70-71). Los ideales piadosos no lo harán. Necesitamos trascender legal y efectivamente el sistema destructivo de estados-nación soberanos militarizados que no reconocen leyes efectivas por encima de ellos mismos.

Necesitamos acción y una Constitución democrática real y efectiva para la Federación de la Tierra. No necesitamos comenzar a formular teóricamente nuevos documentos organizacionales en un intento por definir un futuro transformado. Ya tenemos el documento clave que necesitamos.

Institucionaliza un futuro de paz, justicia y sostenibilidad para toda la humanidad. Lo que se puede y se debe hacer ahora es organizar los sistemas de votación. Nuestro próximo paso práctico, tanto ahora como después de la pandemia, debe ser una votación segura en línea que pueda ratificar e implementar la Constitución de la Tierra. Está en juego el futuro de nuestro planeta. Necesitamos actuar ahora.

¿A cuál final?

¿A cuál final?

Después de COVID, ¿Cuáles deberían ser nuestros objetivos políticos, económicos y culturales?

Glen T. Martin  (Translated by Leopoldo Cook)

13 de agosto de 2020

Durante siglos, cada cultura dentro de nuestro mundo de culturas múltiples ha perseguido su propia elaboración de sabiduría y sus propios asuntos económicos y políticos internos. Desde el siglo XX ha sido diferente. Estas culturas no solo se han enfrentado entre sí en el escenario mundial, sino que la humanidad se ha dado cuenta de un final inminente, una posibilidad de extinción del proyecto humano a través del holocausto nuclear o la destrucción ecológica.

Hoy, el choque de culturas del mundo necesita resolución y redención. Necesitamos preguntarnos unos a otros si hay algún significado para todo el desarrollo de la civilización. ¿Existe algún fin u objetivo implícito en todas nuestras culturas, naciones, razas y particularidades que pueda unirnos antes de que sea demasiado tarde?

Como señala Ervin Laszlo en su nuevo libro “¡Cambio Global YA! Un llamado a la evolución” (Global Shift Now! A call to evolution), la pandemia de coronavirus ha “interrumpido el poder del centro”, haciendo posible un cambio “en todo el sistema”. “Por primera vez en la historia”, dice, “podemos elegir consciente y decididamente nuestro propio destino” (2020, 2). Hacer esta pregunta en sí misma pone en perspectiva las guerras terroristas, nuestras rivalidades entre Estados-nación, las calamidades económicas en todo el mundo, las contiendas políticas y las muchas empresas económicas egoístas. Enterrar nuestras cabezas en la arena y concentrarnos miopes en nuestros problemas y asuntos locales cargados de emociones es hoy un comportamiento suicida, suicidio no solo para nuestra nación con sus problemas locales, sino que este comportamiento miope también invita al suicidio para nuestro planeta en su conjunto. .

Hoy en día, nuestra propia supervivencia en este planeta requiere que pensemos y actuemos globalmente. Necesitamos “elegir consciente y deliberadamente nuestro propio destino”. Sin embargo, elegir este destino requerirá una visión sintética. Requerirá, como sugiere el título del libro de Laszlo, “un llamado a la evolución”. Debemos decidir no solo quiénes y qué somos como seres humanos, sino quiénes y en qué queremos llegar a ser. El destino que elegimos o reconocemos debe unir sintéticamente la política, la economía, la cultura, la ética y la espiritualidad globales.

Estas cinco dimensiones de la existencia humana no son compartimentos separados. Todos están vinculados. Nuestra política siempre tiene que ver con la economía, como sabe cualquier persona con conciencia política. Y ambos son sobre cultura. ¿Queremos una cultura mundial de guerra, la proliferación de armas y enfrentamientos violentos entre naciones, grupos políticos, religiones o ideologías, o queremos una cultura mundial de paz, justicia y colaboración cooperativa para el bien común de humanidad y generaciones futuras?

Y, en última instancia, las tres dimensiones (política, economía y cultura) tienen que ver con la ética y la espiritualidad. Se trata de nuestra actitud interior, de nuestra conciencia, compasión y racionalidad. ¿Queremos una economía que ignore la ética en el esfuerzo por maximizar las ganancias privadas causando una inmensa pobreza, explotación y degradación ambiental? ¿O queremos una economía preocupada por una prosperidad razonable para todos junto con un medio ambiente sostenible y saludable?

La ética y la espiritualidad involucran nuestro sentido de que todos somos iguales por dentro: todos seres libres, racionales, sensoriales, que desean la plenitud de la vida, que desean la alegría y la plenitud de estar vivos y prosperar en este magnífico, asombroso y hermoso planeta. —La sensación de que compartimos un destino común mientras nos precipitamos por el espacio en nuestra órbita alrededor del sol. ¿Es posible que la economía se base en el amor, la justicia y la cooperación sinérgica en lugar de en el individualismo crudo, la despreocupación por los demás y la competencia brutal?

Sintetizar la política, la economía, la cultura, la ética y la espiritualidad dentro de un marco viable para la humanidad significa abrazar la ratificación de la Constitución para la Federación de la Tierra. Esta Constitución de la Tierra establece un marco político democrático para nuestro planeta que permite a todas las personas participar en el desarrollo evolutivo de nuestro destino común. La afirmación de Ervin Laszlo de que debemos elegir conscientemente nuestro propio destino sigue siendo relativamente insignificante a menos que los seres humanos establezcan un marco político-económico para que esto suceda.

Reconocer un destino común no puede quedarse en un vago deseo que todos de alguna manera nos ponemos en la misma página. Si tenemos un destino común, ¿cómo tomamos e implementamos decisiones basadas en este destino? Las vagas demandas de “elegir” hacen poco sin el aparato concreto para tomar e implementar nuestras elecciones. La Constitución establece no solo la unión de los seres humanos como un todo político, económico, cultural, ético y espiritual. Proporciona el marco para que este holismo sea eficaz en todas estas dimensiones.

La Constitución se basa en el principio ético y espiritual de la unidad en la diversidad, y se basa en la premisa de la dignidad humana. El artículo 13 reconoce como un derecho humano fundamental que la Federación de la Tierra proporcione las condiciones que permitan a “cada niño la plena realización de su potencial”. Esta estipulación, junto con todo el diseño de la Constitución, apunta al fin u objetivo efectivo de la vida de la civilización humana: brindar a cada niño oportunidades para la plena realización de su potencial. Tal visión presupone amor, respeto por todos los demás y sinergia cooperativa. La Constitución nos ofrece un sistema mundial verdaderamente transformado.

Algunos escritores han argumentado que los seres humanos no pueden unirse de esta manera hasta que hayan madurado ética y espiritualmente hasta cierto nivel. Pero la vida humana es un todo. Las instituciones que establecemos para gobernarnos y guiar nuestras economías influyen en nuestra conciencia. El capitalismo y el sistema de naciones-estado en guerra distorsionan nuestra conciencia en formas maliciosas, llenas de odio y miedo. No maduraremos ética y espiritualmente bajo estos sistemas. Las instituciones son parte de la totalidad de la vida humana.

Cambiar las instituciones ayuda a cambiar la conciencia. Así como la conciencia perpetúa las instituciones, las instituciones influyen en la conciencia. El destino humano común que debemos imaginar y sobre el que debemos actuar a medida que el coronavirus perturba las antiguas potencias mundiales dominantes es abrazar el holismo de ratificar la Constitución de la Federación de la Tierra.

La democracia global pone el destino de la Tierra por primera vez en la historia en manos de la gente de la Tierra. Le quita el poder a los estados-nación imperiales en guerra, a los oligarcas súper ricos y a las corporaciones multinacionales. A menos que la gente de la Tierra asuma la responsabilidad de su propio futuro, no tendremos futuro. Las naciones en guerra, los superricos y las corporaciones multinacionales no se preocupan por ese futuro. Están en proceso de destruirlo.

Unir a la humanidad bajo el principio de unidad en diversidad a través de la Constitución de la Tierra no disminuirá la maravillosa diversidad de culturas, razas o formas religiosas humanas. De hecho, servirá para protegerlos y transformarlos de fragmentos en conflicto y guerreros en unidades cooperantes del todo reconociendo y respetando sus legítimas y profundas diferencias. Algunas religiones insisten en que no hay futuro sin Dios, pero la unidad bajo la Constitución de la Tierra solo aumentará la posibilidad de un futuro con Dios, ya que nuestras actuales guerras interminables de fragmentación religiosa solo disminuyen la presencia de Dios en el mundo.

En casi todas las tradiciones culturales y religiosas encontramos comprensión de nuestra situación cósmica en términos de los tres grandes principios de la existencia: Dios, los seres humanos y el mundo. Estos tres principios no son iguales y deben entenderse en su carácter distintivo. Sin embargo, solo hay un universo abrazado por estos tres principios. También están profundamente relacionados. Dios, el Hombre y el Mundo deben mantenerse conceptualmente separados. Sin embargo, también están inseparablemente relacionados entre sí, interpenetrando e interactuando. La palabra tradicional para esta interpenetración mutua sin asimilación es amor.

La propia Constitución de la Tierra, como documento determinante para unir a la humanidad y hacer posible la conciencia y la toma de decisiones efectiva para el bien común, no habla específicamente de Dios, ni del espíritu, ni de la ética. Pero toma estos aspectos de nuestras culturas y religiones históricamente fragmentadas y los lleva al marco de una humanidad unida que puede resolver sus diferencias con amor y comprensión mutua en lugar de con odio, miedo y acritud.

En su gran libro, “La experiencia de Dios: iconos del misterio”, Raimon Panikkar aclara el holismo de nuestra situación humana y las interrelaciones de “Dios, el hombre y el mundo”. Necesitamos hacer avanzar la ética y la espiritualidad dentro del marco de la Constitución de la Tierra para que las profundidades de nuestra situación humana se hagan evidentes para todas las personas y para que nuestras instituciones puedan sintonizarse con estas profundidades para promover la plenitud de la vida de todas las personas.

Trabajar en nombre de la Constitución de la Tierra significa trabajar en nombre de un sistema mundial al servicio de todos los seres humanos que viven en igualdad y plenitud de vida. Significa cerrar la brecha actual entre las instituciones políticas y económicas y las dimensiones éticas y espirituales de la vida humana. Significa que el verdadero fin u objetivo de la existencia humana puede emerger en una visión común por primera vez en la historia. Significa que hemos elegido, después de la devastación del coronavirus, dar el siguiente paso necesario en la evolución consciente hacia nuestros verdaderos fines humanos.

To What End? After COVID, What should be Our Political, Economic, and Cultural Goals?

For centuries, each culture within our world of multiple cultures has pursued its own elaboration of wisdom and its own internal economic and political affairs.  Since the 20th century, it has been different.  Not only have these cultures clashed with one another on the world scene, but humankind has become aware of an impending end, a possibility of extinction of the human project through nuclear holocaust or ecological destruction.

Today, the clash of the world’s cultures needs resolution and redemption. We need to ask one another if there is some meaning to the entire development of civilization. Is there some end or goal implicit in all our cultures, nations, races, and particularities that can unite us before it is too late?

As Ervin Laszlo points out in his new book Global Shift Now!  A Call to Evolution, the coronavirus pandemic has “disrupted the power of the center,” making “system-wide” change possible. “For the first time in history,” he says, “we can consciously and purposefully choose our own destiny” (2020, 2). To ask this question itself puts the terrorist wars, our nation-state rivalries, economic calamities around the globe, the political contests, and the many self-interested economic ventures into perspective. To bury our heads in the sand and focus myopically on our emotionally-charged local problems and issues is today suicidal behavior, suicide not only for our nation with its local issues, but this myopic behavior also invites suicide for our planet as a whole as well.

Today, our very survival on this planet requires that we think and act globally. We need to “consciously and purposefully choose our own destiny.”  Yet choosing this destiny will require a synthetic vision. It will require, as the title of Laszlo’s book suggests, “a call to evolution.”  We must decide not only who and what we are as human beings but who and what we want to become. The destiny that we choose or recognize must synthetically unite global politics, economics, culture, ethics, and spirituality.

These five dimensions of human existence are not separate compartments. They are all linked. Our politics is always also about economics, as any politically-aware person knows. And both of these are about culture. Do we want a world-culture of war, the proliferation of weapons, and violent confrontations between nations, political groups, religions, or ideologies, or do we want a world-culture of peace, justice, and cooperative collaboration for the common good of humanity and future generations?

And ultimately all three of these dimensions (politics, economics, and culture) are about ethics and spirituality. They are about our inner attitude, about our awareness and compassion and rationality. Do we want an economics that ignores ethics in the endeavor to maximize private profit causing immense poverty, exploitation, and environmental degradation?  Or do we want an economics concerned with a reasonable prosperity for everyone along with a sustainable, healthy environment?

Ethics and spirituality involve our sense that we are all the same within: all free, rational, sensing-feeling, beings who desire the fullness of life, who desire the joy and fulfillment of being alive and prospering on this magnificent, astonishing, beautiful planet—the sense that we share a common fate as we hurtle through space in our orbit around the sun. Is it possible for economics to be founded on love, justice, and synergistic cooperation rather than on raw individualism, unconcern for others, and brutal competition?

To synthesize politics, economics, culture, ethics, and spirituality within a workable framework for humanity means to embrace ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. This Earth Constitution establishes a democratic political framework for our planet that allows all persons to participate in the evolutionary development of our common destiny. Ervin Laszlo’s assertion that we need consciously to choose our own destiny remains relatively meaningless unless human beings establish a political-economic framework for making this happen.

To recognize a common destiny cannot remain just some vague wish that we all somehow get on the same page.  If we have a common destiny, how do we make and implement decisions based on this destiny?  Vague demands for “choosing” do little without the concrete apparatus for making and implementing our choices.  The Constitution provides not only for human beings uniting as a political, economic, cultural, ethical, and spiritual whole.  It provides the framework for making this holism effective across all these dimensions.

The Constitution is based on the ethical and spiritual principle of unity in diversity, and it is based on the premise of human dignity.  Article 13 recognizes as a fundamental human right that the Earth Federation provide the conditions that allow “each child the full realization of his or her potential.” This stipulation, along with the entire design of the Constitution, points to the effective end or goal of human civilizational life: to provide each child opportunities for the full realization of his or her potential. Such a vision presupposes love, respect for all others, and cooperative synergy. The Constitution offers us a truly transformed world-system.

Some writers have argued that human beings cannot unite in this way until they have ethically and spiritually matured to a certain level. But human life is a whole.  The institutions that we establish to govern ourselves and guide our economies influence our consciousness. Capitalism and the system of warring nation-states distort our consciousness into malicious, hate- and fear-filled, forms.  We will not mature ethically and spiritually under these systems. Institutions are part of the wholeness of human life.

Changing the institutions helps change the consciousness.  Just as consciousness perpetuates institutions, so institutions influence consciousness. The common human destiny that we need to envision and act upon as the coronavirus disrupts the old, dominant world powers is to embrace the holism of ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Global democracy puts the destiny of the Earth for the first time in history into the hands of the people of Earth. It takes the power away from warring imperial nation-states, super-rich oligarchs, and multinational corporations. Unless the people of Earth take responsibility for their own future, we will have no future. The warring nations, the super-rich, and the multinational corporations do not care about that future.  They are in the process of destroying it.

Uniting humanity under the principle of unity in diversity through the Earth Constitution will not diminish the wonderful diversity of human cultures, races, or religious forms.  In fact, it will serve to protect these and transform them from conflicting, warring fragments into cooperating units of the whole recognizing and respecting their legitimate, profound differences. Some religions insist that there is no future without God, but unity under the Earth Constitution will only enhance the possibility of a future with God, since our present endless wars of religious fragmentation only diminish the presence of God in the world.

In nearly all cultural and religious traditions we find comprehension of our cosmic situation in terms of the three great principles of existence: God, human beings, and world.  These three principles are not the same and need to be understood in their distinctiveness. Yet there is only one universe embraced by these three principles. They are also profoundly related. God and Man and World must be kept conceptually separate. Yet they are also inseparably related to one another, interpenetrating and interacting. The traditional word for this mutual interpenetration without assimilation is love.

The Earth Constitution itself, as a determinant document for uniting humanity and making possible awareness and effective decision-making for the common good does not specifically talk about God, or spirit, or ethics.  But it takes these aspects of our historically fragmented cultures and religions and brings them forward into the framework of a united humanity who can work out its differences with love and mutual understanding rather than with hate, fear, and acrimony.

In his great book, The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery, Raimon Panikkar elucidates the holism of our human situation and the interrelationships of “God, Man, and World.”  We need to bring ethics and spirituality forward within the framework of the Earth Constitution so that the profundities of our human situation can become evident to all people and so that our institutions can become attuned with these profundities to promote the fullness of life for all people.

Working on behalf of the Earth Constitution means working on behalf of a world-system in the service of all human beings living with equality and the fullness of life. It means bridging the present gap between political and economic institutions and the ethical and spiritual dimensions of human life. It means that the true end or goal of human existence can emerge into common view for the first time in history. It means that we have chosen, after the devastation of the coronavirus, to take the next necessary step in the conscious evolution toward our true human ends.

References

Constitution for the Federation of Earth is found on-line in many places, especially at www.earthconstitution.world

Laszlo, Ervin (2020). Global Shift Now! A Call to Evolution. Cardiff, CA: Waterside Productions.

Martin, Glen T., ed. (2013). Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence. The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation.

Panikkar, Raimon (2006). The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

How Do We Transition To a Post-Covid Sustainable World System?

Getting through the economic and political chaos caused by the corona virus pandemic may be the least of our worries. The planetary climate is heating up steadily every year and the synergistic effects of this process will inexorably lead to the breakdown of the ecological balance of heating and cooling that keeps the Earth stable and temperate, which allows all higher lifeforms to flourish. The breakdown of this balance means that we will have passed so many environmental tipping points that the process of heating becomes unstoppable.  Our planet will become a super-hot cinder block, possibly by the end of the 21st century, causing the extinction of all higher forms of life.

The pandemic has hurt the economy seriously, but the economy prior to the pandemic was hurting the ecology of our planet. The “free” capitalist fossil-fuel driven economy prior to the pandemic was worse for the world than an epidemic that will likely be under control within a year or so, allowing the world to get back to “normal.” However, “normal” is a disaster for the future of humanity and the ecological health of our beautiful planet Earth.  The epidemic has interrupted this “normal.”

After the epidemic we need new economic, political, and cultural practices that provide the necessities of life to all people without destroying the environment that makes it possible to supply these necessities. Capitalism never provided these necessities in the first place. It funneled the wealth of the planet into the pockets of billionaires and millionaires while causing severe deprivation among at least 50% of our human brothers and sisters. Social scientist Christopher Chase Dunn speaks of “the absurdity of material deprivation in an age when the technological problems of providing basic needs are obviously solved” (1998, 340). The capitalist system itself is an “absurd” system.

Climate scientist James Gustav Speth writes that “most environmental deterioration is a result of systematic failures of the capitalism that we have  today and that long-term solutions must seek transformative change” (2008, 9). We need, he says, to move to a “post-growth” society and create markets that work for the environment rather than against it. This, of course, must be a planetary phenomenon, for sustainable economic practices in one or just a few countries are not going the save human-kind from extinction by what environmentalists such as Joseph Romm (2018) and David Wallace-Wells (2019) call our coming global “heat-death.”

Climate scientists have near unanimous agreement concerning this projected scenario of planetary climate collapse unless there are rapid, drastic changes in the way global economics is practiced. Many advanced economists like Kate Raworth (2017), Richard Heinberg (2011), and Herman E. Daly (1996) have articulated the very doable parameters of a sustainable, non-growth economics. In this essay, I argue that putting sustainable economics into practice will require ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (www.earth-constitution.org).  Only a united humanity with one environmentally conscious economic policy for all people and nations will suffice in time to restore and reverse (as much as is still possible) our descent into planetary heat-death.

Political unity under the Earth Constitution is not only essential for putting everyone on Earth on the same economic page, it is also essential because the present system (of run-away growth capitalism) is integral to the existing political system of militarized sovereign nations.  Chase Dunn writes that:

The world-system has now reached a point at which both the old interstate system based on separate national capitalist classes and new institutions representing the representing the global interest of capitalists exist and are powerful simultaneously. In this light each country can be seen to have an important ruling-class fraction that is allied with the transnational capitalist class. (p. xix)

The state and the interstate system are not separate from capitalism, but rather are the main institutional supports of capitalist production relations. The system of unequally powerful and competing nation states is part of the competitive struggle of capitalism, and thus wars and geopolitics are a systematic part of capitalist dynamics, not exogenous forces. (p. 61).

The world system is indeed a system, run by undemocratic ruling classes, in which the political fragmentation into economically and militarily competing sovereign nation-states cannot be disentangled from the economic capitalism that dominates the world order.  The global pandemic shows us that governments can address human needs apart from the so-called “free capitalist market.”  Governments around the world are addressing the economic contraction caused by the virus with intentionally designed programs to allow citizens hurt by the pandemic to procure the basic necessities of life.

This is even true within the USA, the center of the fanatical global capitalist ideology. As Ellen H. Brown points out in Web of Debt (2007), all governments have the power to create debt-free money and spend money into existence on behalf of the good of society. The idea that money must be created as debt to private banking institutions (as in the US “Federal Reserve System”) is just nonsense. Common sense tells us what we need after the pandemic. It is simple and clear, but requires real transformative change.

After the pandemic, we need (1) non-growth sustainable economics for our entire planet, (2) debt-free government creation of money to provide all people with the necessities for living as well as investment in sustainable productive enterprises, and (3) global political unity overcoming the insane economic and military competition of nuclear armed autonomous nations operating in fear and secrecy. The time for “competition” is over, this absurd so-called “virtue” of capitalism. The time for unity, cooperation, and ecological harmony is long overdue. Survival requires that we overcome both the growth obsession of capitalism and the military obsession of rival sovereign nation states.  Survival requires that we ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Ratification of the Earth Constitution does not mean imposing a “top-down” set of regulations on the Earth. It means the synergistic empowerment for cooperation and collaboration on all levels of community from the local through the national, regional, and global. Such cooperation and collaboration are only possible within a planetary framework ensuring the equality of voice, the rights and dignity, of all the planet’s local and community participants. It requires planetary monitoring systems to protect the environment and careful use and monitoring of technological innovations. It requires demilitarization away from this awful waste of our planet’s resources on weapons of war.

Those anarchists, such as many in the Green Party within various countries, who think that you can have a planet of local sustainable communities with no central facilitation or coordination are hopelessly utopian.  Human beings need rules for all of us, protecting our equality and dignity universally, and not leaving this protection up to the local egoistic struggles of community leaders in a global anarchy with no common equality before the law. As Chase Dunn expresses this:

The idea of global democracy is important for this struggle. The movement needs to push toward a kind of popular democracy that goes beyond the election of representatives to include popular participation in decision-making at every level. Global democracy can only be real if it is composed of civil societies and national states that are themselves truly democratic. And global democracy is probably the best way to lower the probability of another war among core states. For that reason, it is in everyone’s best interest. (1998, xxv)

Chase Dunn asks, who are the agents behind this movement? He answers: “all those who are tired of wars and hatred and who desire a humane, sustainable, and fair world-system. This is certainly a majority of the people of the Earth” (xxvi).

The global pandemic must wake us up to the need for global solutions (which the UN cannot provide because it is founded on the militarized sovereignty of independent nation-states). We need to overcome the insane fragmentation of militarized sovereign nation-states as well as growth-obsessed capitalist competition. Both of these aspects of our present world system are driving human beings rapidly toward extinction.

The Earth Constitution embraces all nations and peoples under the principle of unity in diversity. It fosters decentralized, cooperative communities, global economic justice, and environmental sustainability. It creates for our planet a harmonious peace-system, justice-system, and sustainability-system.

There exists, in sum, an easily accessible blueprint for solving our suicidal human problems on this precious planet Earth. It is called the Earth Constitution. In barely 30 pages, it applies the principle of unity in diversity to politics, economics, culture, and all forms of human fragmentation.

Races, religions, and nations now unite in a commonwealth that protects their diversity while integrating humanity into a successful future for all. After the pandemic, this is our central option and our way out of our present self-destructive modes of action and their corresponding absurd institutions. We need to act now to ratify the Earth Constitution. It is our real and only effective hope.

Works Cited

Brown, Ellen H. (2007). Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Third Millennium Press.

Chase Dunn, Christopher (1998). Global Formation: Structures of World Economy. Updated Edition. New York: Roman & Littlefield Publishers.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth, with an Introduction by Glen T. Martin. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. Also on-line at www.earth-consitution.org and other places.

Daly, Herman E. (1996). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press.

Heinberg, Richard (2011). The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Romm, Joseph (2018). Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Speth, James Gustave (2008). The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing the Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wallace-Wells, David (2019). The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York: Tim Duggan Books.

 

The Real Problem of Life Can Only Be Solved in a Real Way: By Ratifying the Earth Constitution

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.

References

www.earth-constitution.org

www.oneworldrenaissance.com

www.worldparliament-gov.org

(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.)

The Global Pandemic and the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

 

Urgent message to all WCPA members:  The world is facing a global pandemic from the COVID-19 virus.  We urge you to continue working on behalf of the Earth Constitution in every way possible except in face to face meetings. You should cancel scheduled WCPA related meetings and work on-line or by telephone. Pay attention to your government announced restrictions.  Let us join in solidarity with the rest of the world to try to get through this thing without taking unnecessary risks and without putting others at risk.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization in Geneva said yesterday that the latest data indicated 118,000 cases of COVID-19 infection in 114 countries with some 4,291 deaths, recognizing this as a “pandemic.” The COVID-19 virus first surfaced in Wuhan China in December and has since spread worldwide. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on solidarity among the nations and peoples of the world in controlling the pandemic. He said that science tells us that we can control this if we “detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize” the people of each nation in the face of this global threat. The WHO is developing a COVID-19 Virus Treatment Master Plan. (For the sources of the information in this article, see the links below.)

              Entire countries or regions of countries in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and elsewhere have been immobilized, health-care systems have been overwhelmed causing critical deficiencies in their ability to handle both the pandemic and the other health-care requirements of their populations. Such extreme situations, of course have huge secondary consequences.  Industries, transportation, tourism, schools, public events and the supplying of basic services become severely compromised. Food distribution and the supply of other necessities becomes reduced and precarious. Businesses, stores, and marketplaces begin to shut down.

              In relation to all this the stock market has plummeted, and a number of economists are talking about the coming great crash in the global economy, which could throw the entire world into an economic depression. Perhaps coincidentally, Russia and Saudi Arabia have both begun pumping great quantities of oil into the global marketplace, abandoning their former voluntary restraint and sending the price of oil down to $20 or less per barrel. This move substantially undercuts the US production of gas through fracking, since fracking is expensive and can only succeed economically if the price of oil is $50 or more. Some think this is payback by Russia for the US blocking the development of the Nord Stream Pipeline intended to bring inexpensive natural gas from Russia to Europe, and, in the case of Saudi Arabia, because the US supposedly supported a recent coup attempt against the current ruler, Mohammed Bin Salman. A fragmented and dysfunctional world now faces not only global pandemic but possible global economic collapse.

              There are reports that COVID-19 is not likely to be a natural mutation of the flu virus. Rather, it is more likely a result of genetic engineering from one of the world’s many biological warfare labs. These labs are BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs, designed to be especially secure. There are such labs in many countries, such as Winnipeg, Canada, several in the USA, Britain, Europe, Russia, and other countries, often run under the direction of the USA. There is speculation that the COVID-19 virus was stolen from Canada’s lab and transferred to the Wuhan lab.

According to Dr. Francis Boyle, who wrote the legislation for the US Congress for US participation in the UN Biological Weapons Convention, there are BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs in many countries and the only real reason for the existence of such labs is biological weapons research. There is no other reason why such labs need to exist. There is one such lab in Wuhan, China, and some speculate that the virus escaped from that lab, whether intentionally or by accident. On the other hand, the US had some 300 military personnel in Wuhan during October of 2019 for some World Military Games going on there. There is speculation that the virus may have been released by the US in order to undercut China’s ascendency toward becoming the world’s major economic power, with the fact that there was a BSL-4 lab in Wuhan serving as a convenient cover for this act of bio-warfare.

In any case, all these research labs violate the UN Convention and they are all, according to Dr. Boyle, extremely dangerous, disasters waiting to happen. And now we have a disaster that has happened. According to Boyle, the World Health Organization, now encouraging the world to respond properly to this global threat, has itself been colonized by big pharma, and they all know what has been going on. Indeed, the WHO approved many of these BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs. The WHO and big pharma also work in concert with the CDC, the Center for Disease Control in the US, so the US government also has a hand in this global corruption of bioengineering and bioweapons research. There are vast profits to be made for big pharma in the development of vaccines and medicines to treat such outbreaks.

              There is evidence as well that much of the bio-warfare research focuses on creating germ-agents that target certain ethnic groups, such as those of Chinese ethnicity, those of African ethnicity, or those of European descent. It all depends on who the sponsors of the research would like to see eliminated in their drive to power and ascendency. Dr. Anthony Hall, in the article linked to below, writes: “In this digital and biological theatre of rivalry, the new gene splicing capacities of CRISPR technology constitute a formidable new tool for major and irreversible interventions into life’s most fundamental cycles of death and renewal. The ability to alter the genetic makeup of organisms, including human organisms, is thereby becoming a key facet in establishing new domains for warfare, including various forms of hybrid warfare.” The world has descended into a maelstrom of power-hungry groups intent on using the new gene-splicing technology for their own evil purposes.

              As both Professor Hall and Professor Boyle point out, not only can we not believe what governments say about these issues, nor what the WHO or CDC or big pharma say about them. We also cannot trust what the colonized mainstream media report.  The media have been appropriated by the ruling powers to justify and cover up the entire structure of global corruption. For example, in the US a great many thoughtful, aware people understand the attacks on the US  on 11 September 2001 as an inside job from within the US establishment in order to promote the infamous “New American Century” doctrine put forward by a group of militaristic neo-conservatives. The Project for the New American Century document, that predated 9/11 was signed by these prominent neo-conservatives who later became part of the Bush administration during which this supposed “attack” took place. The document advocates biological warfare as one of the fields in which the US must remain supreme. After the 9/11 attack, a prepackaged bill was rushed through the US Congress called the “Patriot Act.” This bill eliminated many civil liberties of Americans, increased the power of government propaganda, and made the US effectively a police state.

              Since that time the CIA has ever-more effectively colonized journalists and news media to protect the government’s official ideological lies. Part of its strategy is to promote a counter-concept denigrating “conspiracy theories.”  Anyone who questions the official propaganda line put forward by the dominant media or government sources is accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” In this way, real investigative journalism into their corruption and lies is marginalized and intimidated.  To suggest that COVID-19 was a bio-terror weapon possibly planted by the US military in Wuhan to destroy China’s competitive edge in global production and investment is to be immediately dismissed as an absurd “conspiracy theorist.”

Both Boyle and Hall call for independent investigations of the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, investigators may eventually piece together what actually happened, but by the time this is done the world will have moved on, just as a great deal of evidence has been assembled about what really happened in the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, but people have moved on, lost interest, and have refused to reopen the official version of those events. The world continues blindly down its erratic and incoherent path, waiting for the next big disaster.

              But after this current disaster, what will the world have “moved on” to?   What will it move on to after the global pandemic and global economic collapse of 2020?  Will it be more of the same?  More war preparations, more bio-terror research, more chance of accidents that create new pandemics?  Will we return to continuing collapse of the climate while the world spends its precious resources on war and militarism and weapons research?  Will we return to more government and mass-media lies and propaganda covering up a global culture of corruption and fragmentation? Isn’t it more than past time that the world begins to realize that we have no credible future at all unless we unite as a world community under democratic world law directed to the common good of everyone?

              The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is designed to create a decent world system.  It makes no sense to live on a planet in which most nations have signed a global bio-terror convention into international law but many of those same nations just ignore the convention and engage in bioweapons research. UN conventions have no binding authority and cannot give us a decent world system. The Constitution’s very first function in Article 1 is to put an end to war and preparations for war. In the midst of the present global pandemic, perhaps we can see why this needs to be the first function of the Earth Federation government.  With 21st century technology, war and war research become ever more lethal at a planetary scale. Major nuclear war would wipe out humanity. Major biological warfare could make our planet unlivable. Our global economic system of speculation, corruption, and graft continually teeters on the brink of collapse, throwing the entire world into economic chaos and ruin. Why do we continue to live with these absurdities when we could take the steps to actualize a truly different world system?

              Even if the COVID-19 virus were a naturally occurring viral mutation that became a pandemic, the governments of the world have proved totally incapable of responding to it effectively. Like the US and Iran, China began by denying the emergency and persecuting the doctor who raised the alarm. In the US, the Trump Administration has just declared that information about the virus has been classified as a national security issue. Rather than taking the steps necessary for testing, control, and saving lives, the government is controlling information for clearly political reasons. Something similar is likely going on with all sovereign governments in a world of distrust, manipulation, lies, and hybrid wars.  Why would we want to continue living in a world such as this when we could change it, if not immediately for ourselves at least for our children?

              The Earth Constitution was designed with an understanding that all our problems must be solved together as a whole or not at all.  We cannot deal with climate crisis and at the same time spend 1.8 trillion US dollars per year on militarism.  We cannot set up the universal health-care systems and research labs genuinely dedicated to human health and well-being while human rights around the world continue to be violated and global economic inequality continues unchecked. All our increasingly lethal human problems are interdependent and interrelated.  Why do we not recognize this simple truth?  The design of the Earth Constitution brings them all together with explicit powers to treat the global economic, political, environmental whole as a whole, which is the only possible level on which these apparently intractable problems can be addressed.

              The Constitution is designed to address a global health crisis (e.g., Article 4.10). It is designed to give everyone free, quality healthcare coverage (Article 13.5).  It is designed to eliminate war research, secrecy, and militarism (Articles 4.1 and 4.2).  It is designed to protect the planetary environment (many articles) and to guarantee each child “the right to the full realization of his or her potential” (Article 13.12).  The present global pandemic reveals how fragile and at risk our planet really is and how economics, politics, health, and environment are all deeply interdependent.  We see that the system as a whole must be changed.

              WCPA members should be promoting the idea in all possible venues that we need to emerge from this global health crisis and economic crisis with the determination to change the system that allows these absurdities to happen. We need to get rid of these bio-terror labs.  We need to get rid of nuclear weapons. We need to have a global economic system that does not collapse at the threat of a health crisis. We need to live under a civilized world of democratically legislated laws rather than global fragmentation, fear, animosity, and distrust. The Earth Constitution is the blueprint for a world of peace, justice, freedom, transparency, and sustainability.  What could we possibly be waiting for?

Web sources:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/53087.htm

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/53001.htm

https://greatgameindia.com/

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020

 

 

Review of The Zero Marginal Cost Society and other books by Jeremy Rifkin

Glen T. Martin

Jeremy Rifkin’s books have long been a major source of creative and deeply informed paradigm-shift thought, and The Zero Marginal Cost Society is no different. The book chronicles the vast transformations called the “Third Industrial Revolution” (which is also the title of one of his earlier books). It describes the immense import of the Third Industrial Revolution for a liberated human future on Earth of abundance, fulfillment, justice, and sustainability. In this 435 page book, there is a wealth of valuable information documenting, elaborating, and historically grounding his arguments that cannot be adequately summarized in a review such as this.

In Part One I will summarize Rifkin’s central ideas and arguments while necessarily omitting much of the wealth of background information. People should read the whole of this book, and his other books, for themselves. In Part Two I will offer a critical review of these ideas and arguments and try to show that Rifkin has not adequately conceptualized the fundamental features of the paradigm-shift that he is brilliantly attempting to explicate. I will show that the Constitution for the Federation of Earth much more clearly envisions the necessary paradigm-shift to a resilient, cooperative, and sustainable planetary society. In Part Three, I will discuss Rifkin’s 2019 book called The Green New Deal in relation to the Green New Deal (GND) that our world must soon accomplish and again compare his thought with the paradigm-shift offered by Earth Constitution.

Part One: Rifkin’s Thesis

Rifkin’s first chapter in The Zero Marginal Cost Society is titled “The Great Paradigm-Shift from Market Capitalism to Collaborative Commons.” In economics, a marginal cost is defined as the cost added by producing one additional unit of a product or service. The vaunted “efficiency” of capitalism was always that competition would lead companies to continually introduce new technologies and ever-leaner forms of production that lowered the cost of the goods and services provided. With automation and mechanized assembly lines, for example, automobiles or anything else could be reproduced at an ever-lower marginal cost. However, the Third Industrial Revolution, which has engendered the digital, robotic, computerized “collaborative commons,” is lowering the marginal cost of goods and services in many domains to nearly zero.

The fact that computerized machines will bring the marginal cost of goods and services to nearly zero means, Rifkin says, that “the ultimate triumph of capitalism also marks its inescapable passage from the world stage” (p. 11). The digital revolution, the “third industrial revolution,” changes everything. Part One of his book is about “the untold history of capitalism.” Rifkin goes into the details of the rise of capitalism and the dynamics of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions.

The first industrial revolution involved the invention of the steam engine, the use of coal for fuel, and the use of the telegraph for communications. Rifkin says this transformed the world within a 30-year period from 1860-1890. The second industrial revolution involved the invention of the internal combustion engine, the use of gasoline and oil for fuel, and the telephone for communications, again transforming the world in the 25-year period between 1908 and 1933. Both these eras gave rise to huge “vertically integrated” systems, run in top-down form by managers and boards of directors distributing energy, as well as goods and services, through vast centralized industrial systems.

However, the third industrial revolution, now going on, has given us locally generated green energy, low-cost and locally empowered green transport systems, as well as the collaborative communications commons of the worldwide web. It has the potential to transform the world from vertically integrated centralized fossil fuel systems to laterally networked, locally powered and empowered sustainability systems within the next 20 years (2019, pp. 243-344). With our geometrically expanding capacity to do 3D printing, the capitalist “consumer” is now becoming a “prosumer” who can produce or collaboratively share goods and services for herself or the local community.

We are rapidly moving to a world in which the “technological unemployment” generated by machines replacing people in both goods and services is finding entrepreneurial responses in people working in cooperative ways to mutually empower everyone with more and more virtually free goods and services. This new system operates outside of the traditional parameters for employment in which workers labored as employees of vertically integrated industrial systems.

The third industrial revolution, making traditional capitalism obsolete, requires a corresponding paradigm-shift in our thinking. Rifkin details at least two ways that classical capitalism failed to comprehend the reality of our situation. First, “in classical and neoclassical economic theory, the dynamics that govern the Earth’s biosphere are mere externalities to economic activity” (p. 12). The law of entropy necessitates that all production and uses of energy necessarily transforms these things into useless heat and waste. For example, the burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Today, “the entropic bill for the Industrial Age has arrived” in the form of “wholesale destruction of the Earth’s biosphere” (2013, p. 13).

Second, capitalism, Rifkin argues, framed both the natural world and human nature in its own image “suggesting that its workings are a reflection of the way nature itself is organized” (ibid., p. 70). Rifkin spends all of Chapter Four outlining the history of such practices of framing nature within our human self-image. Today, he says, human beings are no longer framed as autonomous, competitive self-seeking creatures as classical capitalism supposed. The third industrial revolution, the emerging science of ecology, and the growing collaborative commons are “accompanied by a sweeping rethink of human nature that is fundamentally altering the way we perceive our relationship to the Earth” (p. 80).

The new view of human nature contends that we are intensely social creatures capable of shared, empathic consciousness and capable even of what he calls “biospheric consciousness.” Rifken has already written a 2009 (678 page) book titled The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World of Crisis. At the end of this book he asks: “Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary disaster?” (p. 616).

This Zero Marginal Cost Society chronicles the many collaborative and cooperative features of the third industrial revolution that call out for a shared plenitude of knowledge, experience, and mutual service rather than private profit deriving from scarcity of knowledge, experience, and services. In Part Two of the book, he describes how “extreme productivity” is both possible and happening now, at near zero marginal cost. These developments point to a future world of abundance, solidarity, empathy, and freedom.

 Part Three of the book presents a historical overview of “the rise of the collaborative commons,” going back to the transition of medieval to modern economic relationships. He addresses the issue of the “tragedy of the commons,” a well-known issue in economics deriving from Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay arguing that unrestricted use of a commons always led to its overuse and destruction. Rifkin cites the growing research and literature showing that throughout history people can and have cooperated successfully in their uses of a commons. Part Four describes the many contemporary movements regarding “social capital and the sharing economy.”  People are rapidly moving away from an ethos in which they define themselves in terms of their possessions and toward an ethos in which they define themselves in terms of their relationships, and their belonging to larger, meaningful wholes.

Part Five of the book is called “the economy of abundance.” Capitalism’s dynamics “feeds off scarcity.” But when the marginal cost of production approaches zero (through 3D printing, shared knowledge on the Internet, and many forms of collaborative action) then the abundance produced means that “profits disappear because goods and services have been liberated from market pricing.” The products and services still have use and value, “but no longer have exchange value” (p. 333). People can get most of what they need without having to pay for it.

Rifkin refers to Mahatma Gandhi’s intuitive understanding of sustainability. Local communities become self-sufficient and their citizens empowered through cooperative endeavors to produce enough “for every man’s need but not for every man’s greed” (p. 334). Universally locally generated green power from sun and wind will be networked across the globe providing everyone on Earth with the means for sustainable living, assuming that this process and our conscious effort also serve to limit the population explosion. He asks, “how many human beings can live comfortably without destroying the biosphere’s ability to continually replenish the necessary ecological resources?” Depending on how we calculate this, it may be anywhere from 2.5 to 10 billion people (p. 335-36).

He cites many studies that happiness comes through relationships, quality of life, and meaningful existence, not through wealth or private property. The “materialism” of modern capitalism and culture is replaced with empathic relationships and the quest for sociability and community. He details how access to electricity alone has been shown to lower the number of children in families within developing countries.  If we can bring the fertility rate for the Earth to 2.1 children and eventually level the population off at 5 billion, he affirms, we will secure a decent future for humanity (p. 349).

Rifkin reviews the now familiar consequences of climate change that are happening worldwide: shrinking food availability, superstorms, high-intensity water-related events, extreme wind, changes in climate patterns, including droughts, uncontrollable wildfires, loss of biodiversity, etc. It is extremely foolish, he says, to think we can deal with these things in a patchwork way under a carbon-based regime (p. 355). The need to make this paradigm-shift (that must include a shift in consciousness coordinate with a shift in fundamental economic and social relations) puts us in a race against time.

In my own books and articles concerning the need for a fundamental shift in consciousness and paradigm, I speak of the transformations of human consciousness throughout history and the current mutations of conscious taking place during our contemporary “second axial period” (Martin 2008, 2010, 2018). Rifkin presents a similar progressive series of transformations but under different names. His progression moves from primitive mythological to theological to ideological to psychological to advanced biospheric consciousness. Roughly speaking, what I call “holistic evolutionary consciousness,” or what Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry call “ecozoic consciousness” (1992), he calls “biosphere consciousness.”

We are in transition now, he argues, between psychological consciousness (with its great capacity for empathy with people and other creatures) to biospheric consciousness in which we understand how to live in harmony with the biosphere of the Earth that sustains us. He concludes this book by stating that “the transition from the capitalist era to the Collaborate Age is gaining momentum in every region in the world—hopefully, in time to heal the biosphere and create a more just, humane, and sustainability global economy for every human being on Earth in the first half of the twenty-first century” (p. 380).

Part Two: Critique

Jeremy Rifkin largely omits discussion of the world of militarized sovereign nation-states with absolute borders and recognizing no effective laws above themselves. His book about the coming zero marginal cost of production leaves out this entire dimension of life on planet Earth. He omits the largest profit-making industry on Earth—the production and sale of weapons worldwide by the US, Russia, and other industrialized nations—the nations of Earth spending some 1.8 trillion dollars per year on militarism, weapons, and war. Is the production of these weapons also approaching zero marginal cost so as to become virtually free?

What about the economic rivalry of nations?  National sovereignty (a fundamental paradigm-assumption that he never mentions) engenders the perceived need for governments to use tariffs, trade relations, sanctions, military power, profits from investments in development from rich to poor nations, and similar relationships designed to benefit the nation at the expense of the poor or those wanting ever-more weapons. Capitalism (defined as economic exchange with the goal of accumulating private profit) may be disappearing into an “Internet of Things” within some industrialized nations but perhaps it has now transferred to the rivalry between nations, which the system of absolute sovereignty makes inevitable.

The “World Systems” paradigm articulated by social scientists such as Christopher Chase-Dunn (1998), documents the institutionalization of these economic-military relationships within a center/semi-periphery/periphery world structure. Rifkin’s “history of capitalism” leaves out the role of capitalism in slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, global structures of nation-state led exploitation, and endless wars. He does appear to recognize that the needed paradigm-shift to empathic and biosphere consciousness must go much deeper than the ways that he describes.

Perhaps Rifkin as a successful author, scholar, and head of TIR Consulting Group, LLC, accepts without serious questioning the privileges that stem from living in the center of the current global empire. His books are full of examples of him consulting with the super-rich, with heads of state, with the European Commission, etc.  Despite his vast knowledge and global exposure, in this book he never mentions the nearly 800 military bases that the US has worldwide designed to further US economic and military interests (interests which are seen by the US rulers as coextensive). He never mentions the European Union’s complicity in extending NATO to the borders of Russia while demonizing the Russians in a new Cold War, etc.

Perhaps he thinks the increase in empathic consciousness will make governments deploy their cruise missiles, fighter jets, anti-aircraft rockets, battle ships, space-based military forces, or weaponized drones in less lethal ways as they act to destroy the lives and life-support systems of people around the world in their endeavor to grab the resources and markets of the world for their own perceived interests. Perhaps his access to those of wealth and power would be limited if he exposed their corrupt system too explicitly.

In his earlier book about “empathic civilization,” mentioned above, Rifkin does chronicle the emergence of the modern nation state system (pp. 292-300). He speaks about the collective national consciousness engendered by this system that has the positive feature of uniting whole peoples in ways that allow for greater national empathy among the nation’s citizens. He does say that now we need to go beyond national consciousness to planetary consciousness, but he appears to assume that the latter development is compatible with retaining absolute sovereign-state borders. He misses the dialectical relationship between institutions and consciousness at the global level, beyond national borders. These absolute borders inhibit and defeat the needed rapid growth of planetary “biospheric” consciousness.

He does not, therefore, apply this same reasoning to the Earth as a whole, in the sense that uniting the Earth as one political whole would engender this same process of planetary mutual identification and empathic expansion. Instead, he returns immediately to his description of the development of “psychological consciousness” leading, he argues, toward empathy and a new understanding of what it means to be human (apparently regardless of the militarized nation-state system). In his concluding remarks to that book, he does bring up “geopolitics” once again, stating:

Geopolitics has always been based on the assumption that the environment is a giant battleground—a war of all against all—where we fight with one another to secure resources to ensure our individual survival. Biosphere politics, by contrast, is based on the idea that the Earth is a living organism made up of interdependent relationships and that we each survive by stewarding the larger communities of which we are part. The new bottom-up continentalization and globalization allow us to complete the task of connecting the human race and opens up the possibility of extending the empathic sensibility to our species as a whole, as well as to the many other species that make up the life of the planet (2009, p. 615).

Very good. Except that Rifkin omits the insight that this “giant battleground” is institutionalized in the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, and that such institutions inevitably condition human consciousness. To change the consciousness, we must also change these flawed and fragmented institutions. Not only that, but the lawless character of the system of sovereign nation-states gives law itself a bad name and encourages the colonization of all governments by rulers who manipulate the law in the self-interests of themselves and their nations.

If we are to “complete the task of connecting the human race,” as he puts it, then we must be truly connected, which means both politically and economically. We must create a system of law in the world that is transparent, accountable, integrated, and holistic, just as the planetary biosphere is holistic. The so-called “bottom-up” and top-down must meet in holistic reciprocity. This is precisely the role of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (www.earth-constitution.org) that appears to find no place in Rifkin’s thoughts or writings.

I believe this significant omission is due to a flawed analysis that is found as well in The Zero Marginal Cost Society and elsewhere. Rifkin defines and describes three sectors: government, the commons, and the regime of private property and private enterprise. His analysis makes it appear as if we can emphasize the growing commons and deemphasize the private property and enterprise sector and that government will simply adjust accordingly, or perhaps even get out of the way of the Collaborative Commons. In this book, it is as if these were three semi-autonomous dimensions (we will see below that he changes his analysis in his last book, The Green New Deal, 2019).

However, his analysis does not clearly show the way human affairs can or should work.  Government is necessary to define both the commons and the scope and patterns of private property and enterprise. And, if human beings are ever to unite in an empathic civilization, then the absolute “sovereign” borders must come down and be replaced by the rule of democratically legislated planetary law, leaving the borders as mere administrative units for the purpose of local governance. Sovereign borders influence people to think in “us versus them terms,” and in terms of “our interests versus their interests.” They block global empathic realization. Today’s world is a cauldron of hot wars, cyber wars, culture wars, and economic wars.  Rifkin largely ignores this institutionalized war-system.

His own analyses presuppose the primacy of law (again we will see below that he makes this explicit in The Green New Deal). In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, he speaks of the legal battles over the internet between those who would privatize it for profit and those who advocate the collaborative commons. It is government and law that will secure and define the results of these battles. It is the law that can and should give us open-source knowledge and define its limits. The publisher’s page on Rifkin’s own book declares “All rights reserved,” demonstrating that it is OK for the law to protect some things from being open source.

He speaks of civil society in the twentieth century becoming “institutionalized in the form of tax-exempt organizations,” again presupposing that “civil society,” with its collaborative rights and duties, is defined by government and law. He speaks of the development of all sorts of collaborative projects, from Airbnb to Couchsurfing to HomeAway to Rent That Toy! to Tie Society to The Freecycle Network, however, not pointing out that all of these are made possible and governed by law.

As collaborative, cooperative, and empathic as we might become, we cannot live without government and democratic laws. There is no reason why law cannot be empathically and equitably legislated. There is no reason why law must be the instrument of some ruling class once capitalism has seen its demise. There is no reason why law cannot be global and finally bring the world into truly just and civilized relationships governed by law.

Philosopher of law H.L.A. Hart points out in The Concept of Law that the law does not only limit our behavior through sanctions. It also empowers us in innumerable ways.  Laws are there in the background of all that we do, empowering us to marry and raise family, to get an education, to form binding contracts and agreements, to have our rights and dignity protected, to have safe food and transportation, to exchange goods and services, to have healthcare, fire, and police protection, to have a protected clean environment, to freely speak or publish, to collaborate with others for social change, to practice the religion of our choice, to gather information and keep it open-source, etc. But the multiplicity of laws of some 193 sovereign nations create a global chaos of conflicting legal regimes engendering endless smuggling, trafficking, tariffs, blockades, trade wars, immigration and migration problems, visa requirements, surveillance, spying, militarism, distrust, conflict, and violence.

Do we need all human beings, whether they are male or female, stronger or weaker, more clever or less clever, to be equal to one another before the law?  Or can we live without law and hope that the stronger will be empathic enough not to rape or pillage?  If some ideal sustainable community or nation is created somewhere in the world, who or what is to stop others from invading or stealing their resources?  Perhaps they should be supplied with weapons to defend themselves? In fact, such national “self-defense” is exactly what Rifkin assumes. But then there goes this community’s supposed empathy for all other humans and animals.

  Who or what gives nations or communities the right to live in peace, free from possible interference by others?  Only enforceable democratic laws can do this. Rifkin defines correctly the difference between negative and positive freedom, but he fails to point out that positive freedom is enhanced and empowered by good laws, and ultimately by a global legal framework. The culture of trusting others that he emphasizes (e.g., p. 343) is enhanced and empowered by good laws, often invisible in the background of our relationships but influencing our ability to trust others nevertheless. The system of militarized, sovereign nation-states destroys, in significant measure, these beneficial functions of good law. This is because it is a lawless system, presupposing that there can be no enforceable laws over the nations.  So-called international laws are merely treaties of sovereign nations that the powerful nations break with impunity.

First, it is important to see that law cannot rule legitimately over nation-states as autonomous entities, but must be over all individual persons. This was initially admitted and stated in the Nuremberg Convention of 1950, but the UN has failed to move forward on individual accountability to the law, since its charter remains an agreement between sovereign nations that exempts individual persons from its clauses. Rikin states that “the Second Industrial Revolution infrastructure gave rise to global markets and international organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD, and the World Trade Organization to comanage governance alongside nation-states” (2019, p. 231).

Not only is this dual system of extra-national shadow governance-structures undemocratic and elitist in the extreme. There is also a wealth of critical social-scientific literature showing that the World Bank and WTO are institutionalizations of a system of global pillage and exploitation and that the United Nations is there to defend the absolute sovereignty of militarized nations and the domination of the five victor nations from the Second World War (see, e.g., Brecher/Costello 1994; Chomsky 2003). These systems are symptoms of a 350-year old, nation-state paradigm that is ripping our world apart. You cannot have a successful paradigm-shift to sustainability while retaining this chaotic, undemocratic governance of our planet.

The heads of many of today’s nations are war criminals and should be in jail. Yet they are exempt under today’s sovereign nation-state system. Good law holds all individuals equally accountable. Second, law must equitably empower and protect all human beings. Only democratic world law can do this. Today’s chaos of localized, often undemocratic, law-systems the world over, with their sovereign militarized borders and planetary human rights violations, only breeds cynicism and skepticism regarding what is needed most—the rule of equitable law for all people framed in ways to encourage cooperation, empathy, collaboration, freedom, synergy, and sustainability (see Fuller 1981; Martin 2018).

By misunderstanding the nature and role of democratic law in human affairs, and by ignoring the gigantic global war-system and its industrial-military complex, Rifkin appears to hope he can influence the rich and powerful to adopt a Green New Deal. In doing so, he ignores the Earth Constitution as a necessary framework for demilitarizing the nations, establishing global economic equity, and protecting our planetary environment. Rifkin presents a flawed picture of the way out of the disastrous future toward which we are plunging. As right as he appears to be about the wonderful possibilities of the Collaborative Commons and empathic planetary civilization, these things cannot and will not happen without simultaneously ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

 Part Three: A Green New Deal for the USA or the Earth?

 Rifkin believes in democracy and empowering the workers, but his analysis of capitalism here ignores that it is predicated on exploitation—exploitation  either of the workers, or of other countries, or of nature, or all three together. In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, he describes the inevitable demise of capitalism with the development of means of sustainable livelihoods worldwide that are practically self-sufficient and that can produce for their own needs at near zero marginal costs. And he does recognize that “in classical and neoclassical economic theory, the dynamics that govern the Earth’s biosphere are mere externalities to economic activity” (p. 12).

In The Green New Deal (2019), Rifkin brings capitalism very much back into the picture and into our future by arguing for investment (for private profit) in the green revolution and in order to avoid the “stranded assets” that will result from abandonment of the fossil fuel economy. He describes an impressive range of companies and enterprises that are responding to the fast-rising green economy. He now appears to ignore his earlier analysis projecting the demise of capitalism and instead discovers a new hybrid that he calls “The New Social Capitalism” (p. 166). Apparently, it is now possible to seek private profit without seeing the biosphere as “a mere externality to economic activity.”

In this book, he no longer claims that “the ultimate triumph of capitalism also marks its inescapable passage from the world stage.” The older fossil fuel capitalism of the Second Industrial Revolution with its implicit slogan “buyer beware,” he declares, has changed with the Third Industrial Revolution to a new slogan: “doing well by doing good” (pp. 167, 205). Indeed, companies around the world (with support from some governments) are converting to become ESCOs (Environmental Service Companies), “a pragmatic business model that can speed the transition into a near-zero emission era in the short time horizon before us” (p. 205).

He entirely ignores the deleterious role of global private banking in the planetary economic system, a role that has condemned successive generations of several billion poor people in developing nations to perpetual poverty through forcing their governments to pay back international debts to the profit-making banks that loaned them billions for falsely framed “development” projects. These poor nations were then coerced into “austerity” measures in order to ensure payback from the poor to the rich. He similarly ignores the fact that the European Union (which he so admires for its progress toward a green infrastructure) recently condemned one of its own member nations (Greece) to serious poverty and perdition in order to force the pay-back of billions in loans to the gigantic banks of the world, a move that was supported, even advocated, by Germany (which otherwise is a leader in the conversion to a green economy). Germany is apparently willing to cut the green economic development of Greece off at the knees in order to secure the flourishing of its own green prosperity.

He ignores the fact that most of the world’s money is created as debt to these private banking cartels, a system that creates top-down domination, perpetual exploitation, and continuing corruption everywhere on Earth (see Brown 2007). It is difficult to see how human beings could affect a revolution to empathic consciousness and planetary solidarity with such economic systems in place. Just as the nation-state system divides people and defeats empathic and biospheric consciousness, so does the global monetary system. On the other hand, both of these systems are holistically and synergistically transformed by the Earth Constitution.

Just as capitalism is resurrected in The Green New Deal as “social capitalism,” so the role of government is no longer minimized. He describes impressive support for the Green Revolution from the government of China, as well as from the European Union and the government of Germany. These, plus the United States, he says, form the “three elephants” in the room whose leadership is the key to a global green revolution (pp. 215 ff). The last of the three, of course, remains is a rogue elephant, but Rifkin hopes that the new USA President taking office in 2021 will bring a complete commitment at the federal, state, and local levels to a Green New Deal with the focus and urgency of the war-footing adopted by the US during the Second World War (pp. 230-31).

The real “elephant in the room” is very much the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, which Rifkin ignores. He declares that we need “binding legal standards” to ensure universal conformance to serious non-carbon markets.  Nearly every one of his 23 points outlining what is necessary for a USA Green New Deal places federal, state, and local governments into the equation (pp. 223-30). He describes this process in Germany (and the EU) as well as in China and many local initiatives within the USA.

These three “elephants” may indeed be crucial to conversion (and he recognizes that the USA remains far from being on board with any GND). However, as we have seen, even if these large beasts manage to establish binding standards for their societies, they remain lawless in the refusal to recognize any effective laws over themselves. Under the militarized sovereign state system, there can be no “binding legal standards” for the world, and, as stated above, this very lawlessness (with its obvious manifestations in global military and economic chaos) breeds skepticism everywhere concerning the need for the rule of law.

With the complicity of the EU, China, and the UN (by all remaining silent), the U.S., through remote controlled drones or CIA assassination teams, lawlessly executes any and all persons around the world whom it designates (according to secret criteria) as its enemies. By ignoring these horrific realities, Rifkin misses the real elephant (the lawless system of sovereign states). In order to promote a hope for success that rings hollow as soon as one opens the morning newspaper, he paints a rosy picture of all the work being done by profit-making companies that are doing very well by supposedly doing good.

“Social capitalism,” however, is really nothing new since critical thinkers have been taking about “market socialism” or “cooperative capitalism” for decades (e.g., Harrington 1972, Smith 2013). “Socialism” fundamentally means that law regulates markets in such a way that they serve the common good rather than the unlimited accumulation of private wealth (Martin 2018). That is what Rifkin’s social capitalism reportedly does.

However, Rifkin (who interacts with the very rich and powerful in his consulting role) never claims in this book that “social capitalism” should limit the amount of “doing well” they can accumulate in the process of “doing good.” Nevertheless, there is a vast literature showing that excessive accumulations of wealth distort democracy, empathic consciousness, and civilizational well-being. Recently economist Thomas Piketty concluded that “capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based” (Piketty 2014, p. 1; see also Parenti 1995; Chomsky 1996). All Rifkin recommends here is a graduated income tax to be used by government to promote the transition required by the Green New Deal.

Recently economist Kate Raworth underlined a fundamental truth—success in overcoming our planetary crisis will come from the way we design our systems: “Economics, it turns out, is not a matter of discovering laws. It is essentially a question of design. And…the last two hundred years of industrial activity have been based upon a linear industrial system whose design is inherently degenerative…. From a systems-thinking perspective….far greater leverage comes from changing the paradigm that gives rise to the system’s goals” (2017, pp. 180 & 182). Doing good by doing well, helpful as it may be in the short run, does not fundamentally change the system

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is designed to address the multiple crises of our linear world system—both our economics and our politics with their the war system, global poverty system, and unsustainability system. It integrates all of these factors into a holistic planetary design so that the system’s goals become entirely different—those of a peace system, a prosperity system, and a sustainability system.

Virtually every one of the 23 actions and policies recommended in this book for a USA Green New Deal is already there in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth and the World Legislation enacted to date by the Provisional World Parliament. The Constitution makes democratically legislated world laws binding over every person on Earth, and it promotes local empowerment through a federal system ascending from local to state to national to global levels. The Constitution provides worldwide agencies for monitoring the health of the planet and for deploying and empowering the Third Industrial Revolution technology equitably around the planet to ensure real sustainability.

In Article 8, the Constitution also establishes global public banking and debt-free money creation. This means that the global inequality (and concomitant undemocratic political power) fostered today by global private banking, money creation, and profit-making corporations can be addressed rapidly, effectively, and justly by the Earth Federation Government. It means that local sustainability initiatives everywhere in the poor countries of the developing world will have ample funding to activate the third industrial revolution. It means the rapid elimination of extreme poverty globally while preserving the well-being of today’s first world nations.

The Earth Constitution also deals with the population crisis in noncoercive ways and, most fundamentally, it sees our planet Earth as a global commons, belonging to all the people who live on Earth, who possess the collective authority to protect and restore it. It is not, as under the UN system, that oil somehow “belongs” to Saudi Arabia, the lungs of the Earth somehow “belong” to Brazil, giant natural gas reserves somehow “belong” to Russia, and the right to exit itself from the Paris Climate Accords somehow “belongs” to the United States (as well as any other nation). This paradigm, assuming that each nation somehow “owns” is resources, results in what I have called “The Tragedy of Our Planetary Commons.” It structurally prevents a planetary biosphere consciousness from developing (Martin 2019).

In his early book, Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World, Rifkin seems to agree with a radical rethinking of the paradigm of private property:

In a low-entropy culture the concept of private property is retained for consumer goods and services and family real estate but not for large tracts of land and other renewable and nonrenewable resources. The long-accepted practice of private exploitation of “natural” property is replaced with the notion of public guardianship. The orthodox economic view that each person’s individual self-interest when added together with the self-interest of everyone else always serves the common good of the community is regarded with suspicion or, more appropriately, with outright derision. (1989, p. 245)

Nevertheless it appears that, by the time of The Green New Deal book (2019), he has not yet managed to apply this principle to the bizarre conceit that sovereign nation-states “own” their internal resources. Yet the same principle exactly applies, because the atmosphere of the Earth, the oceans of the Earth, and the climatic balances of the Earth belong to the people of Earth, not to sovereign nation-states. It should be regarded with “outright derision” that they somehow “own” their internal resources.

This is also exactly what the UN document “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” claims: “We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity” (“UN Sustainable Development Goals,” item 18). This is what Rifkin’s support for the sovereign nation-state system entails. The Earth Constitution, by contrast, explicitly recognizes that the global commons belong to the people of Earth (e.g., Articles 4.22, 4.23, 4.24, and 13.9).

Most of The Green New Deal is about what is happening with green business in the EU, China, and the USA. But, as in his other volumes, Rifkin returns to the world level toward the end of this book in a section titled “Thinking Like a Species.” He says, “the great paradigm changes in human history are infrastructure revolutions that change our forms of governance, our cognition, and our very worldview” (p. 211). He then gives his account of the history of transformations of human consciousness (that I reviewed above) in which the empathic impulse has occurred within ever-larger frameworks that include both the great world religions and national loyalties to “nation-state identity” (p 213).

Here again he recognizes that government at nation-state levels has created “figurative families” and “larger collectivities” for human empathy. Yet, when it comes to “thinking like a species” and establishing a planetary empathic civilization with a “biosphere consciousness,” he implies that the technical infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution alone is sufficient to do this. He does not suggest the obvious—that if national governments created figurative, empathic national families, then democratic world government would clearly expand this transformation of consciousness to the species level that he deems necessary for a global green new deal. If we design a world system that truly is a holistic world system, then “thinking like a species” will automatically follow.

The Earth Constitution would certainly rapidly foster this transformation of consciousness because it is designed to do so. It is also designed to cede public ownership to our planetary commons (our oceans, air, and water) to the people of Earth. It is designed to holistically and effectively deal with the technical, logistical, and local empowerment actions that Rifkin recognizes as globally necessary to transform the entire planet to sustainability.

We need a deeper paradigm-shift if we are to truly achieve sustainable civilization. The Constitution is designed to demilitarize the planet—to eliminate wars, nuclear weapons, and the industrial-military complexes (which Rifkin largely ignores). The Constitution integrates our fragmented and flawed linear world system into a holistic unity-in-diversity thereby transforming the world’s system imperatives to peace, prosperity and sustainability. It should be clear that ratification of the Earth Constitution alone can truly give us the Planetary Green New Deal that is necessary for human survival and flourishing on our precious planet Earth.

 Works Cited

 Constitution for the Federation of EarthWith Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion by Glen T. Martin. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.  Also found on-line at www.earth-constitution.org.  The World Legislation enacted by the Provisional World Parliament can be found on-line at www.worldproblems.net.

Brecher, Jeremy and Tim Costello (1994). Global Village or Global Pillage: Economic Reconstruction from the Bottom Up. Boston: South End Press.

Brown, Ellen Hodgson (2007). Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth about Our Money System. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Third Millennium Press.

Chase-Dunn, Christopher (1998). Global Formation: Structures of World Economy. Updated Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Chomsky, Noam (2003). Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

Chomsky, Noam (1996). What Uncle Sam Really Wants. Tucson, AZ: Odonian Press.

Fuller, R. Buckminister (1981). Critical Path. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Harrington, Michael (1989). Socialism: Past and Future. The Classic Text on the Role of Socialism in Modern Society. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Hart, H.L.A. (1994). The Concept of Law: Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2008).  Ascent to Freedom: Practical & Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2010). Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Human Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers.

Martin, Glen T. (2019). “The Tragedy of Our Planetary Commons,” on-line at my blog:

https://oneworldrenaissance.com/2019/10/08/the-tragedy-of-our-planetary-commons-climbing-out-of-the-abyss/

Parenti, Michael (1995). Democracy for the Few. Sixth Edition. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Rifkin, Jeremy (1989). Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World. Revised Edition. New York: Bantam Books.

Rifkin, Jeremy (2009). The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. New York: Penguin Books.

Rifkin, Jeremy (2011). The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Rifkin, Jeremy (2013). The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Rifkin, Jeremy (2019). The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028 and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Smith, J.W. (2013). Cooperative Capitalism: A Blueprint for Global Peace and Prosperity. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Swimme, Brian and Thomas Berry (1992). The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era—A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos. San Francisco: Harper San-Francisco Publishers.

UN Sustainable Development Goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld, item 18.)