Planetary Noncooperation with Evil Is Our Duty

Glen T. Martin

Venice, Italy, January 2020, on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi

“Noncooperation with Evil is a Duty”

Mahatma Gandhi

These words of Mahatma Gandhi bring out the revolutionary Truth of our human situation.  Today they grow ever more compelling as we watch our planetary environment disintegrate everywhere into droughts, wildfires, water shortages, superstorms, floods, and relentless, stifling heat waves (Wallace-Wells 2019; Romm 2018).  These words of Mahatma Gandhi grow ever more compelling as the Lords of Death and Destruction dedicate yet another trillion US Dollars to upgrading nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. This paper argues that true noncooperation with evil requires action in support of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Some groups are beginning to realize the absolute imperative for revolutionary transformation of our broken and anti-life planetary systems.  One group calls itself “Extinction Rebellion.”  Without massive rebellion against the systems of evil that are destroying our planet and our future, there will soon be simply no planet and no future. Yet rebellion without a concrete vision of what must replace the system of evil is hardly sufficient. You cannot effectively resist evil without concretely understanding the good, the ideal, what should be there in place of evil. Like Gandhi, we capitalize the word “Truth” because it names our fundamental human and cosmic reality.

Mahatma Gandhi was a revolutionary who envisioned total transformation of life on Earth, a transformation from violence to nonviolence, from evil to good, from hate, fear, greed, exploitation, and domination to love, justice, freedom, and Truth. Swaraj or liberation was to include all aspects of life, from economics to politics to world order (see Jesudasan 1984). Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr. declared “I have a dream.”  Without a dream of total transformation of our broken humanity and this evil world system we can do nothing. We cannot be “evolutionaries” working within the system to slowly change things but must be “revolutionaries” acting on a credible vision of total transformation of our partitioned, fragmented, anti-life world system. Today, Swami Agnivesh in India is one such revolutionary (see Agnivesh 2015).

Yet our duty is not simply to be followers of Gandhi or King or Agnivesh. It is not to adopt their vision or their dream. Our duty in Gandhi’s formulation is satyagraha, clinging to Truth, acting on Truth, living according to the gigantic Truth at the heart of our cosmic and human situation. We must see for ourselves the evil nature of the world system and discern clearly the requirements of goodness, nonviolence, and justice. This requires self-actualization, self-realization. Each of us can realize the divine Truth within as we grow out of immature egoism and self-centeredness toward worldcentric and cosmocentric forms of consciousness (see Wilber 2007).

The vision of good transforming the immense evil of our present world system arises within each of us as we discern our common humanity and the oneness of our human project. We must see for ourselves the absolute need for love, justice, compassion, and Truth to replace, hate, injustice, hardness of heart and ignorance.  We do not follow Gandhi or King.  We embrace the Truth of our cosmic and human situation.

Here in Venice the streets are filled with people on holiday from all over the world, families, couples, visiting groups—tourists all. They walk the streets, alleys, and bridges, and ride the canals, laughing and conversing, sitting in endless restaurants or gaping into the brightly lit shop windows of this consumer paradise. They appear oblivious. Some may worry that Venice is sinking beneath the sea as waters continue to rise and ever more frequent floods begin to envelop the precious Medieval and Renaissance heritage that this city represents. 

Yet none appear to realize that our entire planet is suffocating under evil institutions destroying the future of everyone—every man, woman, child, and living creature. The evil institutions comprising the militarized sovereign nations around the world that these tourists call home is so “normal” to them, so much in the unspoken background of everyday life, that they do not question it. Their ignorance is part of this evil system. Ignorance is indeed evil, but we must repudiate the evil itself, the ignorance itself, not the persons who are lost within this planetary criminal matrix of deceptions, lies, and propaganda.

Likewise, the correlative evil institution of a global economic system that has empowered them to have money for travel and tourism at the expense of the world’s billions of poor living in wretched hunger and scarcity again lies in the background of their consciousness, so pervasive as to be invisible, like the air we breathe. Their ignorance is palpable was they tend their credit cards or pay out their Euros to shops and restaurants in this mecca of global tourism and consumerism.

Mahatma Gandhi’s thought today is pigeonholed and marginalized. It has been truncated into a mere resistance against British colonialism in India. Few realize that he saw the world system itself as intrinsically evil. He demanded a total revolutionary transformation of our ways of living on the Earth predicated on Truth. He demanded that we live from the gigantic Truth of our universal common humanity, from the gigantic Truth of our precious planet Earth that sustains and embraces us, and from the gigantic Truth of God becoming ever more self-aware within our human reality.

Gandhi declared that the modern nation-state was “violence in a concentrated and compacted form” and that, under the capitalist system, “the few ride on the backs of the millions.” He lived through the two world wars in which these evil systems expressed their true anti-life imperatives, wiping out tens of millions of persons and destroying the planet that sustains us with bombs, explosives, chemicals, and poisons. Gandhi called not only for grassroots economic independence for the masses but also for a World Parliament above the nations, predicated not only on ending war but on removing poverty, misery and exploitation from the entire Earth (see Kripalani, ed. 1972; Hudgens 1986; Martin 2017).

The great Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism generally spoke of “knowledge versus ignorance,” rather than good and evil.  The great Western religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam generally spoke of “good and evil,” rather than knowledge and ignorance. Gandhi was influenced by both traditions. He was deeply influenced by the Christian Gospels, Leo Tolstoy, and John Ruskin as well as the readings from the Quran in his own Hindu temple when he was a boy. He rightly saw the confluence of these two traditions and declared that all the religions come from the same source (see Iyer 1973).

Noncooperation with evil is a duty, and the economic and political institutions that dominate our planet are evil. Evil is what destroys life and the future, whether from ignorance or malice or both. The system of militarized sovereign nation-states, fragmenting our common human project into some 193 competing national projects with their absolute borders, secrecy, manipulations, bombs, warplanes, ships, and missiles, is evil and anti-life. It destroys our ability to live in peace with one another as well as our ability to respond to the climate crisis. It results in an immense militarism that pours some 1.5 trillion US dollars down the global toilet annually while the poor languish in hunger and the climate that sustains us rapidly disintegrates.

The global capitalist economic system is evil. It is predicated on endless growth on a finite planet, an omnicidal quest of the unredeemed human ego. It is predicated in creating money as debt, to sinking humanity into endless indebtedness to the one percent (the banking-corporate elite) with their minions and academic enablers in the top twenty percent, and enslaving the bottom eighty percent to endless scarcity, economic desperation, lethal competition, and financial liability. It is a system designed for the domination by the rich and the elite, the few, who ride on the backs of the honest labor of the rest of humanity (see Martin 2010b, Part Two).

It is a system that promotes the lucrative military destruction of people and our planet, an industrial military complex that reaps trillions in profits from its institutionalized order of death and destruction. It is a system that promotes fragmentation and collapse of the planetary environment, pumping out endless fossil fuels and limitlessly devouring the finite resources of the planet that sustains our life. Capitalism, like the militarized sovereign nation-states, is intrinsically evil.  We need a revolutionary transformation of our world system predicated on life rather than death.

How is it possible not to cooperate with these gigantic planetary institutions that have so colonized our thinking and our world processes that they are everywhere and nowhere, like the air we breathe? The militarized sovereign nation-states force us to pay taxes to support their military death machines and their “national security” insanities.  They force us to use their debt-based monetary systems. If we spend some of our money organizing meetings and educational events to resist their evil system, they make a profit from our action. How do we cling to Truth when the untruth controls the media, the banking, the governments, and the very infrastructure of our lives?

The answer lies in the dream, in the vision of Truth that lies within every human heart and cannot be killed by their evil institutions. The dream of transformation and redemption is always there (see Martin 2018). Yet the dream must be made concrete. It must tell us how to transform evil into good, how to transform the world system from a broken and fragmented nightmare of injustice and untruth to one of justice, Truth, and sustainability.  That concrete vision is available to humanity in the form of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (see Martin 2010a).

The Earth Constitution is predicated on the gigantic Truth of our common human situation. It is founded upon the unity in diversity of human civilization. It is founded on the absolute imperative to organize our planetary system premised on the common good of all. The “broad functions” of the Earth Federation government specified in Article One articulate the premises of this common good: ending war and disarming the nations, protecting universal human rights, ending poverty and “diminishing social differences,” and protecting the ecological fabric of the Earth to make the planet “a safe and happy home” for all.

The system of sovereign nation-states interfaced with the global debt-based economic system is centuries old, (some three to four hundred years old). It developed long ago when the Truth of our common humanity living together with fragile planetary ecosystem were entirely unknown. These developed within an age of slavery, colonialism, discrimination, and inequality. These developed long before the idea of universal human rights, planetary justice, or comprehension of our global, holistic ecosystem. The vast momentum of these interfaced institutions has colonized every corner of our world and today threatens to destroy our entire human project and the life support of nature’s other living creatures.  Their evil and ignorance are palpable.

The duty of noncooperation with evil is most effectively achieved by advocating ratification of the Earth Constitution in thought, word, and deed.  Article 19 of the Constitution demands that we begin the World Government here and now in its provisional, pre-ratification form.  We can act now to create it though establishing provisional world ministries, a provisional world judicial system, a provisional world parliament, and worldwide programs for global grassroots empowerment for sustainability and justice. 

We have little choice to avoid living within the framework of the evil system of militarized sovereign nations with its corresponding corrupt monetary system of exploitation, debt, and scarcity. But the Lords of the Earth cannot stop us from dreaming, from speaking out for gigantic Truth of our common humanity, our common planetary ecosystem, and our common human destiny of love, justice, compassion, and freedom. By spreading awareness of the Earth Constitution as an institutionalization of gigantic Truth, of satyagraha, we are actualizing our noncooperation with evil. 

By making no concessions to their so-called pragmatic, practical, reality of “evolving toward the good,” we resist the evil and declare it for what it is. Their evil propaganda system also claims to honor the good. But we must go slow, they tell us, we must evolve the good patiently and incrementally. Their lies and deceit pollute even the vision of the good.

We cannot “evolve” toward the good. Those days and that possibility are over.  Our future on this planet is in imminent danger and we can no longer compromise with the corruption and ignorance that are destroying that future. We need revolutionary transformation of our broken world system through ratification and activation of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The Constitution does not give us a set of empty ideals about loving one another and our planet with no concrete way to make this a reality. It is not an Earth Charter or an unenforceable set of UN system ideals. Rather, it gives us a blueprint on how we can transform the system that now blocks and derails love, compassion, justice, and Truth. The Earth Constitution provides a nonviolent revolutionary manual for human liberation. It explicitly incorporates all viable UN agencies into its framework.

We must study it, promote it, organize around it, and speak from its premises in everything we say, think, or do. Noncooperation with evil is a duty.  We fulfill that duty by living from the premises of a transformed future. We begin living from the framework of valid law provided by the Earth Constitution and recognizing that no government of any sovereign nation is any longer legitimate. 

A legitimate government serves the common good of its citizens, but today no government can any longer do that because the common good is planetary, not national. No national government can protect the environment of its citizens or their universal human right to peace with justice. Only democratic world government under the Earth Constitution can do this (see Harris 2008, Chapter 8). National governments can regain their legitimacy only insofar as they unite under the Earth Constitution, thereby becoming participants in actualizing the common good for humanity and future generations.

Our absolute duty is noncooperation with the evil world system of militarized sovereign states interfaced with their global economic system of exploitation, debt, and misery. This noncooperation requires a vision of a transformed world system under the Earth Constitution.  This vision can be actualized here and now as we establish the agencies and institutions called for by the Constitution. The most effective from of noncooperation with evil is dedication to ratification and implementation of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. We must act now. Tomorrow will simply be too late.

Works Cited

Agnivesh, Swami (2016). Practical Spirituality: A Spiritual Vision for the Dialogue of Religions. New York: Harper Element Books.

Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Hudgens, Tom A. (1986). Let’s Abolish War. Denver: BILR Corporation.

Iyer, Raghavan N. (1973). The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jesudasan, S.J., Ignatius (1984). A Gandhian Theology of Liberation.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Kripalani, Krishna, ed. (1972). All Men are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as Told in His Own Words, New York: World Without War Publications.

Martin, Glen T. (2010a). Constitution for the Federation of Earth with Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. The Constitution can also be found in an inexpensive pocket edition and on-line at www.earth-constitution.org and many other locations.

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

Martin, Glen T. (2017). “Gandhi’s Satyagraha and the Earth Constitution” in Examining Global Peacemaking in the Digital Age: A Research Handbook, Bruce L. Cook, Editor, published by IGI Global, pp. 361-371.

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

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

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

Wilber, Ken. 2007. Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston:Integral Books.

A Human Rights System for the Earth Establishing a Foundation for the Beloved Community


Glen T. Martin

Human Rights and Law Forum
New Delhi, India
16 December 2019

In this paper I argue that the realization of human rights for the people of Earth can only happen if we change the horrific organizational systems that now dominate the Earth—the system of militarized sovereign nation-states and the globalize capitalist economic system. We need democratic world government, specifically under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  I argue that democratic world government arises from human dignity with its attendant human rights regime which is the basis for all legitimate law.  Democratic world law, in turn, lays the foundation for the spiritual self-realization of humanity, the result of which will be a planetary beloved community. I will sketch out several philosophical arguments behind these contentions and briefly attempt to show how the Earth Constitution establishes a true “human rights system” for our planet and for future generations, thereby laying the only practical and feasible foundation for universal spiritual self-realization.

Philosophical Foundations

Human rights derive from the a priori dignity of human beings, that is, from the fact that the universe has evolved a human creature that is self-aware, free, and rational. If there were some non-human creature, like an alien, who was self-aware, free, and rational, then this creature would also have dignity and therefore rights.  Nevertheless, integral to our dignity as moral creatures is our capacity for evil, for violating the dignity and the rights of others.  Our first question asks what is the role of government in the actualization and protection of human dignity, and why does it need to be world government?

I will sketch a background for this paper by reviewing the thought of the great 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. To my knowledge Kant was the first thinker in western thought to put his finger clearly on the scope and role of government in relation to human dignity and rights.

Kant expressed what is perhaps the most fundamental moral principle that embraces the very essence of morality.  That is the principle of universality in relation to the concept of human dignity.  Kant saw that human reason is capable of legislating moral principles for itself. He saw that a free, rational being is intrinsically a responsible being. Every free, rational being is a “legislator” of the moral law. Morality has to do with laws and lawmaking.

He articulated the fundamental moral imperative as “always do what is right regardless of your inclinations.”  It is not feelings, emotions, or desires that define or inspire what is right but rather our capacity to legislate universal moral principles applicable to our present situation, whatever that situation might be. In any particular situation we must ask ourselves “can I make it a universal law that everybody act the way I am about to act in these circumstance?”  When I act I am always implicitly making laws that everyone would have the moral right to act as I am acting in this situation.

The very universality of the moral principles articulated by our reason and applicable to the present circumstances means that each person has equal dignity—each is embraced by the universality of the moral principle— that each person is an end in his or herself. I must always do what any free, rational being should do in these circumstances. I should always treat every person as an end in themselves never merely as a means, for only free, rational beings have this intrinsic dignity of moral beings. (Today we understand that the natural world also has intrinsic value, as many environmentalists and deep ecologists have argued, but we also understand that only rational beings have the unique value that we associate with human dignity).

What are the social implications of this “categorical imperative,” this universal “legislated” moral principle without exceptions? First, Kant argued that the imperative included the moral ideal of a universal “kingdom of ends.”  As philosopher Leonard Nelson points out, following Kant, every “right” that a person legitimately claims presupposes duties on the part of others. If you have the right to life, I have the duty to respect your life and the life of everyone else. If you have a right not to be tortured, I have the moral duty not to torture you or anyone else.

At the heart of human freedom and rational responsibility is the ideal of a moral world order in which every person treats every other person morally, that is as an end in his or herself, and never merely as a means. To treat someone merely as a means is to use someone for one’s own selfish ends: to cheat or exploit or dominate or demean someone. Any immoral use of another person violates their human dignity, if effect, dehumanizing them. By contrast, in a world envisioned as a kingdom of ends, human rights would always be respected. This ideal world is implicit in our rational freedom, Kant argued, and provides a goal for human historical development.

How do complex societies embody the categorical imperative?  The first principle of legitimate government is to provide a framework for human moral development. This means a legal framework for freedom and equality.  The universality of the categorical imperative implies universal human equality. We are all the same morally speaking and this is precisely why morality can be governed by universal laws that each of us makes regarding our behavior.  Legitimate government actualizes the social categorical imperative by providing a legal framework that makes each person morally equal to everyone else and equally free to take moral responsibility for his or herself.

The role of government is to protect our freedom and equality through enforceable laws impartially applied to all citizens. In terms of the way that we organize complex human societies, we must live under the authority of what Kant called a “republican constitution.” A republican constitution embodies the categorical imperative of universal legislation impartially applied to citizens who are free and equal before the law. A republican constitution, Kant argues, declares that the constitutional law of the land guarantee the freedom and equality of each citizen. If there is no constitutional law over citizens, then Kant declares that we are in an immoral condition of defacto war with one another, since there is nothing to prevent the stronger from violating the weaker.

The size, or strength, or cleverness of different citizens is irrelevant only under a republican constitution, because under the rule of constitutional law we have moved from a condition in which power or strength is always there to override the universality of morality and impose the will of one or a few over the dignity and rights of others. Kant understood that the rule of enforceable law under a republican constitution provides the moral framework that makes moral relationships among citizens possible and feasible. To live without such enforceable constitutional law guaranteeing our freedom and equality before the law is therefore immoral.  The universality of morality in the social context requires enforceable law under a republican constitution.

In several of his late essays of the 1790s Kant examines the system of sovereign nation-states that had become the dominant form of international organization since the mid-17th century. He points out the obvious—that the relationships between these sovereign entities recognize no enforceable laws above themselves. To be a sovereign nation, in terms of these mutually accepted international arrangements, means to have exclusive determination over internal affairs and independence in external affairs.  This “independence” in external affairs is, in effect, the claim to recognize no binding laws above the level of the nation state. Sovereignty cannot be bound by any law higher than itself since sovereignty is, by definition, the ultimate power and authority that determines the law.

Kant correctly states that this makes the world system immoral and places upon all of us the moral obligation to transform this world system from one in which power defines the relations between nations to one in which a republican world constitution guarantees the freedom and equality of all persons on the planet.  It is impossible to treat every person (on the planet) as an end in his or herself when those who are not citizens of one’s own country are not constitutionally free and equal with ourselves through universal, equally applied, constitutionally sanctioned laws.

The moral imperative to live under a republican constitution guaranteeing the freedom and equality of each before the law is therefore universal, and the law guaranteeing this must be universal and the same for all. That means that only a world republican constitution can satisfy the categorical imperative and that the system of so-called sovereign nation-states is inherently immoral. You cannot morally or logically divide the world into a collection of territorially bound, militarized entities, each recognizing no enforceable laws above itself, and somehow at the same time that all are free and equal under the law. Each of us who accepts this system and fails to work to change it is morally culpable.  The moral imperative demands republican world government in which the nations become administrative units within an Earth Federation guaranteeing the freedom and equality of each before democratically legislated world law.

With respect to this principle, therefore, republican and democratic constitutions should be identical. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau pointed out, in accord with Kant, the law must form the “general will” of the people, which is not the same as the will of the majority. The general will is the universal moral reality created by the constitution guaranteeing the freedom and equality of each citizen before the law. The general will means that each citizen is an end in his or herself and that each is morally bound to the others and to the constitutional whole.

“Eachness” is important to note here. World law must be over each individual human being, not over abstract entities called nation-states. To try to somehow “govern” abstract entities called nations rather than holding individuals accountable to the law, is to perpetuate the war-system. You cannot arrest and put a nation on trial. You can only go to war against it. The moral imperative that we treat each person on Earth as an end in him or herself, never merely as a means, requires that each person on Earth live in equality and freedom, constitutionally guaranteed, with every other person on Earth.  Kant’s moral ideal of the Kingdom of Ends in which all persons treat all other persons morally logically requires (presupposes) a republican or democratic world government guaranteeing the freedom and equality of each.

The Necessity of a World Human Rights System

Kant lived in a time when armies were fighting with swords and riding on horseback.  The greatness of his vision nevertheless understood the logical and moral difficulties of a world divided into autonomous, militarized nation-states recognizing no governing authority above themselves.  Since that time, we have seen two world wars fought by mechanized armies with industrial scale capacity for destroying human beings and their life support systems, as well as the development of horrendous weapons of mass destruction that have the potential to go beyond even industrial scale destruction to destroying the entire planetary ecosystem that makes human life possible on Earth.

Yet today we find ourselves in the 21st century attempting to defend human rights in the face of a world system whose very existence violates human rights.  In his well-known book on Human Rights, scholar Jack Donnelly points out the paradox of the UN system of sovereign nation-states.  He says that under the UN system each government is responsible for protecting the human rights of its citizens and yet, at the same time, it is governments that are by far the most significant violators of human rights. If human rights are truly universal, then what are we doing placing their protection in the hands of territorially bound, militarized power-centers that themselves refuse to submit to the rule of law? The system outlined by the UN Charter is immoral and unworkable. The vast and valuable infrastructure of the UN must be integrated into the system of democratic world law under the Earth Constitution.

In his books on human rights, philosopher of law Alan Gewirth derives human dignity and rights from the existential structure of human life in which people freely pursue goals they consider to be good.  Similarly, in my book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence (2018), I show how this teleological structure provided by human temporality results in the entire panoply of human rights and in the concept of an intrinsic as well as an evolving human dignity.

Governments in today’s world live a planetary matrix of power relationships.  Professor Hans Morgenthau in his classic 1948 book Politics Among Nations argues that the relations between nations must necessarily be those of self-interest projected through power, and that morality should not be allowed to get in the way of this struggle.  However, I want to emphasize that this condition of living in a world of power relations (rather than moral-based dignity relations) is intrinsic to the system of sovereign states. Entities who insist on lawlessness, that is, entities who refuse to recognize the rule of constitutionally grounded enforceable law over themselves are already power-based and therefore immoral. The world system is intrinsically a war system and therefore a system destructive of human rights and dignity.

Governments cannot be expected to honor human rights, whether of their own citizens or those of other governments, since they are attempting to operate within this gigantic self-contradiction.  Externally they are lawless and immoral and need to operate in terms of power and national self-interest.  Internally, they are supposed to be moral and respect the rights of their citizens.  In such a schizophrenic situation, almost inevitably human rights are sacrificed to “national security” issues, or “economic issues” catering to multinational corporations and global economic pressures.

The power relations of the external world-anarchy serve to foster nihilism and skepticism regarding moral values.  The heads of nations pay lip service to moral values, but in reality they operate under capitalist economic imperatives and/or so-called “national security” imperatives. Politicians everywhere are said to be corrupt, but their corruption is in significant measure a result of the system within which they are expected to perform.

Similarly, the attempts at democratic or republican constitutional systems within nations become corrupted because they attempt to operate within an immoral global economic and political framework that necessarily impacts internal decision-making and law-making. The capitalist economic system of greed and self-interest penetrates every nation, corrupting many bureaucrats and politicians.  Moral cynicism and nihilism flow directly from capitalism as they also do from the system of power relations called sovereign nation-states.

In a world of ungoverned multinational corporations and lawless militarized nation states, there can be no real protection of human rights.  The system itself defeats respect for moral principles and human rights.  If we want human rights respected and protected, we must establish a human rights system for the world.  It cannot be successful in a fragmented world of sovereign nation-states or ruthless capitalist competition.  We need to base our global institutions on who we really are: ethical creatures capable of living under universal moral principles as free and equal citizens, creatures who have intrinsic dignity, and, we shall see below, creatures who are also capable of love, compassion, kindness and care, that is, capable of living within beloved human communities worldwide.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth creates a human rights system for the Earth by establishing a democratic Earth Federation that represents the sovereign of the people of Earth. Ultimate authority, sovereignty, derives from the collective dignity of humanity as a whole. It places the representatives of that sovereignty, the Earth Federation government, above the nation-states, removing their absolute sovereignty and making them administrative units within the Earth Federation, responsible for governing their internal affairs as long as this is consistent with the human rights system of the Earth Federation government.

Sovereignty, therefore, becomes delegated and descends in levels from humanity as a whole all the way to the relative self-determination of local communities. The Constitution also places the Earth Federation government above the multi-national corporations requiring that they operate for the common good of humanity and not for the enrichment of a tiny group of wealthy investors. The rule of legitimate law predicated on the freedom and equality of each human being, at last becomes a reality for our planet.

Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” After 73 years of endless wars, economic exploitation, power politics, and moral corruption of politicians, it should be clear that the UN system does not give us an “international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration can be fully realized.”  We have seen that this is because the world system of sovereign nation-states and multinational corporations is an anti-human rights system. It is intrinsically a war system, a greed system, and a domination system. 

A human rights system for the Earth requires all the dimensions of good government: a democratic legislature truly representing the people of Earth, a world judicial system with highly qualified impartial judges, an effective, professional world Executive system to carry out the laws enacted by the World Parliament, and a world enforcement system of Attorney Generals and civilian World Police dedicated to enforcing the law equally over all individuals. In other words, a human rights system requires real, effective government predicated on the equal dignity, freedom, and integrity of all persons.

Persons staffing the bureaucratic and governmental positions with such an Earth Federation government would be much less likely to descend into moral cynicism and nihilism because the system itself is predicated on human rights and dignity, not on power and economic greed. Our central problem is not some inherently “corrupt” human nature. Our central problem is that we live under global institutions that lead to corruption, cynicism, and nihilism. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is about bringing equality and freedom before the law to all the citizens of Earth by recognizing our universal human dignity and founding the world system on that dignity and its consequent rights. Legitimate, planetary institutions correctly based on human dignity will result in much greater integrity and authentic moral insight among government officials within all agencies of the Earth Federation government.

The Earth Constitution both presupposes and articulates the so-called “third generation” rights of the right to peace and the right to a healthy environment. It institutionalizes these rights along with all first and second generation economic and political rights as articulated in Articles 12 and 13. It sets up a world system designed to protect and actualize these rights. It institutionally eliminates power and exploitation relations from human affairs as much as reasonably possible and focuses on moral relations as embodied in the concepts of the common good of humanity and the human rights of all citizens.

The human rights system under the Earth Constitution has unique features that should be emphasized here. The World Parliament has 3 houses: the House of Peoples with 1000 representatives from around the planet, the House of Nations with 1, 2, or 3 representatives from each nation, depending on population, and the House of Counselors, with some 200 counselors elected from around the world.  The World Supreme Court system includes 8 benches, including a bench for human rights cases.

The World Executive has no military or police power and no authority to suspend the Constitution in a state of emergency. The World Police and Attorney Generals form a separate agency from the Executive branch and are directly responsible to the World Parliament. In addition, there is a special agency called the World Ombudsmus, with offices worldwide.  The World Ombudsmus, with its planetary system of World Advocates, is dedicated to the protection of the human rights of all the world’s citizens and serves as a watchdog on the government to ensure that human rights are not being violated by the World Police or any other governmental authorities.

This is what a human rights system looks like. It must be focused on the real common good of humanity for ending war, protecting human rights everywhere on Earth, eliminating poverty as well as exploitation, and protecting the environmental integrity of our planet. (These are the “broad functions” of the Earth Constitution outlined in its very first article.) Logically, a human rights system can only be global in scope, and it must be a system designed to realize these ends.  The nation-state system and the corporate-driven economic system, by contrast, are not designed for moral ends nor for human rights, and that is why we cannot achieve the goal of protecting human rights under the present world anarchy.

Our job, our mission, must be to promote the Constitution for the Federation of Earth in every venue and every way possible until it becomes everywhere a household word.  In this way, the people of Earth, who want nothing more than peace, a decent standard of living, and respect for their human rights, will at last know that they have a way out—that we human beings can at last create a world system in which moral relationships and human rights become primary.  Then only will the people of Earth be able to choose a decent future for themselves and all future generations. Building on this human rights foundation, human beings will then be able to move to a yet higher level of moral and spiritual growth.

A Spiritually Realized, Loving Planetary Community

As I reviewed in my 2018 book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence, a broad consensus exists concerning the fundamental stages of human cognitive, moral, and spiritual growth. This consensus includes such well-known thinkers as Ken Wilber, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, and Jürgen Habermas. The most fundamental stages commonly recognized move from the egocentric stage of children (or immature adults) to the ethnocentric stage of recognition of others within one’s own community. This second (ethnocentric) stage assumes that the values and beliefs of one’s own community are somehow more correct, rational, or moral than those of others around the world.

Moral, cognitive, and spiritual maturity begin at the third stage, which Kohlberg calls the stage of “Autonomy” and Wilber calls the “Worldcentric” stage. At this level persons begin to understand that the world includes many different ways of culturally organizing thought and experience and one’s perspective becomes progressively evermore universal and affirmative of humanity and civilization as a whole. Kohlberg emphasizes the “autonomy” of this stage and links this explicitly with the ethical thought of Kant.  One’s moral principles are now arrived at through independent crucial rational thought and are formulated on the grounds of logical universality, consistency and coherence.

This is the level at which universal human dignity is fully recognized and universal human rights are affirmed. This is the level of maturity at which the vision of democratic or republican world government arises. One understands that all human beings must be protected as free and equal under the authority of universally legislated, enforceable world laws. The moral ideal of a universal kingdom of ends for the Earth begins to become clear and compelling.

But all these thinkers recognize a fourth level of cognitive, ethical, and spiritual maturity, which may be called, with Ken Wilber, the “Kosmocentric” stage of realization. Like the other stages, this stage itself may have many sublevels and complexities.  Human beings do not normally move through such clearly defined stages but often have progressions and regressions, often living simultaneously from mixed stages of moral development, etc.  In Kosmocentric stages one begins to realize something that lives at the very foundation of human life as we have evolved from the cosmos that gave us birth.  This is the One at the heart of all things, characterized by the great world religions as love.

At the kosmocentric stage of cognitive, moral, and spiritual realization one begins to go beyond morality as defined by Kant—the making of universal laws that govern one’s actions regardless of one’s inclinations—to a freedom from such moral rules (in the sense that one’s inclinations begin to come in harmony with one’s duty) because one begins to love one’s own deepest selfhood and the selfhood of all others without discrimination, judgement, or recrimination. Here dignity is not only recognized but loved. As Saint Augustine famously said, “Love, and do what you will.” There develops what philosopher Jacob Needleman called “a sense of the cosmos,” a cosmos whose foundation is love.  There develops a love such as contemporary Christian thinker Ilia Delio describes in her book under the title: The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love.

The sense of the whole, not as an object to a subject in which I cognitively recognize the universe as a whole, but as an inner realization of the One that is at the core of my being and at the core of every other being. “The unbearable wholeness of Being” is the intensity of love that wells up within the process of spiritual self-realization. Scientist and Catholic Christian thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes that “only love can bring individual beings to their perfect completion, as individuals, by uniting them with one another, because only love takes possession of them and unites them by what lies deepest within them” (1969, 145). Philosopher Errol E. Harris also recognizes love as superseding and encompassing the duty ethics of Kant.

Protestant thinker Paul Tillich speaks of love not as an emotion but as an “ontological principle,” permeating the cosmos that we are capable of actualizing in our own lives because it is already within us as well as everywhere at the heart of the cosmos. Jewish thinker Marc Gafni declares that humans begin with egocentric love, then move to ethnocentric love, then to worldcentric love, and finally to kosmocentric love. Kosmocentric love realizes that the cosmos is the original source of the love at all levels (2014, 69). We must begin within a moral framework in which we recognize one another’s dignity and legally constitution a world society of free and equal persons. This lays the groundwork for the next level of self-realization—the spiritual development of universal love.

It is through the Kosmocentric level that the beloved community becomes possible for humanity. It is here that the true Islamic Sharia of obedience to God can be found. It is here that the Kingdom of God can be brought to Earth, which is the basic message of Jesus Christ. It is at this level that we can realize tikkun olam, which the Jewish Kabbalah calls the “healing of the world,” the wholeness of things holding a reservoir of love that can transform human existence and raise us to our true destiny.

The Kosmocentric level of moral-spiritual development goes beyond the legislating of moral laws but presupposes and builds upon the earlier level. It involves what spiritual thinker Raimon Panikkar calls “the anthropocosmic intuition” (2013, 55). We intuit both the heart of our humanity and of the cosmos, which is love. Indian spiritual thinker Rabindranath Tagore links this realization with the nirvana of the Buddha: “we know for certain that nirvana is the highest culmination of love. For love is an end in itself” (2011, 161-2).

With this realization the possibility of a beloved human community has become tenable in the minds of the many people throughout history who have experienced this self-realization at the kosmocentric level. Throughout history, they have been spokespersons for such a redeemed and actualized human community.  My argument in this paper is that, as a civilization, we have not yet moved beyond the ethnocentric level of nation-state sovereignty and selfish economic relationships to the worldcentric level founded on universal human dignity protected by morally grounded laws under a world constitution.

Moving to the worldcentric level of moral maturity is, at the general level of human civilization, a prerequisite for the further development of cosmocentric awareness and spiritual realization among humanity in general. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth lays the necessary foundation upon which to build the beloved human community.  Our present world-anarchy of military and economic madness must be transcended by the rule of democratically legislated laws for planet Earth. 

The Earth Constitution establishes, for the first time in history, a moral world system. It makes possible on a planetary scale not only true dialogue, but respect for human rights, nonviolence, and planetary justice. It also makes possible peace and the demilitarizing of nations as well as environmental sustainability. Once we have established the Earth Federation government envisioned by the Constitution, then, and only then, will we be ready and available, as a species, to realize our true human destiny—the creation of a beloved human community in which love, and justice, and ecological sustainability become as routine and self-evident as this beautiful and miraculous human body from which we live every day of our lives.


Brief Bibliography

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. See on-line versions of the Constitution at www.earth-constitution.orgwww.worldparliament-gov.orgwww.radford.edu/gmartinCEF.pdf or http://www.worldproblems.net/english/fec/constitution_federation_earth_eng_full_text.htm.
Delio, Ilia. 2013. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Donnelly, Jack. 2003. Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Second Edition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Gewirth, Alan. 1982. Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
—. 1996. The Community of Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Habermas, Jurgen. 1998a. Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory. Eds. Ciaran Cronin and Pablo De Greiff. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
—. 1998b. On the Pragmatics of Communication. Ed. Maeve Cooke. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
—. 2001. The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
—. 2003. The Future of Human Nature. Trans. William Rehg, et. al. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Hick, John. 2004. An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the TranscendentSecond Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Kant, Immanuel. 1957. Perpetual Peace. Ed. Lewis White Beck. New York: Macmillan.
Kant, Immanuel. 1964. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Trans. H. J. Paton. New York: Harper & Row.
Kant, Immanuel. 1965. The Metaphysical Elements of Justice. Trans. John Ladd. New York: Library of the Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill Company.
Kant, Immanuel. 1974. On the Old Saw: That May Be Right in Theory but It Won’t Work in Practice. Trans. E. B. Aston. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1984. The Psychology of Moral Development: Volume Two, The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Martin, Glen T., ed. 2010). Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. 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. Cambridge Scholars Publishers.
Morganthau, Hans. 2006. Politics among Nations. Seventh Edition. New York: McGraw Higher Education. (Orig. Pub. 1948.)
Needleman, Jacob. 1975. A Sense of the Cosmos: The Encounter of Modern Science and Ancient Truth. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company.
Nelson, Leonard. 1956. System of Ethics. Trans. Norbert Guterman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Panikkar, Raimon. 1979. Myth, Faith, and Hermeneutics: Cross-cultural Studies. New York: Paulist Press.
—. 1993. The Cosmotheandric Experience. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
—. 2013. They Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Wilber, Ken. 2007. Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integral Books.

Humanizing the Human within an Era of Disruption

Glen T. Martin

World Philosophical Forum

World Philosophy Day, Keynote Address, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 21, 2019

What do we mean by the humanizing of the human?  And what do we mean by an era of disruption?  The attempt to answer these two questions will guide the discussion in this paper. Let me try to approach these questions through first sketching a broad overview of our cosmic and human situation as this has been uncovered by both Western history and contemporary thought. Secondly, I will undertake an analysis of the present world system to reveal both the outlines of our current disruption and the direction we must urgently proceed if we want to continue the ancient process of humanizing the human.

The ancient Greek philosophers understood, first, that human beings were related to the structure of the cosmos.  For Plato, in the Republic, human beings were capable of living in the light of the “Form of the Good,” itself beyond being (hyperousia), while cognizing the intelligible structure of the manifest world.[1] For Aristotle, we were capable of a contemplation mirroring that of God, the Unmoved Mover, and we apprehended a world in which all entelechies exhibited a nisus toward the actualizing of their unique potentialities, a nisus eternally animated by that Unmoved Mover.[2] 

These ancient philosophers understood our humanity as becoming ever-more actualized as we developed our specifically human potential, moving upward, for example, on Plato’s ladder of love toward the highest level, thereby becoming “a friend of God and immortal.” Ancient Greek and Roman civilization also often emphasized our common humanity, especially in the cosmopolitism of the Stoics, who recognized the rational nature and ontological equality of all human beings.[3]

Medieval thinkers added to the humanizing of the human in various ways, one of which involved  opening human experience to union with the divine source. From Plotinus to Dionysios the Areopagite to Eriugena to Avicenna to Jalal Udin Rumi to Meister Eckhart to Nicolas of Cusa, medieval thinkers experienced the immanence of God within our human reality.[4] This led to some, such as Sufi mystic al-Hallaj, to declare “I am the Truth,” offending ordinary believers by claiming one of the names of God, with tragic consequences for himself.[5] It also led Meister Eckhart in the 14th century to an indictment by the Catholic Church for possible heresy. The innovators and the pioneers in the process of humanizing the human often face great odds and take great risks.

Human beings are humanized through actualizing awareness of their participation with the divine source that flows through the depths of all being. Perhaps, as the Eastern Orthodox Church puts it, we are capable of “divinization,” or, as Buddhism has put it, of actualizing our Buddha-nature, or in Islam, we are capable, as Frithjof Schuon declares, of “seeing God everywhere and everything in Him.”[6]

The Early Modern period from the 17th century saw the rise of the scientific method in Europe. This period gave birth, in general, to a mechanistic reduction of the concept of human being. No longer the microcosm of the macrocosm as we were for the Greeks, no longer capable of the direct realization of the divine as we were for the Medievals, the early moderns such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume understood human beings as complex machines within what they took to be a mechanistic, deterministic, atomistic universe.  Here we encounter some roots behind our present “age of disruption.”[7]

From the discovery of the scientific method by Galileo and others in the early 17th century to the brilliant synthesis of Newton’s Principia Mathematica of 1687, the early modern thinkers generated a world view derived from what they took to be the fundamental components of reality.  Atomism: everything can be understood as built from parts that are real in themselves and make it what it is. Determinism: everything is causally determined by the principle of universal efficient causality.  Mechanism: everything operates like a machine with parts working together to make it function efficiently. External relations: the atoms and entities are externally related (only) to other parts and entities: in this world view, atomistic units impact one another externally but exhibit few internal relationships.[8]

However, human beings can only be adequately understood under the models of growth and evolution linked to the fundamental nature of the cosmos and the divine. Plato and Aristotle articulated our microcosmic connection with the macrocosm and our potential to grow into knowledge and harmony with the intelligible whole. The Medieval mystics apprehended the divine reality immanent within our depths.  Although their metaphysics was often limited by prescientific mythologies about the world, they added this dimension to our quest to humanize the human. However, while the discovery of the scientific method in the 17th century was a great step in and of itself, the reductionist world view that arose from early-modern science did a tremendous disservice to our intrinsic human vocation of humanizing the human.[9]

Arising out of this early-modern mechanistic paradigm were the two institutions that have come to dominate the contemporary world: the sovereign nation-state and global capitalism. Governance during the European middle ages had been by dynasty and lineage, that is, by royal families. The devasting 30 Years War was concluded at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  Awareness of the new “scientific” paradigm led to a solution to the complex claims of royal families to rule disparate areas linked to family lineages.  They decided instead to create an atomized world of territorially bound sovereign nation-states. 

Each state would have absolute territorial boundaries ruled over by a unitary governmental authority, responsible for internal affairs and well-being. Each state would be independent of all other states in a collective equality. That is, each would be independent in its foreign affairs.[10]  Out of this agreement the atomistic system of sovereign nation-states was born.  Today, there are some 193 of these sovereign territories, with absolute borders, most of them militarized, not easily penetrable by “outsiders.”

Capitalism paralleled the atomism of territorial states. Individual businesses and persons competed in a marketplace for wealth and success. Similarly, nations competed economically for markets, colonial power, and wealth. It was not an accident that Adam Smith’s summary of this process in 1776 was called The Wealth of Nations. Today, world system theorist Christopher Chase-Dunn declares that “the state and the interstate system are not separate from capitalism, but rather are the main institutional supports of capitalist production relations.”[11] The human image became prostituted to the pursuit of wealth integrated within a patriotism directed toward discrete, militarized territorial entities, all of which were permeated by the nearly universal technological drive to military and industrial domination, exploitation, and control of both nature and human beings.[12]

In 1905 Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity, the premise of which was that the universe is an integrated whole, every aspect internally related to every other aspect. Since that time science has continued to uncover evidence of the undivided wholeness of the cosmos, with quantum physics rooting the Einsteinian ontological holism in the undivided unity of a quantum dimension transcending even space and time.[13]  All individuals, from galaxies and stars to human beings and animals, are related to all other individuals. This means that the primary mode of relationship involves “internal relations,” not merely external relations. Atomism is dead. Mechanism is dead. Holism means universal relatedness.[14] A vast literature developed linking human beings holistically to the divine source of existence and the evolutionary process.[15]

In the mid-20th century, the Big Bang emerged as a leading theoretical concept for the whole. Recognition of this primal flaring forth some 13.8 billion years ago gave rise to the concept of universal evolution: everything evolves. Human consciousness has itself evolved from its primitive beginnings some 2 million years ago. It has moved away from its original unity with nature through successive stages of increasing self-awareness.

Scholars record the movement of human consciousness from its “Primitive Unity” through an “Age of Magic” evidenced in cave paintings around the world, to an “Age of Mythology” that characterized ancient civilizations from the Yellow River Valley in China to the Egyptian civilization along the Nile, to our present age of “Self-aware Reason.” The latter began during the famous “Axial Period” of human history from the 8th to the 2nd century BCE. Our present age could also be termed the age of dualistic “Subject-Object” consciousness.[16] We need an integral consciousness, a holistic consciousness.

The 20th century discovered, from multiple angles, the vast integrated unity in diversity of the universe. With the ecological crisis that emerged since the 1960s, we began to uncover the interrelated unity of our planetary ecosystem and the inseparability of human society from the planetary biosphere.  Everything evolves: the geological character of the Earth has evolved over the 4.6 billion years of its existence. Life on Earth has evolved over its 3.8 billion year history.[17] Human beings evolved from the hominids and human consciousness continues to evolve. Everything is interrelated within the evolutionary process. All human beings are brothers and sisters and intimately related to the divine ground of being from which self-consciousness and freedom have emerged.

Physicists have proposed “the Anthropic Principle” according to which human life was built into the fundamental structure of the universe from its very inception.[18] In India, Sri Aurobindo understood that the ONE (God) emerges in human beings as “a localized consciousness through which it becomes aware of itself.”[19]  20th century philosopher Errol E. Harris writes: “The universal principle [God] is necessarily immanent in every part and every phase of the system. It is the alpha and omega of the universe, and without it nothing could be what it is, or happen as it does. Bringing itself to consciousness in our minds, it determines the essential nature of our thinking….”[20]

Today, we require an “open synthesis”, or “open horizon,” that is, a vision of human participation in the cosmic reality that is evolving, open to the new, and does not close off emergent possibilities.[21] We need a principle of unity in diversity in which both the unity and the diversity are recognized as evolving, as we participate in the process of cosmogenesis as vehicles of the divine-human-cosmic project of emergent existence. In my view, in his book Al Fathun Nawa, Dr. Halo-N has shown us the inexhaustible richness of the Quran for such continued human growth and development.[22]

Whereas the ancient Greeks articulated a static ontological macrocosm toward which humanizing the human could aspire, and the Medievals mentioned above articulated a depth dimension that often emphasized divine reality in opposition to matter.[23] Today, we have uncovered the evolutionary upsurge of the universe and ourselves as an integral component of that upsurge. Body, mind, and spirit are aspects of one integrated reality, and we are in its midst.

This is the meaning of human freedom and why freedom must be an integral component of our unity in diversity.  Human freedom is essential to our cosmic-human-divine vocation.[24]  Can we understand this with more than just the abstract intellect?  Can we internalize this awareness so that it becomes fundamental to our being in the world? We need an existential paradigm-shift away from all forms of atomism and mechanism toward emergent evolutionary holism. Freedom envisions a transformed future.

In the light of contemporary science, well-known Physicist Henry Stapp observes that we have revised our conception of a person in relation to nature. This new conception “must inevitably lead us away from the egocentric bias that was the rational product of the ontology of classical physics, to the values inherent in the image of the self, not as a local isolated automaton but rather as a nonlocalizable integrated aspect of the creative impulse of the universe.”[25]

 The Cosmos belongs together with humanity and God, as philosopher Raimon Panikkar has long insisted.[26] Three dimensions, three principles in one, unity in diversity, the whole as an emergent evolutionary open future. We humanize the human today by recognizing our unity with the cosmos and God and by living in terms of this “open synthesis” that allows the genuinely new to emerge, that keeps open the eschaton, the emergent fulfillment, the vision, in more traditional language, of the Kingdom of God on Earth, or of the Shari’ah, an age of obedience, freedom, peace, and compassion, when God-consciousness is all in all. Sufi poet Jalal Udin Rumi sings:

Something opens our wings.

Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.

Someone fills the cup in front of us.

We taste only sacredness….

Real value comes with madness,

matzub below, scientist above.

Whoever finds love beneath hurt and grief,

disappears into emptiness, with a thousand new disguises.[27]

We need to “open our wings” to taste the sacredness of existence. We need to rediscover God-consciousness within the context of our emergent freedom.[28] The Quran is for everyone; the Bhagavad Gita speaks to all; the same is true for the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, and the sutras of Buddhism. We emerge from the emptiness in a thousand new disguises, a vast diversity within unity, animated by love.

Yet today’s world disrupts this process. We live in an era of disruption because both global capitalism and its sister institution the sovereign nation-state interfere with, block, and distort the process of humanizing the human. Ours is an age of disruption because the mechanistic materialism of the early-modern paradigm has colonized the life-worlds of people around the globe. Nations, economic wealth-seeking, technological domination, and the idolatry of false, anthropomorphically conceived images of divinity, enslave humanity to war, destruction of the environment, spiritual and planetary ruin.

These institutions with their false paradigmatic assumptions interfere with the open and evolving project of unity in diversity that constitutes our true human vocation. The sacred needs to appear to us in a thousand new disguises.  But this cannot happen within the global war system.

As several major western thinkers have pointed out, the system of sovereign nation-states is inherently a war system. Spinoza, in the 17th century, recognized that states will wage war according to their perceived national interests, since there is no higher authority that can arbitrate or mitigate the resort to violence. British philosopher Thomas Hobbes also understood the system as intrinsically a war-system. He declared that outside of their borders, states confront one another “as gladiators.” This state of nature, he declared, without government to keep the peace, consisted in a “war of all against all.”

 This condition violates the most fundamental ethical principle (that of treating all people as having equal dignity). This condition is, therefore, inherently immoral. In Perpetual Peace (1795), Immanuel Kant describes the relation between sovereign nations as an immoral condition of war.[29] In his Philosophy of Right, G.W.F. Hegel declares “if no agreement can be reached between particular wills, conflict between states can only be settled by war.”[30]

After the Second World War, journalist Emery Reves declared that, “War takes place whenever and wherever non-integrated social units of equal sovereignty come into contact.”  He concluded that, “‘Policy’ and ‘diplomacy’ not only may lead to war, but cannot fail to do so because they are actually identical with war.”[31] The system of “sovereign” nation-states, recognizing no enforceable law above themselves, remains intrinsically a war-system, impeding the humanizing of the human.  The United Nations Charter is fundamentally a treaty of sovereign nation states, and that is why it has been unable to stop war, protect human rights, or preserve our planetary environment.

The system of militarized sovereign nation-states, the capitalist system, and the technological civilization that these have generated, now dominate us. We no longer control or dominate them.  And this world system is leading us to total destruction.  Adjustments by the UN or climate treaties under this same paradigm are not going to address the issue.  Our present condition is vividly depicted in works such as Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century or in David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.[32]

The future may look bleak indeed. In the face of today’s planetary crises, the humanizing of the human becomes an urgent demand. We need to become different and to think differently. We need to see ourselves as integral participants in the biosphere, as citizens of the cosmos as well as planet Earth, and as manifestations of the divine ground of being with its evolutionary upsurge. 

We urgently need to transform the world system from a war-system, greed system, and domination system to the integrated harmony of democratic world law under a united humanity. Only this can make possible the continued upsurge of humanizing of the human. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth, of course, cannot of itself establish such a transformation of human consciousness.  But I am convinced that it remains an essential vehicle for making this happen. I will briefly describe its role in three ways: the principle of unity in diversity on which it is founded, the freedom system that it creates, and the “open horizon” that is built into its provisions.[33]

First, the Constitution is designed around the principle of unity in diversity, a principle that the Earth Federation will promote throughout the government as well as in media, education, and law. The Constitution’s design brings in people from every corner of the Earth and ensures diversity in every agency and organ of the Earth Federation Government.  It ensures participation from 1000 electoral districts around the world and draws human beings into a unity that respects and dignifies their immense human diversity. This constitutional unity in diversity in many ways mirrors the unity in diversity of our emergent evolutionary cosmos.

 Second, the Constitution maximizes human freedom. The second “broad function” of the Earth Federation specified in Article 1 states that it must “protect universal human rights, including life, liberty, security, democracy, and equal opportunities in life.” The entire system of the Constitution is built around this and the other five broad functions specified in Article 1, the first of which (Article 1.1) is world peace, the second of which (1.2) is freedom and the protection of human rights, and the fifth of which is “to protect the environment and the ecological fabric of life.” By transforming a world system that currently defeats freedom in every dimension, the Earth Constitution opens before humanity a horizon for moral, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive growth that would otherwise be impossible.

 Major impediments to human freedom and flourishing endemic within the present world chaos are removed and prevented from recurring by the integrated functions of the Earth Federation under the Constitution. For example, there will be no more national security states, world militarism, authoritarian regimes, rogue militarized terror groups, corporate violations of the dignity of employees, child labor, human trafficking, extremes of poverty and deprivation, lack of literacy and education, or lack of adequate health care. These phenomena are largely products of the system and require system transformation if they are to be adequately addressed.

Third, Article 18 establishes within the constitutional framework that “open horizon” that I believe necessary for human liberation. The Constitution is a manual for making decisions by the people of Earth and for piloting our planetary spaceship. It recognizes the need for this manual to evolve as circumstances change. Article 18 mandates a new constituent assembly within 10 years after the ratification of the Constitution and additional constituent assemblies every 20 years thereafter.

As such, the Constitution mirrors the emergent evolutionary telos and unity in diversity of the world system, and it places the evolutionary upsurge of freedom at its very heart. Humanizing the human means to me participating in the self-actualizing movement of the cosmic-divine-human adventure.  We are the universe become self-aware. We have the gifts of language, freedom, and reason.[34]

Or as some Islamic thinkers have put it, our intelligence is theomorphic, capable of discerning the divine Truth, Wisdom, and Compassion.[35] We can discern the outlines of this mysterious process and ask the question of who and what we should become through the immense gift of freedom and responsibility. We can work to actualize the Love, Justice, Compassion, and Truth that serve as the fountainhead for all the great world religions. Mahatma Gandhi declared his method as satyagraha, “clinging to Truth.” The Truth requires an emergent evolutionary transformation of both humanity and our world system. The two are dialectically related and inseparable dimensions of our emergent future.

Ratification of the Earth Constitution alone cannot make this happen. But I believe this ratification is a necessary and essential step in the process of humanizing the human, of conforming our existential freedom and responsibility to the divine-cosmic-human adventure of awakening and discovery.  It is an essential step forward in the process of becoming who we are meant to be.

Humanizing the human is not a fixed equation, formulated in final form anywhere in human history. It includes the challenge of becoming, of learning and growing. As visionary Roman Catholic thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin declared, human beings form “the axis and leading shoot of evolution.”[36]  We humanize the human by affirming, from the depths of our being, our participation in this divinely ordained, cosmic and human adventure.

Endnotes


[1] Republic, 509b. For Plato, the first principle of existence transcends the world and is derived from nothing beyond itself, while the intelligible world and knowledge flow from this source.

[2] Metaphysics, Book Lambda.

[3] See Glen T. Martin, Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law, Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press, 2008, Chapter 4.  Also, Ernst Bloch, Natural Law and Human Dignity, Trans. Dennis J. Schmidt, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986.

[4] See Glen t. Martin, Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, Chapter 5.

[5] A.J. Arberry, Sufism: An Account of the Mystics of Islam. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970, p. 60.

[6] Firthjof Schuon, Understanding Islam. London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1963, p. 17.

[7] See Errol E. Harris, Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking. Westport, CT: Praeger Publisher, 2000.

[8] See Harris, Apocalypse, ibid.; Also, Garrett Thompson, Bacon to Kant: An Introduction to Modern Philosophy. Third Edition. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2012; and Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr. The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community. Denton, TX: Environmental Ethics Books. For “internal” and “external” relations see the latter, pp. 79-88.

[9] Early modern science culminated in Newton’s Principia Mathematica, published in 1687. The work of such thinkers as Galileo, Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Newton himself resulted in what I am called the “early-modern paradigm,” often also referred to as the “Newtonian Paradigm.” In several books, I have discussed the transition from this paradigm to the new paradigm derived from Einstein’s relativity physics (after 1905) and the emergence of quantum physics (in the 1920s), for example, in chapter two of Ascent to Freedom, entitled “The Paradigm Shift from Human Nature to Human Possibilities.” I contend that the early-modern paradigm is still with us, institutionalized within the global capitalism and sovereign nation-states of the current world system.

[10] I have discussed this system in several places in my books and articles, for example, in One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract (2016), chapter five. Also, in my Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth (2010), Part Two. See also, Errol E. Harris, Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Second Edition (2014), Chapters 4-6.

[11] Christopher Chase-Dunn, Global Formation: Structures of World Economy. Updated Edition. New York: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 61.

[12] Jacques Ellul (1965). The Technological Society. Robert K. Wilkinson, trans. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. See also, Glen T. Martin, Triumph of Civilization (2010), Part Two: “Imperial Domination and Systematic World Disorder.”

[13] See Richard F. Kitchener, ed. The World View of Contemporary Physics: Does It Need a New Metaphysics? Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988.         

[14] Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics – An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Berkeley: Shambhala, 1975.  Also, Glen T. Martin, Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010, Chapters 1-3. Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living. New York: Anchor Books, 2002. Errol E. Harris, Errol E. Restitution of Metaphysics. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000.

[15] From, e.g., Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality. New York: Macmillan, 1978 (first published in 1929), to Ervin Laszlo’s The Self-Actualizing Cosmos: The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2014.

[16] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. 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, 2002. See also Glen T. Martin, Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation (2005), Chapters 1-2. See also John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

[17] Tim Lenton, Earth System Science: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. See also Martin Redfern, The Earth: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

[18] An overview of this movement is found in Errol E. Harris, Cosmos and Anthropos. A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. London: Humanities Press International, 1991.

[19] Sri Aurobindo, The Essential Aurobindo. Ed. Robert A. McDermott. New York: Schocken Books, 1973, p. 49.

[20] Errol E. Harris, Cosmos and Theos. Ethical and Theological Implications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. London: Humanities Press International, 1992, p. 99. Contemporary cosmologist and interpreter of quantum physics, Ervin Laszlo writes: ““Through us, the beyond-spacetime intelligence of the cosmos enters the spacetime domain of the universe.” The Intelligence of the Cosmos. Why Are We Here? New Answers from the Frontiers of Science. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2017, p. 45.

[21] Raimon Panikkar, The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness. Edited, with an Introduction by Scott Eastham. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993, pp. 12-13.

[22] Dr. Halo-N, The First Al Quranic Scientist of the World, Al Fathun Nawa: Volume 1. Selayang: Hafizul Publications, 2013.

[23] Plotinus, for example, believed the body is only a “shadow” of being, ultimately closer to nonbeing than to anything real. See his Enneads, Book VI, Section 2.7, 12-14.

[24] See Hans Jonas, Mortality and Morality: A Search for God after Auschwitz. Edited by Lawrence Vogel. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996, Chapter 1: “Evolution and Freedom: On the Continuity among Life-Forms.”

                Jonas writes: “The great contradictions man discovers in himself—freedom and necessity, autonomy and dependence, ego and world, connectedness and isolation, creativity and mortality—are present in nuce in life’s most primitive forms, each of which maintains a perilous balance between being and nonbeing and from the very beginning harbors within itself an inner horizon of “transcendence”…. a progressive scale of freedom and danger, reaching its pinnacle in man, who can perhaps understand his uniqueness in a new way if he no longer regards himself in metaphysical isolation.” (p.60)

[25] In Kitchener, ed., The World View of Contemporary Physics, op. cit., Chapter Three: “Quantum Physics,” p. 57.

The larger passage by Stapp states: “The general features of the quantum ontology involve a conception of man and nature profoundly different from the picture provided by classical physics. For man appears no longer as an isolated automaton. He appears rather as an integral part of the highly nonlocal creative activity of the universe…. It must inevitably lead us away from the egocentric bias that was the rational product of the ontology of classical physics, to the values inherent in the image of the self, not as a local isolated automaton but rather as a nonlocalizable integrated aspect of the creative impulse of the universe.”

[26] Raimon Panikkar, Myth, Faith, and Hermeneutics. New York: Paulist Press, 1979. Pannikar writes: “The quintessence of faith, then, reflects this aspect of Man that moves him toward fullness, this dimension by which Man is not closed up in his present state but open to perfection, to his goal or destiny, according to the schema one adopts. Faith is not fundamentally the adhesion to a doctrine or an ethic. Rather, it is manifest as an act that opens us to the possibility of perfection, permitting us to attain to what we are not yet.” (p. 202)

[27] The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman with John Moyne. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995, pp. 280-81.

[28]  Immanuel Kant, even before the discovery of the evolutionary process, as is well-known, linked human freedom directly with the moral law associated with our rational freedom flowing from God (the mysterious noumenal Ground of Being).  See, e.g., the Critique of Judgement, Trans. J.H. Bernard, New York: Hafner Press, 1951, subsection 77.

[29] See Kant, Immanuel, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays. Trans. Ted Humphrey. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1983. Kant writes: “Paying men to kill or be killed appears to use them as mere machines or tools in the hands of another (the nation), which is inconsistent with the rights of humanity” (p. 108). Again, Kant writes: “Just as we view with deep distain the attachment of savages to their lawless freedom—preferring to scuffle without end rather than place themselves under lawful constraints that they themselves constitute, consequently preferring a mad freedom to a rational one—and consider it barbarous, rude, and brutishly degrading of humanity, so also we should think that civilized peoples (each one united into a nation) would hasten as quickly as possible to escape so similar a state of abandonment…. The concept of the right of nations as a right to go to war is meaningless (for it would then be the right to determine the right not by independent, universally valid laws that restrict the freedom of everyone, but by one-sided maxims backed by force)” (pp. 115-17).

[30]  G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right. First published 1821, section #334.

[31] Emery Reves, The Anatomy of Peace. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946. pp. 121 & 150 (italics in original).

[32]  Jonathan Glover. Jonathan. 1999. Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York: Tim Dugan Books, 2019.

[33] See Glen T. Martin, The Earth Federation Movement: Founding a Social Contract for the People of Earth: History, Documents, Philosophical Foundations. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2011. See also, Glen T. Martin, Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With an Historical Introduction, Commentary and Conclusion. IED Press, 2010.   The Constitution can be found on-line at www.earth-constitution.org.

[34] These gifts make us a creature that is open to the future. Economist Kenneth E. Boulding wrote “It would be presumptuous of us to think that the human race is any more than a link in the great evolutionary process of the universe that moves majestically from the unknown Alpha to the even more unknown Omega,” in Herman E. Daly, ed., Economics, Ecology, Ethics (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & CO), p. 266. See also Glen T. Martin, Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2018

[35] See Fritjof Schuon, Understanding Islam, op. cit.

[36] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1959, p. 36.

The New Moral Imperative of Holism

Glen T. Martin

 

There has been a fundamental paradigm shift taking place in the sciences since physicist Max Planck published his “quantum hypothesis” in 1900 and Einstein published his “special theory of relativity” in 1905. Both theories have flourished since that time with ever more corroboration and depth of insight into the nature of our cosmos. The world of the very small (quantum physics) and the vast universe as a whole (relativity physics) together reveal a world integrated at all levels as a dynamic and integrated cosmic whole. The result is that we now understand the universe to be fundamentally different from the paradigm developed by Isaac Newton and early modern science.

This paradigm shift corresponds to an emergent encounter with the reality of the cosmos and our growth toward true human maturity. The astonishing coherence of the cosmos demands a corresponding coherence from us. From this encounter arises a renewed understanding of what it means to be a human being, and a new understanding of the fundamental moral (categorical) imperative that arises from our common human situation. This article attempts to express, as concisely as possible, the nature and origins of this moral imperative and its implications for action in the form of ratification of the Earth Constitution.

Mind and Body

Traditional philosophy, going back to Plato, attempted to understand the relations between mind (capable of discerning intelligible order in the world) from the sensuous experiences of the world around us. What was the relation of mind and matter, inner consciousness and external world? Descartes in the 17th century declared that there were two kinds of finite realities—mind and matter. Mind was non-physical and matter was extended and physical. Subsequent early modern philosophy attempted to define these features of our common experience, or define one of them in terms of the other.

In 20th century thought, this dualism (or reductionism of one into terms of the other) begins to disappear. The holism that emerged from 20th century sciences recognized that mind and matter are just two aspects of one emergent world of pure energy manifesting itself in intelligible patterns. By the mid-twentieth century, major scholarly books began to appear challenging the dualism between consciousness (mind) and unconsciousness (matter). Physicist Amit Goswami affirms that “mental phenomena—such as self-consciousness, free will, creativity…—find simple, satisfying explanations when the mind-body problem is reformulated in an overall context of… [holistic coherence] and quantum theory” (1995, p.11).

Today, such volumes have become commonplace. In the philosophical discourse of the most advanced thinkers, we have moved beyond the early modern mind-matter dilemmas to comprehensive insights into the structure and functioning of the whole of the cosmos—the emergent, evolving dynamic wholeness of all things. The early modern paradigm tended to be atomistic, mechanistic, and deterministic, looking at the universe and human experience in terms of “bodies in motion.”  The contemporary paradigm has abandoned all three of these features attributed to the world.

Mind is no longer a stranger that finds itself self-aware within an alien mechanistic cosmos.  Mind is now an integral dimension of the cosmos itself and our human minds are emergent reflections of the cosmic phenomenon of mind. Quantum physicist Henry P. Stapp concludes: “Thus a radical shift in the physics-based conception of man from that of an isolated mechanical automaton to that of an integral participant in a non-local holistic process that gives form and meaning to the evolving universe is a seismic event of potentially momentous proportions” (2011, p. 140).

Just as the early modern distinction between mind and matter breaks down, so the early modern distinction between the “is” and the “ought” (emphasized by 18th century thinker David Hume and others) breaks down. Mind is teleological. Mind posits values and pursues them according to an “ought.” If mind is now inseparable from the reality of the world studied by science, then so are values.

What is and what ought to be now interface as part of the same, dynamic cosmic reality. Philosopher and cosmologist Errol E. Harris declares: “So far from excluding man and his mind, so far from standing over and against and opposing humanity, as something to be subdued and exploited, nature and mind are to be seen as one—matter and mind fused into a single reality, as body and mind form one person.” (1987, p. 262). Values (moral imperatives) he concludes, emerge from this dynamic holistic reality (ibid. Chap. 14).

Under the quantum theory that has emerged since the early 20th century, not only is mind understood as an emergent aspect of the holistic energy matrix that is our cosmos, mind also plays a role in the “unfolding of reality” (Stapp 2011, p. 6). We are in a reciprocal relationship with the cosmic process—that is, with the evolution of the whole from the Big Bang to the present. Physicist David Bohm writes: “Consciousness and matter in general are basically the same order…. This order is what makes a relationship between the two possible” (1980, p. 264). Pioneer of consciousness-studies Jean Houston concludes that we are “stewards of the earth’s well-being and conscious participants in the cosmic epic of evolution” (in Laszlo, Houston, Dossey 2016, pp. 6-7).

Human Beings Focus the Cosmos

The universe changes us and we change the universe in mutual interaction and coherence. Suddenly human beings are shifted back to the center, a center from which we were seemingly shifted by the Copernican Revolution that declared us peripheral to the center and spinning on a tiny planet going around the true center, at that time thought to be the sun. But with the progress of science, we all but disappeared into an ever-expanding, unimaginably vast cosmos. By the 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out that this shift called into question all previous human value systems: “Since Copernicus, man seems to have got himself on an inclined plane—now he is slipping faster and faster away from the center into—what? Into nothingness? Into a penetrating sense of his nothingness?” (1969, p. 155).

Today, we are back at the center. We understand that we embody the holism of the cosmos, a holism that both animates our consciousness and functions as an intelligible good for human values. In Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence, I wrote:

Holism functions not only as the new paradigm emerging from an entire range of twentieth century scientific discoveries, creative holism also arises from our futurity as an intelligible good, functioning as an ideal of human organization and relationships. As we have seen, our capacity for self-transcendence inherent within our temporal existence allows us to discern intelligible goods and motivates us to seek their realization. Holism as an intelligible good promises the unity of our human project, a cooperative, sustainable world of peace and prosperity, the end to all wars, to hatred, needless fears, and most violence. The oneness of genuine unity in diversity calls to us in the form of a transformed future. (2018, p. 233)

Today, we are beginning to understand that we are co-creators within the process of cosmic evolution. We discern the intelligible good of holism. We are now responsible for that evolution on our planet. Physicist Henry P. Stapp writes: “Thus contemporary orthodox physics delegates some of the responsibilities formerly assigned to an inscrutable God, acting in the distant past, to our present knowable conscious actions” (2011, p. 9). Our conscious actions can counteract the law of entropy which says that all things run down and die. We can enhance the emergent coherence at the heart of the evolutionary process.

The emergent complexity of the world reveals an anti-entropic movement at work. The anti-entropic movement of the evolutionary universe has been to actualize, at ever-higher levels of complexity and consciousness, what physicist David Bohm (1980) calls the “implicate order” of holism implicit in all existent things, what scientist-philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the emergent noösphere (mind-sphere).

If this is so, then it would appear that we are called upon to consciously assimilate that holism (that is also at the awakening core of our being)—act on it, enhance it, develop it, and coordinate it. Here I am using this great metaphor arising from western religions: We are called: “God’s call.” Teilhard writes: “this will open to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual renovation of the earth” (1959, p.244).

Errol E. Harris declares: “If the implications of the scientific revolution and the new paradigm it introduces are taken seriously, holism should be the dominating concept in all our thinking…. Atomism, individualism, separatism, and reductionism have become obsolete, are no longer tolerable and must be given up” (2000, p. 90). Indeed, as Bohm also points out, “fragmentation” is precisely our problem. This fragmentation (atomism, mechanism, reductionism, and causal determinism) is derived from the early modern paradigm that continues to condition our thinking and our institutions. It lies at the root of our on-going destruction of the planetary environment and our on-going potential for destroying ourselves through weapons of mass destruction possessed by so-called “sovereign” states.

Albert Einstein wrote that our egoism and individualism is “a kind of optical illusion,” a “kind of prison” that “restricts us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.”  However, the awakening to the holism of which we are conscious expressions can allow us to “widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (in Kafatos and Nadau, p. 113). The values that follow from the realization that we are conscious manifestations of the Whole (or God non-anthropomorphically understood) are those of compassion, reconciliation, harmony, coherence, integration, and emergent wholeness.

The reality of the world, come to self-awareness in us, demands of us an “ought,” a “Categorical Imperative,” to promote and create wholeness through actualization of the unity in diversity of all humankind. We discern that we lack coherence among our human species. We are in conflict with the emergent evolutionary universe and with God. Our human situation implies an absolute moral command that admits of no exceptions—a new Categorical Imperative.

The great Indian sage Sri Aurobindo wrote: “The universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent. Always indeed they exist for each other and profit by each other…. [The Universe] creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, p. 49). Contemporary Indian thinker Swami Agnivesh speaks of the Vedic insight as “a holistic vision in which all the parts dwell organically within the whole and the whole dwells within the parts” (2015, pp. 13-14). Jean Houston declares that “the infrastructure of the mind mirrors the structures of the universe” (in Laszlo, Houston, Dossey 2016, p. 7).

Harris writes: “The universal principle [God] is necessarily immanent in every part and every phase of the system. It is the alpha and omega of the universe, and without it nothing could be what it is, or happen as it does. Bringing itself to consciousness in our minds, it determines the essential nature of our thinking….” (1992, p. 99). Contemporary interpreter of scientific cosmology Ervin Laszlo writes: ““Through us, the beyond-spacetime intelligence of the cosmos enters the spacetime domain of the universe” (2017, p. 45).

The Fundamental Moral Imperative and Human Maturity

What moral imperatives derive from the discovery of the deep holism of our cosmos, manifest in self-conscious form in us?  We see that the emergent evolutionary universe is creative, whereas, as Stapp declares, under the early modern reductionism the “creative aspect of nature exhausted itself in the first instant.” The classical conception of humans was profoundly “egoistic,” seeing them as self-interested atoms struggling within a mechanical universe for self-interested success. The new image of the self, Stapp writes, is “not as a local isolated automation but rather as a nonlocalizable integrated aspect of the creative impulse of the universe” (in Kitchener 1988, pp. 56-57).

Scholar of transpersonal psychology Ken Wilber (2007) has developed a “psychograph” of human development that sees human moral and cognitive growth proceeding through four main stages (with which many other contemporary thinkers agree). Our proper human development is to grow out of the egocentric orientation of childhood, continue through the ethnocentric orientation of youth, and emerge into the worldcentric orientation of mature adults. Yet the worldcentric orientation itself needs to be transcended into the cosmocentric awareness characteristic of spiritually, morally, and cognitively awake human beings.

Our first task is to grow out of the immature levels into our true human destiny. The full self-actualization of our moral and cognitive potential requires that we become aware of ourselves as conscious embodiments of the cosmic whole. However unique each of us may be within the concrete circumstances of our lives, we share a common humanity and common imperative deriving from the very foundations of existence. Immanuel Kant (1964) called the fundamental moral imperative a “categorical” imperative because it admits of no exceptions.

An immense responsibility emerges from realization of the insight expressed by these thinkers, a new Categorical Imperative, incumbent on us all without exceptions. If our consciousness embodies an “integrated aspect of the creative impulse of the universe,” then how should we be acting in harmony with that impulse? We are tasked to establish the deep reality of true holism everywhere on our tiny home planet. The foundations of existence that have come to focus in our evolving consciousness are neither atomistic, nor mechanistic, nor deterministic. Each of us expresses the creative power of the deep unity in diversity of the whole.

Errol E. Harris has analyzed the concept of holism at length, showing that there cannot be wholes without diversity (1991, Chap. 2). Holism means uniting the parts in a unity that protects their respective diversities and integrates their unique functions within the whole. Our present world is one of immense fragmentation, a fragmentation so extreme it has threatened us for 70 years with nuclear holocaust and for the past 60 years with emerging climate disaster.

We begin to understand that the dominant institutions of our planet are founded on human immaturity, on an outdated paradigm that was atomistic, mechanistic, and deterministic. Capitalism is premised on an egocentric view of human beings as atoms of personal greed and self-interest.  The system of militarized sovereign nation-states is premised on an ethnocentric view of human beings as divided into nearly 200 atomistic and competing national societies. Both views are deeply immature and deeply wrong.

A number of scholars writing on today’s climate disaster have pointed out the role that the atomism and fragmentation of capitalism has had in the creation of climate disaster.  For example,

Joel Kovel. The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?

Ian Angus. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System.

Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate.

James Gustave Speth. The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.

But few scholars have pointed out the tragic role of the system of sovereign nation-states in threatening the end of the world and possible human extinction. One of the few deep thinkers who has done this extensively is professor Errol E. Harris. He first published his analysis of the tragically flawed system of sovereign nation-states as early as 1950 in The Survival of Political Man and has since expanded and developed this analysis in books like Apocalypse and Paradigm (2000), Earth Federation Now: Tomorrow is Too Late (Second Edition, 2014), and Twenty-First Century Democratic Renaissance (2008).  In Apocalypse and Paradigm, he writes:

The most dangerous effects of atomistic and separatist thinking are to be seen in the theory and practice of international affairs. Here the dominating concept is national sovereign independence, a status demanded by every ethnic group and cherished by every national state. The claim of independent national states to sovereignty creates an impasse in world affairs that is seldom diagnosed and presents so serious a problem that discussion of it merits a chapter to itself. Like everything that has been detailed earlier, this persistent way of thinking that independent sovereign states are the only possible and natural political structure for the nations of the world is a hangover in the twentieth century of the world view typical of the seventeenth and succeeding centuries. (2000, p. 52)

The Categorical Imperative is to unite humanity, to promote real unity in diversity, to eliminate war, and to restore and promote the ecological holism of our planetary ecosystem. The present system of sovereign nation-states makes this effectively impossible. It embodies the fragmentation of the early modern paradigm. Nevertheless, a minority of thinkers going back to Immanuel Kant and beyond have already maintained this imperative, and a significant minority of social activists have maintained this since the time of the First World War. However, even many within this movement have not understood the immense Categorical Imperative that defines our human situation.

The majority of these activists who maintained that we need to federate the Earth have often been called “world federalists.” Like the rest of humanity, they have abdicated their responsibility under this Categorical Imperative. They have deferred uniting until some unspecified future date, some date that will almost inevitably postdate the ever-present nuclear holocaust and the cascading collapse of a habitable climate (see Wallace-Wells, 2017). However, you cannot legitimately postpone a Categorical Imperative. It requires effective action in the here and now, without exceptions.

The New Moral (Categorical) Imperative

The new Categorical Imperative is very clear: we must unite NOW, within a binding holistic economic and political framework, for we are facing extinction and the consequent total abdication of our God-given mission to actualize holism on our planet. The new Categorical Imperative demands that we overcome our fragmentation and UNITE as one common humanity and universal civilization. The original Categorical Imperative, formulated by Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, remains valid. However, in the 18th century it was impossible to discern the true depth and force of the imperative that would emerge in the 20th century.

The original imperative correctly combined universality and human dignity. It insisted that all valid moral actions in any situation be universalizable, that any rational person should also act as I am about to act. And it insisted that in any situation we should always treat persons as ends in themselves (i.e. as having intrinsic dignity), never merely as a means. Implicit within these principles was the moral goal for society of establishing our human world as a “Kingdom of Ends” in which all people everywhere treated each other morally, as ends in themselves. Kant may have gone as far in the direction of holism and its Categorical Imperative as was possible in the 18th century.

Kant applied this original Categorical Imperative to the system of sovereign nation-states (1957). They did not operate by the Imperative but rather through lawless power-based, “might makes right” relationships. The system of sovereign states was, therefore, immoral and illegitimate. It needed to be replaced by all states joining under a world constitution, “similar to a civil constitution,” in which their relationships became based on the universal laws of humanity and respect for human dignity (hence, ending all war). Kant was clearly on the mark to the extent possible under the fragmentation of the early modern paradigm.

Kant’s understanding, great as it was, remained limited by a paradigm that viewed nature as atomistic, mechanistic, and causally determined, and by the fragmented economic and political institutions deriving from that paradigm. For example, Kant was forced to posit human freedom and reason (necessary if there was to be a Categorical Imperative and the responsibility to live according to its principles) as breaking into the causally determined world from the unknowable ultimate reality of things (which he called the “noumenal” dimension). There was no freedom nor responsibility to be found in the causally determined physical world as he understood it.

Today, with the scientific breakthrough to holism and the revelations of quantum theory, we no long require the positing of a mysterious “noumenal” source of freedom to account for the new Categorical Imperative and our responsibility to fulfill it. Today we know what Kant could not have known. First, we know that everything evolves toward coherence. The world is not a static, fixed reality created deterministically by God as a “giant clockwork” that just keeps deterministically operating until the end of time.

Today, we know that character of the world shortly after the Big Bang was vastly different than later developments, and that subsequently, with each succeeding billion years of its existence, the world has continued to evolve. This process, according to the “Anthropic Principle,” intrinsically led to self-conscious creatures capable of comprehending the whole (see Harris 1991). The universe has emerged into self-consciousness in us. From the very beginning, the development of self-conscious creatures was inherent within the telos of the universal evolutionary process.

Second, today we know that the mind-matter paradox has dissolved, that mind and all other things are vibrations of energy rooted in a quantum matrix of such incredible unity that space and time are transcended. Human freedom is therefore immediately comprehensible, and is integral to the reality investigated by science. Quantum physics has even shown that human decisions influence the reality that emerges in the events we are investigating. Our actions impact everyone and everything around us, like waves on the sea. We become participants (or as now impediments) in the evolutionary upsurge of the cosmos.

Third, today we understand that the deep holism and unity of the universe remain at the root of all things including the immediate mind-body reality of each of us. We are living embodiments of the whole and our emergent freedom is not some cosmic accident to be indulged by immature egos in the service of pleasure, wealth, and power. Our emergent freedom is the culmination of a 13.7 billion-year evolutionary process in which the evolving energy matrix of the cosmos becomes self-aware in us. Evolution now goes beyond the apparently naturalistic mechanisms that produced life. It is now delegated to free beings who have emerged as a self-aware community on the Earth.

We are responsible to continue the anti-entropic process of emergent unity in diversity and produce a holistic “kingdom of God” here on our beautiful home-planet called Earth. The earthly goal of Kant’s first Categorical Imperative to create a Kingdom of Ends on our planet is now magnified ten-fold in the light of the discovery of the holism at the root of all things. We now understand the Imperative to actualize the reality that continues to emerge from the heart of the Cosmos. That holistic principle is focused like a laser beam in human consciousness, waiting to be fully actualized on a planetary scale.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative commanded universality. The new Categorical Imperative, ten-fold more powerful and urgent, commands unity within diversity. It commands us to create a dynamic, holistic reality of unity in diversity that includes the ecological integrity of our planet’s biosphere and the mutual actualization of all the planet’s diverse peoples and nations. We are everywhere the same in our wonderful diversity. Ervin Laszlo concludes that “I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the community of humans on this planet” (2016, p. 122). We are in a position to actualize this Imperative through ratification of The Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth

The Preamble to the Earth Constitution is itself a concise statement of the new Categorical Imperative and the action that it demands. It outlines the fact that the old, immature paradigm has brought us to “the brink of ecological and social catastrophe.” It articulates the features of the new holistic paradigm on which the Constitution is based “aware of the interdependence of people, nations and all life.”

The Preamble describes the movement of the new Categorical Imperative from awareness to action:

Conscious that Humanity is One despite the existence of diverse nations, races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and that the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination;…We, citizens of the world, hereby resolve to establish a world federation to be governed in accordance with this Constitution for the Federation of Earth. (2016, p. 70)

Consciousness of the holistic principle at the heart of our human condition declares that we UNITE. We citizens of the world “resolve” to unite. It requires concrete action to establish a world federation to be governed in accordance with the Earth Constitution. At present, we are whole only in potentia, and we become fully whole in actu upon embracing a worldwide constitutional unity. The moral imperative is to become whole.

Moral imperatives are worth little as abstract ideals unless they result in concrete human actions. Even though there are, of course, other options for uniting humanity, there are none so available, widely known in a variety of languages, and already backed by a worldwide organization as the Earth Constitution. There are also no other constitutions so brilliantly designed to unite humanity into a harmonious and effective federation for addressing the entire range of global problems.

 It is a truly amazing document, democratically empowering the people of Earth to address the multiple threats of extinction engendered by the immature capitalist and sovereign nation-state paradigm. It provides a manual for operating Spaceship Earth. And the very act of uniting under this common framework impels human consciousness forward to its higher levels, to a cosmocentric awareness of our common human destiny and responsibility.

Our cosmic destiny is to be the vanguard and stewards of holism on our planet, to foster peace, integration, coherence, sustainability, balance, synergy and fulfillment everywhere on Earth. Our responsibility is to dedicate our lives to the ratification and implementation of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. It embodies the holism that Errol E. Harris declared “should be the dominating concept in all our thinking.” It’s ratification directly manifests that effective and concrete action to UNITE humanity demanded by the new Categorical Imperative.

 

 

Works Cited

Agnivesh, Swami (2015). Applied Spirituality: A Spiritual Vision for the Dialogue of Religions. New York: Harper Element Books.

Angus, Ian (2016).  Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Aurobindo, Sri (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Ed. Robert McDermott. New York: Schocken Books.

Bohm, David (1980). Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York: Routledge Publisher.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Introduction by Glen T. Martin (2016). Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.  On-line at www.earth-constitution.org and other locations.

Davies, Paul (1983). God and the New Physics. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Goswami, Amit (1993). The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. New York: Penguin Putnam Books.

Harris, Errol E. (1987). Formal, Transcendental & Dialectical Thinking: Logic & Reality. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Harris, Errol E. (1991). Cosmos and Anthropos: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International.

Harris, Errol E. (2000). Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-First Century Democratic Renaissance. With a Foreword by Glen T. Martin. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press.

Harris, Errol E. (2014). Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Second Edition. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Kitchener, Richard F., ed. (1988). The World View of Contemporary Physics: Does It Need a New Metaphysics? Albany: State University of New York Press.

Klein, Naomi (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kovel, Joel (2007). The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World. London: Zed Books.

Kafatos, Menas and Robert Nadeau (1990). The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Kant, Immanuel (1957, originally published 1795). Perpetual Peace. Ed. Lewis White Beck. New York: Macmillan.

Kitchener, Richard F., ed. (1988). The World View of Contemporary Physics: Does It Need a New Metaphysics?

Laszlo, Ervin, Jean Houston & Larry Dossey (2016). What is Consciousness? Three Sages Look Behind the Veil. Ed. Kingsley L. Dennis. New York: Select Books.

Laszlo, Ervin (2017). The Intelligence of the Cosmos. Why Are We Here? New Answers from the Frontiers of Science. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

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

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1969). On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. Walter Kaufmann, trans. New York: Vintage Books.

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

Stapp, Henry P. (2011). Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer. Second Edition. New York: Springer Publishers.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1959). The Phenomenon of Man. Trans. Bernard Wall. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

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

Wilber, Ken (1984). Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists. Boulder, CO: Shambala Publications.

Wilber, Ken (2007). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integral Books.

Book Review of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Glen T. Martin

This is an extraordinary book that has deservedly been a best seller. David Wallace-Wells writes beautifully, clearly, and with an impressive knowledge of wide ranges of relevant literature. He details all the ways in which the Earth will be (and is) rapidly becoming uninhabitable. He calls these “elements of chaos.” He discusses the crisis of capitalism and resistance to change, as well as the “politics of consumption,” two central impediments to addressing the climate crisis.

In Part One of this review, I will describe some of the main themes of the book. I also want to point out here that the text of this book contains no footnotes. Notes are given at the end of the book using boldface key phrases in relation to page numbers where these are found. This is not a positive feature, leaving the reader wondering whether each topic covered has some corresponding note. In Part Two, I will discuss Wallace-Wells’ ideas about the crisis, addressed in his final chapters, and his thoughts about how we should respond and what we might specifically do. I will show how he leaves out our most significant and hopeful option, which is ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

 

PART ONE

 

David Wallace-Wells opens the book by reflecting on “cascades,” that is, all the ways in which the present state of the world’s climate is already foreordained to make things worse, much worse. Each day that passes in which we do little or nothing address the climate crisis means another degree of serious impact that is necessarily going to happen. Lack of action cascades into the future. We are passing one tipping point, one point of no return, after another.

In his second part of the book, “Elements of Chaos,” he reviews the forms of destruction that are hitting us now and will inevitably increase. The only real question is whether they will increase to the point of human extinction or will we act in time to salvage a livable planet. First there is “Heat Death.” Wallace-Wells reviews what scientists tell us it will be like at and increase of 2 degrees Celsius, 4 degrees, 6 degrees, etc. The consequences multiply and the prospect of the higher temperatures means an uninhabitable Earth.

Next there is “Hunger,” already a world problem and inevitably getting much worse. The yield of staple cereal crops declines by 10% for every degree of warming: “Which means that if the planet is five degrees warmer by the end of the century, when projections suggest we may have as many as 50% more people to feed, we may also have 50% less grain to give them” (p. 49). Third, we face “Drowning.” Without a major reduction of emissions, standard scientific predictions give us “at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly eight by the end of the century” (p. 59). This chapter describes the dynamics of melting polar caps as well as the vast land areas that will be inundated by the rising oceans.

The next chapter, “Wildfire” presents a detailed chronicle of the thousands of wildfires that have been consuming the Earth during the past few years. Drying out and drought help precipitate these enormous fires: “it is the cascading chaos that reveals the true cruelty of climate change—it can upend and turn violently against us everything we have ever thought to be stable” (p. 77). The following chapter is on “Freshwater Drain.” He describes the huge inland freshwater lakes that have been disappearing or have disappeared around the world from overuse. He chronicles the shrinking underground aquifers that are losing water faster than the rate of recharge. Also, half the world’s population depends on snow melts from glaciers in the Himalayas and elsewhere, all of which are rapidly melting.

Next we have the chapter on “Unbreathable Air” in which he describes the immense particle content and polluted air of many major cities around the world. Medical studies have shown the high increase in respiratory infection and many other ailments when the air is polluted to this degree. The following chapter, called “Plagues of Warming,” describes the increase of diseases, some of which have emerged from melting ice where they have been locked away for hundreds of years. Others are becoming more common due to global warming, from yellow fever to malaria to Lyme disease.

In the chapter called “Economic Collapse,” Wallace-Wells points out that some contemporary economists are not attributing the history of swift economic growth throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to the wonders of a “free market” but rather to the discovery of the fossil fuels that powered this growth from then to the present. Some are predicting a great depression that will dwarf the one of 1929. The world is drowning in debt (as Ellen Brown, 2007, and many others have pointed out), but with serious flooding, immense wildfires, droughts, and water shortages, is it possible for capitalism to continue its growth mantra? Again, there is the theme of “cascade.” The enormous losses from climate disasters are “cascading through the world system,” portending serious economic consequences: “Every day we do not act, those costs accumulate, and the numbers quickly compound” (pp. 112-23).

The final chapters under “Elements of Chaos” are “Climate Conflict” and “Systems.” The facts of climate conflict, he says, are there in the obsession of the US military with climate change. And climate shocks around the world are indeed causing instability, collapse of governments, major movements of refugees, and social instability. Under the chapter “Systems,” we encounter studies that have been done of those experiencing climate disasters: people experience PTSD, “climate depression,” and “environmental grief.” Some get angry and harbor “vengeful thoughts” (pp.136-37). When, he asks, are we going to wake up: “At what point will the climate crisis grow undeniable, un-compartmentalizable? How much damage will have already been selfishly done? How quickly will we act to save ourselves and preserve as much of the way of life we know today as possible?” (p. 140).

In his third section of the book, called “The Climate Kaleidoscope,” Wallace-Wells considers the problem of capitalism, the option of technological solutions to the climate crisis, and the issue of limitless consumption. All three of these phenomena are major impediments to effective change, and technology is not likely to be the answer. Wallace-Wells reviews some of the dramas, the stories, that we tell about ourselves and our human condition that can bear on how we might respond. However, whatever stories we invent, we are still clearly living in the Anthropocene, and a major theme of the book is that if we had the power to create climate crisis, then we humans must recognize that we also have the power to respond effectively.

Climate denial is not a legitimate option. The scientists writing the 2018 report of the IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), speak in a note that is no longer merely “objective” and dispassionate sounding (p. 157). There is a serious crisis, they are saying, and it must be addressed with major immediate changes. At the same time, this book has chronicled the many possible responses to the coming uninhabitable Earth that evade the issue and try to find ways to escape, both physically and psychologically.

PART TWO

The last two chapters of this book address “Ethics at the End of the World” and “The Anthropic Principle.” Wallace-Wells clearly does not want the foreboding possibility of human extinction to happen. In “Ethics at the End of the World,” he surveys a range of responses to climate collapse and the impending demise of the human project. This chapter is not about ethics as the discipline reflecting on how human beings should act, but rather it is about the responses of groups and writers to the “toxic knowledge” of what is happening to all of us and our planet.

These responses range from a “hedonistic quietism” that withdraws from the world into private satisfactions in a kind of Stoic renunciation of hope, to the response (that he associates with the Dalai Lama) that we should be living as fully as possible with compassion, wonderment, and love. Indeed, it evokes wonder just reading in this book about some of the ways people and groups have responded to the prospect of the demise of civilization. On the negative side there has been widespread “climate nihilism” with synonyms like “climate fatalism” or “human futilitarianism.” There are writers like Roy Scranton who declare that “civilization is already dead” (p. 215).

We are in danger, he writes, of a “climate apathy” in which we are “drawing our circles of empathy smaller and smaller, or by simply turning a blind eye” and finding “ways to engineer a new indifference” (pp. 215-16). Or there is the movement toward a “new inhumanism” that rejects human self-focus and apparent narcissism for the primacy of what is “not man,” the world apart from human egoism in its “transhuman magnificence.” So what if human beings go extinct, these responses proclaim, the magnificence of the natural world will simply continue without us.

I wonder if Wallace-Wells believes that the traditions of ethics in both eastern and western thought have been merely symptoms of such a human narcissism? It is difficult to tell from what he writes, and from the way that he appears to ignore these traditions. In the final chapter, called “The Anthropic Principle,” he attempts to make a comeback from the varieties of denial and despair to a positive response to climate crisis. But his response is a weak one.

He recalls those physicists who have wondered why we appear to be alone in the universe. Is it because human-like civilizations have appeared many times in the vastness of the universe but have all burnt themselves out in climate suicide? But he opposes this pessimism by appealing to the Anthropic Principle in which physicists have pointed out that the initial conditions of the universe in the Big Bang were precisely such that human beings would eventually develop and self-consciously ask questions about the mystery of existence (p. 225, see Harris 1991).

Out of the ambiguity about who and what we are, and out of the variety of possible responses to the “tragic knowledge” of our imminent demise (unless serious world-wide action is taken immediately), Wallace-Wells comes down on the side of “thinking like a planet.” Or better, he says, we must “be thinking like a people, one people, whose fate is shared by all” (p. 226). He says that the very fact that we had the effective power to place ourselves in this terrible danger should awaken us to the fact that we have the power to save it. It should serve as a call to action. We must choose to protect our planet, which is also the only home human beings will ever have.

One wonders if this is the proper fruit of all the admirable erudition manifested in this book. If a person reads too much, perhaps there is the danger of having too many possible perspectives on every issue, leading to paralysis. Where are the great ethical traditions of both western and eastern thought that see human beings as having an “infinite” dignity and worth, beyond all price and calculation? Where is the great Upanishad principle of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, the world is one family, with its Vedic presupposition that human life is sacred? Where is the great Kantian principle that every person is an end in his or herself, having infinite dignity and incalculable worth, or the principles of universal love taught by Jesus?

Moving from this great traditional wisdom to contemporary science, we should ask how the breakthroughs of the past 80 years in quantum physics bear on our responses to the coming uninhabitable Earth? The great Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo declared that the Universe becomes conscious of itself in us (1973, p. 49). Contemporary interpreter of quantum physics, Ervin Laszlo, concludes that “Through us, the beyond-spacetime intelligence of the cosmos enters the spacetime domain of the universe” (2017, p. 45).

20th century philosopher Errol E. Harris writes: “The universal principle [God] is necessarily immanent in every part and every phase of the system. It is the alpha and omega of the universe, and without it nothing could be what it is, or happen as it does. Bringing itself to consciousness in our minds, it determines the essential nature of our thinking….” (1992, p. 99). This is what science has been discovering since Einstein first published his principle of relativity in 1905. The telos of the universe gives us the mission of holism, harmony, and unity with nature in the service of a loving consciousness of the whole. Surely this bears directly on how we should respond to climate change and the threat of extinction?

Wallace-Wells’ good instincts steer him away from climate nihilism and despair. But he appears to miss the nature-transcending dignity and worth of humanity and the human project. He is tempted to look at this tradition in both the East and the West through the lens of those environmental fatalists who see our special place in nature as a narcissistic illusion. To transcend nature as free, rational beings, to recognize that the universe has become conscious of itself in us, is not to claim the right to dominate and destroy nature. It is a realization of humility, of Buddhistic “no-self” (anatta), rather than one of arrogance. It opens us to our deeper self, what Marx called our “species-being,” what Swami Agnivesh calls “a holistic vision in which all the parts dwell organically within the whole and the whole dwells within the parts” (2015, pp. 13-14).

We are clearly part of nature and should be living in harmony with it. At the same time, we are inevitably custodians of nature and need to protect its balance and integrity. The great insight of both East and West is the incredible dignity and responsibility of being human. We need to connect with the transcendent foundations of our humanity and manifest this connection in active lives of love, justice, and compassion. The “great-souled” one, Mahatma Gandhi, declared that “non-cooperation with evil is a duty,” and it should be clear that the destruction of the ecological balances of our planet is evil.

Wallace-Wells calls us to action in the name of our common humanity, but it is a weak call, diluted by the plethora of possible (false) responses to our climate crisis. We have the duty to act because we are one world, one human family, and one civilizational project—all transcendently valuable as a manifestation of the deep foundations of the universe. There is something sacred about a human being within whom “Atman is Brahman.” There is something divine about a human being who is “made in the image of God.”

Climate response involves acting from the deepest sources of our being, not the superficial egoism of capitalist competition, nor the puerile self-centeredness of nationalistic pride, nor from some weak-kneed promise that if we made the mess, then we can also clean it up. It requires a waking up to who we really are as children of the Kosmos, as manifestations so deep that the voice of Being could proclaim: “let there be light.” Many thinkers have pointed out the danger of the emerging one-dimensional “cosmopolitanism” or “everydayness” of the modern world.

Theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich (1987) worried that modern man was trapped in a horizontal dimension that reduced everything to a manifestation of the same, ignoring the “deep dimension” of human existence. Psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm (1981) observed that mass society had reduced our capacity to respond fully and creatively to the holism of the world in a perpetual rebirth. Philosopher Karl Jaspers observed that modern man was losing the sense of the depths of being, he is “undergoing absorption into that which is nothing more than a means to an end, into that which is devoid of purpose or significance…. he would seem to be sacrificing the being in which he realizes his own selfhood” (1957, p. 83).

Wallace-Wells has no concrete suggestions about how we should be responding to climate crisis. And in this respect his book is less valuable than books like Speth’s The Bridge at the Edge of the World, Heinberg’s The End of Growth, Romm’s Climate Change, or Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. Nevertheless, all these authors have the insight that humanity is one and should act as one. But none of them draw the true implications of this insight that the best way that we can act to address climate change is through uniting the nations through ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. That is, we must actualize our oneness and not just wax poetic about it.

The Constitution is not a document deriving from any particular religious tradition. Its only reference to religion is in the Bill of Rights, which gives every person the equal freedom to either practice religion or no religion. However, the Constitution is founded on the gigantic truth of human unity and dignity. It is directed to addressing climate crisis with the holistic force of human beings working collectively together. If we are a human family, then it is time we began acting like one. The Constitution ends war and addresses the problem of poverty in the same way: through the synergistic force of the united whole of humanity.

This is the only reasonable and effective way that we can deal with climate crisis. The egoistic competition and nationalistic fragmentation that created it (along with the discovery of fossil fuels) must be overcome by human unity, solidarity, compassion, and love. These qualities are manifested as we join in global democracy under the Earth Constitution. There is no other credible alternative. G.F.W. Hegel declared that “universals” are worth little until they become “concrete universals;” ideals are worth little until they become “objectified” and actualized in history. And Karl Marx applied these insights to our real economic and political conditions.

The threat of collapse, the collapse that is already happening all around us, can only be effectively addressed through the united action of humanity, bound together in that unity by a Constitution that gives us an effective tool for taking action. Without that tool, all the idealistic slogans in the world about our common humanity remain ineffective and largely hot air. The Earth Constitution joins us together in democratic equality, and legally empowers us to take effective action.

Under the Earth Constitution, effective action addressing climate change is identified as one of the “broad functions” of the entire Earth Federation government in Article 1. The government is granted “specific powers” to protect the fresh waters, oceans, and atmosphere of the planet in Article 4. A protected and healthy environment for the planet is one of the human rights declared in Article 13, and a specific action oriented global program or addressing all aspects of climate change is outlined in Article 17.

Here is the powerful and effective way that human beings can respond to climate crisis. Not weak, disconnected responses here and there such as recycling, promoting solar, or a carbon tax. But a worldwide effort to address the multidimensional aspects of the crisis in a comprehensive and integrated fashion. Wallace-Wells does an excellent job of identifying the multifaceted crisis we are facing, currently leading toward an “uninhabitable Earth.” But the answer is not a weak “we should work together” but rather a concrete and real joining together, legally, economically, and morally. This effective action can only be achieved through ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Works Cited

Swami Agnivesh (2015). Applied Spirituality: A Spiritual Vision for the Dialogue of Religions. New York: Harper Element Books.

Sri Aurobindo (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Ed. Robert A. McDermott. New York: Schocken Books.

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

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.

Erich Fromm (1981). On Disobedience and Other Essays. New York: The Seabury Press.

Errol E. Harris (1991). Cosmos and Anthropos: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. London: Humanities Press International. See also Harris’ 1992 book Cosmos and Theos: Ethical and Theological Implications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle (London: Humanities Press) in which he shows the relationship between this principle, the holism of the cosmos, and the depth-reality of God.

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

Karl Jaspers (1957). Man in the Modern Age. Trans. Eden and Cedar Paul. New York: Anchor Books.

Ervin Laszlo (2017). The Intelligence of the Cosmos. Why Are We Here? New Answers from the Frontiers of Science. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

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

Paul Tillich (1987). The Essential Tillich. Ed. F. Forrester Church. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

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

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

The Tragedy of Our Planetary Commons: Climbing Out of the Abyss

Glen T. Martin

 

Presidential Address at the Building the World Parliament Conference of WCPA

on the theme of

“Climate Crisis and the Earth Constitution”

O.P. Jindal Global University, 10-11 December 2019

 

Our “planetary commons” is a description of the spaceship Earth on which we all live. Our planet has a common ecosystem, a common atmosphere, and common ocean-system, circulating in gigantic currents around a common set of continents, whose mountains and forests have long modulated the planetary climate to make it stable, moderate, and hospitable for human and other forms of life. The whole of the Earth is our planetary commons. It belongs to all of us because it takes the stability and proper functioning of that whole to support each of us and our communities.

The tragedy of the Earth is that we are destroying our planetary commons in multiple ways as I will describe momentarily. I argue that the destruction of our planetary commons is directly related to the fragmentation by which we have operated on our planet for the past several centuries. Politically, we have divided our planet into nearly 200 fragments with absolute borders—militarized, sovereign, and autonomous—all working on the basis of national self-interest, without much thought for the commons.

Economically, we have divided our planet into competing corporations, businesses, communities, and individuals all working for individual self-interest without serious thought for the commons. This chaotic system functions as (what one social scientist calls) “a headless horseman, this driverless…behemoth which is almost certainly hurtling us all toward the precipice.”[1]

We need democratically legislated, enforceable world law to protect and restore our global commons, which today includes not only the planetary biosphere and geosphere but also the digital commons, the collected knowledge of humanity. I argue that we can only climb out of the abyss of planetary destruction through humanity uniting to protect our global commons under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.[2]

Tragedy of Our Planetary Commons

For half a century people of intelligence and intellectual integrity have known of the climate crisis happening everywhere around the Earth. They have even named the age in which we now live the Anthropocene, indicating that the geophysical processes of the Earth that produced the stable Holocene Age have now been replaced by human activity as the central driver of planetary climate change and its immense dangers for all living organisms on our planet.

The predictions and warnings of 50 years ago have gone unheeded and no major changes in the global political-economic system have taken place to address the accelerating disaster of climate change. This change is already transforming life everywhere on Earth. This paper will not go deeply into these interacting modes of disaster because they are well-known and well documented in book after book, including many of the books in the end-notes below. I will simply mention 12 disasters befalling the Earth (as we speak) that have been growing rapidly in intensity over that past half century.

(1)  Killer heat waves.  Summer seasons have brought repeated, record heat waves that only very rarely occurred during the previous centuries of the Holocene period. Entire regions within every continent have experienced prolonged heat waves that have made being out of doors unbearable, that have stopped all work outside for any reason, and that have resulted in the deaths of many within these regions. These are repeated every year with increasing record-breaking heat and with no prospect of a future that will not continue this same pattern.

(2) Droughts. Secondly, these killer heat waves are often accompanied by droughts, sometimes multiple-year droughts, effectively destroying agriculture and leading to food shortages, malnourishment, hunger, and death. Major agricultural regions on all continents are threatened with the end of their food productivity and the world’s population is threatened with growing food shortages that negatively interface with a rapidly growing planetary population—ever more mouths to feed and ever-less food production with which to feed them.

(3)  Running out of fresh water. Some of these areas affected by drought may rely ever more heavily on irrigation, but this may only delay disaster and exacerbate our problems, because the world is running out of fresh water on every continent, a process stemming from climate change and the Anthropocene impact on the world’s natural processes. The glaciers and snows that provide fresh water for half the world’s population are melting faster than they are refreezing.  The giant underground aquifers that much of the world draws upon for irrigation and fresh water are rapidly declining, the rate of withdrawal is faster than the rate of recharge provided by nature. Cities are rationing the water use of their citizens and people in poor, rural country-sides are often walking miles to find a little fresh water to bring home for their families.

(4)  Floods and superstorms. The warming atmosphere of the planet holds more moisture than a cooler atmosphere. The oceans themselves expand in volume as they become warmer, and the combination of these factors leads to more storms and often superstorms. Every continent is being battered by hurricanes, typhoons, or monsoons of increasing frequency and severity, leading to billions of dollars in damages annually, millions of displaced persons, and many deaths. Floods from tidal surges and storms that were once “100 year” phenomena, now happen regularly.  Coastal lines are eroding as the oceans rise both from expansion and from the melting of the planet’s ice caps, producing ever more refugees or permanently displaced persons. While many experience drought and water deprivation, many others are flooded out and drown. All these phenomena are the direct result of climate change.

(5)  Our planet is burning up with wildfires. As the planet warms and dries out, the vegetation becomes dryer and more susceptible to fire caused by lightning or some human activity.  Thousands of fires around the world annually burn out of control, themselves pouring ever more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thereby increasing the warming properties of the thickened atmospheric blanket covering the Earth. These fires contribute to deforestation, thereby exacerbating the carbon in the atmosphere and diminishing the ability of forests to absorb carbon and modulate the climate.  Every year the fires become worse as the world gets hotter and dryer.

(6)  Air pollution. These fires, like the widespread cooking of food by burning wood, cause major air pollution.  The complex air quality index for many cities around the world finds that the air quality is dangerous and damaging, full of particulates and other poisons. Yet, of course, the residents have no choice but to breathe that damaging air, while driving fossil fuel burning cars by the millions that contribute to the air pollution and while using products produced in fossil fuel driven factories that contribute to that same hazardous air quality.

(7)  Epidemics and Plagues. The respiratory illnesses, cancer cases, and cognitive damage caused by air pollution are compounded by the spread of dangerous disease organisms that flourish in warmer environments, flooded areas, and polluted water systems. Yellow fever, Typhus, Malaria, Ebola, Zika virus and many other known and unknown diseases are rapidly spreading into ever larger areas of the Earth and threatening the public health systems set up by countries to protect their populations. Plagues and epidemics are becoming more common as the totality of the planetary climate changes makes human protective measures inadequate and vulnerable to collapse.

(8)  The Oceans of our planet are dying.  If they die, we die.  A large part of the carbon dioxide that we pour into the atmosphere annually is absorbed by the oceans, causing ocean acidification: they are becoming more acidic.  We know this is damaging to creatures that form shells but there are likely other immense consequences for the one third of the Earth’s population that draws on the oceans for food. Vast dead zones are appearing in the oceans around the world, zones starved of oxygen, without which most ocean creatures cannot survive. 75% of the ocean’s fisheries are already being fished at or above capacity.  Fish harvests are rapidly declining, mirroring the agricultural harvests on land that are also rapidly declining. Meanwhile the planet’s population continues to explode.

(9)  Militarism destroys the environment and wastes resources. Militarism remains rampant on the Earth, pouring one and a half trillion US dollars per year down a global toilet while all these other crises continue to mount. More and more this militarism (itself highly destructive of the environment in both the manufacture of weapons and in their deployment and use) is directed toward conflicts caused by climate disasters.  A drought within one country may destabilize the government and radicalize groups leading to civil war.  Foreign military aid pours in depending on which side the military powers take. These conflicts spell disaster for the environment, produce innumerable refugees, and waste the world’s resources that should be directed toward addressing climate collapse.

(10)  Refugees. The mounting millions of climate refugees and climate-related war refuges is increasing annually, causing major refugee problems and immigration problems for nearly every country on Earth.  As ocean levels continue to rise, as super-storms continue to devastate entire regions, as wars erupt everywhere, the world is awash with persons needing to survive.  The global climate crisis becomes everyone’s crisis.[3]

(11)  Economic collapse. Finally, there is the pending and on-going collapse of the global economic system.  As sustainability economists have been saying for half a century: You cannot have unending growth on a finite planet.  The economy is a subset of the interdependent, holistic planetary ecosystem and not separate from it.  Yet traditional capitalism has always operated as if these ecosystem limits simply did not exist. It was predicated on endless growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as if the Earth had endless resources and a limitless capacity to absorb our wastes.[4]

Yet at the end of the second decade of the 21st century this relentless growth pattern is beginning to falter. There are some who argue that the collapse of 2008 was the last economic bubble to burst before a steady planetary decline of GDP becomes inevitable (as well as necessary if we want to survive). Under the ideology of capitalism, all problems were supposed to be addressed by growth.  Global poverty was to be addressed by growth; even environmental problems were said to be insoluble unless there were “free market solutions” to these problems.

Mainstream economists ignored the fact that the nexus of problems described above have been mostly caused by the planet wide fossil fuel driven economy and its ideology of limitless capitalist growth. We now realize that fossil fuels must stay in the ground and that economics must focus on the quality of life rather than on increasing quantity of consumer goods, industrial growth, and increasing profits.

(12) Negative Synergistic Explosion. The final and unspeakably huge disaster befalling the Earth is the synergistic effect of the first 11 disasters.  Each of these disasters and their causes, terrible as they are, intensifies and exacerbates all the others to produce a near absolute tragedy for our planetary home and commons. Our future will inevitably be scarred by the immense on-going destruction that is the synergistic effect of all these climate disasters and their interlocking causes. The only real question is: Can we transform ourselves and our world system in time to prevent the extinction of humanity and all higher life forms? There is an immense momentum in the causal nexus that created these disasters.[5]

Tipping point after tipping point is being passed. We are regularly exceeding points of no return within the whole interlocking momentum of destruction. CO2 in the atmosphere is not going to go away, and its effects will continue to cascade into the future.  The melting of the polar caps cannot be stopped and will continue to cascade into the future. The same is true of all the other phenomena discussed above. How do we climb out of this abyss?   What is our most promising course of action that can possibly obviate the pending tragedy of the extinction of all higher forms of life?  The answer to that question involves the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.[6]

Climbing Out of The Abyss

This is not at all a “simplistic” solution to an immensely complex problem, because the Earth Constitution is the key means to solving the problem. The fact that it is a deeply green constitution mandating across the board action on climate change is perhaps not the most fundamental factor here. The fundamental factor is that the Constitution provides human beings with a tool for uniting and taking action in the face of climate change.  No such tool is available now because the dominant institutions of the world have divided humanity into nearly two hundred sovereign fragments and into thousands of economically competing units.

Unless we truly unite against climate collapse, the immense synergistic cloud of destruction will continue to grow and engulf us all to the point of extinction. The Earth is rapidly becoming uninhabitable. The government of the Earth Federation is designed for action. It was designed for bringing together the great diversity of human beings into an effective focal point whereby we can take effective collective action to save our planet. It does not abolish the nations but joins the nations together with the grassroots people of Earth to form a truly democratic, unified and effective global momentum for saving our planetary climate to the extent this is still possible.

The six functions of the world government in Article 1 reveal an alternative synergy at the heart of the Constitution. These six functions end war and disarm the nations, protect human rights, diminish social inequality, regulate the global economy, directly address climate change, and address all global problems beyond the scope of the nations. The Earth Federation is built on the understanding that the whole must be transformed. You cannot address climate collapse in isolation from these other functions. Together this focusing of the whole of humanity into the process of transformation of our planet to a livable home for everyone produces a human synergy (as Buckminster Fuller pointed out a half century ago), giving humanity the effective capacity to deal with the most extreme threat to human existence ever in history.

The Constitution is not only a tool for action. It is not only designed for bringing us all together in a dynamic unity within diversity. It is also a crucible through which to unite humanity and move our entire species to a higher level of holistic consciousness.  Climate change will be addressed by the combined force of humanity working together on behalf of the common good of all.  There is no other effective option for addressing this monster at our doorstep. The very fact of this unified undertaking will raise the level of human consciousness significantly. Without taking this crucial step, today’s humanity under a fragmented world system will inevitably fail. Like our global institutions, our consciousness also remains deeply fragmented.

There are three primary management models for human beings: constitutional democratic government, the private economic sector, and community management of a local commons. The world needs all three, each in their proper sphere and relation to the other two. Constitutional government must be planetary to monitor, protect, and govern the whole for equity, justice, and sustainability, and to prevent any of the national units from aggression, interference, or neo-colonial domination of others. It also must be global to protect the whole of the planet, which serves as the planetary commons for all life on Earth.

The market can be efficient and valuable in all those areas where the common public goods of humanity are not adversely affected.  Finally, local autonomy and stewardship of the local commons through cooperative communities sustainably supporting local populations is best at the grassroots level worldwide. The Earth Constitution places all three of these valuable management models in their proper proportions and relationships[7]. In addition to this, the Constitution itself is designed to unite humanity to ensure ecological sustainability.

As a green document designed for action, the Constitution directly responds to our planetary tragedy of the commons.  Article 4.18 directs the organs of the world government to address the whole problem in a comprehensive and synergistic manner:

4.18.  Plan for and regulate the development, use, conservation and recycling of the natural resources of Earth as the common heritage of Humanity; protect the environment in every way for the benefit of both present and future generations.

Here we see the focus of the immense collective authority of the people of Earth. The commons of the planet belong to us all, and the central function of the Earth Federation is to protect and preserve that commons. Following from Article 4.18 are specific powers of the planetary government to protect and govern the commons. For example:

Article 4.21. “Develop and implement means to control population growth in relation to the life-support capacities of Earth.”

Article 4.22. “Develop, protect, regulate and conserve the water supplies of Earth.”

Article 4.23. “Own, administer and supervise the development and conservation of the oceans and sea-beds of Earth.” 

Article 4.24. “Protect from damage, and control and supervise the uses of the atmosphere of Earth.”

The UN system is predicated on the “sovereign independence of its member states.” That means that all environmental agreements are substantially voluntary on the part of the world’s nearly 200 autonomous fragments. The UN has developed a new agenda for “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) to be accomplished by the world between 2015 and 2030. These replace the failed “Millennium Development Goals” that were in place from 2000-2015, which in turn replaced the failed “Agenda 21 Goals” that were promoted from 1992 to 2000.

The Sustainable Development Goals document uncritically assumes both capitalism with its economic growth obsession and autonomous militarized nation-states. One of its 17 main goals is “peace.” However, the description of peace there entirely omits the immense militarism of the planet pouring some 1.5 trillion US dollars down this sewer annually. The document assumes the present fragmented world system and poses a holistic goal (sustainability) that it magically pretends can somehow emerge from a fragmented system.

Part of this fragmentation embedded in the UN Charter is the idea that each sovereign nation somehow “owns” the resources that happen to exist within its absolute borders. Item 18 of the SDG document states that “We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity. We will implement the Agenda for the full benefit of all, for today’s generation and for future generations.” [8]

Here we have the planetary tragedy of the commons embedded at the heart of so-called “international law.” Does the atmosphere of the Earth belong to all of us or is it the right of China or the US to pour billions of tons of greenhouse gasses into their skies annually? Article 4.24 of the Earth Constitution cited above says, “no,” the people of Earth have rights to a clean atmosphere everywhere on Earth.  Brazil happens to harbor the “lungs of the Earth,” the gigantic Amazon rain forest that oxygenates and moderates much of the global climate and captures much of its excess carbon. Does Brazil have a right to “develop,” cut down, and destroy the lungs of the Earth?

According to the SDG document and the UN Charter, Brazil has the legal right to destroy the lungs of the Earth. According to the Earth Constitution, Article 4.18, cited above, the people of Earth have the right to protect resources vital to their global common good. In addition, Article 4.30 states that the Earth Federation government will “Place under world controls essential natural resources which may be limited or unevenly distributed about the Earth.”  The lungs of the Earth belong to the people of Earth.

Does Saudi Arabia have the right to pump unlimited quantities of fossil fuels to the surface and sell these worldwide without regard for the climate change that burning these fuels engenders?  According to the UN Charter and Sustainable Development Goals, it has this right. But the Earth Federation government under Article 4.28 (representing the common good of all) has the authority to “Control the mining, production, transportation and use of fossil sources of energy to the extent necessary to reduce and prevent damages to the environment and ecology.”  Those fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Any use of them needs to be regulated, a course of action that is blatantly impossible under the current world system of sovereign nation-states.

Buckminster Fuller foresaw that the entire world, working together, could create a global power grid in which the sunlight and other sources of clean energy could supply ample power for everyone.[9] The Earth Constitution affirms this same insight. Its mandate to the world government is as follows:

Article 4.27. Develop, operate, and/or coordinate transnational power systems, or networks of small units, integrating into the systems or networks power derived from the sun, wind, water, tides, heat differentials, magnetic forces, and any other source of safe, ecologically sound and continuing energy supply.

The planetary tragedy of the commons is overcome through uniting the world to holistically work together to combat climate change. It is only by institutionally focusing the common knowledge, technological know-how, and sovereign authority of humanity together under the Earth Constitution can this powerful synergy occur.  That is why this Constitution is the key to human survival.

The brilliant unity in diversity design for all organs of the world government created by the Constitution gives humanity the power of holistic, synergistic effectiveness.  The authority over the global commons for the common good of all and the preservation of our planetary ecology is found in the mandates and authority given to the people of Earth, especially in Articles 1, 4, 13, and 17.  Ratification of the Earth Constitution joins humanity into a united front against climate collapse.

Article 17 sets forth the process of ratification for the Earth Constitution and outlines the mandates for the emerging Earth Federation government. Hence, the broad functions given in Article 1, including the grant of powers given in Article 4, as well as the human rights to clean air, water, and a safe environment given in Article 13, are not just passive features Earth Federation institutions. All of them demand action, and Article 13 gives people an “inalienable” human right to a protected environment. All people have the right to:

13.9. Protection of the natural environment which is the common heritage of humanity against pollution, ecological disruption or damage which could imperil life or lower the quality of life.

Based on the dynamic nexus of the broad functions , the specific powers, and the inalienable rights, Article 17, on the founding and first stages of the Earth Federation Government, demands comprehensive action.

Article 17 defines three stages in the ratification process. First, when some 25 nations have ratified. Second, when 50% or more of the nations have ratified, and the final stage when 90% have ratified. But the emerging Earth Federation government is action oriented and mandated to take emergency action to address climate change. Under the first operative stage the government must:

17.3.12.1. Expedite the organization and work of an Emergency Earth Rescue Administration, concerned with all aspects of climate change and climate crises;

17.3.12.2. Expedite the new finance, credit, and monetary system, to serve human needs;

17.3.12.3. Expedite an integrated global energy system, utilizing solar energy, hydrogen energy, and other safe and sustainable sources of energy;

17.3.12.4. Push forward a global program for agricultural production to achieve maximum sustainable yield under conditions which are ecologically sound;

17.3.12.8. Push forward programs to assure adequate and non-polluted water supplies and clean air supplies for everybody on Earth;

17.3.12.9. Push forward a global program to conserve and recycle the resources of Earth.

17.3.12.10. Develop an acceptable program to bring population growth under control, especially by raising standards of living.

These are the central initiatives of the very first operative stage of the Earth Federation government. They propose an integrated package of initiatives to be addressed all at once, since climate change demands a coordinated, multi-dimensional action of the whole. The resources and sovereign authority of the people of Earth establish an Emergency Earth Rescue Administration, using a new public (not exploitative) finance and credit regime to create a global clean energy system [10], a global non-polluting agricultural system, a system protecting our planetary water and air in both quantity and quality, a global system of recycling and conservation, and a global program of population control.

How could anything be clearer?  This synergistic, unified response is the way to climb out of the abyss of planetary tragedy. The Earth Constitution is not an additional proposal within the range of possible climate change actions.  And it is not just another proposal within the failed UN system of militarized sovereign nation-states interfaced with global exploitative capitalism.

Its ratification is the key to the entire business. It does not abolish the UN but incorporates the UN into the agencies and departments of the Earth Federation Government. It focuses the immense intellectual and moral power of the united people of Earth to engage the greatest threat to human existence of all time.

It alone provides the fulcrum that can tip the scales on our planetary tragedy of the commons.  If we want to protect our planetary environment, the most effective action we can take is working and organizing to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth [11].

 

Endnotes

[1]  Christopher Chase-Dunn, Global Formation: Structures of World Economy. Updated Edition (New York: Roman & Littlefield, 1998), p. 297.

[2]   www.earth-constitution.org.  The World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), founded in 1958 by Philip and Margaret Isely, organized citizens around the world to write the Constitution for the Federation of Earth through a series of four Constituent Assemblies, held in 1968 in Interlaken, Switzerland, 1977 in Innsbruck, Austria, 1979 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and 1991 in Troia, Portugal.  Since 1991, the Earth Constitution has been considered finished and ready for ratification under the criteria set forth in Article 17.  In addition, Article 19 empowers the people of Earth to begin the functions of the government prior to ratification. Functions initiated so far include the Provisional World Parliament, the Collegium of World Judges, and the Ministry of the Environment.  See also:  www.worldparliament-gov.org     www.worldproblems.net  A recent development has been creation of the World Parliament University (WPU) on-line: www.worldparliamentuniversity.org

[3] There are many books that have detailed and documented these crises in a variety of ways. For example, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells (2019), Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know. Second Edition by Joseph Romm (2018), This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate by Naomi Klein (2014), Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben (2019). James Gustave Speth has written two highly informed and deeply disturbing books documenting the dynamics behind these 10 crises: Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment (2004) and The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing the Crisis to Sustainability (2008).

[4] There are a growing number of books exposing the ideology of endless growth capitalism and proposing alternatives.  See, for example, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality (2011) by Richard Heinberg and Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (2004) by Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows.  For credible alternatives to endless growth capitalism see From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy (2014) by Herman E. Daly and Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist (2017) by Kate Raworth.

[5] One criticism I have of the above listed books on our climate crisis is that this synergistic effect is not often strongly emphasized.  Similarly, in none of the above books on the environment or on economics do the authors call for a real holistic transformation of our fragmented world system. But the synergistic impact of total climate crisis cries out for a similar synergistic transformation of our fragmented human institutions.  My own books have been calling for this holistic transformation since my 2005 book Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation up to my most recent book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation (2018).

[6] See Glen T. Martin, ed. A Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion (2011). See also the Pocket version of The Constitution for the Federation of Earth (2016). The Constitution is found on-line at www.earth-constitution.org and many other locations.

[7] See Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things , the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, Chapter Ten, “The Comedy of the Commons.”  See also World Legislative Act 63 enacted by the Provisional World Parliament entitled the “Cooperative Communities Empowerment Act.”  Found at:

http://www.worldproblems.net/english/legislation/full_texts_en_htm/wla_63_cooperative_communities_empowerment.html

[8]   See my forthcoming article, “Deep Sustainability: Really Addressing Our Endangered Human Future” in the volume, Struggles and Successes in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development. Routledge Publishers.  The SDG quote is found at:

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[9] See my review of Fuller’s Critical Path at:

https://www.academia.edu/40161553/Book_Review_of_R._Buckminster_Fullers_Critical_Path_

[10] See Article 8.7: The planetary, public banking system directed to the common good of humanity will “establish criteria for the extension of financial credit based upon such considerations as people available to work, usefulness, cost/benefit accounting, environmental health and esthetics, minimizing disparities, integrity, competent management, appropriate technology, potential production and performance.”

[11] WCPA members and chapters worldwide take action in dozens of ways to promote the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  These actions can include organizing a World Electoral District for the region where one lives according to the guidelines set forth in the Earth Federation Institute’s World District Template, found on-line at: www.worldproblems.net  People can learn about our transformative work in depth by signing up for courses with the on-line World Parliament University:  www.worldparliamentuniversity.org

 

 

Book Review of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth

Glen T. Martin

This is an extraordinary book. Among all the books I have read on climate change and our common human future, this book counts as one of the best. It provides a deeply informed and knowledgeable positive vision of how human beings can move beyond climate crisis and create a decent world for all human beings and a credible future for our planet. It is a vision filled out by hundreds of examples of what is being done right now worldwide to make these changes happen. The book reviews both the history and dynamics of economics, written by an informed economist and creative thinker. It is one of the few must-reads for all who care about the future of humanity.

In Part One of this review, I will describe the main points made by the book: that is, the seven ways that we need to be thinking like 21st century economists. The book is divided into chapters corresponding to the seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, and I will follow this order. In Part Two, I will critically relate the book to our corresponding need for political transformation of the world system and ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Part One

 First principle: Change the Goal from GDP to the Doughnut. In her introductory section Kate Raworth quotes Buckminster Fuller as saying “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” (p. 4). The introduction reviews the history of economics and the ways that it was built around one story, one image, and essentially one visual diagram of the way economies worked (or were supposed to work).

This worldview (this frame, this paradigm) became fixed in textbooks and the minds of economists worldwide. It was built around a linear model that essentially ignored our rootedness in the planetary biosphere and focused on growth. Growth became measured worldwide in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It ignored human rights as well as our planet’s ecology and focused single mindedly on worldwide growth.

It became institutionalized in immense systems like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization right down to the present. It either accepted or ignored ever widening inequality, vast poverty, and growing evidence of climate change. Raworth shows that economics cannot any longer be framed on a linear growth model of extraction to production to distribution to consumption to waste disposal, because this model ignores nature and our planetary boundaries. She records a recent declaration that states:

We are the first generation to know that we are undermining the ability of the Earth system to support human development. This is a profound new insight, and it is potentially very, very scary . . . It is also an enormous privilege because it means that we are the first generation to know that we now need to navigate a transformation to a globally sustainable future. (p. 47)

We need to change this dominant visual and theoretical model of GDP to a doughnut shape. The outer ring of the doughnut is composed of the “ecological ceiling” that can be expressed in terms of the nine planetary boundaries that climate scientists have identified as crucial not to violate if we want conditions on our planet to remain hospitable for future life. The nine, known worldwide today, are climate change, ozone layer depletion, air pollution, biodiversity loss, land conservation, freshwater withdrawals, nitrogen & phosphorus loading, chemical pollution and ocean acidification. Beyond these limits constitutes environmental overshoot. They form the “ecological ceiling” for doughnut economics. Economics focuses on how human beings can flourish within that inviolable ceiling.

The inner ring of the doughnut is comprised by the “social foundation” that provides the “safe and just space for humanity.” Just as economics fails when it goes beyond the ecological boundaries of the outer ring, it also fails when it does not provide for the well-being of human beings: when human beings go hungry or fall into poverty and homelessness. The inner ring of the doughnut is the social foundation comprised of income and work, education, health, food, water, energy, networks, housing, gender equality, social equity, political voice, as well as peace & justice. Economics must expand its mission from merely monetary wealth creation to concern for all these elements of human well-being.

Raworth links this social foundation with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, “agreed to by 193 member countries in 2015—and the vast majority of these goals are to be achieved by 2030” (p. 39). “Together,” she writes, “the social foundation of human rights and the ecological ceiling of planetary boundaries create the inner and outer boundaries of the Doughnut” (p.42). We need to change the goal of economics from “the Cuckoo model” of endless growth of GDP to the model of thriving in balance: “human prosperity in a flourishing web of life” (p. 47).

Second principle: See the Big Picture—from self-contained market to embedded economy. The big picture. This chapter contrasts the “drama” of traditional economics with the new drama and new players of Doughnut Economics, illustrating the narrowness of the traditional model. Economics impacts everything, all dimensions of human life as well as the Earth that sustains us. She shows the multiple ways in which traditional economics simply ignored most of these dimensions and operated as a self-contained theoretical model that led to today’s disastrous consequences.

The Doughnut model brings in the whole of our human situation beginning with the Earth whose planetary boundaries must be respected. It includes:

Society, which is foundational—so nurture its connections

The Economy, which is diverse—so support all its systems

The Household, which is core—so embed it wisely

The Commons, which is creative—so unleash their potential

The State, which is essential—so make it serve wisely

Business, which is innovative—so give it purpose

Trade, which is double-edged—so make it fair

Power, which is purposive—so check its abuse (p. 63)

This chapter examines each of these dimensions, showing the ways in which each of them was either ignored or falsely conceived by traditional GDP economics. Traditional economics never spoke of “nurturing.” It never spoke of “wisdom,” nor of purpose (since economics was modeled on early-modern ideas of mechanistic science), nor of purposes for business and trade (beyond the mindless accumulation of wealth), nor of the abuse of power. She declares that “the Circular Flow diagram instead transforms the starting point of economic analysis. It ends the myth of the self-contained, self-sustaining market, replacing it by provisioning by the household, market, commons and state—all embedded within and dependent upon society, which in turn is embedded within the living world” (p. 79).

Third Principle: Nurture Human Nature—from rational economic man to social adaptable humans. This chapter examines the model of human nature embedded within traditional economic assumptions, the model of homo economicus in which each person (and by extension each business or company) was conceived atomistically as a rational calculator of individual self-interest and advantage. Not only was this a fundamental distortion of our complex human nature but it served as a social model for people in trade, banking, Wall Street, and business.

But the twenty-first century portrait of human nature is very different, making us realize that this classic model (simplistic assumptions necessary to make economic formulas mathematical and hence apparently scientific) was a major distortion, leading economists astray into their disastrous endless growth models. In the new model of human nature, we are “social and reciprocating” rather than narrowly self-interested. We have “fluid values” rather than a fixed economic nature. We are “interdependent,” not isolated atoms of self-interest. We act on “approximations,” not narrow calculations. And we are embedded in the web of life, “far from having dominion over nature” (p. 88).

The chapter explores the many ways that we can “nurture” and “nudge” people to do the right thing. Right behavior can be encouraged by the state, by communities, and economists. These include proper tax programs and other economic incentives, empowering cooperatives, making legally possible associations that work together for the common good, educating for ecological sensitivity and understanding, creating alternative currencies, recognizing the role of households in the economy, empowering women, promoting “generosity and public spirit” (p. 110). There are dozens of ways we can overcome the destructive stereotype of homo economicus and empower our ability to work together for the common good of humanity and our planetary biosphere.

Fourth Principle: Get Savvy with Systems—from mechanistic equilibrium to dynamic complexity. Under systems theory and “complexity science” that have emerged worldwide since the 1970s, systems theorists study “how relationships between the many parts of a system shape the behavior of the whole” (p. 117).  (I would add the corollary, which Raworth also recognizes, that the whole (the structure of a system) also shapes the behavior of the parts.)

Systems scientists are now understanding the ways in which natural systems, with their feedback loops and integration of many dynamic factors, operate according to complexity designs of dynamic balance and mutual integration. This chapter shows the ways in which traditional economics, by not including systems theory, created boom and bust bubbles and on-going financial instability, unable to move economic history out of “a rolling cycle of dynamic disequilibrium” (p. 126).

A similar failure has led to “the dynamics of inequality,” in which a tiny few individuals now own more than 50% of the world’s wealth, and the similar feedback loops that have allowed governments to be taken over by an “oligopoly” of the rich and powerful who direct law and institutions toward their own interests. She also recalls “the damage wrought by the shock policies of privatization and market liberalization implemented in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the former Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s” (p. 137).

Similarly, today’s economy has ignored pollution and is bringing the world to the brink of ecological collapse: “pollution, which—unlike metals, minerals, and fossil fuels—typically carries no price and so generates no direct market feedback.” She concludes that “Today’s economy is divisive and degenerative by default. Tomorrow’s economy must be distributive and regenerative by design” (p. 133).

Economics can create “nested systems” that “serve the whole of which they are a part.” It can promote diversity and create a healthy resilience that can bound back from storms. It can create “open-source” design business models, find “leverage points” that help balance an entire system. And finally, if it is to be truly holistic, it can bring ethics into economics.

Traditionally, economics pretended to be a “science” and hence abjured ethics, but today we recognize our responsibilities to the common good and future generations. Ethically, an economist must act in the service of “prosperity within a flourishing web of life.” Secondly, economists should “respect autonomy” in the communities they serve. Third, we all need to “be prudential in policy-making,” minimizing risk and attending to the most vulnerable. Finally, we all should “work with humility,” recognizing the limitations and shortcomings of our models (p. 138).

Principle Five: Design to Distribute—from ‘growth will even it up again’ to distributive by design. A fundamental model of traditional economics, found in many textbooks, was the “Kuznets Curve,” a simple chart that showed increasing economic inequality (linked to endless GDP growth) that peaks at a certain point and then begins to descend toward ever more equality. She states, “It was a clever theory but it was wrong” (p. 142). This chapter reviews some of the data and leading economists showing that it was wrong.

Inequality was seen as an inescapable side-effect of the endless growth model, but its many negative effects were ignored, including the fact that it is destructive of democracy. It allows the few to distort not only the market but also politics. It does not help developing poor economies grow faster, and it promotes economic instability leading to recessions and depressions. Designing to distribute, on the other hand, looks at the economic world as a network of flows (just as ecology looks at the world as a dynamic network of interdependent flows of energy, air and water, nutrients, interdependent systems, etc.). A systems thinker will see the world as “a distributed network whose many nodes, larger and smaller, are interconnected in a web of flows” (p. 148).

This approach must re-examine wealth, how it is owned and distributed, and find ways to establish dynamic flows that benefit everyone, ways such as a wealth tax, maximum and minimum income rules, democratizing of ownership, reexamining property and land ownership laws, low-cost loans, fair intellectual property rules, or land-value taxes as were proposed by economist Henry George. We can also re-examine banking and money-creation which, until now, have largely been monopolies of private, profit making banks that create money as interest-bearing debt. In addition, we can ask why the lion’s share of money or created value should go to “investors” who most like never produce, manage, or even participate in the enterprises in which they invest.

But what determined each group’s respective share of earnings? Economic theory says that it is their relative productivity, but in practice, it has largely turned out to be their relative power. The rise of shareholder capitalism entrenched the culture of shareholder primacy, with the belief that the company’s primary obligation is to maximize returns for those for those who own its shares…. Employees, who turn up for work, day-in and day-out, are essentially cast as outsiders…. Shareholders, meanwhile, who probably never set foot on the company premises, are treated as the ultimate insiders. (p. 160)

This chapter cites many interesting examples of communities that have devised alternative ways of dealing with income, trade, and distribution, using such innovations as block-chain currencies to track and distribute value widely. Or by using “time-care credits” in which people accumulate credits for helping a community’s more needy elderly residents, thereby combining networking care with income distribution and community solidarity. Not for profit enterprises are spreading; community interest companies and cooperatives are thriving. In addition, the super profitable digital companies are being reexamined with an eye to how we can create a truly distributive knowledge commons for the world. Every person should have a stake in owning the robot technology (p. 164).

Principle Six: Create to Regenerate—from ‘growth will clean it up again’ to regenerative by design.

This chapter emphasizes so rightly that we should not be thinking only in terms of not exceeding environmental limits, for the world that we live in here and now, the one we have created from two centuries of industrial expansion, is a mess. Simply shifting around the present system does not solve any real problems. Individual countries may claim progress in reducing greenhouse gasses, but this is an illusion. They need to think in truly regenerative terms.

Raworth states that: “Recently complied international data reveal that when a nation’s global material footprint is taken into account—by adding up all of the biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and construction minerals used worldwide to create the products that the country imports—then the success story seems to evaporate” (p. 179). Instead, we need paradigm-shift. A new, circular, regenerative paradigm will give rise to new goals.

All this requires that we reexamine both the role of the state and the idea of the commons. The famous image of the “tragedy of the commons” has been discredited. We can share the commons in multiple efficient and complementary ways, just as we can reexamine intellectual property rights laws with the goal of enhancing the knowledge commons. Business needs to move from a “do nothing” and “do what pays” orientation to a “do your fair share, do no harm,” and, ultimately, “be generous” model, helping us achieve a “circular economy” in which we restore (repair, reuse, refurbish, recycle) and regenerate (capturing value at each stage of decomposition) all the while using renewable materials and energy in harmony with ecosystem limits and minimizing lost matter and heat (p. 188).

Contemporary capitalism is still focused on attitudes that are “the opposite of generous.” They focus only on creating financial value “for just one interest group: shareholders” (p. 193). On the other hand, we have the Open Source Circular Economy (OSCE) movement striving the “unleash the full potential of circular manufacturing.” Such movements emphasize “modularity (making products with parts that are easy to assemble, disassemble, and rearrange); open standards (designing components to a common shape and size); open source (full information on the composition of materials and how to use them); and open data (documenting the location and availability of materials). In all this, transparency is the key” (pp. 195-96). We need a world of transparency in which human beings work together to create a decent planetary home for all. Such common practices will be the key to any economy that can truly regenerate and restore.

“The business of business is to contribute to a thriving world” (p. 198).  We need to understand that the economic system itself is causing the environmental crisis. “The global financial system as we know it needs to shrink, simplify, diversify and deleverage” (p. 199). And in all this, the state must act as a partner within the same new paradigm and its goals. Much of traditional economics claimed that the state must get out of the way of the “free market,” but now we know there is no such thing as a free market. Various regulations or incentives in the law give rise to a variety of results. The state must work with businesses, the market, the commons, and the citizens to establish a planetary network that regenerates and restores, inclusive of the common good of everyone.

Principle Seven: Be Agnostic About Growth—from growth addicted to growth agnostic.

This chapter involves an extended critique of the growth dogma (a critique that was also expressed in less sustained fashion in each of the previous chapters).  We must be agnostic about growth not only because the growth dogma is destroying the planet, creating ever greater inequality and ruining democracy everywhere on Earth.  But this does not mean that growth in certain sectors cannot be helpful, nor does it mean that we cannot redefine growth to include a wider definition of well-being and “progress” than traditional economics embodied.

But growth must clearly “decouple” from “resource use” as well as pollution and other damaging “externalities” of classical economics.  Raworth calls this “sufficient absolute decoupling” in which our planetary system moves back within the nine planetary boundaries established by climate scientists. The rapid growth of the past two centuries was largely due to the supply of cheap fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Even though we live on a planet daily flooded with clean solar, wind and water energy, the global economy is directly dependent on fossil fuels.  We must decouple the economy from this dependence. “Growth” can no longer mean using fossil fuels for producing more and more products—endless manufacturing, globalized transport, and ever-growing waste.

At present, “GDP brings both global market power and global military power.”  But we need “innovative thinkers in international relations to turn their attention to strategies that could help usher in a future of growth-agnostic global governance” (p. 238). The world, like economists, needs something to aspire to. Public relations, instead of focusing on getting people to by ever more of things they do not need, or on targeting children’s immature needs and wants, should be helping to nurture what is best in us toward a vision of a new human community.

The New Economics Foundation, for example, summarizes findings that are proven to promote human well-being: “connecting to people around us, being active in our bodies, taking notice of the world, learning new skills, and giving to others” (p. 240). In her conclusion, Kate Raworth declares: “Ours is the first generation to deeply understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with the chance to do something transformative about it. . . . Once we accept the economy’s inherent complexity, we can shape its ever-evolving dynamics through smart stewardship” (pp. 243-44).  We can frame a new story. Just as Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world,” we also need to draw the change we want to see in the world. Frame things differently. Change our paradigm and our corresponding goals.

Part Two

I think there is an important first point to be made. While I appreciate the fact that this is a book written with a positive vision and affirmative spirit (“we can do it”), the book does minimize the severity of the climate collapse that is happening all around us. Previous books that I have reviewed on climate crisis (all found on my blog at www.oneworldrenaissance.com) focus on a severe crisis happening now.

For example, James Gustave Speth says we need a “bridge at the edge of the world” (because we are literally teetering on a cliff of disaster). Richard Heinberg says, not that we should be “agnostic” about growth, but that growth is effectively over and we need to deal with this fact immediately. David Wallace-Wells describes our rapidly approaching “uninhabitable Earth.” Bill McKibben sees our civilization at the point of “faltering.” Joseph Romm describes a rapidly approaching world significantly inhospitable to human life.

But my second point is the really fundamental one. As with the other thinkers cited in the preceding paragraph, Kate Raworth has made a great step forward with the Doughnut Model of economics, but she has not really followed Buckminster Fuller’s advice to change the model. Changing the model in economic textbooks is not going to succeed unless we concomitantly change the global political-economic system in fundamental ways that go far beyond these textbooks and beyond economics.

She declares that we have ignored the emerging science of systems thinking and systems analysis. But perhaps sitting in her cushy first world setting in the UK, surrounded by similarly caring well-educated, comfortable colleagues, distracts from the fact that the present world system is designed to defeat Doughnut Economics. This design of the global political system has put us in perpetual danger of nuclear holocaust wiping out civilization for the past 70 years. Here and there Raworth hints at this truth (of imperialism, nation-state warring, the secrecy and the corruption that this system breeds). However, she fails to recognize that these facts require changing the global political system along with its economic system.

Above we saw her state that, “Beyond merely rewriting macroeconomic models, however, this lock-in highlights the need for innovative thinkers in international relations to turn their attention to strategies that could help to usher in a future of growth-agnostic global governance” (p. 238).  International relations? Relations between militarized sovereign states recognizing no effective law above themselves? Not uniting humanity in a regenerative and restorative democratic world system?

Apparently, we are supposed to “get savvy about systems” but not that savvy. Buckminster Fuller, whom she quotes as saying we need a new model rather than fighting the old one, advocated a truly new model: “The synergistic effectiveness of a world-around integrated industrial process is inherently vastly greater than the confined synergistic effect of sovereignly operating separate systems. Ergo, only complete world desovereignization can permit the realization of an all humanity high standard support” (1972, p. 88).

Fuller advocated democratic world government. The world system goes way beyond a global economic system predicated on growth of GDP.  She appears to recognize this and says that we must integrate the market, the state, the commons, and the household as a regenerative and restorative community. However, this appears to mean that we can retain some 193 mostly militarized planetary nation-states with absolute territorial boundaries. Clearly we need more than “creative international relations” if we want to survive on this planet. This book is systematically (and I think intentionally) vague on this issue so as not to offend the powers that be and so as to appear affirmative and positive in its outlook.

She points out that we “nurture human nature” for better or worse through the kind of systems we create. She apparently wants to nurture human nature while retaining the system of militarized sovereign nation-states that overtly attempts to “nurture” their citizens into nationalism, patriotism, militarism, national competitive spirit, national security regimes, borders blocking immigration, and an “us versus them” orientation. It should be obvious that if we join the world join together politically, then human nature will be vastly more “nurtured” toward the common good of the entire planet than if they remain fragmented in waring, militarized nation-states.

In systems theory, the parts influence the character of the whole and the whole influences the behavior and character of the parts. A politically united Earth (the whole) would change the thinking and behavior of the parts sufficiently for Doughnut Economics to have a chance to save the planet. On the other hand, today’s world system is structured for economic and military rivalry among nations, economic rivalry among corporations, secrecy, manipulation and propaganda among rival religious and national ideologies, and entertainment-style non-news among gigantic profit-making news corporations, much of which is designed to cover up the planetary crisis and promote the existence and success of the profit-making, winner take all capitalist world system.

The alternative holistic and integrative economic thinking that the world needs so badly cannot succeed unless we take systems science seriously enough to realize that we must necessarily change the entire world system. Capitalism and the fragmented system of territorially bound, militarized nation-states are internally linked. You cannot change the one unless you also transform the other.

Despite the many fascinating examples that Raworth gives of groups and entrepreneurs thinking in these new terms, the immense trajectory of the present omnicidal world system appears unstoppable. It cannot be converted to a regenerative, non-growth, distributive, worldwide system through attempting to reform thought and practice within the framework of the present world system.

 The only thing that makes possible a total transformation of our planet from unsustainable disaster to truly creative and life-affirming sustainability is by uniting humanity under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  The combined trajectory of the global momentum is too immense to allow the “butterfly” of a transformed economic model to emerge from the “caterpillar” of destruction now engulfing the Earth.

She claims that the new system must be based on “transparency,” while the current world system is directly based on massive secrecy. However, the Earth Constitution puts transparency first.  It provides the necessary global medium for open standards, open source, and open data. It unites all humanity within a common legal framework dedicated to fostering the planetary common good of peace, reasonable equality, and sustainability.

It does not imagine (as Raworth appears to do) that somehow human beings will become suddenly like herself (caring, humanistic, generous, loving).  She correctly says we must “nurture human nature,” but ignores that the present system is designed to bring out the worst in human nature: competition, hate, fear, nationalism, exploitation, enforced inequality, corruption, endless weapons, secrecy, and the criminal malfeasance that secrecy engenders. It is the logic of the system, of the present world system, that brings out these horrible consequences. If we truly change the system, entirely different consequences will follow.

Ratifying the Earth Constitution is the only practical means that can make possible a Doughnut Economics orientation practiced everywhere on Earth with transparency, fairness, openness, and solidarity. As long as the present fragmented and fragmenting world system predominates, the wonderful vision of people like Raworth will remain unfulfilled.  She cites concerned financial experts who declare that “the global financial system as we know it needs to shrink, simplify, diversify and deleverage” (p. 199).

But that is exactly what Articles 4, 8, and many other articles of the Earth Constitution do for the planet.  What else is going provide this unity and vision for the planet when the present privatized global financial system is bigger and independent of any nation from Wall Street to Hong Kong to London?  The Earth Financial System under the Constitution establishes the simplicity of global public banking directed to humanity’s common good of sustainability, reasonable equality, and world peace.  It finances with minimal cost (without profit-making interest) all creative projects for a better, regenerative world, requiring no collateral or prior wealth to finance these projects.

There is no need to attract private investors to finance worthwhile regenerative projects. The “global financial system” now belongs to the people of Earth, not private, profit obsessed entrepreneurs who are often simply criminals dressed in suit and tie. The present global financial system attracts and encourages such people because it is structured for private monetary profit.  The one thing that could bring Doughnut Economics truly and rapidly to our world, Kate Raworth ignores.

She argues that state taxes and regulations must phase in the “use of life-friendly chemistry only, along with net-zero and net-positive industrial standards” (p. 202). How could this possibly be done without enforceable, democratic world laws? Twenty-five percent of the world’s nations today are not democracies, and an additional thirty-five percent protect only some of their citizens’ human rights. Even so-called “democratic” states are controlled by special interests.  In the USA, this is clearly the case, with an industrial-military-academic complex hell bent to dominate the world through wars, subversion, and economic exploitation. The world’s most powerful nation is an oligarchy run by special interests. Doughnut Economics does not have a chance unless we can unite the world within global democracy.

How is “the state” going to support a regenerative and restorative financial system and system of laws?  The sovereign nation-state cannot. If imperialism and empire were not the role of the USA, it will be some other power-hungry, oligarchic empire. “Sovereign” states can never represent the people of Earth, but only their own portion of the world’s citizens.  Only the Earth Constitution can give us a world where all nations are working for a living, equitable, and sustainable global economy. If we want a future for humanity on this planet, let us take our Doughnut Economics to the World Parliament!

Brief Bibliography

 Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Found on-line at www.earth-constitution.org.  Found at many website and in many editions, e.g. Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With an Introduction by Glen T. Martin. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Daly, Herman E. (2014). From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Fuller, Buckminster (1972). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. New York: Pocket Books.

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

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

McKibben, Bill (2019). Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Henry Holt Publisher.

 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. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Speth, James Gustave (2008). The Bridge at the Edge of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wallace-Wells, David (2019). The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. Crown Publishing Group.