Book Review of The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability by James Gustav Speth

Glen T. Martin


This 2008 book investigates a vast literature on climate change and the environmental crisis. It analyses the problems, discusses what top environmental thinkers have proposed, and lays out a range of options that human beings have if we want to leave a habitable planet for future generations. As such it represents a major accomplishment and deserves careful reading by all who care about the Earth. In the first part of this review, I describe Professor Speth’s analyses and recommendations.  In the second part, I raise critical issues about the adequacy of both Speth’s analyses and his recommendations.

Speth’s title is auspicious. We are facing the environmental ruin of our planet and possible human extinction if global warming becomes runaway warming beyond our ability to mitigate and adapt. We need a bridge to a new world system, a model for genuine transformation and transcendence. It cannot be simply a set of economic and environmental adjustments, but must be total and transformative.

In their book Break Through (p. 8), Nordhaus and Shellenberger correctly state that “the problem is so great that before answering What is to be done? we must first ask, What kind of beings are we? and What can we become?  I asked these very questions in my 2018 book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. This essay will consider whether Speth’s “bridge” has adequately addressed these questions.

Part One

Speth was Professor and Dean at the School of Environmental Studies at Yale University. He was also founder and President of the World Resources Institute and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advisor to the Carter and Clinton administrations, and the Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Speth’s earlier book, Red Sky at Dawn: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment (2004) was a major, deeply scientifically informed, statement of our planetary global crisis that included truly frightening facts of climate change, global desertification, deforestation, biodiversity loss, population growth, loss of freshwater resources, marine environment deterioration, acid rain, ozone depletion, and toxification (the massive poisoning of our planetary environment with tens of thousands of human-made chemicals, many of them known toxins and carcinogens).

This new book, The Bridge at the End of the World, reviews these crises in its first chapter called “Looking into the Abyss.” When Speth worked in the Jimmy Carter Presidency (1977-1981) they produced the Global 2000 Report predicting dire consequences if major changes in the way corporations did business were not immediately forthcoming. Nothing significant was done, and today, he writes, the report’s predications are coming true (p. 18). Every year the world has been getting warmer with record heat temperatures increasing from year to year. Severe and more prolonged droughts continue to occur and are becoming worse. The frequency of heavy precipitation events (storms) have increased everywhere with consequent flooding and major destruction. Coastal areas worldwide are under assault from rising oceans, including superstorms and tidal surges.

The book focuses on the failure of the global economic system (capitalism) and national political systems (government) to deal with these crises. It focuses on what is being done (not nearly enough), what can be done (the many excellent proposals made by major thinkers, economists, and scientists), and what should be done if there is to be a future for human beings on this planet.

The changes that are required worldwide are deep and fundamental. Speth writes: “We must look beyond the world of practical affairs to those who are thinking difficult and unconventional thoughts and proposing transformative change” (p. xiv). He understands the principle, introduced by some environmental economists, that we now live in a “full world” in which the gigantic planetary economy has grown beyond sustainable limits and is now digesting the biosphere itself, the planetary ecosystems that sustain human and all life on Earth (pp. 4-10). Growth capitalism originated in the “empty world” of several centuries ago, a world with seemingly unlimited resources for perpetual growth and unlimited ability to absorb the wastes produced by our ever-increasing industrial output.

He concludes that “most environmental deterioration is a result of systematic failures of the capitalism that we have today and that long-term solutions must seek transformative change in the key features of this contemporary capitalism” (p. 9). We need to transform the market to work for the environment (rather than against it). We must move beyond growth to a “post-growth society.” We must reduce and revision our affluent materialism and consumerism by finding life’s meaning in the quality of living rather than in consumption). We must profoundly change the nature of the capitalist corporation (and place it under democratic controls). We must create a “new consciousness” and a “new politics” that is strongly democratic, egalitarian, cooperative, and community oriented.

The crisis we are now in places us at the cusp of a possible “tipping point” beyond which we will no long be able to stop or significantly mitigate global warming and climate disaster: “The crystalizing scientific story reveals an imminent planetary emergency. We are at a planetary tipping point. We must move into a new energy direction within a decade to have a good chance to avoid setting in motion unstoppable climate change with irreversible effects” (p. 27).

The key factor, of course, is the reduction of the greenhouse gases that the fossil fuel burning, industrial civilization of the world is pouring into the atmosphere of the Earth annually. We must rapidly reduce the burning of fossil fuels, along with the industrial and consumer demands for this, and limit the parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere as quickly and radically as possible: “The worst impacts can still be averted, but action must be taken with swiftness and determination or a ruined planet is the likely outcome” (p. 29).

An essential feature of capitalism as the world has known it to date has been growth. The system is designed so that growth in input, output, and surplus product (profits) are necessary features of success within this system.  Speth reviews the expanding economic literature concerning the problems with this growth system.  The “growth fetish” disregards ecosystem limits, limits in our natural resource base, and limits in the ability of the environment to absorb our waste products. Hence, it ignores the “carrying capacity” of the Earth. It encourages “externalities,” that is, shifting waste products and other negatives of production costs to the environment or to society at large. Marginal economic costs begin to exceed marginal benefits and everywhere growth is becoming “uneconomic growth,” causing more loses than benefits to the planet and future generations (Chapter 5).

In Chapter 6, Professor Speth reviews the extensive work that has been done to move beyond the commonly accepted standard of economic health called “growth in GDP” (Gross Domestic Product). Economists and environmentalists have developed such alternatives to GDP as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), and the Happy Planet Index (HPI). The new conception of economic health involves how well genuine human needs are satisfied (such as education, healthcare, social security, and human rights), and how meaningful and fruitful human lives become. Growth in human welfare must become the new standard, not GDP. Sustainability requires an economy that does not grow in input and output but that is directed toward genuine human welfare (which necessarily would include the welfare of other living forms, future generations, and the environment that sustains us all).

One key to transforming the economy to a sustainable, non-growth set of institutions involves changing the legal characteristics of corporations (Chapter 8).  By law, corporate management is required to “maximize the interests of the shareholders,” which means in practice maximizing profits and growth, both often at the expense of the environment and society at large. Under the U.S. political system, the laws also allow corporations to have immense political influence through campaign contributions to politicians, lobbying on behalf of corporate interests, and other means.

Yet with the process of globalization the situation has grown even worse. Big corporations have become multinational:

The multinationals have a huge impact on the global environment, generating, for example, half the gases responsible for global warming. They also control half of the world’s oil, gas, and coal mining and refining…. It is the globalization of market failures…. When unfettered by national or international laws, ecological understanding, or social responsibility, this freedom can lead to enormously destructive acts…. They are engineering a power shift of stunning proportions, moving real economic and political power away from national, state, and local governments and communities toward unprecedented centralization of power for global corporations, bankers, and global bureaucracies. (pp. 170-172).

I will comment further on these developments below. Speth makes recommendations for government (and now he is focusing on the U.S. government).  Government needs to revoke corporate charters, exclude or expel unwanted corporations, roll back limited liability (which shields managers and shareholders from the consequences of corporate actions), eliminate corporate personhood (which gives these artificial legal constructs the same human rights as living persons, yet without the responsibilities of living persons), get corporations out of politics, and reform corporate lobbying (pp. 178-79).

In this very comprehensive book, Professor Speth reviews the significant literature on all these topics, including the absolute need for “A New Consciousness” (Chapter 10) and “A New Politics” (Chapter 11). What is required is a new way of thinking for humanity, for the old way of thinking (behind capitalism and with its endless growth fetish and unmitigated self-interest orientation) is almost certainly leading us rapidly into the ruination of our planet. He writes:

Many of our deepest thinkers and many of those most familiar with the scale of the challenges we face have concluded that the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness. For some, it is a spiritual awakening—a transformation of the human heart. For others, it is a more intellectual process of coming to see the world anew and deeply embracing the emerging ethics of the environment and the old ethic of love thy neighbor as thyself. (pp. 199-200)

Speth reviews many thinkers who have called for a new quality of respect for the Earth and for human solidarity, or who have called for a new consciousness of holism, awareness of the interdependent ecosystem of the Earth and human life. Still others have called for an “intergenerational consciousness” and a renewal of our values, religion, and spirituality. Psychologists such as Erich Fromm have called for “a radical change in the human heart” as a condition for “the sheer survival of the human race” (pp. 200-202).  “Today’s dominant worldview,” he writes, “is simply too biased toward anthropocentrism, materialism, egocentrism, contempocentrism, reductionism, rationalism, and nationalism to sustain the changes needed” (p. 204).

Similarly, the new politics must be radically different from what has hitherto dominated governments. It must be participatory, localized, and based on human solidarity rather than competition and narrow self-interests. Hence, both the local and the global level must be transformed and energized for environmental sustainability. Speth quotes with approval some thinkers who argue that global environmental protection “must be centered elsewhere than in the state system, international conferences, agencies, bureaucracies, and centers of corporate capital” (p. 220). He also quotes political philosopher David Held who holds that we need to become “cosmopolitan citizens” who begin building levels of effective governance beyond the nation-state (p. 223).

Speth’s final chapter is called “The Bridge at the End of the World.”  We face the abyss—the ruination of our planet for most life and for future generations.  But there is a bridge over this abyss. That bridge includes adopting very quickly and with great urgency all the prescriptions described in this book, from voluntary corporate transformations toward sustainability, to government incentives and regulations on all economic activities, to new legal definitions of corporations and their responsibilities, to a new economy beyond capitalism that is non-growth and dedicated to human welfare, to a new consciousness of reverence for nature and intergenerational human dignity, to a new, localized participatory democracy in solidarity with global institutions for coordinating the planetary effort.

Part Two

However, this bridge at the end of the world leads nowhere. Speth’s thinking fails to be truly transformative and liberating. His bridge does not lead humanity over the abyss of planetary ruin. For all the vast literature that Speth reviews in this book, he omits a significant important literature critical of the system of sovereign nation-states itself. This system, more than three and a half centuries old and utterly outdated and outmoded, does not appear in any significant way in Speth’s analyses.

It looms in the background, unspoken, all the more destructive for being unacknowledged. How is it possible to ignore this immense historic record of militarism, inter-state competition, domination, and exploitation, rabid nationalism, imperialism, genocides, repeated treaty violations, national-security ideologies, and, in the case of some nations like mid-twentieth century Germany or the United States, a mythology of exceptionalism, superiority, exclusivism, and collective self-adoration? How is it possible to ignore that these “imagined communities” (Anderson 2006) cannot achieve the unity and solidarity necessary for transforming the entire world system to sustainability?

Like so many “main-stream” environmentalists, Speth simply does not wish to go there. If he went into this critical dimension, he could not have been an advisor to the Carter or Clinton administrations. Nation-state “sovereignty,” exceptionalism, and imperialism are built into the unspoken framework of everything that goes on in Washington, DC.  At one place in the book he briefly mentions Immanuel Wallerstein as a founder of “world systems theory.” However, he does not follow through on Wallerstein’s analysis of the world system as dominated by the global economic and military hegemony of the U.S., a hegemony in which cheap labor and resources from “peripheral” nations remain fundamental to U.S. wealth and power.

Nor does Speth mention the work of such thinkers as Chalmers Johnson (Sorrows of Empire), Michael Parenti (The Face of Imperialism), Greg Grandin (Empire’s Workshop), F. William Engdahl (Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order), William F. Blum (Rogue State. A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.), Petras and Veltmeyer (Empire with Imperialism), Noam Chomsky (Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance.), Pepe Escobar (Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War), Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine and the Rise of Disaster Capitalism), Ellen Hodgson Brown (Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth about Our Money System), Douglas Valentine (The CIA as Organized Crime), Christopher Chase-Dunn (Global Formation: Structures of the World Economy), Errol E. Harris (Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late), or my own Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation.

Professor Speth ignores this immense river of scholarship about our world system (some of which post-dates his book but all of which draws on a major conceptual analysis of the world system going back well before Immanuel Wallerstein and World Systems Theory). To absorb this literature and act in terms of its meaning would likely make Speth unfit not only for employment by the US government but also for a Deanship at Yale University. (And perhaps also to be head of the United Nations Development Program: at the UN you have to pretend there is no imperialism and global hegemony by the United States.) The deep transformation of the world system (if we want a sustainable future) requires not only everything that Speth reviews in this informative book. It also requires that we transcend the horrific, ungovernable, and omnicidal system of militarized sovereign nation-states.

I quoted him above regarding multinational corporations that have transcended nation-state governance and at the same time wield immense political power within both rich and poor nations. How are we going to govern these behemoths?  Speth has no credible answer.  The world military expenditure grew to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2018, nearly half of that from the USA alone.  It continues to grow every year as nations not only war, spy upon, and manipulate one another, but also as the world’s resources become ever more scarce and people in many countries ever more desperate and without resources to live.

Speth tells us that global capitalism must transform itself into a non-growth, human welfare economic system. However, he never mentions that capitalism has always required militarism to extend and protect its markets and access to cheap labor and resources. He never mentions that all this wasted 1.8 trillion dollars per year could easily transform the world system to sustainability. However, no military establishment in the world intends to shrink to a minimalist form, and none of them intend to convert from fossil fuels (since military naval, land, and air power all depend directly on these fuels) (Sanders and Davis 2009). Who is going to transform the transnational corporations, many of whom feed this global military monster?

Who is going to create global disarmament, global environmental laws, equitable global sustainable economic relationships and institutions?   Who is going to pursue the capitalist enterprises that avoid environmental laws in developed countries in order to maximize profit in poor countries?  Who is going to educate the global public about sustainable and equitable ways of living, trading, and interacting? Who is going to educate the global public to become world citizens rather than nationalistic fanatics? Who is going to foster on a planetary scale the new consciousness and the new politics?

Speth quotes from the Earth Charter at some length as embodying the values that we need to embrace globally. The Charter states that “we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny” (p. 208). But the Earth Charter gives us a mere set of beautiful ideals, not an effective document for making the transformation happen. If we truly embrace a “new consciousness” recognizing this truth, what are we doing in a world of some 193 militarized nation-states with absolute territorial borders recognizing no effective laws about themselves?

How is this sovereign nation-state system a “common destiny”? We need an effective global legal instrument for making the transformation to sustainability happen efficiently, equitably, and compassionately. As we saw Nordhaus and Shellenberger declare, we need a positive vision of who we are and what we can become. The answer to all these questions is that we need democratic world government if we are going to have a credible future on this planet.

We are capable of genuine human solidarity and mutual concern for the common good of all persons, living creatures, and future generations. As human beings, we are so much greater than mere denizens of national self-interest. We can indeed actualize our true human potential for planetary justice, peace, freedom and sustainability. This can happen only if we ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The Preamble to the Earth Constitution makes the same declaration of the Earth Charter, but from the point of view of genuine human solidarity and the sovereignty of the people of Earth: “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.” The answers to all the above questions are built directly into the Earth Constitution and do not require endless debate about how to make them happen on a planetary scale. True unity in diversity requires democratic world law.

The Earth Federation Government has the authority and legitimacy to end war and disarm the nations of the world, surely a necessary condition of a sustainable future for our planet. The Earth Federation Government also has authority over all multinational corporations as well as the 193 existing nations. It embodies a new economics of sustainability and equitability. The nations will no longer be able to economically exploit and compete with one another for wealth, power, and resources. They will no longer need to be “national security states” spending billions on spying, secrecy, and propaganda manipulation.

Only this democratic authority, creating enforceable world laws, can control this plethora of “independent” nations and the gigantic multinational corporations. The requirement to achieve global sustainability on an equitable basis for all peoples (hence, without war) is built directly into the Earth Constitution. It is the transformative document par excellence.  Only through such an instrument can the world unite in time to transform economics, politics, and planetary consciousness to sustainability. The coming ecological ruin of our planet can only be mitigated through a fundamental actualization of our highest human potential, in true human solidarity.

Only a truly united world can effectively deal with the greatest threat to human existence that humanity has ever faced.  Yet Professor Speth says very little, almost nothing, about uniting the world. He focuses on the United States as if transforming a mere 5% of the world’s population and their institutions could somehow transform the world. It is a strange paradox.  Every environmental thinker believes that we must transform the world system, yet nearly every one of them thinks that this must be done one nation at a time, eventually totaling all 193 of them. Nevertheless, the “deep state” in the United States is intent, not on sustainability, but on planetary military domination. They famously see China and Russia as global impediments and rivals in this quest to rule the world (Escobar 2006, Engdahl 2009).

How is all this incorporated into Speth’s bridge at the edge of the world?  The answer is that it is not. The bridge leads nowhere because it leaves off the necessary transformation of half the present world order. It is not only capitalism that must be transformed but the system of militarized sovereign nation-states as well.  We need to unite the world under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Our highest human potential to create a truly global civilization must be actualized.

This alone makes a truly new consciousness and new politics possible. It alone empowers the grassroots of the world and local cooperative communities globally. Under the Earth Constitution, the global transformation integrates and interfaces with local empowerment, achieved equitably around a demilitarized world, now truly united to create a sustainable and free civilization in which human welfare and the welfare of nature and future generations takes precedence over nationalism, militarism, corporate greed, and egoistic self-interest.

Here is the true bridge at the end of the world.  It is called the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. It holistically, equitably, and non-violently transforms the world system to one directed toward peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability. All these values go together. None can be achieved piecemeal without the others. We need to ratify the Earth Constitution. It is truly our bridge to a new world system and a new planetary consciousness.


Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso.

Blum, William (2000). Rogue State. A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.

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

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

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

Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  On line at: and   In paperback form at Institute for Economic Democracy Press:

Engdahl, F. William (2009). Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. Weisbaden: edition.engdhal.

Escobar, Pepe (2006). Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving into Liquid War. Ann Arbor, MI: Nimble Books.

Grandin, Greg (2007). Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Harris, Errol E. (2005). Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press.

Johnson, Chalmers (2004). The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Martin, Glen T. (2005). Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. 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. London: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Nordhaus, Ted and Michael Shellenberger (2007). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Parenti, Michael (2011). The Face of Imperialism. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Petras, James and Veltmeyer, Henry, et. al. ((2005). Empire with Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism. London: Zed Books.

Sanders, Barry and Mike Davis (2009). The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Speth, James Gustave (2004). Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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

Valentine, Douglas. 2017. The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, Inc.


The Evolution of Human Consciousness and the Earth Constitution: A Necessary Integration of Ends and Means

Glen T. Martin

June 2019


What is the role of the Earth Constitution in the evolution of human consciousness?  This is a question that comes up repeatedly in discussions of the meaning and significance of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. In addressing questions as to why we should be active supporters of the Earth Constitution, I find myself continually coming back to its role in the evolution of our consciousness. It serves not only as the end or goal that we strive for (planetary peace, justice, and sustainability) but also as the necessary means to make this happen. In this paper, I hope to explain more fully what we mean when we connect this Constitution, as both ends and means, with the process of moral and spiritual growth.

Current Literature on the Evolution of Consciousness

In the past 50 years, many psychologists, philosophers, and spiritual thinkers have addressed the question of the evolution of consciousness.  There is a broad consensus that our general human orientation grows and can grow through several stages that apply universally to human beings. (Hence, they are not culture dependent.)  If we integrate the thought of Lawrence Kohlberg (1984), Carol Gilligan (1982), James Fowler (1981), Eric Fromm (1996), Jürgen Habermas (1979), Ken Wilber (2007), and Abraham Maslow (2014), we can come up with a picture of human growth that looks something like the following.

We begin life with an egoistic orientation that is centered on our perceived self and its needs. In many people this orientation may become more refined and sophisticated as we grow older but remains the basic characteristic of our world view and behavioral model. Many people modify this egoistic orientation when they become socialized by their cultural group and the larger society.  The shift takes place from primarily egoistic focus to group focus and acceptance of own’s culture has knowing the “right way of doing things,” making the cultures of others appear to be ignorant and misguided. Our orientation becomes ethnocentric. This also often functions as a new mode of egoism: collective egoism.

Proper human growth moves beyond ethnocentrism into a worldcentric orientation (see Wilber 2007).  We now see that “truth” transcends the ways it is appropriated in any particular culture and world view. This is true in values as in religion and spirituality (Fowler 1981, Agnivesh 2015). We see that all cultures share or participate in the truth to a certain extent and that there is no culture that is self-evidently superior to the rest, as ethnocentrists often believe of their own culture, or of the world system as deriving from their cultural traditions (e.g., “Western” or “Eastern” culture). The worldcentric perspective now sees human civilization and all human beings as one great evolutionary movement that supersedes and dwarfs any of its component parts.

The emergence of a worldcentric orientation opens a person or group to a larger, more dynamic, multidimensional set of options and orientations. Truth takes on depths and heights largely unknown at the earlier levels. Kohlberg (1984) stresses autonomy.  At this level, one’s ideas are not simply believed because the group believes them but are subjected to critical self-examination in the light of coherence, consistency, and rational, intersubjective grounding. He identifies two sublevels within the range of autonomy, showing that the process of growth continues within each main level. We can continue to grow in rationality, autonomy, and worldcentric maturity throughout our adult lives. In his 1784 essay “What is Enlightenment?” Immanuel Kant was clearly speaking of this level of maturity by defining “enlightenment” as the condition of finding out for oneself and not passively taking one’s beliefs from another (Kant 1957).

Egocentric (egoistic)—the obsessive self-regarding orientation of childhood, immature adults, and collective group identifications.


Ethnocentric—thinking that (often unconsciously) gives ontological priority to one’s own culture, religion, or nation, or that takes the ontological status of sovereign nation-states as an authentic reality.


Worldcentric—developing intellectual autonomy along with compassion, care, and universal rational principles applying to all humanity (and often to all life on Earth). Living from the unity and diversity at the foundation of both the cosmos and human existence.


Cosmocentric-Integral—harmonizing masculine and feminine elements within the whole of one’s being, integrating a dynamic cosmic consciousness of unity in diversity within our historical and personal lives, living with ever-greater direct awareness of the holistic, ineffable depths of existence.




The worldcentric level also helps open a person to cosmic awareness, that is to cosmocentric and integral levels of growth. This often begins with the astonishment that anything at all exists, with astonishment that the world exists (as Wittgenstein put this in his 1929 “Lecture on Ethics”). Similarly, in his Critique of Practical Reason, Kant (1956) speaks of being filled with wonder and awe at “the starry skies above and the moral law within.” This awakening can deepen with the kind of questioning indicated in the mid-twentieth century work of Martin Heidegger who posited (following Leibniz) the most fundamental philosophical question as “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  Meditation and mindfulness deepen this awareness, and people begin to come upon the Cosmic Consciousness described by mystics of every persuasion and tradition, a consciousness that itself contains levels of ascent into higher stages of awareness (cf. Wilber 2007).

In this extensive literature on the evolution of consciousness, distinctions are often made among a variety of ways in which human beings can grow through these or other, similarly identified stages.  Ken Wilber refers to the diagram of these patterns of growth as a “Psychograph” (2007, p. 25). One can grow with respect to any of these dimensions: cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, psychosexual, moral, and spiritual. Generally (but not necessarily) growth follows a consistent pattern through each area: a cosmocentric consciousness will embrace corresponding moral, emotional, cognitive, etc., levels of growth.

The same kind of development characterizes human civilization across subjective, cultural, scientific, and organizational dimensions.  Wilber charts this development in a graph that he calls AQUAL (All quadrants, all levels). In my recent book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence (2018), I adapted Wilber’s chart in order to express my own concerns about the impediments to human evolutionary development presented by the capitalist economic system and the global sovereign state political system.

In the chart below you can see a reflection of the broad literature on the evolution of human consciousness and corresponding developments for culture, governmental systems, and scientific processes. I characterize the evolving human self (in the upper left quadrant) as having moved from a primitive stage of “magic” through an egocentric self, a mythic self, an achiever self, toward a “maturing human self” and finally a “holistic self.”  Similar developmental patterns are shown in the lower left quadrant depicting human culture, the upper right depicting the development of science, and the lower right depicting economic and governmental systems.

In the lower right, the organizational stages can be identified as moving from ethnic tribes, to God-king dynasties, to feudal empires, to sovereign territorial states, to “maturing of human institutions,” to “Earth Federation under the Earth Constitution.”  However, as the chart shows, at our current level of sovereign territorial states dominated by global capitalism, these institutions serve as active impediments to further growth in all four quadrants.  These institutions block human subjective maturity by exacerbating hate, fear, and insecurity. They block civilizational cultural maturity in the same way (for example, with their war and “terrorism” propaganda). They colonize science into war research and production, and clearly, they prevent the maturing of human institutions beyond the egoism of capitalism and the ethnocentrism of sovereign nation-states.


Human beings are currently living through a very difficult period of impasse, of blockage, akin to the blockage of a storm-system spoken of by climate scientists (see Romm 2018, p. 44).  A storm can get “stuck” and significantly worsen the damage that it does. Today, instead of moving forward in our civilizational and spiritual development, we are blocked by a capitalism and militarized nation-state system that threaten our very existence on this planet.

Thinkers about the dynamics of human history from Hegel to Marx to Marcuse, have pointed out the relationship between human consciousness and the institutional structures within which we live. The structures foster a certain consciousness in people. In the case of capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states, there is a great tendency to produce egocentric (greedy, selfish) and ethnocentric (nationalistic, fixated on borders and exclusion) forms of personality. Psychologist and social thinker Eric Fromm describes this dialectical relationship as follows:

The physical survival of the human race depends on a radical change in the human heart…. And a change in the human heart is possible only to the extent that drastic economic and social changes occur that give the human heart the chance for change and the courage and vision to achieve it (1996, p. 9-10)

The evolution of human consciousness is directly linked to the institutions within which we live. Hence, the promotion of cognitive, moral, and spiritual maturity is directly related to our promotion of fundamental institutional changes. If the current system is blocking our growth, then the quest to change that system is also the quest to further evolve human consciousness. If we ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, people sometimes ask, “will it then be taken over by the same ignorant tyrants who now dominate the Earth?” Not likely, because to change the system also changes people.  Fromm writes: “It follows that man will obtain the full capacity for objectivity and reason only when a society of man is established above all particular divisions of the human race, when loyalty to the human race and it its ideals is considered the prime loyalty that exists” (1950, p. 58).

When people live within a framework that recognizes them all as world citizens first, prior to their race, religion, or nationality, and demands of them global civic responsibilities, then their worldcentric consciousness will rapidly emerge, along with a hitherto unrealized capacity for objectivity and reason. Working for ratification of the Earth Constitution, therefore, is both a means and an end. The very fact of working for it and talking about it raises people’s consciousness, and its ratification would be nothing short of transformative.

Another classic expression of the process of spiritual growth comes from the pioneering work of Clare Graves that was developed and articulated in a systematic and compelling manner by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan in their book Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change (2006). The process of growth is not linear but can be likened to a spiral movement along which we can identify certain landmarks or “MEMES” in the ascent. Beck and Cowan designate certain colors to represent the MEMEs, the most primitive being Beige, then Purple designating early tribal groups, Red for the level of empires and power-based relationships, Blue for purpose-based systems and personalities (perhaps characterizing medieval social and personal characteristics).

At the Orange level, the spiral moves into a more contemporary form, representing an achievement orientation that emphasizes autonomy and strategic planning. Beyond this people can move into the Green MEME characterized by pluralism, egalitarianism, willingness to innovate and experiment, and tolerance for broad diversity. The qualities represented by these color codes are not mutually exclusive and earlier tendencies can emerge and recede as we move up the spiral.

The highest levels in Beck and Cowan’s system of spiral dynamics are Yellow and Turquoise. At these levels, we move beyond “First Tier” thinking that cannot transcend the old paradigm and remains mired to a great extent in the apparent determinism of history and society. Second Tier thinking makes real transformation possible, since it sees the dynamics of the whole process and the integral nature of breakthroughs, paradigm-shifts, and awakenings in human development. Second Tier thinking arises at the Yellow and Turquoise levels. Here “quantum change” becomes possible and people can become “spiritual wizards” because they rise above the apparent causal conditioning and entrapped thinking associated with the First Tier paradigm.

These levels broadly correspond to the worldcentric and emerging cosmocentric levels defined by Ken Wilber and others, summarized above. The Yellow MEME activates insight into broad patterns of social, cultural, spiritual and organizational phenomena and enhances the process of integration from a worldcentric point of view. The Purple MEME emphasizes a spiritual awakening into an integral harmony in which the One and the many merge in dynamic unity in diversity. Things are seen differently. The oneness behind diversity emerges clearly into awareness and the old paradigm, mired in an apparently irredeemable fragmentation, is understood to be an illusion. (See Chap. 5 of my 2005 book Millennium Dawn for a study of this “integrative mysticism.”)

World Federalism exhibiting various levels of Worldcentric Awareness


World federalism can, of course, mean different things to different people. There is a tendency, especially in North America, to associate “federalism” with states’ rights, that is, with the degree of autonomy the subordinate units have vis-à-vis the central government. Nevertheless, as a worldwide movement, world federalism exhibits a broad conceptual coherence centering on the idea of the need for a world government, especially a democratic world government, to bring law, order, justice, and freedom to our beleaguered planet.  Nations are not abolished but become states within the world federal system.

World federalism clearly manifests aspects of a worldcentric consciousness, emphasizing, as it does, the need for humanity to unite under one world government and the rule of law. However, it is important to reflect on why the world federalist movement has not triumphed in human affairs. Why has humanity not moved into a worldcentric level of maturity in which the need for democratic world law appears self-evident? Perhaps the movement behind world federalism itself has not been representative of a fully developed worldcentric consciousness, and perhaps, as indicated above, the present world system blocks further growth.

Many of its proponents appear to have remained at the level of the Green MEME which emphasizes pluralism and tolerance in ways that undermine revolutionary ascent to a clear unity in diversity of humankind. Pluralists often have trouble discerning certain perspectives as clearly truer and better than others. They often think that they are being “democratic” when we give equal time to nonsense, regressive ideas, and lower level expressions of immaturity. They give equal air-time to the neo-Nazi demagogue and the advocate of world peace as if this were the democratic and morally right thing to do.

They work toward a world federal government through these kinds of “democratic” processes, not realizing that this pluralistic and relativistic conception of democracy hinders and defeats human ascent to our true destiny in higher levels of awakening and maturity. However, the world federalist idea of one world under the rule of enforceable democratically legislated law is not just “one more perspective” within an egalitarian pluralistic field of ideas. Nor is it just one option among a range of options to be given fair expression and “equal opportunity.” The Neo-Nazi is wrong; the Chicago school of globalized neo-liberal economics is wrong (see Klein 2008); the UN treaty system of militarized sovereign nation states loosely affiliated under the UN Charter is wrong. Real world federalism has a backbone and stands for what is right. It stands for a human maturity higher than that comprehended by many within the pluralistic Green MEME.

One of the first explicit conceptualizers of this idea as non-negotiable and morally right was Immanuel Kant. In the late 18th century, he understood that the global political system of sovereign nation-states was inherently a war-system and, as such, was immoral. This system is immoral, for Kant, because the fundamental imperative of morality (the “Categorical Imperative”) demands that human beings relate to one another as free, equal, and responsible citizens under universal laws, never as lawless combatants attempting to determine what is right through the force of arms. Might does not make right, however much the pluralist might want to give this concept equal time.

If we are to achieve real world peace, Kant argued in his 1795 essay on “Perpetual Peace” (1957), we need to make every state democratic and simultaneously unite all the states in a federation under “a republican constitution similar to a national constitution.”  This theoretical framework remains foundational for world federalism. Insofar as human beings are morally required to live under universal laws protecting the freedom, equality and liberty of each person, we are also morally required to establish world government for our planet. Kant’s demand was unequivocal, but far ahead of its time. As a broad political movement, world federalism did not begin until World War I when some leaders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom realized that this horrific global war was not a matter of “good versus evil nations,” but rather was a consequence of the system itself of militarized sovereign nation-states.

The movement continued to grow and flourish between the wars and became very widespread after World War II. It produced a powerful literature ranging from Emery Reves’ The Anatomy of Peace (1946) to Albert Camus’ Neither Victims Nor Executioners (1986), both first published in 1946. From some of the directions the movement took in the late 1940s and early 50s, we can begin to discern various levels of consciousness within the movement. There were many world federalist groups at that time, large and small, but there developed four main emphases of the movement that reflected differing levels of awareness and understanding. These modes of awareness form part of the dynamics of human spiritual evolution.

The first direction included many world federalists who immediately began trying to reform the UN as soon as it was founded in 1945. They wanted the UN, of course, to be more democratic, to be more like a government (with some authority), and to have some mechanisms for enforcing peace and disarming the nations. They also wanted to eliminate the veto power of the five permanent members (see Martin 2010).

However, they lacked the level of a developed worldcentric perspective that understands the failed nature of capitalism and the self-contradictory nature of the system of sovereign nation-states.  That is, a “sovereign” nation takes its stand on its government being the ultimate legal authority within its territory while at the same time denying that it should itself submit to any authority of the rule of law. In its foreign policy, every nation is a defacto anarchist, refusing to admit the legitimacy of any law above itself. Its very claim to legal sovereignty and authority undercuts the possibility of world law. The attempt to reform the UN often accepts this UN system of militarized, sovereign territorial nation-states as legitimate (or somewhat legitimate) while attempting to improve it and make it “more democratic.” This appears as the Green MEME in operation.

Similarly, capitalism (integral to the UN system from very early on) had already been exposed by Karl Marx as based on a number of fundamental structural contradictions. These structural contradictions meant that the system is immoral and needs to be replaced by a morally grounded economics. However, the Green MEME is never revolutionary. It wants to compromise and make incremental improvements, never true structural transformation. What is necessary, of course, is not simply abolishing the UN, but rather replacing its flawed Charter. The UN, as a collection of worthwhile agencies (such as the World Health Organization, WHO), could and should be preserved. But the self-contradictory UN Charter must be replaced by a real constitution for governing the Earth. This group of world federalists did not fully understand these fundamental principles.

They repeatedly tried to make small changes to the UN, for example, toward giving the International Court of Justice (ICJ) more binding authority. This group, and their successors, have worked in vain from then until now without achieving any significant reform of the UN. They have contributed little success to the movement toward real world government, except, perhaps, by illustrating the principle that the UN cannot be reformed. The consciousness of this group of world federalists has not yet fully transcended the ethnocentric perspective, even when their thought has grown beyond dogmatism to an international pluralism. Their perspective believes there is some substantial reality or value in the system of sovereign nations. They believe we need to dialogue with the nations to make incremental improvements, such as fewer wars, or fewer deaths from starvation, or fewer violations of human rights. The need for the oneness of true integration, that is, fundamental system change, eludes them.

A second contingent of world federalists at the close of the Second World War at first seemed to exhibit a somewhat wider and deeper awareness arising from a worldcentric perspective.  They decided to promote the regional integration of Europe, thereby perhaps laying the groundwork for regional integrations elsewhere and some possible integration of all regions in the future in the form of a world government. As we know, they were partly successful, creating a European Union with some significant authority but, sadly, retaining the military of each member state of the Union (and hence its sovereignty), and retaining a capitalist-based banking and monetary arrangement that continues the financial debt-system under which each of the sovereign nations is enslaved to gigantic, privately funded banking cartels (see Brown 2007).

The recent fates of Greece and Ireland illustrate the latter point and show the overwhelming weakness of this “union.” Not only do the world federalists promoting European union often fail to recognize the absolute imperative for the unity in diversity of humanity as a whole, their unity-project has now become a new ethnocentrism in which Europe functions as a military, economic, and power block among other international players within a fragmented human situation. The worldcentrism of this group remains precarious and tentative, and, to a certain extent, as ethnocentric as the previous group.

A third direction that world federalists took after World War II was to look forward to creating a widespread collection of world citizens to be elected as delegates for an eventual constituent assembly that would then draft a constitution for the Earth through a slow, pragmatic, and politically practical, developmental process.  Some in this group did not share the same naivete concerning the UN as the first group above apparently did.  Also, some in this group did not share the inflated expectations for the effect a European Union would have on the world-historical movement towards One Earth under a single constitution.

Nevertheless, the central assumptions of this third group place them in the lower ranges of those exhibiting a worldcentric perspective. These groups and individuals, perhaps best described as “social evolutionaries,” fail to ascend to a worldcentrism free of the old, ethnocentric, structurally fragmented system. They cannot manage to liberate their comprehension fully from the atomized world system of sovereign nation-states and globalized economics. As Errol E. Harris (2000) puts it, they fail to move from the fragmented early-modern paradigm (under which today’s world system was born) to the holistic contemporary paradigm. They labor under the illusion that this system can be reformed, and, like the first two groups, lack the higher worldcentric orientation awakened to the fact that this system itself is mired in egocentric, ethnocentric, and pluralistic assumptions that cannot be evolved or reformed but must be transcended.

The World Federalist Party today, for example, still attempts to reform and evolve the failed world system in the name of an improved future that eliminates some of the worst features of today’s territorial, war, and exploitation system. A recent section of their manifesto reads as follows:



         The World Federalist Party seeks to work with existing parties in the UK (Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green etc.) and with Green and Federalist parties globally, but also calls for a World Constitutional Conference to be sponsored by as many of the world’s people, parliaments and governments as possible, and aimed at producing an instrument for federal democratic world governance that builds on the supranational democracy of international unions such as the EU, and that is fit to replace the UN with a federal democratic global body capable of making and enforcing laws to control MNCs, arms production and the use of arms by nation-states, and to protect humanity from global pollution, climate change and extremes of inequality, and from nationalist and religious fanatics, while facilitating the devolution and localisation of all other aspects of government.  (see and

This paragraph is typical of many world federalist organizations. The movement apparently thinks that a coalition of parties within the current world system can someday call a constituent assembly, at which time they will struggle to write a world constitution acceptable to the powers that be, that undoubtedly will be compromising with opposing views in an international democratic process directed toward controlling weapons, multinational corporations, pollution, religious fanatics, etc. Their vague ideals have no concrete expression stating that THIS is what the world needs, but rather express a hope that some cooperative process might work to improve the world in the direction of these abstract ideals. It should be clear that this document is an expression of a truly weak and hopelessly compromised set of First Tier, Green MEME, ideals that have not encountered the fundamental paradigm-shift that lifts persons and groups to Second Tier integral, creative, and transformative action. Nor does it evidence awareness of the dialectical character of human social history.

Moving through the levels of human development involves reorienting assumptions at each level, transcending and leaving behind previous, more immature levels. In the process of growth (as in the process of scientific paradigm-shifts as described by Thomas Kuhn, 1962), many incremental little steps and discontinuities can culminate in a reorientation of the whole and awakening to a new way of thinking and being. At a certain point in the process of moving through developmental stages, one becomes aware of the entire process and becomes free to use the process in the service of further growth. We move from social evolutionaries to become creative non-violent revolutionaries, which is what, for example, was achieved by Mahatma Gandhi. That is why he was called “great soul” (Mahatma). He lived from the unity in diversity at the heart of the cosmos, not from some practical and pragmatic patterns of compromise and perpetually delayed action.

The World Federalist Party, as represented by this quote, has not yet grasped the dialectical relation between institutions and human consciousness. They believe they can evolve a fragmented world system toward unity, when in fact that very fragmentation (sovereign nation-states within global capitalism) fights against its own transformation. Fromm asks “how can man become so profoundly transformed that the values he has hitherto only recognized ideologically, become compelling motives for his personality and his action?” (1996, p. 95). The answer requires simultaneous institutional and personal transformative action. Passion and action for ratifying the Earth Constitution in the here and now embodies authentic transformative action. Patiently trying to organize some future “constitutive assembly” does not.

Beck and Cowen identify this transformative freedom with breakthrough to the “Second Tier” in the process of awakening and growth (moving beyond Green to Yellow and then Turquoise stages). This World Federalist Party Manifesto reveals this same pluralist, First Tier, evolutionary thinking. They cannot take their stand on the true unity in diversity of the human situation here and now, but forever want to postpone, to gradually realize some ideal rather than demanding what needs to be affirmed here and now. Their ideologically held values have not yet become
“compelling motives for personality and action.” They do not live from the One: Unity-in-Diversity prior to mere ideals. None of the three groupings described above exhibit Second Tier characteristics. They refuse to seize “the tide” of growth and awakening in human affairs, but rather, as in the words of Shakespeare, remain “bound in shallows and in miseries” associated with a dominant world system that cannot be reformed but must be transcended.

Those who have broken through to a more fully developed world consciousness and have likely begun the ascent into a cosmic consciousness are often no longer content with a slow, contingent, hesitant process of social evolution leading eventually to One World (we hope). They understand revolutionary changes in consciousness; they understand fundamental paradigm-shifts; they understand the process of “deconstruction and breakthrough” that I described in my 1991 essay on this topic. They also understand that human beings are facing extinction through run-away climate change or nuclear war or both. Yet the World Federalist Party cannot bring itself to true, non-violent revolutionary action. They affirm (as far away) what needs to be affirmed and actualized NOW. How much more developmentally advanced is the viewpoint expressed by Professor Errol E. Harris in his groundbreaking book Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late (2014). The title itself expresses his truly worldcentric level of awareness.

This demand, arising from a moral and spiritual awakening to the ONE of unity in diversity at the heart of existence and our human situation, is also found in the writings of Swami Agnivesh who serves as a Distinguished Advisor to the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA):

Spirituality is the sphere of ever-expanding responsibility. That is why it is also the medium of mankind’s on-going evolution. Spirituality is a vision that insists that one’s welfare is coterminous with the welfare of society. This is because spirituality presupposes a holistic vision in which all the parts dwell organically within the whole and the whole dwells in the parts…. We must integrate correct words with creative deeds and so unleash the spiritual power that would liberate the people and transform societies (2015, 13-14, 25).

Consciousness of the ONE that emerges as we incorporate our worldcentric understanding into a cosmocentric depth-awareness requires that we take revolutionary action through “correct words and creative deeds” demanding transformation, and opening people to the higher spiritual realizations that are the true source of human liberation. This NOW needs to impact those caught within a Green MEME (do nothing) pluralism as well as those imbedded in the Orange MEME personal achievement and autonomy orientation, awakening them to the possibility of liberating growth and action. The future belongs to the visionaries and transformers, not to those trapped in First Tier determinism with its dogma of slow, evolutionary development.

Not coincidentally, the same kind of demand for immediate realization and transformation permeates the words and actions of Jesus Christ as depicted by the four Gospels of Christianity. Jesus denies the legitimacy of postponement, the “practical” evasion of what is right and what is demanded here and now. He has no truck with the pragmatic authorities, nor with the violent rebels against that order. Jesus teaches a revolutionary transformation of that order through our decision to ascend to a fulfilled and transformed consciousness—to agape, revolutionary love. Jesus teaches an integral holism in which God’s agape and our human agape are one and the same, demanding actualization in the living present moment. This is the same kind of imperative implicit within the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (see Martin 2018, Chap. 5).

Creation of the Earth Constitution as an expression of Second Tier Consciousness

The above three groups all persist into our 21st century, for newer generations of younger people themselves absorb these truncated forms of worldcentric consciousness, stuck largely in the Green MEME with its limited awareness of the reality of integrative holism. On the other hand, the fourth main group coming out of the world federalist movement after the Second World War, at least for some of its leaders, had a much more cohesive, powerful, and integrated worldcentric consciousness. They understood that the world required a democratic Constitution for the Federation of Earth, and that it was needed NOW, not in some vague, evolved, contingent future.

Among these visionaries (five of whom the present writer knew personally) were Philip Isely of the USA, Dr. Terence P. Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka, Dr. Reinhart Ruge of Mexico, Swami Yogi Shanti of India, Dr. Suchart Kosolkitiwong of Thailand (later known as monk Ariyawanso Bhikku), and A.B. Patel (General Secretary and Treasurer of World Union International Center, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India).  World Union, of course, came out of the work of Sri Aurobindo, another awakened human being living and acting from the ONE truth at the heart of our human situation.

Sri Aurobindo understood that the “the universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent.” The divine, therefore, “creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, p.49). Aurobindo acted to make all humanity aware of this demand through the creation of World Union, an organization dedicated to creating world government. A.B. Patel was also the first Co-president of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). He understood the Earth Constitution as fulfilling that role, as an institution through which human beings can aspire to the All.

Under the leadership of these six (and others such as Dr. Rashmi Mayur, 1996), world citizens from around the planet were organized into a movement to write the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. They met in several preliminary conferences and in four primary constituent assemblies in Interlaken, Switzerland in 1968, Innsbruck, Austria in 1977, Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1979, and Troia, Portugal in 1991.  At Troia, Portugal, they declared the Earth Constitution finished and ready for ratification under the democratic procedures specified in its Article 17.  The people of Earth had an imperative, a living culminating document, a template for moving fully to the worldcentric mode of existence, and a dynamic means for liberating their potential for further moral and spiritual growth toward cosmic awareness.

Although other constitutions have been written for the Earth, none have been created through this dynamic process of multiple constituent assemblies, and few rival the integral worldcentric consciousness evidenced in every feature of the Earth Federation government established by the Constitution. Clearly the movement of humanity to spiritual, intellectual, and moral awakening will not happen through a single document, and no particular document is essential to this process. Nevertheless, affirmation of this transformative and awakened master document should clearly be a priority for people at the Second Tier of spiritual development who understand the imperative for paradigm-shift, breakthrough, and transformative awakening.

The Earth Constitution establishes the means for further human development by eliminating the terrible political and economic impediments to human development as depicted in the above chart. Its Preamble expresses precisely the disjunction between the old paradigm (that has brought human beings to “the brink of extinction”) and the new holistic paradigm of unity in diversity, demanding that we act NOW to actualize this paradigm. The above described groups of world federalists, still wallowing in the Green MEME of undiscriminating pluralism and historically contingent social evolutionism, may read this Preamble and declare: “Well, it’s just another perspective. Let us give it equal time with the Neo-Nazis and the Conservative Party.”

But those with a more fully actualized worldcentric consciousness may well declare that just this must be affirmed, demanded, and ratified, here and now.  That is the significance of the Earth Constitution. Here is a transformative model for setting human affairs right and the means for bringing much of humanity into a worldcentric awareness. It represents the awakened heart and soul of world federalism, and the revolutionary paradigm-shift that follows from this breakthrough.

In its 19 Articles following the Preamble, everything about the Earth Constitution establishes government on the principles of unity in diversity and dynamic, integrated, organizational integrity.  It sets up a vital third house in the World Parliament.  Along with the House of Peoples (constituted from 1000 electoral districts worldwide) and the House of Nations (with 1, 2, or 3 reps from each nation depending on population), it constitutes a House of Counselors (some 200 people from around the planet chosen for their expertise and wisdom).  How do we get wise people into government, some of whom will undoubtedly think and act from the Yellow or Turquoise levels of awakening? The Constitution provides a coherent method for making this happen.

The Earth Constitution pulls all the continents of the Earth together—all the countries, religions, and cultures in a dynamic unity in diversity that embraces the many organizations, agencies, and leadership roles outlined by the Constitution. The leadership of the three houses of Parliament as well as all the main agencies of the government all involve presidiums of 5 or more persons, at least one from each continental division of the Earth.  No person has unchallengeable personal power, and multiple checks and balances keep all agencies working for the central mission of the government as outlined in Article One: ending war, disarming the nations, protecting human rights, creating just and equitable social relations, and protecting the global environment.

The Constitution’s two bills of human rights (Articles 12 and 13) spell out the entire range of human rights and add to these the right to peace and to a protected planetary environment. The agency of the World Ombudsmus is tasked to protect and promote these rights and to act as a watchdog on the rest of the world government to ensure that these rights are not violated. The World Financial Administration is empowered to create global, debt-free public banking and to finance all sustainable socially and environmentally valuable projects without requiring collateral or other features of the current oligarchic and elitist world financial system.

The Earth Constitution as a whole provides a template for a transformed world system. It is clearly a product of spiritually and morally awakened Second Tier consciousness and thought. That is why the organizational sponsor of the Constitution, the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), is at the forefront of the worldwide federalist movement.  The Earth Constitution embodies the highest worldcentric maturity, in terms of which the unity in diversity of humanity and our planetary home serves as the reality from which we live and act.

As Richard Heinberg shows in his recent book The End of Growth (2011), if we are to survive, the future Earth will very soon need to be characterized by decentralized, innovative, cooperative local communities. Sustainability requires that globalized trade and growth economics be replaced by local production units organized for sustainable living, focusing on the quality of life, not on ever-more consumption. The Earth Constitution, which connects the global dimension with the local communities around the world (for the first time in human history), is uniquely suited to make this happen. WCPA for years now has been promoting local cooperatives and grass-roots empowerment to complement a global framework ensuring the peace, stability, and cooperative protection for all communities on our planet.  The following chart indicates this process.

chart 2


NGOs, cooperatives, and citizens working to improve the lives of local communities and convert them to sustainability have an ally in the Earth Federation Government whose mandate is to protect everyone equally, end war, and ensure the development of locally organized sustainable communities that make the Earth “a safe and happy home for humanity.” As so many people at the grassroots level have reminded us (people who are not interested in ideas about the evolution of human consciousness): “what good is talk about a future united world without a concrete document in the present to make it a living possibility?”

Either approach (spiritual evolution or pragmatic actualization of this concrete document) requires that we work to ratify the Earth Constitution now, that we begin the sustainable communities now, and it requires that we support the development of Provisional World Government under the authority of the Earth Constitution, here and now.  World thinker Jürgen Moltmann declared that with the nuclear bombings of 1945, human beings entered the “end time” (2012, p. 46). With on-going climate collapse, we are facing another horrific form of the “end time” (Romm 2018). No other plan, postponed into an indeterminate future, can possibly save the Earth from climate disaster and/or nuclear war.

No more should human beings compromise with the tired, fruitless, and failed system of waring, militarized nation states and global economic domination and exploitation. We need fundamental system change that integrates the planetary dimension with the grassroots. We cannot and should not try to evolve what must be transcended through awakening and paradigm-shift. The process of democratic ratification is clear and transparent in Article 17, and Article 19 authorizes the creation of the central features of the Earth Federation here and now.

No more postponement and evasion as practiced by many world federalists from their truncated levels of worldcentric consciousness. The Earth Constitution demands the next step in our spiritual self-actualization and awakening. It is both a culmination of our human aspiration for a worldcentric planetary civilization, and the necessary means for achieving this. It demands that we actualize our potential for mature world centrism here and now. It is our clarion call to a new enlightened fulfillment and self-realization. Now is the time—tomorrow is indeed too late.



Works Cited:

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

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

Beck, Don Edward and Christopher C. Cowan (2006). Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

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

Camus, Albert (1986). Neither Victims Nor Executioners. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth (1991). Found on-line in many places and languages such as:

Fromm, Eric (1996). To Have or To Be. New York: Continuum Publishers.

Gilligan, Carol (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Habermas, Jurgen (1979). Communication and the Evolution of Society. Thomas McCarthy, trans. Boston: Beacon Press.

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

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

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

Kant, Immanuel (1956). Critique of Practical Reason. Lewis White Beck, trans. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, Inc.

Kant, Immanuel (1957). Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History. Ed. Pauline Kleingeld. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Klein, Naomi (2008). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

Kohlberg, Lawrence (1984). The Psychology of Moral Development, Volume Two: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Kuhn, Thomas (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Martin, Glen T. (1991). “Deconstruction and Breakthrough in Nietzsche and Nāgārjuna,” article in the volume Nietzsche and Asian Thought, Graham Parkes, ed., University of Chicago Press, pp. 91-111.

Martin, Glen T. (2005). Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press.

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

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

Maslow, Abraham (2014). Toward a Psychology of Being. Floyd, VA: Sublime Books.

Mayur, Rashmi, ed. (1996). Earth, Man, and Future. Mumbai, India: International Institute for Sustainable Future.

Moltmann, Jürgen (2012). Ethics of Hope. Trans. Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Reves, Emery (1946). The Anatomy of Peace. New York: Harper & Brothers.

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

Wilber, Ken (1996). Eye to Eye: The Quest of a New Paradigm. Boston: Shambala Books.

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

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1929). “Lecture on Ethics” found at

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm A Book Review by Glen T. Martin

Dr. Joseph Romm has mastered the scientific research on Climate Change. He has worked, studied, and written within the domain of climate science for many years. This book synthesizes his substantial knowledge and systematically describes our human situation in the light of the devastating future into which we are headed if we do not make drastic, immediate, worldwide reductions in the vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) we are pouring daily into the atmosphere.


I will lay out below some of the conclusions about our human situation in the light of climate science that Romm reviews in this book. They are absolutely important to all of us who care about humanity and its future.  Then I will take note of the narrowness and ideological character of Dr. Romm’s background assumptions. These assumptions condition his ideas about how we can and must respond to the present and rapidly growing climate crisis within the same narrow framework that caused the crisis in the first place.


Romm worked for 15 years at the US Department of Energy advising businesses on how to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint. As of the year 2017, when he published the second edition of this book, he was working at the Center for American Progress which states on its website that it is a “nonpartisan policy institute” working “to improve the lives of all Americans.” In recent years he has been science advisor to the TV documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” the first US documentary series on climate change. I will write more below about the narrow (and dangerous) set of assumptions that this work history implies. Success within the dominant US system, often requires that one spend one’s lifetime wearing a set of narrow ideological blinders.


Part One: Climate Change is Real and Serious


Climate science is a major, worldwide branch of science with many subdisciplines. Some climate scientists specialize in the oceans, others in meteorology. Other scientists specialize in ice fields and the polar regions. Still others are experts is atmospheric gases like CO2, hydrogen, and methane. Others study geology in relation to climate, or biology in relation to species extinction and the planetary environments necessary to support life. Some study astronomy in relation to climate, including the sun, the Earth’s orbit, and other external factors influencing climate. Still others are climate paleontologists who study the historical climate record over millions of years. Some climate scientists specialize in computer modeling of likely future climate conditions in relation to the CO2 concentrations and other gases in the atmosphere, the oceans, and on land.


Climate science embraces many thousands of scientific experts and institutes worldwide. It also includes a number of international organizations, like the huge UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC:,  dedicated to coordinating and synthesizing the results of the research going on in all these areas. Its Fifth Assessment Report, which appeared in 2014, summarizing our worldwide knowledge of climate change to that date, paints a truly frightening picture of our future if we maintain business as usual. The fact is that we human beings possess a deep understanding of climate dynamics in terms of the paleontological record, worldwide symptoms in the present, and the range of possible futures. We also possess a deeply credible and scientifically corroborated knowledge of the ways that human activity since the industrial revolution is causing climate change.


In addition, we possess lesser known but easily available knowledge of the narrow political and economic forces (such as the big oil and fossil fuel companies) that have worked to cast doubt on the results of climate science by spending many millions of dollars funding misleading articles and propaganda designed to discredit the important knowledge that climate science has accumulated over multiple decades of systematic research. Like the tobacco companies, who knew that smoking causes lung cancer but promoted propaganda designed to cast doubt on this scientific knowledge, so the big fossil fuel companies have long known about the devastation they are causing but continue to engender doubt so as to maximize their short-term profits.


Human beings and most life on Earth are in great danger. We are already condemned to a drastically changed world in which our creativity and adaptability will be severely challenged within the next few decades as things get seriously worse and worse. But every year that we wait to take drastic CO2 reduction measures (that is, stop burning fossil fuels), determines a future which is significantly more horrible by magnitudes of destruction. It is not an incremental worsening.  Every year that we delay now means increasing magnitudes of suffering and horror for our children and future generations.


This is because climate is very sensitive to a number of positive (amplifying) feedback mechanisms (with no known counteracting negative or seriously diminishing feedback loops). A central positive feedback mechanism for warming is the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (predominately CO2).  From the preindustrial average of 280 parts per million (ppm) we are now at the level of about 412 ppm and steadily climbing year after year at about 2 ppm per year. This in turn generates hotter, dryer summers (droughts, desertification), ever more superstorms (because warm air holds more water and warm-moist air is a key ingredient in the generating thunderstorms, hurricanes, and cyclones), the melting of the polar caps and glaciers, the acidification of the oceans, etc.


We have been passing “tipping points” (irreversible points of no return) in which additional positive (amplifying) feedbacks kick in.  For example, melting of sea ice (which reflects nearly all of the sunlight that falls on it back into space) becomes dark blue ocean water (which absorbs nearly all the sunlight hitting it, thereby becoming another irreversible source of warming). The more sea ice that melts, the more the planet absorbs the sun’s heat.


Another example is the melting of permafrost in northern regions from Canada to northern Europe to Siberia, constituting vast tracts of land. Permafrost (which has remained frozen throughout recorded human history) is now melting at unprecedented rates, releasing not only CO2 but great quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane (CO4) is 34 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, (p. 85). As with melted sea ice, this passes an irreversible tipping point: it is impossible to refreeze the permafrost.  Therefore, continued warming is unstoppable. The only question we face is: how much can we do to mitigate the disasters ahead?


The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in its 2009 report, stated that “the climate change that is taking place because of increases of C02 concentration is largely irreversible for 1000 years after emissions stop…. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase from current levels … are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the “dust bowl” era and inexorable sea level rise” (in Romm, p. 29).


Romm’s book describes in detail these and more consequences of global warming.  All of these will happen and are unstoppable. What human beings can do is mitigate these effects. If we take serious action now (worldwide), we can limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade and thereby mitigate these consequences to the point of making life tolerable and possible through the next century and beyond.


This means keeping CO2 concentrations well below 450 ppm from the year 2050 through the end of the century and beyond. If we continue with business as usual in the burning of fossil fuels, and fail to limit the rise in temperature before the year 2100 to 2 degrees centigrade, we will be making life a hell on Earth for subsequent generations, with massive starvation, disease, and death for the majority of people on the planet and for its other living creatures. Here is a list of some of the main consequences of climate change described by Joseph Romm.


  1. Dust-bowl conditions and disappearance of agricultural lands. From the southwest of the US to sub-Sahara Africa to the breadbasket regions of China and India, global warming will be ending productive agriculture in these areas and turning them into uninhabitable deserts. Already in the last few decades the world has experienced extreme prolonged droughts in these areas that have led to massive crop failures. Based on scientific studies, Romm concludes: “the coming multidecadal megadroughts will be worse than anything seen within the last 2000 years…. They will be the kind of megadroughts that in the past destroyed entire civilizations” (p. 103). Areas where there are now forests will dry out to the extent that forest fires will regularly ravage them, adding even more carbon to the atmosphere. Again, forest fires have become more frequent and widespread in the past few decades.


  1. Sea level rise and flooding of coastal lands. Much of the increased heating of the Earth is absorbed by the oceans. Heat expands the volume of water thereby inducing sea-level rise. Secondly the melting of the world’s glaciers (happening rapidly everywhere) is adding vast amounts of water to the oceans. There are also massive amounts of water stored in the Greenland ice sheet (two miles thick) and vastly more water stored on the Antarctic continent (again, some two miles thick).  Both the Greenland ice sheet and portions of the Antarctic ice sheet are considered “unstable” are have been found to be melting at unprecedented rates.


As of 2015 scientists have been predicting a best case scenario of 3 to 5 feet increase in ocean levels by the year 2100.  This alone will mean that many major coastal cities will have to be moved or abandoned on every continent. A business as usual scenario (without drastic reduction of the use of fossil fuels) could mean a 1 foot per decade rise in sea level through the year 2100, which would put much of the habitable, coastal areas of the Earth under water. Billions of people would be displaced and a great portion of the world’s agricultural lands would be submerged or ruined because of ever-increasing salt-water intrusion (p. 100).


  1. Acidification of oceans and death of fisheries. “The oceans are now acidifying faster than they ever have in the last 300 million years, during which time there were four major extinctions driven by natural bursts of carbon” (p. 123). Most of the carbon we are emitting into the atmosphere gets absorbed in the oceans. Since ocean creatures are evolved in connection with certain “normal” carbon concentrations, this acidification accelerates massive extinctions and die offs.


This carbon can deplete the amount of oxygen dissolved in ocean and suffocate many species, creating so-called “dead zones” like the huge area in the Gulf of Mexico where few creatures can live. Today a large portion of humanity receives a substantial amount of their food from the oceans.  As agricultural lands disappear because of rising oceans, so the source of the oceans as food diminishes. Our CO2 emissions are killing the oceans as well as the lands.


  1. Disappearance of agricultural lands. Agricultural lands are disappearing through rising oceans, salt-water intrusion into crop lands, and also through the process of desertification caused by the heating up of the land. Much of the agricultural land worldwide is drying out due to lack of moisture and rainfall, is experiencing  serious droughts, and is destined to become useless as a major source of food for human beings. All the while the Earth’s population continues to soar well beyond 7 billion people. This is happening today, and the best we can do is make radical changes in our emissions of CO2 in order to mitigate these disastrous consequences, which will surely include starvation for a good portion of humanity.


  1. Uninhabitable regions of the world. The world of the past five decades has been experiencing a series of unprecedented heat waves that have resulted in the heat related deaths of many people and the destruction of crops. These include the terrible waves in France in 2003, Moscow in 2010, and Texas in 2011 (p. 43). These of course are related to droughts and the general warming of the globe. One team of researchers found that “absent strong climate action, we are headed toward levels of warming by 2100 that will expose as much as three fourths of the world’s population to a deadly combination of temperature and humidity for at least 20 days a year” (pp. 109-10). As the warming patterns settle in, there will regions of the Earth that are so hot as to be uninhabitable. People will not be able to be outdoors without special protective gear.


  1. The unprecedented spread of insect pests and tropical-like human diseases. Because of warmer, shorter winters, for example, the forests of the US and Canada have lost some 70,000 square miles of trees to the Bark Beetle and the Pine Beetle, destructive insects whose spread is no longer controlled by harsh winter conditions (p. 49). Similarly, diseases like Zika virus and Dengue fever are on the rise in the world in part because of warmer conditions everywhere (p. 112).


  1. Massive extinctions of existing species. We are already living in a period of unprecedented species extinction. The United Kingdom Royal Society (Academy of Sciences) wrote in 2010: “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record” (in Romm, p. 126). Since all life on Earth is an interconnected web, extensive die-off of species reduces the long-term chances of survival for those that remain (p. 128). Anthropogenic global warming is devastating the rich web of life that evolved on the Earth for the past 3.8 billion years.


Even though “new technologies and strategies make it easier for humans to protect endangered species” (p. 128), the key to preserving as many species as possible requires drastic measures to limit CO2 emissions and the global warming process. As Errol E. Harris points out, what a paradox it is that one species on our planet, supposedly the most intelligent, becomes the source of the possible destruction of nearly all life, including its own. (Harris, 2014, Chap. 1).


  1. More frequent and devastating superstorms. All around the world, there will be massive flooding, devastating winds, and billions of dollars in damages on a regular basis. Life will be much less predictable and secure everywhere on Earth.  Warmer oceans with moisture-laden atmosphere form the breeding grounds for hurricanes, cyclones, and other extreme weather events.  Warming induced changes in the jet stream and other factors produce “blocking patterns” in which storms get stuck in a single location rather than moving on. This greatly magnifies the wind and flooding damage from the storm. Coastal lands and cities, already subject to devastating storm surges due to rising ocean levels, will suffer even greater damages from frequent superstorms.


These conclusions are all the result of an overwhelming consensus on the part of scientists and scientific societies and institutions worldwide. It is both an absolute moral and practical imperative that we make radical immediate changes in the way we live and use energy. Romm recognizes this. Yet his narrow ideological framework skews the immense potential that human beings have for effectively dealing with climate change through addressing the entire nexus of human problems by way of fundamental system change.


Part Two: Climate Change or System Change


Without ever making an argument for his “market-based framework,” Romm simply assumes that all solutions to global climate change must be market based. Do human beings have a right to a decent, life supporting environment?  Do other species have a right to exist?  Romm places the need for “free market” solutions prior to these rights. Hence, the entire world may be destroyed if global warming cannot be mitigated through the market.  For Romm, this appears to be our only option.


Hence, for Romm, it is “consumers” who need to be convinced of the seriousness of climate change and alter their buying habits accordingly. Any innovations in efficiency or development of climate preserving technology needs to be economically marketable. Businesses need to be profitable. Innovations must be inexpensive enough to be competitive.  Indeed, this is happening now with solar panels as well as with wind power, but not with hydrogen fuel cell cars (p. 274).


The marketable solar panels and windmills, of course, are a good thing and give us hope. But what is strange here is that if there is a technology that could make a substantial difference for the well-being of future generations, that well-being must be sacrificed if the technology is not marketable.  What appears to come first as an inviolable framework (like the law of gravity) is the market, even if this means the destruction of civilization.


Governments (which he recognizes as absolutely essential for any credible future) apparently have only the ability to regulate inviolable markets. They cannot solve our problems by imposing climate saving measures that are not marketable.  Romm primarily considers two main initiatives that governments can take (and have taken): a carbon tax on fossil fuels and a cap and trade system. Carbon taxes have been used in a number of countries or regions (Sweden, Norway, Australia, British Columbia) with some success at reducing fossil fuel consumption (p. 177).


In a cap-and-trade system, a cap is a limit set on the amount of pollutant (such as carbon-based fuel emissions). Companies coming under their quota or cap can sell their permits to other companies (p. 178).  “A cap-and-trade system lets the market set the price for carbon dioxide, whereas in a tax, the government sets the price” (p. 179). The cap-and-trade has been the most popular option for businesses and has been widely used.


Mainstream economists often say that the best way to deal with fossil fuel reduction is to include the costs (to the public and the environment) in the price of the commodity, whereas traditionally these costs were externalized into the air, water, and land, and not included in the cost of doing business. But some environmentalists, like Romm, appear to lack awareness that there was a reason why capitalism polluted the environment so badly: the system is based on maximizing profits through exploitation of workers, consumers, and the environment (Chase-Dunn 1998). If you take away these methods of maximizing profits for the few at the expense of the many, you also take way capitalism as we have always known it. You cannot possibly save the planet for future generations by embracing a system based solely on profit maximization (Kovel 2007).


If you really want to include true costs for a commodity in the cost of doing business, then you have to bring in values: the value of protecting the environment or of not exploiting workers or of not ripping off the consumer. If you bring values into market relationships, then you have some form of market socialism, not capitalism. Market socialism understands that producing food, clothing, shelter, and a decent environment include a morally based set of activities, and if this is the case, the reduction of fossil fuel use and other necessary changes do not pose insurmountable problems. Within an institutionalized profit-maximizing framework, you can never prevent climate destruction, for the system itself promotes externalization and exploitation.  That is precisely why so many companies fund climate denial propaganda as well as circumvent environmental regulations (for example, by moving their production to countries with lax environmental standards).


Romm does urge us to base our consumption patterns on values.  We should be willing to sacrifice some things for the benefit of future generations, but for businesses it can only be “marketability,” since businesses need to make a profit, and there needs to be (Romm assumes) continual economic “growth.” But you cannot have perpetual growth on a finite planet. The law of entropy (a true natural law) prohibits this. Neither profit maximization, nor growth, are inviolable laws of economics. They are human designed institutions and need to change.


We are going to need markets where things are produced according to the following three principles: (1) they are produced as necessities (not billions of tons of useless, extraneous junk); (2) all things must be built to be recycled (no more single use plastics or throw away cheap crap), and (3) things must be made for durability (no more made to fail one week after the short warranty period expires, in other words, designed to break down and be thrown away). Romm never mentions these three absolute requirements for addressing the climate crisis, perhaps because they each require ending profit maximization and producing for use-value and true human welfare, something the ideology of pure capitalism prohibits.


Romm ends his book by citing the value-based appeal of Pope Francis: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for ourselves and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it” (p. 282). But he is not willing to examine the immoral and sociopathic nature of the capitalist system based on maximizing profit for its own sake, regardless of its consequences for society or nature. This makes him a perfect employee for the US government and a natural fit for a think tank like the Center for American Progress, both institutions religiously devoted to the dogmas of profit maximization.


Legitimate government is and should be based on values. A constitution for any legitimate government should specify rights for citizens, and it should protect them through due process of law. It should base itself on freedom, dignity, equality, and justice, not on the domination of the rich, or the military, or some king or a dictator. Government regulates business and the market for the common good, and today this necessarily includes conversion away from fossil fuels. Rights are moral principles deriving from human dignity. They form the basis for both legitimate government and decent economics.


By contrast, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an ideal only, not part of a binding constitution, and the UN itself is merely a treaty of sovereign nations, not a government in any way, shape, or form. The world today is a fragmented collection of militarized, sovereign states, and many of its governments are either “failed states” or undemocratic in the extreme. How are they going to unite to protect our right to a healthy environment?


The Constitution for the Federation of Earth (written by hundreds of world citizens working together from 1968 to 1991) correctly asserts that every human being has the right to clean air, water, food, and a healthy environment in which to live (Martin 2010a). The Earth Federation Government has the authority, the mandate, the economic and technical knowhow, and the worldwide scope to regulate business and human interactions to achieve these moral ends. It is this system change alone that can truly address the climate crisis (Martin 2013).


Nor should it be left up to some legislature to decide whether to pursue climate mitigation. The Republican Party in the US (many of whose representatives in Congress are climate deniers) has no right to condemn the people of Earth to perdition by blocking effective climate legislation. Neither does US President Trump have this right. This is not “democracy,” for in a democracy government acts for the common good.


If some technical invention (for example, hydrogen fuel cell cars) is deemed essential to climate preservation, then these need to be produced, and the Earth Federation government would most certainly do so, using its unlimited public banking and money creation functions. Our future and our survival should not and cannot be dependent on the whims of the stock market, nor the consumer market, nor on the whims of political parties or oligarchs. The Earth Constitution makes a protected environment a framework right, not a contingent political issue.


The Center for “American” progress?  Not global progress, global human rights, or global integrity, not world citizenship, not Earth Federation?  Here we come to the second contradiction in Romm’s set of assumptions. Everywhere he recognizes that the world needs to be addressing climate change in a unified and coordinated way because our collective future depends on this. Yet his unspoken assumption is a system of sovereign nation states toward which, as with his view of capitalism, Romm shows little or no critical awareness. This fragmented framework of some 193 sovereign nations appears as what we must accept as a fait accompli. Like capitalism, it is assumed as an unchangeable fact of nature, not as the flawed and arbitrary human creation that it is.


He says that climate change endangers “national security.”  Not human security, planetary security, or universal personal security, but national security. He quotes the US Department of Defense which declares “Climate change . . . poses immediate risks to US national security” (p. 133).  It becomes clear that although the fate of humanity is threatened by climate change, the bottom line will be protecting Americans as the world descends ever further into calamity and chaos.  All the world must work together closely to address the crisis of climate change, but, when push comes to shove, the Department of Defense will ensure that Americans emerge better off than the rest of humanity.


As with capitalism, Romm appears oblivious to the inability of sovereign nation-states to work together holistically to deal with the climate crisis.  Any nation can withdraw from climate treaties at any time.  Various nations are in perpetual conflict and struggle with their neighbors.  Big nations have imperial ambitions. The US has invaded or overthrown dozens of countries since World War Two and continues to interfere around the globe, today threatening or occupying Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, as well as calling Russia and China its “enemies,” much of this in violation of international laws.


Romm never mentions the fact, citied by a number of sources, that the US military is the single largest organization in the world in terms of polluting the environment. He never mentions that not only is its immense fossil fuel machinery a major source of global warming emissions, but the production and deployment of its bombs, missiles, and military equipment is a toxic nightmare for our planet (Sanders and Davis, 2009).  He never considers that you cannot fly B52s, or power huge warships with solar or wind power.


A green military would mean little or no military, something that can only happen under an Earth Federation served by the Earth Constitution.  Romm never mentions the fact that the nations of the world spend three quarters of a trillion annually on weapons and war, an immense financial resource that could effectively address the climate crisis if it were directed there. He never links mitigating climate crisis with ending wars and militarism.


Without ending the system of sovereign nation-states and the world’s war system, the results of on-going climate destruction will mean death and misery for populations of the poor and weak countries of the world, and the grabbing of the Earth’s remaining resources and survivable areas by the rich and powerful countries (see Martin 2010b, Part Two). It is just pie in the sky naiveté to think it will be any different. Romm wants to whole world to work together to deal with climate destruction, but the spoils will to go to the USA and not to the poor who also help to save the planet.


One final flaw in Romm’s circumscribed world view is his view of population.  He takes it as given that the Earth’s population will continue to explode, requiring a future planet to feed 9 or 10 billion people with diminished agricultural lands and depleted fisheries. Why assume this?  If we are capable of the serious changes necessary to eliminate fossil fuel emissions, why are we not capable of curtailing the global population? In fact, many environmentalists, such as Errol E. Harris (2014, Chap. 1) point to population curtailment and reduction and a fundamental key to dealing with global climate change.  Fewer people need fewer resources and produce fewer emissions and waste products.  It is as simple as that.


Romm is excellent on the science of climate change and the serious challenges that humanity faces today and everyday from the present moment to at least through the end of this century. But his narrow ideological assumptions allow him to propose no credible solutions.  We need worldwide efforts to educate women and provide them with the options for birth control that, if only this is done, will seriously reduce the population explosion and make a major contribution to mitigating the effects of global warming.


Second, we need to overcome the capitalist dogma that human beings can only economically relate to one another through a profit-maximizing set of institutions. This is simply naive, and climate change is much more easily addressed through a market socialism in which values (supervised by government representing the common good) determine much of investment and funding, not unmitigated greed.


Finally, climate change can only be effectively addressed by ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth and ending the insane military competition among sovereign nation-states.  This will truly unite the world and allow everyone, not just the rich and the powerful, to bear the burdens and reap the benefits of ending fossil fuel emissions and creating a sustainable, just and fulfilling world system. Everything necessary to effectively deal with the climate crisis is built into the Earth Constitution. Ratifying that Constitution is the most effective thing we can do to save our planet’s environment.



Works Cited:


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

Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  Found on-line in multiple languages and many websites such as:,,  and

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

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

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

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

Martin, Glen T. (2013). The Anatomy of a Sustainable World: Our Choice Between Climate Change or System Change. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Sanders, Barry and Mike Davis (2009). The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

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


The Socialist Imperative and Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

Human beings are moving toward moral maturity. The psychologists and philosophers of human development have reached a broad consensus concerning the stages of moral, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive development. Upon reaching adulthood we are capable of continuous growth toward becoming ever-more “worldcentric.” We are capable of becoming ever-more “integrated” and “integrating” persons, embracing the vast diversity of humanity and other sensitive living creatures with an encompassing love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. We are capable of replacing violence and fragmentation with the harmony of compassionate unity in diversity.

The resources open to us to enhance this growth process include philosophical reflection, meditation, holistic education, and institutional reform. People are more easily led to the dehumanizing of others, to a lack of care for others and hardness of heart, when they are devoid of all or some of these resources. Lack of access to these resources can result in cultures and institutions that promote bigotry, fear, narrowness, ethnocentrism, racism, and the dehumanization of others that accompany these responses.

The socialist imperative is the imperative of our emerging human maturity in which we discover that we are one humanity in whom reason and love must develop to the point where we make the Earth a decent home for all its children. However today, as philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm points out, the only oneness recognized by the present Lords of the Earth is our planet as both a battleground for global wars and a giant marketplace for capital accumulation. Fromm declares that we need a new, worldwide “socialist humanism” in which economics is placed in the service of human flourishing and well-being:

The one world is one, so far, inasmuch as it is one potential battlefield, rather than a new system of world citizenship. We live in one world, yet in his feelings and thoughts contemporary man still lives in the nation state. His loyalties are still primarily to sovereign states and not to the human race. This anachronism can only lead to disaster…. The alternative of socialism or barbarism has become frighteningly real today, when forces working toward barbarism seem to be stronger than those working against it. (1962: 171-173)

For Fromm, we need a new renaissance of worldwide socialist humanism in which our “new technical powers” are used “for the sake of man”: “it is a new society in which the norms for man’s unfolding govern the economy, rather than the social and political process being governed by blind and anarchic economic interests” (ibid. 173). The socialist imperative is the moral imperative at the heart of human maturity: our personal individuality is not separable from our common humanity. Our love and compassion have grown to identify with the entire world, its human children and its living creatures. Education, economics, politics, and institutions need to be directed toward making our planet a decent place for all to live.

We need one world with a world parliament that has the mandate and the vision to actualize a democratic socialist, loving, and sustainable environment for the entire Earth. It is not only the new human maturity emphasizing the development of our reason and our love that advocates democratic socialism, the socialist imperative is also the moral imperative found at the heart of all the great scriptures of the world: the imperative for love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. It recognizes the moral demand at the heart of our human situation to recognize our common humanity with others and organize our institutions in such a way that protects and enhances the human dignity of everyone.

In Christianity it is the universal love (agape) taught by Jesus. In Vedic religions it is the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family). With the growth of critical self-awareness among human beings especially since the 15th century, and prominently since the “Enlightenment” of the 18th century, the moral imperative found at the heart of the great scriptures of the world is being progressively disentangled from the dogmas, rituals, mantras and institutional frameworks of these religions. From Immanuel Kant’s 18th century affirmation of human dignity independently of all religion to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is now become possible, for the first time in history, to proclaim universal ethical principles independently of all religious scriptures: “recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

The democratic revolutions of the 18th century embodied the revolutionary idea of the equality of all citizens and their inherent “natural rights” existing independently of governmental authorities (which might deny those rights). The U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson (a follower of British philosopher John Locke) declares: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The first generation of human rights was born: the rights to freedom, civil liberty, religion, assembly, habeas corpus, and due process of law.

However, the 19th century with its industrial revolution saw the vast expansion of the capitalist system, with the so-called “right to private property” enshrined in laws that allowed the owners of factories to employ child labor, pay starvation wages to employees, force labor to work for 12 hours per day, and build factories replete with dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. This economic system created masses of extremely poor people living in horrific conditions struggling to survive while being exploited in every possible way to enhance the profits of the owners.

Moral outrage permeates the writings of Karl Marx and many other 19th century revolutionary critics of this horrific system of exploitation and degradation. Scholars such as José Miranda in his book Marx Against the Marxists (1986) show that the so-called “materialist” interpretation of Marx that repudiates the moral dimension in favor of historical forces operating independently of morality is false. Marx was steeped in the Bible and animated by a much deeper moral love and compassion than the “Bourgeois morality” that he repudiated.

The Socialist Imperative recognizes our common humanity, our “species being” as Marx called it, and the imperative of society to organize itself in ways that optimize human equality, dignity, and freedom. In this respect, the socialist imperative is fundamentally identical with the democratic imperative, for democracy is also the organization of society around human equality, dignity, and freedom. Our collective understanding of the moral requirement to recognize our common human dignity, emphasized by Kant in the 18th century, was now expanded in the 19th century with the birth of “second generation” rights: the rights to the conditions that make possible our individual human flourishing and development: education, health care, sanitation, and the basic necessities for life such as food, clothing, and shelter.

The U.N. Universal Declaration of 1948 includes both generations of rights. Article 25 declares: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” The moral discourse of humanity and our ‘species being,’ now divorced from formal religions and forming the ground for a universal ethical discourse, affirms that economics and society must be organized to preserve human dignity and opportunity for all, even for the least privileged members of society. Human beings continued to grow toward moral maturity.

The worldwide recognition of multiple global crises during the 20th century activated understanding that there is a third generation of human rights. It is not enough to have civil liberties and one’s basic needs satisfied if there is constant war, fear, and violence nearly everywhere on Earth. It is not enough to have liberty and wellbeing if the global climate is collapsing all around us portending ever increasing disasters throughout our lives. Human beings have a right to peace, and a right to a protected and wholesome planetary environment. Human rights become a coherent set of ideals surrounding our common humanity and our universal human dignity. One cannot have some of these without the others. All these rights (and our corresponding responsibilities) form an integrated whole. Human dignity demands institutions that honor this dignity.

The Socialist Imperative The 4th century Greek fathers of the Christian Church understood the socialist imperative that was taught by Jesus the Christ: St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) wrote: “Do not say, ‘I am using what belongs to me.’ You are using what belongs to others. All the wealth of the world belongs to you and to the others in common, as the sun, air, earth, and all the rest.” (Cort, 1988: 45) St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) wrote: “God has ordered all things to be produced so that there should be food in common for all, and that the earth should be the common 4 possession of all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it the right for a few.” (Ibid. 47) In the 18th century, social philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was to agree with St. Ambrose concerning the system of scarcity imposed when the resources of the earth became “the right of a few”:

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” (In Martin, 2008: 147)

Historian and Christian thinker Richard Henry Tawney in his book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) writes: “Compromise is as impossible between the Church of Christ and the idolatry of wealth, which is the practical religion of capitalist societies, as it was between the Church and the state idolatry of the Roman Empire” (In Cort, 1988: 173). Christian thinker Enrique Dussel in his book Ethics and Community (1986) declares of sinners:

They totalize themselves, asserting themselves to be God, fetishizing the divinizing themselves. They fall into idolatry…. The act by which one asserts oneself to be the end of other persons—as factory owners think they have the right to the factory’s profit even though that profit be their workers’ hunger transformed into money—is idolatry…. These modern “gods” are the product of the “logic” of sin, of the domination of one human being over another…. (1986: 19).

For Dussel, the dominant world capitalist system creates a pseudo-morality for itself in order to justify and cover up its vast regime of domination and exploitation. This conventional morality is the negation of the socialist imperative taught by Jesus to love one another in a spirit of harmony and sharing. For philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952): “The ultimate problem of production is the production of human beings. To this end the production of goods is intermediate and auxiliary. It is by this standard that the present system stands condemned…. The means have to be implemented by a social-economic system that establishes and uses the means for the production of free human beings associating with one another on terms of equality” (1993: 170).

Economics and social institutions need to support the quest of each person to develop his or her potential. This is the socialist imperative. However, for Dewey, capitalism reverses this imperative by sacrificing human beings to the drive for private profit. For philosopher Michael Luntley, in his 1990 book on The Meaning of Socialism, capitalism destroys the capacity of people to pursue the good (including their own potential for development). It systematically obstructs moral pursuit of the good. It introduces an “atomism” in which each possesses a “negative freedom” to pursue his or her own welfare at the expense of nature and the community.

It repudiates that normativity in which society collectively supports the development of each of its members and their cooperative effort to actualize justice, freedom, and truth within our human situation. In his book Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980), philosopher of law John Finnis identifies seven intrinsically valuable goods some combination of which makes for a fulfilled and worthwhile human life. These are life, knowledge, practical reason, friendship, aesthetic experience, play, and religion (in the broad sense of a discerning a meaning to existence).

Finnis mounts a powerful critique of the utilitarian doctrine that there can be some instrumental means to “achieving the greatest good of the greatest number” (a justification often used for capitalism). Unrestrained competition in a “free market” does not create the greatest good. Rather it actively interferes with our common human pursuit of what is good. The fullness of any human life involves the ability to develop and participate in these goods along some or all or these multiple lines, and the common good of society involves the organization of economics and institutions to make this possible for all citizens.

Capitalism violates this common good. None of these intrinsic goods (“natural rights”) is identified as wealth or possessions. All of them require a genuine “community” that goes much deeper than the formal contractual basis of capitalist society: competing commercial persons and entities making legal contracts with one another. A “community,” Finnis insists, can only be completed when it is bound together by a constitution that “completes” the union, granting rights and responsibilities to all citizens and pursuing the common good of them all.

At the planetary level, only a global social contract, with economics and institutions predicated on the common good of all, can complete and vivify the human community. This vision of the “completed community” is the democratic socialist vision. For political philosopher Bernard Crick (1987):

Socialism has both an empirical theory and a moral doctrine. The theory is that the rise and fall of cohesion in societies is best explained not by the experience and perpetuation of elites (which is conservatism), nor by the initiatives and inventions of competitive individuals (which is liberalism), but by the relationship to the ownership and control of the means of production of the primary producers of wealth…. The doctrine asserts the primacy and mutual dependence of the values of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, and it draws on the theory to believe that greater equality will lead to more cooperation than competition, that this will in turn enhance fraternity and hence liberate from inhibition, restriction and exploitation both individual personality and the full productive potential of society. (79)

Just as John Dewey argues that the institutions of society should be directed toward the actualization of our human potential so Crick asserts that both individuals and the productive potential of society are enhanced by socialism. We have allowed wealth and power to dominate our so-called free societies to our own detriment. Contemporary social thinker Terry Eagleton writes: “We know that socialism has established itself when we are able to look back with utter incredulity on the idea that a handful of commercial thugs were given free rein to corrupt the minds of the public with Neanderthal political views convenient for their bank balances but for little else” (2011: 28).

Donald Trump, now President of the United States, is a case in point. Political thinker Andre Gorz affirms:

For socialists it is a question, to an increasing extent, of organizing society and sociability as spaces for individual emancipation and development…. Only through such solidaristic association and voluntary co-operation can individuals free themselves from their subordination to the uncontrolled logic of capital and market forces to become actors in the creation of a new society. To fight for socialism means concretely to claim the right of 6 individuals to freedom, equality, physical integrity and self-determination, by acting so that the social conditions which conflict with this right are remodeled. (1994: 41)

Socialism does not mean central planning by some unaccountable elite. However, global society must tame the “uncontrolled logic of capital” in the service of planetary maturity. Democratic socialism at this point in history will be a market socialism. It will combine the reputed efficiency of markets with the moral imperative that institutions and economics support the development of our higher human potential and pursuit of the good. Christopher Pierson writes:

The core principle of the market socialist position is easily stated. At its simplest, market socialism describes an economic and political system which combines the principles of social ownership of the economy with the continuing allocation of commodities (including labor) through the mechanism of markets…. [Market socialists] offer an alternative model in which markets are combined with varying forms of the social ownership of capital. Amongst its supporters, the market is recommended not only as a way of attaining greater economic efficiency under socialism, but also as a way of securing greater individual liberty or a more equal value of liberty, of increasing democracy and of enhancing social justice. (84-85)

The socialist imperative, therefore, involves the moral imperative to organize our institutions to enhance human freedom and well-being. This is clearly not done when the wealth of the world is sucked up by a tiny minority of extremely wealthy persons and corporations. It is not a matter of government planning of everything. This is merely a red herring put forward by current ruling class propaganda to serve their own interests. As Gorz asserts above, capitalisms’ “uncontrolled logic” devastates human communities and the environment worldwide. You cannot have uncontrolled and perpetual “growth” on a finite planet, and you cannot have the 1% sucking up the wealth of the planet, if we want a decent future for our children.

As Michael Harrington asserts in his 1972 book Socialism, socialism is not simply about an economic theory that says that ownership must be in the cooperative hands of people for the common good of everyone, it is also about “a truly new order of things” in which human fulfillment within the framework of a protected natural world is the foundation of our institutions and economic arrangements. For several thousand years, Harrington affirms, human beings have struggled in the “desert” of scarcity, deprivation, and unjust distributions of wealth. We have gotten used to this “bitter experience; we do not dare to think that things could be otherwise” (1972: 272)

But Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, quoted above, rings true. We have allowed the few to claim “private ownership” of what belongs to us all as our birthright: to live with freedom, peace, and well-being within a protected planetary environment. The few will always intone the mantra that this is impossible, that scarcity and deprivation are the natural human condition. But those who are morally awake and mature know that divine compassion, love, justice, and freedom need to become incarnate within our human condition. We know that the socialist imperative embodies these principles.

Our task is to end the wretched slavery, poverty and misery that plague our human condition where the few live well at the expense of the many. Our task, in the words of Jesus the Christ is to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. Our task, expressed in the words of Article 28 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to actualize this: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” We are far from such a “world order” because we lack a global social contract.

Our Global Social Contract Just as we have seen Michael Luntley affirm that no common moral good for human life can arise from the “atomism” of capitalism, so the moral imperative that actualizes our third generation rights to peace and a protected environment cannot arise from the atomism and fragmentation of the system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states. Every nation believes it has the “right” to militarize because it is faced with potential enemies. In doing so, each fragmented nation-state becomes an unwitting enemy of humanity. Human beings have a genuine and unalienable right to a world order that actualizes all three generations of human rights, including peace, that is, to a world order united to create our planet as a decent home for all its citizens and other living creatures.

Today people who are born into small, poor nations appear to be born into a prison camp. They cannot travel beyond their tiny borders. No one wants them, and their chances for a flourishing life are severely restricted within their own nation, subject as it is to exploitation and domination within the global capitalist system and under the powerful imperial nations. Today, people born anywhere, whether in a large or small nation, are forced to pay for a militarization that violates their right to live in peace. How many people in the world today who are not making a profit from the war system want to have war rather than peace?

The apparent necessity of this planetary war system is a direct result of the fragmentation and atomism of the system of territorially bound so-called “sovereign” states: as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and many others recognized. No state is willing to allow enforceable laws above itself. Every state embraces this lawless world system of war, scarcity, suspicion, secrecy, hate and fear. Many nations claim the “right” to build nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, claiming the need for “self-defense” while increasing the terror of those at whom these weapons are aimed. The capitalist system of domination and exploitation profits immensely from this war system. Great wealth is extracted from the development, manufacture, and sale of weapons worldwide.

As many thinkers have pointed out, the capitalist system is intricately linked to the system of militarized territorial nation-states. The socialist imperative is the imperative to unite humanity around the principles of universal justice, equality, freedom, peace, and environmental sustainability. It is not only the scourge of capitalism that prevents us from leaving the desert of historical scarcity for the promised land of human fulfilment. We cannot escape from the desert as long as we embrace the parochial concept of a world divided into absolute territorial fragments.

The very existence of this fragmented, militarized world clearly violates Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration. It violates our rights to peace and a protected planetary environment. As many thinkers have pointed out from the 17th century to the present, the system of “sovereign” nation-states is intrinsically a “war-system.” In the early 21st century, we now know that we are one world, one humanity, one universal set of moral imperatives, and one interlinked destiny. Why do we continue to cling to the atomism and fragmentation, centuries old, that violates these truths?

Neither the word ‘capitalism’ nor the word ‘socialism’ appears in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Yet, the Constitution announces the socialist imperative at the very outset, in its Preamble. It proceeds to 8 construct a world system that institutionally embodies these principles in a practical, organized, democratic manner. The Preamble states: 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….

The principle of unity in diversity declares that the wonderful diversity of humanity, its languages and cultures, must be embraced in a political, economic, and institutional unity that preserves and protects that diversity. We are all legal world citizens under the Earth Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities guaranteed in Articles 12 and 13. The socialist principle is articulated here in three dimensions: first war shall be outlawed and peace prevail. The socialist imperative is the imperative for social cooperation on behalf of the freedom, equality, and community of all people: a society and economy dedicated to the right of each person to develop her or her life potential.

The right of peace is a necessary component in this equation. Secondly, the Preamble states that the “new age” will be one in which the “earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.” Again, the socialist imperative is affirmed. This planet and its resources must be equitably used for the benefit of all, not the 1% who own more than 50% of the world’s resources, not the richest 15% who currently own 85% of the world’s resources. Third, the Preamble states that “basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination.”

This affirms the socialist principle that our common human dignity must be protected and cherished through concrete economic and social institutions that guarantee all people equally both freedom and well-being. We have both the “rights” to well-being and the shared “responsibilities” of freedom. The basic idea of democracy, the basic requirements of universal moral principles, and the socialist imperative are one and the same. We are tasked as human beings to take back our planet Earth from the 1% and make it a decent home for all persons and other living creatures.

The Constitution sets up a World Parliament of three houses: a House of Peoples with 1000 representatives elected from equal districts worldwide, a House of Nations with 1, 2, or 3 representatives appointed or elected by each nation, depending on its population, and the House of Counsellors with 200 representatives, 10 each from 20 world regions who will represent the whole of the planet and the common good. The mandate of the World Parliament for each and every representative, however, is not to represent the parochial interests of their constituencies but to address the global problems that are beyond the capacity of nations to handle: disarming the nations and ending wars, protecting universal human rights, diminishing social differences, and protecting the planetary environment.

The World Parliament is socialist in this sense: its mandate is the good of everyone within an economic and institutional framework that makes this possible. The basic premises of the Earth Constitution focus on human dignity and the rights of everyone to live in peace, security, with all the basic necessities required for this, within an environment that sustainably supports life, with the clean water, air, and land required for healthy living. These basic premises are identical with those of socialism. The reason for this is that socialism is most fundamentally a moral conception, whereas capitalism is a self-proclaimed amoral system governed by what it claims are “objective economic laws.”

This claim to being “amoral” covers up the fact that capitalism is objectively immoral. It objectively violates human rights, human 9 dignity, human freedom, human equality, and human fraternity, as well as our rights to peace and to a protected sustainable environment. The list of “specific powers” granted to the Earth Federation government in Article 4 includes the following: “Place under world controls essential natural resources which may be limited or unevenly distributed about the Earth. Find and implement ways to reduce wastes and find ways to minimize disparities when development or production is insufficient to supply everybody with all that may be needed.” The Constitution is permeated with this imperative: “to supply everybody with all that may be needed.”

If we really mean “all” when we say “all,” then we are taking our stand on the democratic socialist imperative. The Constitution affirms a market economy directed to the satisfaction of basic human needs, with global public banking providing necessary income and financing to all on the basis of their ideas and ability to work, not on the basis of collateral or previously accumulated capital. It establishes a market socialist democracy directed to the common good of all the people on the planet and future generations.

In the list of 19 economic and social rights given in Article 13 (which includes a number of rights to a protected, sustainable planetary environment) there is one that may initially strike us as odd: “Assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.” But this is fundamental to the entire framework of the Constitution which presents a set of institutions designed to achieve exactly this: the dignity and fundamental rights of each child must include a global social and economic framework in which that child can realize his or her potential. Like global democracy, and like the universal moral principles of equal justice, love, and compassion, the socialist imperative means “all” when it says “all.”

Unless we can unite together under a global social contract as presented in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, the chances of actualizing Article 28 of the Universal Declaration, or of obeying Jesus the Christ’s commandment to open the way for receiving the Kingdom of God on Earth, appear slim indeed. The immoral, fragmented, and anachronistic institutions that dominate our world actively defeat morality, justice, and environmental sustainability at every turn. Both capitalism and the system of so-called sovereign nation-states are atomistic, fragmented, and immoral, both in their conceptions and in their observable consequences.

They cannot be evolved; they must be transformed through founding a world system based on the democratic, moral, and socialist imperatives from the very beginning. We must understand that we no longer need to wander in the desert of scarcity, injustice, and immaturity. We must rise to planetary maturity and affirm that we can institutionally ascend to a real fulfillment of our human project. We can enter the Promised Land only if we keep our eyes steadily on that vision; or at very least, we can establish the necessary institutions that make this vision possible. Unless we take this stand now, the future looks bleak indeed. Nothing less than this indicates the significance of our present historical moment with its opportunity to affirm our global social contract under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Works Cited

  • Cort, John C. (1988). Christian Socialism: An Informal History. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  • Crick, Bernard (1987). Socialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 10
  • Dewey, John (1993). The Political Writings. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, eds. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.
  • Dussel, Enrique (1986). Ethics and Community. Robert R. Barr, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  • Eagleton, Terry (2011). Why Marx Was Right. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
  • Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Fromm, Erich (1962). Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Gorz, André (1994). Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. Chris Turner, trans. London: Verso Press.
  • Harrington, Michael (1972). Socialism. New York: Saturday Review Press.
  • Kant, Immanuel (1964). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. H. J. Paton, trans. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Luntley, Michael (1990). The Meaning of Socialism. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing. Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical & Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. Martin, Glen T. (2010). Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. Miranda, José (1986). Marx Against the Marxists. The Christian Humanism of Karl Marx. John Drury, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Social Democracy in Venezuela

Social Democracy in Venezuela, Latin America, and the World

Glen T. Martin


Photo by Glen T. Martin

The Bolivarian Revolution is alive and well in Venezuela. Having just returned from nine days in the epicenter of the Bolivarian Revolution, I would like to describe some of what I learned in meetings with government and judicial officials and with a number of leaders of the thriving Venezuela cooperative movement. The phrase “Bolivarian Revolution” means a living affirmation of democracy, socialism, patriotism, independence, and anti-imperialism.

These concepts integrate together in the excitement of a revolutionary vision of solidarity and hope. The extraordinary constitution for Venezuela, introduced in 1999 when Hugo Chavez was first elected President, is called “Bolivarian,” and the government since that time calls itself “Goberieno Bolivariano de Venezuela.” The constitution affirms a “legal order” based on the “superior values” of “life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility…human rights, ethics, and political pluralism” (Article 2).

The democratic socialist government under President Chavez (and continuing under President Maduro since Chavez’s passing in 2013) affirms at least four programs that have many wealthy Venezuelans and North American neo-liberal capitalists seeing red: (1) food programs for all who need: no hungry, (2) housing programs for all who need: no homeless, (3) free education for all who need: no illiteracy, (4) free healthcare for all who need: no unnecessary illness and death. Unlike Cuba (which I have visited 6 times), where the government itself enforces these things to the exclusion of political pluralism, Venezuela has set itself the noble and monumental task of achieving a truly democratic socialism that embraces political pluralism.

Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), whose name has become a symbol of the struggle for independence from imperialism in Latin America, was a great anti-colonial military leader and visionary who was inspired by the democratic revolutions in France and the United States. He led forces that defeated the Spanish dominators, and he played a key role in establishing Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela as sovereign states. Everywhere in Venezuela today he is linked with Hugo Chavez as the two central visionaries behind the Bolivarian Revolution.

On the wall of one government building in Caracas is a quote from Bolivar’s 1829 letters: “Los Estados Unidos parecen destinados por la Providencia para plagar al America de miserias a nombre de la libertad” (the United States seems destined by providence to plague America with misery in the name of freedom). A prophetic statement indeed. As historian Greg Grandin chronicles in Empire’s Workshop, since the Monroe doctrine of 1823 the U.S. has consciously dominated and exploited Latin America with a range of vicious neo-colonial forms of imperialism.

As the US based movement called School of Americas Watch points out, in the past several decades one key element of this has been the training of Latin American military forces in the “counter-insurgency warfare” techniques of torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances. During the 1970s and 80s, the US helped coordinate the infamous “Operation Condor” in which right wing governments around Latin America systematically implemented these brutal terrorist methods against left-wing activists and spokespersons. These facts underline the Bolivarian revolutionary theme of patriotism, independence, and anti-imperialism.

In Caracas we visited a former military prison now preserved as a museum. The two gentlemen who gave us a private tour had both been incarcerated there for many years. The museum includes lists of the disappeared and assassinated under previous US supported right wing Venezuelan governments, and it helps us understand the ringing affirmation in the Venezuelan Constitution in which all public authorities, including the military, “even during a state of emergency” are “prohibited from effecting, permitting or tolerating the forced disappearance of persons” and are required “not to obey” any order to carry out such an act (Article 45).

The museum also powerfully links together the struggle for Latin American liberation in country after country. It honors Ché Guevara from Argentina, Camilo Cienfuegos from Cuba, Salvador Allende from Chile, Augusto Sandino from Nicaragua, Farabundo Martí from El Salvador, Jacobo Arbenz from Guatemala, Emiliano Zapata from Mexico and many others. And it links the struggle against imperialism to the resistance in Iraq with photographs of the US forms of torture in the Abu Ghraib prison in Bagdad and elsewhere. In December 2014, President Obama issued an “emergency” Executive Order that identified Venezuela as a “threat” to human rights and to the United States, citing the actions of some of Venezuela’s leaders.

The dripping irony here that strikes the Venezuelans, as it does all politically aware persons, is apparently lost on the one-dimensional imperial robots and pundits of US exceptionalism—as the US executes by assassination teams or remote-control drones people suspected of resisting its imperial juggernauts in countries across the world. Realizing the possible significance of Obama’s declaration (the “threat to human rights” has been used as a cover to destroy the independent governments of Libya and many other countries), President Maduro called this “the most aggressive, unjust and poisonous step that the U.S. has ever taken against Venezuela.”

The patriotism and anti-imperialism of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela is a tool, perhaps a necessary one at this point in history, in the struggle against imperialism. But I made the point to the people I spoke with that the emphasis on patriotic loyalty to national sovereignty is a losing proposition in the long run. The imperial forces love the fact that the world is divided into some 193, mostly militarized, independent sovereign territories. They invade Vietnam and who dares to stop them? They overthrow the democratically elected governments of Guatemala (1953) and Chile (1973), and who comes to the aid of these victimized countries? They destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya with relative impunity.

Despite its stirring patriotism and wonderful commitment to justice and socialism, Venezuela taken as a “threat” is in grave danger. The government has collected evidence that the US has been funneling money to dissident groups within Venezuela to attack government buildings, threaten people’s security, disrupt transportation, and destabilize the country. The only real solution for all “sovereign nations” is to join together under an Earth Federation with the authority and strength to put an end to planetary imperialism by the global centers of capitalist wealth and planetary exploitation. If only 10 or 15 nations in the “global periphery” were to join together under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, open to all who wish to be part of the “Earth Federation,” the world would reach a fundamental turning point toward universal democracy, justice, equality, and freedom.

Victimized nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia would be begging to join the emerging Earth Federation as a way out of the trap of poverty and domination. Patriotism and the rhetoric of sovereignty may help peripheral nations struggle resolutely against the imperial drive for “full spectrum dominance” over every corner of the planet in the service of this global system of domination and exploitation, but the dominators use precisely this fragmented system to divide and conquer, destabilizing and recolonizing one country after another with relative impunity. It often begins with a declaration such as “Venezuela is a threat.”

The way out of this world system that we inherit from early-modern fragmented thinking is to make the paradigmshift to holism. Holism is the new paradigm discovered by all the sciences during the 20th century: human beings are one, civilization is one, the ecological interdependence of all life on Earth is one. Why are we not then politically and economically one? I elucidate this concept in some detail in my newest book One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract.

Why do we continue with this absurd fragmentation of human civilization within absolute militarized territorial boundaries? Most of the values of the Venezuelan revolution are universal: equality, justice, freedom, dignity, peace, sustainability, and democratic socialism. Universal values need a universal constitution to establish and protect a decent world system for all humanity. The Earth Constitution, widely available in many languages both in print and on the internet, lays out a practical and comprehensive way for the vast majority of human beings to take charge of their planet from the 1% who now dominate nearly everything. The Earth Constitution provides all the democratic socialist rights and freedoms specified in the Venezuelan Constitution.

But it also offers us the only practical and credible way to establish freedom for all human beings: a freedom that includes peace and environmental sustainability for our endangered planet. Many Venezuelans that I met were very interested, including many in the PROUT network of spiritual-economic cooperatives flourishing in that country. Just as their own Bolivarian Constitution poses an ideal of just and free governance for Venezuela, they told me, so the world needs an ideal of where we should be headed and of what kind of world system we need to be working toward. That ideal is presented to humanity in a concrete form through the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Let us activate in ourselves a new patriotism: an intense loyalty to our precious planet Earth and to all human beings everywhere.

The Logic of Disarmament and the Tragedy of the Commons

Glen T. Martin

(For meetings of the World Intellectual Forum, Hyderabad, India, June 2019)

There are times which are not ordinary, and in such times it is not enough to follow the road. It is necessary to know where it leads, and, if it leads nowhere, to follow another…. But the practical thing for a traveler who is uncertain of his path is not to proceed with the utmost rapidity in the wrong direction: it is to consider how to find the right one.            R.H. Tawney

Abstract. This article reviews the economic principle called the “Tragedy of the Commons” that is commonly applied to environmental analyses and planetary population issues. It then shows how the principle applies to our global political commons, and how it bears on the problems of peace and disarmament. It reviews the concept of national sovereignty, which, like the capitalist concept of self-interest, predicates an atomistic self-interest that is at the root of the tragedy of the commons. Finally, the article shows how the Constitution for the Federation of Earth overcomes this dilemma through embodying the new scientific paradigm of holism. It then reviews the work of the Provisional World Parliament as a functional developmental praxis directed toward overcoming the tragedy of the commons as this applies to peace and disarmament.

The idea of the tragedy of the commons has become fundamental to the contemporary conceptual repertoire of those concerned with global issues. The idea was first formulated by economist William Forster Lloyd in 1833 and became a well-known hypothesis after the publication of Garrett Hardin’s famous article by that name in 1968 (see Hardin 1980). Most fundamentally to date, the idea has been used with respect to economics, ecology, population issues, and environmental science.

A tragedy of the commons, in its standard version, happens when a common resource is freely open to users operating out of “rational self-interest.” The value of using the commons (for example, grazing cattle on public lands or fishing in international waters) is direct to the individual users, but the depletion or degradation of the commons (diminishing of the grazing lands through over-grazing or depletion of fish stocks through over-fishing) is born somewhat equally by all the users.  Hence, the negative value of the degradation process to individual users is considerably less than the immediate positive value of unlimited usage. Until, of course, the grazing land becomes so degraded as to be useless or the fishery collapses because overfishing has destroyed the regenerative capacity of the fish in the ocean. An unrestricted, freely used commons invites tragedy.

Garrett Hardin applies this principle to the population of the Earth. He decries the UN’s 1967 affirmation that the decision regarding the number of children to have is the right of each family. Hardin argues that overpopulation of the Earth is rapidly leading to a planetary tragedy of the global commons. Since this concept entered the common consciousness, there have been a host of studies showing ways that this general thesis needs modification. For example, some cooperative communities, including indigenous cultures, actually do operate successfully with regard to a commons based on principles of the common good and sharing rather than exclusive “rational self-interest.” The idea that people act out of rational self-interest, is of course, a dogma of capitalism and fundamental to the so-called “economic rationality” of free markets.

Garrett Hardin argues that we cannot effectively appeal to conscience (and hence voluntary restraint in the use of a commons), but rather need to legally regulate the uses of commons according to some standard of justice that governs who uses and the behavior of those who use. This principle has become very important in contemporary debates concerning the need for sustainability in all its dimensions, from overuse of land, to extraction of resources, to pollution of air, soil, and water. However, few have drawn out implications of this principle regarding the system of sovereign nation-states and the corresponding global problems of war, peace, and disarmament.

Both the capitalist system and the system of sovereign nation-states developed out of the early-modern paradigm that began to be solidified by the 17th century. During this century the works of Francis Bacon argued that science and its stepchild technology placed human beings in the position of being able to conquer nature on behalf of their own self-interest. Similarly, in 1648, the ruling powers of Europe came together after the Thirty Years War to formulate the foundations of today’s world political system.  Every nation was to have absolute territorial boundaries within which its governmental authorities would be supreme.  These same authorities would be independent in their relation to other governments, that is, autonomous in their foreign policies. The traditional concept of “sovereignty” was redefined to fit this new, atomistic model (see Harris 2008, Chap. 1).

The consequence, as many thinkers from the 17th century to the present have noted, was that a “war-system” had been created in which self-interested national fragments would complete with one another economically, politically, and culturally in a system that today encompasses the entire planet. Beyond the borders of these territorial islands of legally enforced peace, Thomas Hobbes declared in the 17th century, the nation-states confront one another as “gladiators.” The system imperative is war and armaments, and not peace or disarmament. It militates against any notion of a planetary common good.

In his 1795 essay on “Perpetual Peace,” Immanuel Kant called this system of militarized sovereign nation-states “savage and barbaric” for the same reason: the system created by these islands of law placed their respective governments into a global fragmentation in which there was no effective law or government over these autonomous nation-state islands. Kant declared that only world federation could establish peace in the world. Nation-states must give up their “lawless” freedom (the so-called ‘right’ to make war) and find peace under the lawful constraints of enforceable world law (Kant 1957).  In the 19th century, Hegel observed this same phenomenon—that when there is a clash of “wills” represented by the heads of states, the ultimate resolution could only be settled by war (1991, pars. 331, 333-334).

In his 2008 book, Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance, philosopher Errol E. Harris agrees with this traditional assessment:

That enmity and war between sovereign states is inevitable has been recognized by political theorists from Hobbes to Hegel and, as we have seen, several more contemporary writers…. This parlous situation is the direct consequence of the claim to sovereignty of the nations of the world, a claim that admits no law superior to its own, and which gives unquestioning priority to national interests, especially those regarded as “vital,” namely, first and foremost, security from foreign aggression, and secondly economic prosperity…. Neither International Law nor the United Nations can ameliorate this state of affairs. International law lays down as its first principle that its sole subjects are sovereign states, and then defines sovereign states as those which acknowledge no legislation superior to their own, thus annulling its own authority. (2008, 122-23)

In the 20th century we entered into what German thinker Jürgen Moltmann called “the end-time” (2012, 46). After two world wars of horrifying destruction of life and property around the globe, the world entered into the era of nuclear weapons, placing the fate of humanity into tremendous danger that continues through today. Just as nations can enter in, or withdraw from, climate treaties according to their arbitrary will, so they can enter into, or withdraw from, disarmament treaties according to their will. In 2018, for example, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed with Russia in 1987.

Under the present world system, the United States had the legal right to withdraw from the Disarmament Treaty, just as it had the legal right to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, passed by the General Assembly in 2015, are predicated on this fragmented paradigm of sovereign states that is at the heart of our tragedy. Item 18 states that, “We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity.” This means that Brazil, for example, acting as all nations do out of economic self-interest, has the legal right to cut down and destroy “the lungs of the Earth,” even though the Amazon basin is an integral component of our planetary climate system. The system legalizing the self-interest of each nation inevitably functions to destroy the common good of all humanity.

Nations operate according to perceived self-interest and recognize no binding laws above themselves. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, established in 1998, has only the authority to “promote” disarmament through persuasion directed to the relevant sovereign-state powers. Sovereign nations will never recognize any UN agency as having binding authority, since the UN itself is merely a treaty of sovereign nations and not a government. So-called “international laws” are themselves merely treaties signed by sovereign states who can ignore the treaty, withdraw from it, or interpret it in their own prejudicial favor, at any time.

Just as our global commons is experiencing the tragedy of the commons through climate collapse, so the world is threatened continually with global wars or nuclear holocaust.  Another tragedy of the commons perpetually happening and threatening the existence of us all. Our planetary commons constitutes our global political space, populated by human civilization everywhere on the planet, and (as Kant again put it) the fact that the planet is a sphere and equally the common home for everyone. The common good of the planet requires the ending of war and disarmament, yet the political structure of the planet inevitably destroys that common good through the threat of total war, and the waste of trillions of dollars in resources that need to be used to address the climate crisis and other global problems. The institutionalized imperative of the system is war and armaments, and disarmament is impossible without changing the system.

As Garrett Hardin points out, neither morality nor education can be seriously effective in preventing the tragedy of the commons. Only enforceable legislation that protects the commons and the common good can prevent this tragedy. Human beings have known that we live on a common, planetary home at least since the 17th century, the same century that produced the false early-modern paradigm. This paradigm was based on atomism, mechanism, and determinism as well as an ideology positing a human and social atomism in which operating out of “self-interest” was considered the essence of rationality.

The paradigm developed by the 20th century has been holism, a holism in which atomism and fragmentation are understood to be false conceptions. This holism is the key to both sustainability and peace. Yet neither our economics nor our politics of sovereign nations have converted to this new paradigm. The new paradigm demands a World Parliament and enforceable democratic world law. The actualization of a global community that, as philosopher of law John Finnis shows, necessarily requires planetary government (1980, 129-30).

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth establishes an Earth Federation for our planet with binding legal authority over every person, corporation, and nation. If we want to establish peace and disarm the nations, ratification of this Constitution must be our first priority. The Earth Federation established by the Constitution is itself non-military. It ultimately requires the nations joining the federation to (1) immediately abandon any weapons of mass destruction and (2) by the second level of formation of the Earth Federation (under Article 17), begin the process of disarmament.

However, even during the first stage of Federation (prior to mandatory disarmament), the nations joining will have given up the irrational claim to absolute sovereignty. They will have recognized the people of Earth as sovereign (now represented by the World Parliament in which they participate). Their retention of military organization, therefore, will be strongly tempered by the fact that they no longer have the legal right to use their military forces indiscriminately, as they see fit. They are now legally bound within a whole that supersedes the perceived self-interest of the parts.

Even before ratification is completed under Article 17, Article 19 of the Constitution provides for a process of conversion of the early-modern planetary paradigm toward one of life under a democratic world system that can legally enforce proper uses of the commons and prevent the tragedy that is inevitable under the outdated paradigm. Under Article 19, the people of Earth are empowered to begin the Earth Federation now as provisional world government. The central way this has been done to date has been through holding sessions of the Provisional World Parliament that legislate World Legislative Acts (WLAs) under the authority of the Earth Constitution. 14 sessions of the Parliament have been held between 1982 and 2015.

Article 19 may be considered a “functionalist” approach to the problem of disarmament. In his 1994 book, Confronting War: An Examination of Humanities Most Pressing Problem, Professor Ronald J. Glossop describes the functionalist approach as follows:

Functionalists believe that the best way to change the international system is to continue to create more and more such agencies to work on the various problems facing humanity. In the long run, they claim, this approach is more and more likely to lead to a gradual limiting of national sovereignty than is an effort to try to get the various national governments to agree explicitly to limit their sovereignty.  If functional agencies are created, this approach is much more likely to lead to a gradual limiting of national sovereignty than is an effort to try to get the various national governments to agree explicitly to limit their sovereignty. (1994, 355)

This conclusion by Professor Glossop is both relevant and not relevant to our effort to ratify the Earth Constitution. It is not relevant because, like the UN, it appears based on the assumption that nation-states are the primary agents whose consent is necessary to end war and create an Earth Federation. However, the Earth Constitution correctly recognizes the people of Earth as sovereign and provides an option for direct ratification of the Constitution by the people. The option for nation-states becoming signatory to the Constitution exists, and would be simpler in practice, but, as Glossop points out, sovereign nations are loath to do anything for humanity (as a whole) rather than their own perceived self-interest.

This is precisely why the nations are not a necessary requirement to ratify the Earth Constitution, because they are all, politically speaking, illegitimate (as Errol E. Harris also points out). They are illegitimate because no sovereign government can serve the common good of its population, which clearly includes preservation of the planetary environment, universal disarmament, and the institutionalizing of world peace (2008, 132). As in the present essay, Harris also links our planetary tragedy with the sovereignty of nations: “Hence the problems of maintaining world peace and of conserving the global ecological system are interlinked and are both rendered insoluble as long as the nations remain and claim to be sovereign and independent” (ibid. 130).

The above statement by Ronald J. Glossop is relevant, however, to the work of Provisional World Government that is currently in the business of establishing the key institutions of government, developing within the framework of the old world order to be sure, but without requiring the consent of the lawless nation-states. Many of the 67 World Legislative Acts (WLAs) passed by the Provisional World Parliament to date bear on the development of world peace (see works cited below). Here I will point to four of these that bear perhaps most directly on the process of disarmament. These include World Legislative Acts numbers 1, 13, 33, and 34.  WLA 1 prohibits weapons of mass destruction for all nations and establishes the World Disarmament Agency (WDA). It links the emerging Board of Trustees of the WDA to the ratification process for the Earth Constitution, so that nations ratifying the Constitution may each name a member to the Board.

WLA 13, called the World Peace Act, reaffirms the prohibition of WMDs but extends the prohibition to include any form of financing, managing, or transporting these weapons. It links the violation of these prohibitions to various degrees of felony culpability and specifies punishments upon conviction. It lists a progressively implemented system of culpability, illustrating a functional principle as suggested by Professor Glossop. As the agencies and laws developed under the Provisional World Government become more elaborated, more well-known, and respected, they will carry more functional weight. In this way, the beginnings of true enforceability can be initiated.

The Provisional World Parliament, under Article 19, has already passed enabling legislation for the Collegium of World Judges and the World Court System. It has also appointed officers to the Executive Branch of the Provisional World Government. In doing so, the infrastructure for enforceability is functionally developing without requiring the consent of the sovereign fragments who, by refusing to give up the illegitimate aspect of sovereignty, tacitly give their consent to the system endangering the future of humanity. Article 33 bans the production of all fissile materials that could be used in the manufacture of bombs or other nuclear explosive devices. It gives detailed specifications as to what constitutes these materials, who is responsible for obeying the law, punishments that correlate with violation, agencies responsible for inspection, enforcement, etc.

WLA 33 is complemented by WLA 34 that legislates a “nuclear weapons dismantling procedure.”  The procedures required by law for revealing nuclear weapons, conforming to the prohibitions on financing or transporting them, are here also extended to the processes and methods for dismantling them. This nexus of legal factors in these four World Legislative Acts invites and encourages the development of the agencies directed to enforcement.  To the extent that the Provisional World Parliament continues to grow and develop the resources and reach of its agencies, the process of disarmament is also extended and solidified.

This functionalist approach in turn reinforces both the process and the need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth that will ultimately be the only practically effective instrument for disarming the nations and preventing the tragedy of our planetary commons now represented by the lawless system of militarized sovereign states. This functionalist approach will have more authority than any comparable UN disarmament project, for the UN is based on the sovereign nation-state paradigm and hence undercuts its own authority. The Provisional World Parliament system is based on the new holistic paradigm carrying binding authority under the Earth Constitution.

 Beginning with the second stage of ratification (commencing when 50% of the world’s nations, that include at least 50% of the world’s population have ratified), the nations will have long since abandoned the false, illegitimate aspect of sovereignty that supposedly gives them the “right” to do what they please regardless of the common good of the people of Earth. The nations will then have legitimate sovereignty over their internal affairs, but the Earth Federation government will have enforceable authority to disarm the nations and institute the rule of enforceable law over all peoples and nations. By this point (stage two), the rest of the world’s population will surely be clambering to join the Earth Federation—for all will by then be fully aware of the need for holism, the benefits of the rule of law, and the tremendous significance of a global public authority directed to the common good and eliminating the threat of planetary tragedy.

These benefits are outlined in Article 1 of the Constitution. They include ending war and disarming the nations, protecting universal human rights, eliminating extreme poverty from the Earth, and protecting the planetary environment. The planetary tragedy of the commons, today horrific and staring us directly in the face, will finally be averted for good through the only truly rational option available to humanity—ratification and implementation of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.


Works Cited:

Glossop, Ronald J. (1994). Confronting War: An Examination of Humanity’s Most Pressing Problem. Third Edition. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

Finnis, John. 1980. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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

Hegel, G. W. F. (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Alan Wood, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Garrett Hardin (1980). “Tragedy of the Commons,” in Economics, Ecology, Ethics: Essays Toward a Steady-State Economy. Ed. Herman E. Daly. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, pp. 100-114.

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

Martin, Glen T., ed. (2016). Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The Constitution is also on-line at It is available there and elsewhere in many languages.

Moltmann, Jürgen (2012). Ethics of Hope. Trans. Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Tawney, R.H. (2017). The Acquisitive Society. A Public Domain Book. ISBN 9781544682877, pp. 1-2.

UN Sustainable Development Goals at:

World Legislative Acts of the Provisional World Parliament at:


This Changes Nothing A review of Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

Glen T. Martin

Naomi Klein spent five years researching this book. She travelled to many places around the world where environmental struggles were taking place between the dominant economic model of “dirty extractivism” and people struggling to protect their land, water, and air from the onslaughts of the capitalist exploitation model. She interviewed hundreds of people (indigenous leaders, climate activists, climate deniers, scientists, journalists, political leaders, UN officials, heads of major environmental groups) to give us a book that is brimming with interesting, thought provoking, facts, ideas, and descriptions of local struggles and their global implications.

As such, this book is a gold mine of perspectives and insights into the struggle to save our planetary environment. It lays out the broad landscape of climate controversy and responses, from business as usual, to “free-market” solutions, to geoengineering, to truly transformative visions. She argues that we must overcome the worldview associated with capitalism, with its assumptions about innate human greed and selfishness, and begin to understand our human project as a communal, democratic, planetary endeavor premised on the common good of both humanity and nature. This book is well worth reading.

Yet my review is entitled “This Changes Nothing.” I will try to show why Naomi Klein’s proposal for addressing the climate crisis is entirely inadequate, appallingly vague, and deeply naïve. Her sincerity is not at issue, but rather her failure to recognize and deal with the deeper paradigm on which the destruction of our planetary climate is based. The book is full of valuable information, but it is not where we should turn if we want to envision a sustainable future on this planet. She is clear that capitalism is the problem, but she misses the fact that capitalism is only part of a world system that needs transformation in its entirety.

As Klein makes clear, dirty extractivism is not only raping the Earth, from the jungles of Ecuador and Brazil to the Niger Delta, from the Tar Pits of Alberta to the fracking frenzy in Pennsylvania and Texas. This destructive extractivism mines fossil fuels that are then burned to pollute our planet’s atmosphere, oceans, forests, and agricultural lands. The planet is heating up with major destructive consequences everywhere we look. We now find ourselves at “Decade Zero.” There is no more time for delays, detours, or half-hearted compromises with the neoliberal free-market ideology that is rapidly losing credibility worldwide (although, she says, that still retains immense economic and political power).  She writes:

John Kerry has likened the threat of climate change to a “weapon of mass destruction,” and it’s a fair analogy. But if climate change poses risks on par with nuclear war, then why are we not responding with the seriousness that the comparison implies? Why aren’t we ordering companies to stop putting our future at risk, instead of bribing and cajoling them? Why are we gambling? (225)

Klein attended meetings of the climate deniers (who receive major funding from the big fossil fuel companies). In chapter one on why “The Right is Right” she describes the climate denier think tanks, such as the Heartland Institute in the USA, as ‘right’ because they truly understand the implications and the seriousness of the climate crisis. Many others who are not convinced may be on the border of this or that need for serious changes and commitments, but the climate deniers understand what is at stake—total change of their ideology and their way of life—and they want none of it.

She has a chapter on the “free trade” agreements, like NAFTA, that themselves constitute disaster for the environment, giving rise to an international fossil fuel economy where everything from food to useless consumer goods are transported around the planet while burning fossil fuels. Under such trade deals, corporations have the legal power to bring lawsuits against governments whose environmental or labor laws cut into their profit margins. The anti-human features of global capitalism are identical with its anti-nature features: private profit accumulated through exploitation and destruction: “The same logic that is willing to work laborers to the bone for pennies a day will burn mountains of dirty coal while spending next to nothing for pollution controls because it’s the cheapest way to produce. So when factories moved to China, they also got markedly dirtier” (81).

Klein develops, throughout the book, a picture of the world view behind the climate crisis. Coming out of Francis Bacon’s 17th century predictions that the new sciences could lead to human domination over the natural world, the emerging capitalist ideology included both colonialism and slavery. Profit and power were the fundamentals allowing dominators to extract from colonial subjects and from slaves as much profit as possible, treating their human victims as negligible.

She points out that Adam’s Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, the same year that James Watt’s steam engine was invented. The steam engine was touted as the invention that could at last free the producer from dependence on nature. It could be moved anywhere and operated any time using the fossil fuel coal. Man’s dependence on nature was now nearly eliminated and his capacity for domination and exploitation of nature nearly unlimited. But this attitude spells disaster. She quotes one political scientist to the effect that “facing truths about climate change ‘means recognizing that the power relation between humans and the earth is the reverse of the one we have assumed for three centuries’” (175). She agrees:

We know that we are trapped within an economic system that has it backward; it behaves as if there is no end to what is actually finite (clean water, fossil fuels, and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions) while insisting that there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually quite flexible: the financial resources that human institutions manufacture and that, if managed differently, could build the kind of caring society we need. (347)

Then there are the geoengineers, the “mad scientists” as she calls them, who envision putting trillions of sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere or reflective mirrors into space or “cloud brightening” agents into the cloud cover. Klein describes their arguments and proposals in some detail. She sees this clearly as the climax of the false relation to nature initiated by Francis Bacon and the early-modern paradigm of the 17th century. Instead of changing our world view and our ways of relating to nature, our arrogance now leads us to envision engineering the entire planet in ways that are both untested and untestable, with unknown consequences that could be catastrophic. She points out the broad resistance to geoengineering among climate scientists and biologists, and the striking lack of “humility before nature” exhibited by the geoengineers (267).

It is not all that different with the big environmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and the World Resources Institute. Their millions of dollars in funding resources comes from either big oil, big corporations (like Walmart), or big corporate foundations (like the Ford or Rockefeller foundations).  Their environmental advocacy, in return, emphasizes corporate friendly “solutions,” such as carbon trading, green investment, self-regulation by corporations, and other options that never even get close to addressing the roots of our environmental crisis. The Nature Conservancy even maintains its own oil well in Texas, pumping its own fossil fuel, and reaping its own profits through pollution (192-94), and Conservation International has partnerships with some of the worst polluters on the planet, such as Walmart, Monsanto, Shell, Chevron, McDonalds, and BP (196).

Klein does not see much hope for a sustainable world coming from this quarter.  Like the mad scientists of the geoengineering movement, many of the big green organizations are staffed by people still operating under the capitalist paradigm ostensibly requiring nothing more than proper “market solutions” to address climate change. The most promising and inspiring encounters from her five year’s of travel and research come from “Blockadia.” This term refers to the legal, spiritual, activist, economic, and civil disobedient resistance growing rapidly worldwide to the extractivist projects of the big corporations: blocking their mining, their pipelines, that transport systems, and their supposed legal right to rape the land and destroy the environment.

The Blockadia movement has brought together traditionally unlikely bedfellows, for example, local ranchers in Montana with local indigenous groups who assert their treaty rights to an environment that allows them to flourish with clean water, soil, and air.  The Northern Cheyenne have broken legal ground by arguing that the 1977 Clean Air Act in the USA includes their right to breathe clean air (390). Klein chronicles that legal challenges being made by indigenous peoples around the world to the invasion of their lands and environments by the dirty extractors. However, this global struggle is more than a resistance movement, it now embraces a self-conscious worldwide struggle to save our planet.

The Blockadia global resistance movement has realized that resistance is not enough. We must actively convert our local economies to sustainable, renewable, fossil fuel free community systems, working with nature’s rhythms and requirements rather than extracting and dominating. These new systems “working synergistically” with the Earth “require a humility that is the antithesis of damming a river, blasting bedrock for gas, or harnessing the power of the atom” (394).  “There is no more potent weapon in the battle against fossil fuels than the creation of real alternatives. Just the glimpse of another kind of economy can energize the fight against the old one…. It must be accompanied by a power correction in which the old injustices that plague our societies are righted once and for all. That is how you build an army of solar warriors” (397-99)

The army of solar warriors who envision another kind of economy will require planning, but climate planning will be of a “different sort entirely” from traditional kinds of planning. People at the grassroots level will need “the tools and the power to build a better life for themselves” (133). Planning must be decentralized as much as possible but still integrated into a global “Marshall Plan for the Earth.” There apparently must be planetary coordination and vision along with decentralized planning and control. However, “the failure of our political leaders to even attempt to ensure a safe future for us represents a crisis of legitimacy of almost unfathomable proportions” (364). Where, we may ask, will this new legitimate authority for planetary coordination and vision come from?

There is also hope, she argues, in the fact that history is full of sudden changes of thought and attitude, many of these changes arising from values, and from those who based their resistance of humanitarian values, not from merely economic or resource demands. She cites the end of colonialism, the ending of slavery, and the civil rights movement in the United States. It can happen suddenly, she insists, one day we are a lone, morally indignant voice crying in the wilderness, then suddenly we find that everyone is speaking the same message (see Martin 2018).

The massive planetary change, she says, needs to be “democratic,” by which she seems to mean grassroots, bottom up, and concerned with the common good and not elite privileges. We need to delegitimatize the dominant extractivist-capitalist world view, with its “stifling free-market ideology” and create “a Marshall Plan for the Earth” (458-60). It cannot be simply the elimination of the fossil fuel economy but must be a new understanding that the Earth is there for us all to live upon and for future generations to enjoy: “the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing  the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect” (460).

Klein’s Marshall Plan for the Earth includes a “universal social safety net” and a guaranteed annual income for everyone on our planet. Such a revisioning of the purpose of economics as directed toward the common good, rather than private profit, “opens up a space for a full-throated debate about values—about what we owe to one another based on our shared humanity, and what it is that we collectively value more than economic growth and corporate profits” (461).  If people have a guaranteed income, then they will no longer be forced by economic necessity to compromise values in order to earn a living. A planetary debate about who and what we are as human beings, and the values we share, could then become a living reality.

Yet, as I said above, this changes nothing. Naomi Klein, like so many environmentalists who lack a truly penetrating critical analysis, does not discern that the capitalist paradigm and the sovereign nation-state paradigm come out of the same early-modern set of assumptions. Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum was published in 1620. The Treaty of Westphalia, at which scholars say the modern system of nation-states was founded, took place in 1648. Like capitalism, which fragments humanity into a competitive system of self-interested units, the system of sovereign nation-states fragments humanity into absolute territorial units, independent of one another and recognizing no enforceable laws above one another. Like capitalism, this system has no notion of a planetary common good and is structurally incapable of embracing such a good. Klein recognizes a crisis of legitimacy of “almost unfathomable proportions,” yet offers no alternative to the system currently in power.

World Systems Scholars, for the past half century, have pointed out that these two systems (global capitalism and sovereign nation-states) are intricately related, reinforcing one another (Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000). The capitalists have colonized the governments of these nation-states, and the nations themselves act from their own perceived self-interest and not for the common good of humanity. Neither genuine democracy, nor action toward planetary common good, nor protection of our universal human rights can flourish within this divisive system. It is this system as a whole that has caused the climate crisis. The very examples that Klein cites regarding domination and extractivism have just as much to do with militarized, territorially based nations as with capitalism: colonization, imperialism, endless wars, exclusivism regarding immigration, racism, free-trade agreements, off-shore bank accounts, and legal protections for corporate domination and exploitation.

That is why this book, informative as it is, ‘changes nothing.’ Klein argues that we need greater democracy, yet where can such greater democracy come from under the system of sovereign nations colonized by capitalism?  She argues that we need a “global Marshall Plan,” yet she says nothing about the immense imperialism still rampant in the 21st century, nor the interstate military, endless wars, and economic rivalry among the big nations that is concerned with anything and everything except a true global climate plan that changes the way everyone does business. Where would such a Marshall Plan come from if not from democratic world government?   She largely ignores the threat of nuclear holocaust.

She argues that we need a morality revolution in which our shared human values inform our global relationships, yet sovereign nations are institutionally driven to operate on a war, security, mistrust, and competition model, not on shared humanistic values. The world spends nearly two trillion dollars per year on weapons and wars, funds that could and should be used to transform our planet into a sustainable, life-affirming garden of peace with justice. Without transforming this system of militarized, sovereign nation-states, there is little hope that humankind can survive the next century.

The only really credible, value-based, and pragmatically effective response to the climate crisis is to ratify the  Constitution for the Federation of Earth. A universal value base, premised on our common humanity, is already built into the Constitution, and the World Parliament that it creates is mandated to continue the discussion of how we can equitably and compassionately translate these values into concrete environmentally sustainable economic and social practices. The World Parliament is primarily elected by the grassroots of humanity, from 1000 electoral districts worldwide. The Constitution contains many features to ensure actualization of its mandate to preserve the Earth and create a sustainable, peaceful planetary civilization.  A Marshall Plan for the Earth is already built into the Earth Constitution.

 What environmentalists often fail to realize is that the complete change necessary to create a sustainable world civilization requires more than culture, more than values, more than endless resistance; it requires systemic (institutional) transformation as well. The capitalist system destroys human lives as well as the environment. But the world’s political system does the same. They are both anti-life, anti-holism, anti-love. The Earth Constitution gives us comprehensive system change to complement cultural and moral change. All three are necessary parts of the holism of our planetary biosphere and the human situation.

 And surely “democracy” is necessarily more than the ‘populism’ advocated by Naomi Klein. Authentic democracy necessarily institutionalizes equality, liberty, and community, and that is why it is incompatible with capitalism, which is institutionalized inequality (Leech 2012). Democracy is also incompatible with militarized sovereign nation-states, for all war making, interstate rivalry, national security systems, spying, and interstate competitive struggle necessarily destroys democracy both within and between nations.

The Earth Constitution establishes authentic democracy for the Earth, an essential condition for climate sustainability. Article 13 guarantees a number of environmental rights to clean water, air, nourishing food, etc. The Constitution restores the legitimacy of the nation-states by limiting their sovereignty to internal affairs and integrating them as one component of our planetary human community. For the first time in history, the common good of the people of Earth will be represented in the World Parliament, which will not be dominated by sovereign nations (as is the UN), nor by corporations and the wealthy. The people of Earth will have a global public authority, explicitly mandated to serve their common good, disarm the nations, and protect the global environment. The Constitution creates a global public banking system that can easily finance all these transformations.

The kind of planning Klein envisions will then be possible. Local decentralized control can be integrated into planetary coordination, monitoring, and dialogue. Democracy becomes more than mere populism; it must be institutionalized so that the grassroots of the planet are drawn into a system of planetary responsibility and global awareness, exactly what is needed for planetary regeneration and sustainability. Coordination, and the dissemination of knowledge and techniques for sustainable agriculture, transportation, energy, economics, and finance must be worldwide and not based on intellectual property rights, corporate greed, national secrecy, or local exclusivism. All this is already embedded within the Earth Constitution.

Not only this, but under the authority of the Constitution, the Provisional World Parliament has already passed a World Legislative Act (WLA) for a guaranteed annual income for everyone on the planet (WLA #22). It boggles the mind that environmentalists struggle worldwide against overwhelming odds when they could simply choose the one route that would make transformation to a global, value-based system, as smooth, comprehensive, and painless as possible. Naomi Klein’s recommendations truly “change nothing,” for they recommend transforming the global capitalist system without defanging its militarized ally: the lawless system of nation-states. Unless we transform the whole to a democratic, values-based system, institutionalized to represent the common good of humanity and our natural world, we have no credible future to look forward to.

Naomi Klein’s book is deeply informative, but not transformative. It is deeply passionate without any practical means to translate that passion into action. It is deeply caring but lacks the knowledgeable analysis of our world system that can generate a practical plan for transformative action. It is deeply democratic without any viable means to translate the democratic spirit into institutionalized action.  It lacks any mention of the absolute need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.




Boswell, Terry and Christopher Chase-Dunn (2000). The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

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

Leech, Garry (2012). Capitalism: A Structural Genocide. London: Zed Books.

Legislative Acts of the Provisional World Parliament on-line at:

Martin, Glen T. (2010). The Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.  Also found on-line at

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