What does the future hold for our planet? It is easy to prophesy doom: a nuclear war, irreversible climate change, hordes of dispossessed people converging on well-to-do cities, a contagion with no cure. I’m going to buck the tide with a scenario of planetary survival, on the assumption we can avoid mass destruction in the next 50-100 years.
My scenario is founded on the willingness of governments to surrender substantial elements of their sovereignty. At some point of global crisis, a consensus will emerge among national leaders that the planet is on a suicide mission so long as every country responds in its own way to military, environmental, and economic threats. The only way forward suddenly becomes clear to all: surrender national control on these fundamental security issues to an international authority they will have to construct together.
In this scenario, nation-states would still have important regulatory tasks within their own borders—policing, budgeting, taxes, industry, health care. But now those tasks will have to be undertaken in the context of a global decision making authority that sets direction on military affairs and the various elements of globalization. The upshot of this framework is (or should be) that national leaders are severely constrained from war making and motivated to develop peacetime economies and more just societies. After all, they will have been relieved of budget planning that emphasizes military spending and international competition.
As we begin the new year and survey the quality of national leaderships, this survival scenario seems absurdly distant. Leaders of every major country are profoundly ill-equipped to imagine a new world order in which the wellbeing of the global community prevails over national and self interests. For them, preparing for war is more sensible than preparing for peace. Injustice and inequality are inevitable while freedom is relative. They view their job as making their countries “great again”; the notion of a global community is pure idealism.
Such narrow-mindedness—madness, really—helps account for why the current global situation is unsustainable and intolerable. To be sure, in every country there are activists at work on energy conservation, human rights, social justice, immigration reform, and so many other causes in the human interest. But governments make the rules, and at any moment they may crush those who work for humane change. What might replace them? A world federalist system? A United Nations with legislative authority? A group of international wise women and men? I cannot say, but I feel certain that finding an entirely new structure of global governance is the key to sustaining our fragile planet.
Mel, Thank you for framing our predicament so starkly! (I’m afraid it isn’t quite as up-beat as you might like…). Are we a failed species, evolutionarily unable to make such a transition? It doesn’t look good to me. We are like that monkey with his fist closed on the goodie in the trap, unable to let go. At least you have established the necessary condition for our survival. Anyone listening?
Cosmos to Mel: if the majority of today’s nation states persist in ravaging their own populations using the tools you would allow them to hold in their “regulatory” bags, we won’t have to worry too much about nice distinctions between World Federalism, UN Legislatures, etc. Following the axiom of walk before run, let’s see if we can deal with a few minor problems first–say, Rwanda,
Mel, your vision is irreproachable. The problem, as you clearly know, lies in getting there or anywhere close to it. I’m afraid that things must get worse, probably much worse, before they get better, and that is frightening indeed.
Very frightening. And when the tipping point finally arrives, our children or grandchildren will be left to deal with it. Some legacy.
I think we MUST hold a positive vision, while working in the present. Every noble pursuit and Goal begins in the mind with a thought. What does it matter if the way there is hard, or if it takes 200 years more? The vision of a noble humanity must be held. Thank you Mel!