Imagine talking about peace when according to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the world is just one misunderstanding, just one miscalculation, away from global catastrophe, due to the ongoing war in Europe! While the Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists already warned humanity in January this year when it timed the Doomsday Clock that we are just 90 seconds away from planetary devastation. They gave three reasons: nuclear war, accidental or deliberate; climate emergencies; disruptive technologies.
No wonder, the theme chosen for this year’s International Day of Peace is “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals”. It is a call to immediate collective action that recognizes our individual and collective responsibility to foster peace.
Why has humanity strayed so far and suffered so great a decline? How will it redeem itself during this critical period? As a believer, I am convinced that even the best of recognized decision-makers and statesmen—however disinterested their motives, however concerted their action, however unsparing in their zeal and devotion to the cause of peace and well-being of humanity would not succeed without Divine assistance. We need to restore our sanity. The futility of humans in the face of current global conflicts and catastrophes should not be blamed on their intellect, but rather on the improper channeling of emotions and moral aspirations.
If one were to take stock of the current situation of our planet the goals that I have identified are the following. These are eight major emergencies that are pushing humanity to the brink, mass extinction:-
1.Weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical, and nuclear), their rampant proliferation. It appears that no lessons were learnt even after the colossal destruction caused by World War II. Instead, whole new range of weapons systems began to be produced compelling nation after nation to squander away their precious resources for swift annihilation of masses of human populations.
2. Poverty is widespread despite rapid growth in the Gross Domestic Product of every nation-state. Three-quarters of the human family lives on a real income of USD 4 per day (= Rs. 350) or less at a time when the interconnectedness of the planet is only accelerating; technology bridging the gap and providing an increasingly wired and transparent world where differences are glaringly obvious.
3. Energy demand is skyrocketing despite great strides in the development of renewable sources of energy in which India is launched several global initiatives. The truth is that the world is running out of fossil fuels also referred to as cheap oil. Unless global community unitedly addresses these challenges transition to a cleaner and greener world would be a utopian dream.
4. Climate emergencies have become a recurrent devastating phenomena. No place on earth is safe or protected. The resultant human suffering further increases the economic burdens and destabilizing of the systems of governance; crop failures, famine, food riots, and social breakdowns.
5. Water crises: Freshwater is in short supply in many of parts of the world, ground water depletion and aquifers running dry is forcing more and more countries to seek technologies for desalination of sea water which is still a very expensive proposition for most countries in the global south. At the same time global warming melts snow and glacier ice, which are impacting agriculture and food production. Water wars cannot be ruled out and cleaning up of polluted rivers is a long-term prospect. The recent UN World Water Summit provides a road map to address the crises, success depends on nations willing to collaborate.
6. Financial emergency: With a global GDP of USD 100+ trillion, the world financial system is not serving the well-being of the people it only makes the rich richer and lives of the poor more harrowing. The profits of powerful transnational and multinational institutions only create greater instability; some 125 countries are falling behind in servicing their debts. Such a situation would exacerbate global financial chaos and breakdowns.
7. Sustainability emergency is fully addressed in the Agenda 2030—Sustainable Development Goals but many countries in their bid to enhance economic growth and ape the developed countries keep increasing their demand for resources. Without eco-friendly life-styles and harmony with nature the end result would be ecocide because the unsustainable demands exceed the regenerative capacity of the Earth.
8. Biodiversity extinction: Between one-third and one-half of all plant and animal species are currently threatened with extinction as the web of life on the earth is being devastated by humanity’s burgeoning population, competitive and exploitative growth.
All of the above eight emergencies could completely destroy human civilization, as we know it. Our educational institutions do mention the moral imperatives that are crucial for human advancement such as love, truth, nonviolence, peace, righteous conduct, scientific temper, citizenship values, service, life-skills, unity in diversity, inter alia but daily pressures for material well-being and pragmatism impose other priorities. Increasing dependence on technology and gadgets, influence of social media has further complicated our lives.
The supreme task before all humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity that much sooner will humankind be able to avert the global catastrophe that is hanging like the sword of Damocles over the head of every man, woman, youth and child. The choice before this generation: devastation versus transformation. Once more we are reminded to arise and utilize all international frameworks, laws, instruments, bilateral and multilateral treaties that promote the peace, well-being and happiness, the knowledge, culture and industry, the dignity, value and status of the entire human race.
With all our technological prowess and advances in the field of communication and travel (including outer-space) we have no place to escape from our global predicament. We are being called to rise above the divisions and differences of the past. Working together we can build a promising future for our children and grandchildren. Choosing sustainable living will require billions of persons to come together with a level of spiritual consciousness, social consensus, and commitment that has never before existed in human history. Only such an awakening of the most urgent and uncompromising necessity, would steer the masses of people to choose a path as bold, inclusive, and collaborative as is demanded by our times. Looking at the inevitable shocks and hardships that lie ahead, will the arbiters of human institutions gathered at the United Nations headquarters unitedly resolve to implement the Global Goals arising out of universal values and the accumulated store of human knowledge generated through scientific enquiry. This is a plea of a world that is hungry for peace.
A. K. Merchant is a social worker, independent researcher serving a number of non-governmental and semi-autonomous government institutions. The views expressed are personal.