Urgent Solutions that Cannot be Postponed for Too Long

earth

Keeping in view many serious problems confronting our world, very noble precepts such as the entire earth being one family are sometimes mentioned as the basis for more enduring solutions. However only noble precepts will note take us very far, these must be moved further into more specific plans of action. This also should not be delayed for too long, keeping in view the enormity of the problems.

The most overwhelming as well as disturbing aspect of present-day world is that the difference between what is most urgently needed and what is actually happening was never as big as now. To give just one glaring example, the need for elimination of weapons of mass destruction was never as urgent as today but what we actually see is that the race for such weapons is accentuating and even the risk of actual use of these weapons is increasing, being probably at the highest point now.

The world is now in the middle of a survival crisis, caused by these weapons and about a dozen serious environmental problems including climate change. Most of these  environmental problems have tipping points which must not be crossed, yet in some important contexts we are moving away from and not closer to protecting the most essential, basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet.

At a time when for its own sake as well for resolving other life-threatening problems, the need for a no-war future is greater than ever before, big powers have this madness of inviting the most destructive wars, proxy wars and a new Cold War, which are actually entirely avoidable. At a time when the greatest international cooperation is needed for resolving life-threatening problems, we have a situation of the quest for world dominance leading to the world getting increasingly divided and drifting towards a high possibility of the most destructive wars.

Hence now more than ever before, the urgency of re-shaping and re-creating the world on the basis of peace, justice, equality and environment protection is greater than ever before, this being planned in ways that can resolve the survival crisis before it is too late. In fact the need for justice, equality, peace and protection of environment, briefly JEPP, has always been there in all human history. The same compelling need exists today also, with the important difference that this has to be taken forward in such ways that the destruction of life-nurturing conditions is prevented. Another way of stating this would be that the survival objective is achieved, or that the survival or S agenda is added to the JEPP agenda, making it JEPPS (for easier communication and understanding).

For this suitable values and value-systems should be created extensively all over the world, value systems based on justice, equality, non-discrimination, peace and harmony, non-violence and protection of environment and also on honesty, sincerity, truth and loving, creative, fulfilling social relations. This can be achieved at the level of education above all but also at the level of families and communities. If such efforts are made extensively and sincerely for about a decade or so, this can lead to very important and desirable changes.

In addition, structural and governance changes at world-level are needed. Socrates said, “I am not a citizen of Athens, not a citizen of Greece, I am a citizen of world.” A time may have come today to give much more attention to this most basic identity of human beings which unfortunately is also the most neglected. Most members of humanity have been identifying themselves more in terms of national, regional and religious (unfortunately even narrower racial and caste-based) identities than the most essential one of being citizens of world. The survival crisis too is related to this to an important extent.

Finding solutions to survival problems involve much higher cooperation of humanity living in all parts of world and saying a firm ‘no’ to all future wars and to the race for highly destructive weapons related to wars. Only then—and in accompanying conditions of peace and non-violence in everyday life– can humanity be free to use its enormous creativity for resolving climate change and other related serious environmental problems.

This is close to the beautiful concepts of ‘earth without borders’ and ‘universe as family’ which are generally not criticized but dismissed as being unrealistic and too idealist and far-fetched. However our deeply troubled world is likely to need more idealism, and if the problems of survival crisis are unprecedented then we may need solutions which were considered far-fetched earlier.

However the concept of a world government needs more careful handling as this has been used in not just in an idealist but even tyrannical context. Leaving aside the tyrannical context entirely, here the reference is to a form of governance which has no conflict with increasing democratic freedoms and increasing decentralization in managing daily affairs. Here the concept of world government is considered mainly in the context of world peace, a future without wars and arms race and involving much higher worldwide cooperation for checking climate change and related survival threatening environmental problems.

For such higher objectives of a peaceful and secure world the concept of one world government is clearly very relevant. In fact given the enormity of this challenge, it would be better to suggest various variants of the changes and reforms that can be considered, instead of placing just one version for discussion. A wider discussion can then reveal what can be more practical and doable. The basic concept here is to look at the world as just one unit, one vast family of human beings, as well as other living beings.

Of course for day to day governance decentralization is best – the more the better – and so for smooth and people-friendly functioning district councils or village councils should have a very important role. However this is only for managing daily affairs better (decentralization is always better than top-heavy centralization) and the basic reality should remain that of one world, in which all people are equal and live without any discrimination as equal citizens of this world, with equal access to certain basic human rights.

To this we should add that Earth is not just for human beings. The concept of one world should therefore include the welfare of all forms of life (and not just human beings). From the point of view of welfare of all forms of life this is obviously a much better way of looking at world, and it is not surprising that several eminent and thoughtful persons have been supporting the idea of one world in one form or the other at various times.

However, more than any other point in human history, there is now more compelling need for this ideal to be advanced and realized to the extent possible. The reason why this time is so crucial for this viewpoint is that in recent times a survival crisis or existential crisis has emerged on our planet.

The serious problems which constitute the survival crisis include nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction including robot or AI weapons and biological weapons, spread of arms race to space, space pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, freshwater crisis, air pollution , disruption of food safety and around half a dozen other serious environmental and safety problems. Most discussion on these dozen or so survival problems takes place in isolation from each other but in the practical world we are more likely to face the combined threat of several of them taken together, increasing the risks .

The present world leadership and international institutions have miserably failed to find timely and credible solutions for this survival crisis taken as a whole. There are several statements by leading scientists, experts and statesmen testifying to this. In fact some of the problems which constitute the survival crisis have worsened rapidly in the recent past.

Increasingly in my recent writings and books I have been pleading that the greatest importance must now be accorded at world level to resolving the survival crisis within the framework of justice, democracy and peace. While very significant reforms in governance at world level are needed to find and implement solutions which work, these can come only if there is a great resurgence of people’s movements at the grassroots and a yearning for social values in tune with the big challenges ahead. More specifically I have suggested the coming together of the movements of justice (including gender justice), peace, environment protection, democracy and sincere spirituality to make it possible for people to respond adequately to the challenges ahead. It is tough, it is possible.

While the concept of one world has often been discussed before, the special context today is at two levels –

l         Firstly, we should link this concept of one world with the special need of our times to resolve the survival crisis.

l         Secondly, the concept of one world should co-exist well with increasing decentralization for managing daily affairs, with emphasis on justice and equality.

It is a basic principle of effective governance that it should be in accordance with ability to achieve the most important aims and tasks. In terms of this very basic definition, the huge, colossal failures of existing governance systems in our deeply troubled world facing unprecedented threats have been exposed in more and more glaring and disturbing ways in recent times.

Unprecedented threats demand unprecedented response. So it is time to consider out-of-box governance changes and improvements which can create the kind of world governance systems that are needed for resolving the most critical issues of our times and the near future in a time-bound framework before it is too late.

Let us try to imagine what kind of world governance system we may like to see about three decades from now.

It is the year 2050. About 10 billion people live on earth. For the purpose of highly decentralized administration of daily affairs, they are divided among about 1000 provinces each with an average population of around 10 million (this may range between 5 million to 15 million, depending on population density and other factors).

Each of these provinces, apart from electing its local members for highly decentralized governance at levels of province, district and village, also elects a representative for the World Government. The lower house of the World Government is constituted in this way, each of its 1000 elected members being elected by people of one province.

The World Government also has an upper house, consisting of the best available experts on climate, biodiversity, oceans, weapons, peace and other issues of critical importance. These experts are elected to the upper house based on a system combining recommendations of professional associations, provincial administrations and lower house representatives.

The lower and upper houses of the World Government elect a Council of Ministers which is coordinated by two leaders who change once every two years or so.

The World Government takes critical decisions on protecting the life-sustaining conditions of planet on issues like climate change, species protection and other critical life-protecting environmental issues.

In addition the World Government has the responsibility of preventing any war or civil war, as well as ensuring that no province has any nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction (including robot weapons). It is responsible for ensuring that no outer space related destructive activity is carried out by any human being or agency.

In fact a province is allowed to keep very few weapons only for policing needs or checking crime, not for war.

However the World Government is allowed to have some stocks of conventional war weapons, and perhaps just about 10 nuclear weapons (with supporting infra-structure) as the World Government has the responsibility of checking any wars and checking the emergence and spread of any big terrorist force. Any disputes relating to provincial borders are settled by the World Government, involving the concerned provincial governments and their neighbors in the settlement of the dispute. No province has its own army, but contributes personnel to one and only one world army (a very limited armed force with land, air, sea and space sections).

Another task of the World Government is to ensure that a World Constitution is created to ensure that –

  1. a) all people are equal and there is no discrimination based on class, gender, race, colour, caste, ethnicity, previous nationality etc. (although affirmative action for those who suffered extreme historical disadvantages or injustice is allowed),
  2. b) all provinces have to satisfy certain norms of democratic functioning and are governed in highly decentralized way by representatives elected in free and fair elections,
  3. c) people can move freely from one province to another within the limits of some restrictions,
  4. d) all provinces are free to decide their imports and exports, but certain basic qualitative and safety norms have to be agreed by all of them,
  5. e) all provinces have to observe certain norms of justice and equality, human rights and rights of all forms of life,
  6. f) all provinces have to follow certain norms of controlling infectious diseases,
  7. g) all provinces have to follow certain norms of protecting other forms of life, such as heavy curbs on hunting and harming habitats,
  8. h) jobs and income of all former soldiers of army, para-military forces, air force and navy will be protected by giving them work at the same salaries in protection from disasters, rescue work, eco-restoration and related works.
  9. i) Issues relating to that currency which can be accepted all over the world will be decided by the world government.

Within these broad guidelines, all provinces and districts are completely free to grow in a highly decentralized manner according to their local conditions and creativity.

The world government will rush relief to areas seriously affected by disasters and work for a hunger-free world.

In other words the world government representing all people on equal basis and obtaining the best available advice creates broad conditions of protecting life-sustaining conditions, avoiding war and maintaining peace, bringing down all weapons to minimal levels, ensuring democracy and decentralization and compliance to these conditions is ensured at world level.

Once these conditions have been ensured and some norms in keeping with these conditions have been set up, then in these secure conditions there will be the most space for realizing the enormous creative potential of people in various walks of life for creating a better and safer world.

With respect to protecting the life-sustaining conditions (like checking climate change, elimination of weapons of mass destruction) all provinces have to ultimately abide by the decisions of the world government, whose chief mandate is to protect these conditions within a framework of justice, equality and democracy, although any province can certainly appeal in case of anything that appears to be unjust or improper.

We should aim to achieve such conditions – or somewhat similar conditions within a decade or two. By year 2050 it should then be possible to check climate change to such an extent that remaining within the most essential limits can be achieved more or less. Also by 2050 elimination of nuclear, chemical, biological and robot weapons should be more or less achieved, although a very small stock can be maintained by the world government only (not by any province) to guard against any rogue elements or terrorists.

Can such conditions be achieved within less than two decades? The basic reason for trying to achieve a fast pace of change is that basic life sustaining conditions of planet earth have to be protected. The basic structure of a different world outlined above, along with other decisions for a justice based decentralized world, can achieve this and also bring several other highly desirable changes. However we can also consider other visions.

The vision of a different world outlined above is based on complete elimination of nation-states. As outlined above, there is a truly representative world government which protects the basic life-sustaining conditions of earth at various levels in a framework of justice, democracy peace and protection of all forms of life. At the base there are highly decentralized provinces and districts, committed to decentralized governance, justice, peace and elimination of poverty.

However, the concept of nation states has become so deeply embedded in recent times that many people may not accept this. They may like to consider a different vision which is based on the creation of a world government while retaining nation-states.

In this more limited vision the nation-states remain as before, while electoral constituencies for world government are created, ignoring national boundaries, on average one for every 10 million people. Hence the Lower House of the World Government is created. The Upper House consists of experts as in the earlier version.

The mandate of the world government is to keep climate change to acceptable limits, eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and to protect other essential life- sustaining conditions within a framework of justice, peace and democracy. To the extent that it is necessary for this purpose, nation-states surrender their sovereignty to the world government with respect to decisions on these issues. On these aspects, all nation-states have to abide by what the world government decides. On other aspects, nation-states continue to retain their sovereignty.

In yet another version, we can go one step further. In this version, the nation-state continues to exist, but disbands its army (this includes army, air force, navy, special border protection forces etc.). All former soldiers will get re-employment, with their salary and pension protected, in disaster and accident protection, rescue and eco-restoration work, as well as in peace keeping forces of the world government. In this version the only army will be with the world government and the world government will take care of all border disputes or disagreements.

All these three versions of significant change can be debated and considered, together with other alternatives that may be suggested by more learned scholars and experts.

Increasingly new, out-of-box solutions should be on the world’s agenda for all the people to see. In particular, these should be on the table for all the younger people and children to see, because it is their future which is most in danger under the present system. Give children and teenagers and young people a chance to see that such solutions are also on the agenda. Who knows? In their (as yet) uncorrupted innocence they may decide to choose these solutions.

As the survival crisis intensifies, there will be a new wave of yearning for new paths and solutions. There will be a turmoil and people, particularly young people, may be willing to consider all options. In such situations the sincere and honest solutions which appear impractical today may appear the most obvious solutions to the younger people, and these may get much higher acceptability among all solutions.

For this to happen, it is important for some thoughtful people to keep these ideas alive and to provoke discussion on them so that the details of such solutions can be worked out.

Who knows? What is being considered non-practical and far-fetched today may be considered to be most desirable in the next generation.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener of Campaign to Save Earth Now with its SED (Save the Earth Decade) Demand. Several eminent persons have endorsed this campaign. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders, as well as a Hindi version. Website-bharatdogra.in Email—[email protected]

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