Choosing a Partnership Future: Evolving a Sustainable, Life-Affirming Way of Being on Earth

Geoffrey Holland | February 23, 2023 | Leave a Comment

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet”. – Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist


We humans find ourselves pushing up against a chaotic cultural bottleneck of a scale and consequence never seen until now. Over the past 50 years, we have more than doubled our numbers to 8 billion humans, on the way to 10-12 billion before the end of this century. We are taking everything our Earth has to offer for ourselves. The evidence of our planetary-scale overreach is undeniable.

For thousands of years, humans – the planet’s apex species – have considered themselves above and superior, assuming that the natural world is here for us to take from, and take from, and take from blindly, without fear of consequence. 

Now, early in the 21st century, the natural world, the store of living wonder we all depend on, is severely over-stressed and at risk of failure. Humans are entirely responsible. We are destroying our planet’s life-support systems we all depend upon; the vital ones we cannot live without.

“Individuals learn faster than institutions and it is always the dinosaur’s brain that is the last to get the new messages”. – Hazel Henderson – The Politics of the Solar Age

The Fermi Paradox

Some read the scientific evidence and believe for life on Earth, it’s already too late. Just under a century ago, early in the atomic age, there was a famous physicist, Enrico Fermi. He looked at the vast universe that surrounds our Earth and considered the possibility of alien civilizations. He concluded the only reason we have not intercepted signals from any other civilization was they had all destroyed themselves when they got to the point humans on Earth had reached. Fermi’s idea is now referred to as “The Fermi Paradox”.

There are also contemporary thinkers like Peter Leyden and William Halal, who have distilled trends suggesting humans are on a transformative path to the best kind of humanity we can be. They are saying, if we manage to not destroy ourselves, we could be on course to a way of being that is both life-affirming and sustainable. That’s if we manage to not destroy ourselves…if…

“Here we are, the most clever species ever to have lived. So how is it we can destroy the only planet we have?” – Jane Goodall, Naturalist 

Inflation is caused by human demand

At this moment, the American people are deeply unsettled by economic inflation. The high cost of fuel. The high cost of food. People are looking for easy political remedies. They are not seeing the bigger picture. They don’t see that the root cause of inflation is human demand that is overwhelming our planet’s limited ability to provide.

The reality is we all live together on this one Earth we call home. It’s all we’ve got. It has only so much to give. Is it any wonder that when we double the human footprint – from 3.7 billion to 8 billion humans in 50 years – we create unsustainable pressures on our planet’s shrinking store of resources? 

The fact is that inflation is a consequence of the human exploitation of our lands and seas to the point of near exhaustion. With another 2-4 billion humans expected by the end of the century, the collapse of civilization appears to be inevitable. The only smart way out is for humanity to see the bigger picture and work together to achieve a fundamental course correction behind a common purpose.

“We are in a period of great disequilibrium as we shift rapidly now to a post-industrial society. It is a crisis and also an opportunity. It ultimately depends on human agency. We have to think in longer terms… There are no quick fixes… We need a whole new way of thinking.” – Riane Eisler, The Partnership Way

Winning with a worthy vision

It seems like we, and I’m referring to all of humanity – all genders, all ethnicities, all nationalities – have two ways to go. We can continue on the road we’re on, which translates to more tribalism, more conflict, more suffering, more violence, and death, as the natural world we all depend on hits bottom and collapses around us…or, or we can choose to save life on Earth by being the best, gender-equal version of humanity we can be…

That means standing together as one human family behind a common purpose. The challenges we face are planetary in scale. Some solutions can work, but they only work if applied on a whole-Earth scale. We have the technology to redeem ourselves. What we need now, above all else, is a global human commitment and the political will that goes with it.

The Partnership Way, a design for living together, was first illuminated by social scientist Riane Eisler. It means all humans will share the same equal rights and responsibilities. A partnership is how we survive. It’s how we get past our own worst instincts. 

“From a legal point of view, we now have the scientific and technical capability to quantify a stable and well-functioning state of the Earth System as an intangible object of international law which, by being global and indivisible, should belong to all humanity – the intangible Common Heritage of Humankind”. – Paulo Magalhaes, Founder and Chairman, Common Home for Humanity

What does humanity at its best look like?

It starts with a substantial human commitment to a commonly shared set of rights and responsibilities. In this transformative way of being, all humans are equal as Earth Citizens. Nation-state identity has largely given way to a human embrace of planetism, a way of being in which all people share the same obligation to live in harmony with each other and with nature.

Using the power of the global internet, humans around the world are now linked in real-time. At some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later, all Earth citizens will participate in a referendum process that will ratify a planetary Constitution that will codify equal rights and responsibilities for every human.

This Humanity 4.0 Constitution, aka HUM4 Constitution, will align all of us together behind shared commitment and common purpose. It will obligate us all to respect each other and to work together to restore the natural world we all depend on to full resilience. 

HUM4 is what we can become. It’s what we must become. Our obligation to future generations is to take this “partnership” high road now, while that door is still open.

“To move forward 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”. – The Earth Charter

Building commitment through “The Earth Charter”

We need something around which we can build global-scale consensus. I believe there is one choice, one human expression that stands out as a beacon. A beacon shaped by sixteen life-affirming, planetary principles behind which all humans can stand with a shared commitment. That beacon is called The Earth Charter.

The idea for the Earth Charter first emerged in 1987; after a multi-year process that included distinguished leaders like Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev, it was refined and finally presented to the world by the Earth Charter Commission in the year 2000. It is a document that offers a solid foundation for building a new human era that is life-affirming and sustainable. 

The Earth Charter principles call on every person to get past their prejudices in favor of shared planetary citizenship built on unencumbered gender equality, social justice for all, and a moral obligation for responsible planetary stewardship. The Earth Charter is a set of guiding principles shaped by humans representing every corner of our planet in concert with the United Nations. It’s the closest thing to a common purpose that humanity has ever achieved. As such, it is a worthy beacon around which our Earth’s people can forge consensus. Let’s all choose to rally behind The Earth Charter and its sixteen life-affirming principles:

The Earth Charter Principles

1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.

2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.

3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.

4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.

7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.

10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.

13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision-making, and access to justice.

14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.

15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration. . .

16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.

 “Time and time again, our species has escaped existential threats by reinventing ourselves, finding new skills not coded in our genes to survive new challenges not previously encountered”. – David Grinspoon, Astro-Biologist, Author, Earth in Human Hands

All gender equal, all together 

I believe that the most important step American citizens can take at this moment is to declare our cultural commitment to gender rights for all people in all ways. Let’s make that commitment an acid test for anyone who is running for elected office.

Equality for all no matter where they fall on the gender, ethnic, or economic spectrum. That has to be a public declaration from anyone with political aspirations.

Equal means the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity or ethnicity, can aspire to every kind of leadership opportunity. The good news is, in the US and many other nations of planet Earth, that is already happening. Women are the key to getting beyond tribalism to the point where there is enough trust worldwide to ratify a HUM4 Constitution built around the Earth Charter. 

“We are capable of regaining our reverence for life, of replacing the drive to conquer with the will to cooperate, of remaking our engineered institutions, including our corporations, into living systems”. – Elisabet Sahtouris,  Author, Earth Dance: Living Systems in Evolution

The world we all should want to see

It’s humans, all together, standing for fair and equal treatment for all, and working to restore life on Earth according to nature’s grand design. That’s a very big planetary ambition to be sure, but it is within reach. It seems very clear to me, there is no worthy alternative course to commit to a common purpose. 

All humans together, linked by a common purpose, that’s how we rise above our worst instincts. That’s how we survive to become the sustainable, life-affirming, HUM4 version of ourselves. All of us, all together, are equal and valued as citizens of planet Earth.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. – Buckmister Fuller, Dymaxion Thinker


Geoffrey Holland is a veteran media writer/producer and a committed advocate for nature and gender rights. He is currently the Curator of Dialogues for Stanford MAHB. He is also a regular contributor to Transition-Earth and is the lead author of The Hydrogen Age.

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