Blunting The Existential Inertia

| July 24, 2021 | Leave a Comment

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Author(s): Geoffrey Holland

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Blunting The Existential Inertia

By Geoffrey Holland

Existential means consequential, on a global scale. By various estimates, there are ten massive threats looming over all of humanity.  In concert, these threats pack more than enough punch to destroy civilization on Earth. 

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‘Humanity faces an existential crisis consisting of ten, interconnected, mega-threats all bearing down on us at the same time…These threats cannot be solved one by one, as solving one threat generally makes others worse. They must all be solved together, at the same time, using cross-cutting solutions that make none of them worse.’  –  Julian Cribb, Surviving the 21st Century

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Consider what we – all of humanity – are up against.

Listed here are the ten globally consequential mega-risks identified recently by the  Council for the Human Future.  

  1. Decline of key natural resources, and emerging global resource crisis, especially in water.
  2. Collapse of eco-systems that support life, and the mass extinction of life.
  3. Human population growth and demand, beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity.
  4. Global warming, sea level rise, and changes in the Earth’s climate affecting all human activity.
  5. Universal pollution of the Earth system, and all life, by chemicals.
  6. Rising food insecurity and failing nutritional quality.
  7. Nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.
  8. Pandemics of new and untreatable disease.
  9. Advent of powerful, uncontrolled new technologies
  10. National and global failure to understand and act preventively on these risks.

These global-scale mega-risks are for real.  Any one of them could set off a chain of horrors that could lead to human extinction.

Imagine our world coming apart at the seams. In fact, we don’t have to imagine it; the evidence is accumulating in real time around our planet every passing day. We’ve got constant political conflict in much of the world. Add to that, climate change, to include all the bad that goes with that. The Earth’s oceans are being abused to death. We’ve got hundreds of millions of humans on the edge of starvation. The world’s plant and animal diversity is in free-fall.  

It’s all on us. Humans are taking every scrap the Earth has to offer for themselves. 

This has to stop.  

For sure, there are some good things happening, but the urgency for change does not match the entrenched resistance to change.

The biosphere we all depend on is collapsing.   We must focus on the mess we’ve made and take assertive action.

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‘We are all, as citizens of the Earth, duty bound to contribute to our upmost ability to the continuing progress of the spirit of humanity.’ 

Vigdis Finnbogadottr,  Council of Women World Leaders

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An Earth-Shaking Epiphany

That means a global tipping point in awareness.  WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: all eight billion of us, and we are all together in big trouble.  That is the overriding message. 

Nobody gets a pass. Fighting over the planet’s remaining natural assets to the point of exhaustion is insanity, and entirely unworthy of the most intelligent species on Earth.

We have to get this message across.  The urgency must match the threat. At this moment, the urgency is simply not there. 

In many parts of the world, the forces in control are aggressively resisting anything that threatens their hegemony.  If you’re paying attention to the news, you know this; you know who the world’s bad actors are.

Consider the political dynamics in the United States. It remains mired in a system that largely gives the power to corporations and the rich, who use their wealth and influence to buy the politicians they need to serve their agenda. 

Fortunately, that racist, predatory brand of politics is under ever increasing scrutiny.  As the COVID pandemic recedes in America, our democracy is in a potentially transformative moment. Racists, misogynists, and mindless exploiters of nature are on the run. They are desperate to maintain their power in a world that is demanding they be marginalized. In the US, at this moment, more than anything, we need leaders who can elevate the truth beyond the drone of media lies and confusion funded by the old guard.

Fortunately, at the nation scale, the world does have some examples of good governance. There are places, like the Northern European Social Democracies, where government consistently delivers for its citizens with enlightened public policy tuned to address the threats at hand.  The Nordic nations – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland – are built on the kind of democratic political foundation that is worthy of emulation by the rest of the world. 

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‘What we need is a new way of thinking that goes beyond secular vs. religious, left vs. right, Eastern vs. Western, socialist vs. capitalist, and so on. Old social categories ignore the impact of childhood and gender relations on how our brains – and hence our beliefs and behaviors – develop. Nor do any of them provide the new economics, narratives, and language to meet the challenges facing our world. The real struggle for our future is between the domination configuration and the partnership configuration worldwide. Once we understand this, we can build a solid foundation for a more sustainable, equitable, and caring partnership-oriented world.’ – Riane Eisler 

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Elements of a Worthy Common Vision

In the US, and in other parts of the world, we see more and more people standing up for gender equality, against racism and discrimination, and for embracing our responsibility to be good stewards of our planet. With open eyes, we see we are all aligned together against ‘business as usual’. 

Riane Eisler shows us a ‘Partnership Way’ of being, which fosters gender cooperation, and the emergence of a planetary society that includes all the Earth ethnicities. As partners, we all must share an obligation to restore the resiliency of our living biosphere.

No racism, no gender bias, no mindless planetary overreach: we have to be done with that.  The tribal thing is a dead end for humanity. We can’t be fighting each other when the future of life on Earth is at stake.

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‘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

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A Coalition for a Common Life-Affirming Future

Common Home of Humanity, in association with the Stanford University Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, the Council for the Human Future, and a growing coalition of NGOs and government organizations around the world are standing together in support of a human future that is worthy of the most intelligent species on the planet.  This is the way the world of humans must go.

 

 Declaration For Our Common Future  

The Steering Committee of the Stockholm+49 Summit, constituted by the Global Pact Coalition (GPC), the Common Home of Humanity (CHH), the Stakeholder Forum (SF), and the 2022 Initiative Foundation from Stockholm, in partnership with a growing network of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) across the globe, proposes four organizing principles for adoption by the world’s nations and peoples as part of the United Nations Stockholm+50 Celebration and Declaration. 

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“In the same way that the Declaration of 1972 marked a turning point in the development of international environmental politics, the foreseen Declaration shall be the milestone and a new window of hope for the “recognized right to a healthy environment” and to build a constructive approach to the climate emergency and a plan for restoring a well-functioning Earth System.”

Paulo Magalhães, Chairman, Common Home for Humanity

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Our Common Future’s Four Organizing Principles.

1 – Recognize the Right to a Healthy Environment. There are no human rights on a dead planet. All human rights ultimately depend on the capacity to live in an ecologically healthy, well-functioning global environment. The 2022 Declaration should recognize the right of everybody to live in a healthy environment. This right should be the basis of an effort to anchor the principles of not only non-Regression, but – more importantly – Progression in all spheres of environmental law. Non-regression would prevent reducing the level of environmental protection worldwide. Progression would ensure that from 2022 onwards, all environmental laws and regulations will increase the level of ambition and effectiveness. This recognition would further realize intergenerational equity, hereby ensuring that the decisions and actions of present generations do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

2 Define a Global Public Interest. A stable climate is a manifestation of a well-functioning Earth System, which, in turn, relies on a resilient and well-functioning biosphere. This is a common good that belongs to all generations, and not just a “Common Concern”. This truly “Common Good” must be the founding element in the reconstruction of a global environmental governance system that is consistent with the indivisibility of the global system that supports life on this planet – the Earth System. This is a public good that should be managed by bold public authority: UNEP and the Member States. With the scientific definition of the “Planetary Boundaries” that define the well-functioning state of the Earth System, which is built on a stable climate and a healthy biosphere, we have the tools to define the “global common” that must become the object of a common institutionalized governance system, becoming the central axis to operationalize the ‘Right to a Healthy Environment’.

3 – Build Back Better/Green Recovery.  Our current economic system values the wrong things and ignores or under-estimates the value of nature, only recognizing value in dead trees, and commodifying biodiversity. Our common future demands an economy in which the work of nature that produces and maintains healthy eco-systems and a stable climate is recognized and respected, rather than being destroyed or degraded for the creation of wealth for human societies. With the recognition of the Earth System as a “Global Common”, we can internalize the value of this work for human societies, which today is considered an ‘externality’. This is a game-changer in our society: we can value the work of nature without destroying it and include the activities that restore and maintain a “safe and healthy environment” in the GDP of each country, enabling each actor to be encouraged to produce benefits for the common good! This will enable building a more equitable and inclusive international society that makes climate justice happen and restores and maintains a healthy biosphere.

4 – Commit clearly to an innovative pathway for the post-2022 period. Taking inspiration from the process that designed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2022 Declaration should define clear steps and milestones for the adoption of a universal environmental framework. This framework would recognize a set of legal principles of environmental protection, as recommended by Annex 1 of the 1987 Brundtland Report entitled Our Common Future, and develop a package of goals, targets, indicators, means of implementation and monitoring mechanisms that will be defined by 2025.  

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This is global-scale logical thinking. Our Earth is a living system. We must put the proper care of our common planetary home above narrow tribal racism. 

Common Home of Humanity, and its coalition collaborators have established a transformative platform for moving human civilization into the future. 

Quite simply, the party is over for greed and mindless, profit-driven self-interest.  Humans have an overriding obligation to care for our common planetary home, and for each other.   The survival of life on Earth depends on it.

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‘I am a multilateralist. I am deeply convinced that there is no other way to deal with global challenges than with global responses organized in a multilateral way.’

Antonio Guterres, United Nations General Secretary

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Geoffrey Holland is the author of The Hydrogen Age, and the Coordinator of the Stanford University MAHB Dialogues

The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.