global governance

Is humanity facing a “perfect storm” of social and ecological challenges?

Global warming is likely to result in rising sea levels and a loss of annual glacial runoff which, together, may displace and impoverish well over a billion people in the coming century. At the same time, the age of inexpensive energy is coming to an end as we approach peak oil and the best energy alternatives will be significantly more expensive than sweet crude oil (i.e., these alternatives will have a much lower “net energy” ratio). Meanwhile, the gross inequities of the global economy, along with persistent ethnic and religious conflict, are leading to widespread instability and insecurity just as ever-more efficient technologies of mass destruction proliferate around the planet.

To navigate these challenging times, responsible and effective governance is urgently needed. But governance in even the most “enlightened” democracies has descended into a state of paralyzing dysfunction. Long-term planning and global coordination have proven to be elusive goals for partisan systems characterized by unceasing competition for short-term political advantage within anachronistic national boundaries.

How long will it take for people to recognize the scope and urgency of the problem? The anachronistic models of governance we’ve inherited from the eighteenth century are incapable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. Those inherited models may have been significant historical accomplishments, but history is far from over. Indeed, our history as an interdependent global community is just beginning.

As Baha’u’llah wrote more than a century ago: “How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?… The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective… Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead… The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”

It is clearly time for a serious conversation about the construction of just and sustainable systems of local, national, and global governance for the twenty-first century.

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  Michael Walsh wrote @

This essay is the embodiment of the rallying cry for the “Global Citizen’s Movement.” If you search for “Dawn of the Cosmopolitan” by Orion Kriegman (and Paul Raskin) of The Great Initiative (TGI) at Tellus.org, you will be very glad you read this 30- page essay elaborating on this great wish and hope for humanity’s future.

At the core of mankind’s problems is that capitalism has strayed from its core mission of providing goods and services, by and for people, at a fair profit– to a system where massive profit accumulation has become the goal– and money is no longer simply a smart tool used to achieve prosperity by the efficient and fair allocation of resources.

The result has been an ever-increasing inequality of wealth and income distribution around the world. Example: loaning money to an impoverished nation which then must cut social service and other programs in “austerity measures” in order to pay for it with interest costs– is simply a broken model.

“Unbridled” and unregulated capitalistic enterprises live and die by profit or losses–so will naturally bend rules and maximize profits in order to survive and hopefully prosper. Should there be limits to currently unlimited profit accumulation? Logic and fairness dictate that there should be…

Governmental controls, such as rules and taxation, when applied wisely and fairly, can and should effectively “steer” enterprises toward producing better, wiser and more sustainable products and services that better serve our common future. IF we continue “business as usual” and allow unlimited growth, expansion, building and resource extraction and consumption to go on unabated, the earth’s delicate ecological balance will simply tip towards calamity.

We are on the very edge of this turning point today. Global warming is now eliminating glaciers that supply most of the world’s fresh water to river systems. Pollution– it is truly unknown just how destructive our toxification of the environment will become–acidifies our oceans leading to massive die-offs of ocean life, disrupts its temperatures (and hence currents and weather patterns, the increasing power of storms, etc.) and threatens to flood the many low-lying coastal regions of the world where most of our population lives.

The awareness of these issues is now very widespread; what is not known is if we can stabilize population and economic growth in time to achieve a truly sustainable existence. This must be done before ecological disasters such as drought and weather extremes exacerbated by global warming and pollution lead to self-reinforcing temperature rises. (Permafrost melts–releasing methane, 20 times more damaging that CO2; arctic ice melts away in summer- no longer reflects the sun away- dark oceans absorb even more heat, and so on…)

Not a rosy future at all, and we must now confront the reality that our children will be inhabiting an earth that will begin to resemble Mars more than the lush, verdant earth we once had. (Note that we have eliminated 90% of old growth forests in North America and we now tear down Brazilian virgin vainforest, the lungs of the earth, in order to plant palm oil or graze more cattle…) The much anticipated Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change yielded a timid response for collective action at best. Of course–”We can’t afford these measures, our economies…” was the typical excuse given by countries both rich and poor.

So long as we respect money and GDP measures as the primary measures of prosperity, we will fail to factor in the untold true costs of our impact on the fragile state of our planet’s natural systems. We are floating through space–running out of currently used toxic gasoline, oil and (a no longer justifiable or viable fuel–coal).

We must therefore undergo a radical transformation in the ways we create and use energy, create and distribute food and water, create and build homes, offices and other essential infrastructure. The green revolution has arrived late, has sputtered— yet now must lead this necessary revolution.

While we endeavor to change these systems of production and consumption, let us not forget to address the many other governance issues and failures which persist in politics, religion, education, healthcare, human rights, militarization– and the core values, purpose and evolution of capitalism!


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