the Earth: Current Political Chaos
a Transformation of the United Nations”
September 2, 2019
The destruction of the Amazon jungles by
right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro threatens to end our civilization
and to condemn the next generation to death and destruction. This is a truly
existential moment for us, to use the hackneyed term employed in the media so
frequently that most people forget its significance. But as the Amazon burns,
due to fires set by those seeking to make short-term profits for the few off of
the jungles that purify the atmosphere shared by all of humanity, we are made
aware of how completely defenseless we are.
The United Nations can make statements,
famed intellectuals can write editorials, NGOs can protest in front of
Brazilian embassies, and citizens can sign petitions, but we are essentially
powerless in the face of a criminal effort to destroy our future.
Some are so married to the idea of
solving all problems peacefully through discussion that they cannot imagine
real resistance. Or they are so accustomed to opposing demands for regime
change that come from right-wing think thanks that they are allergic to the
very concept—even when it is necessary for our survival.
But a progressive form of regime change
[emanating from the grassroots]
is an entirely legitimate thing for concerned
citizens to advocate for. Do not forget the thousands of committed youth who
went to Spain in the 1930s to fight against Franco’s fascist regime. There was
no shame in the word regime change then, nor should there have been. Nor was
there any shame in the use of the force of arms to combat the fascistic
governments that were set on slaughtering the majority of humanity in a
ruthless quest for “living space.”
There can be no mistaking the threat of
totalitarian governance and the destruction of the ecosystem and of humanity in
the ruthless search for profit. We cannot ignore the pressing need to transform
our world and that will require more than signing petitions. It will require us
to reinvent global governance, not as a tool for investment bankers and wealthy
philanthropists to flatter themselves, but as a means to address the threats of
ecological collapse, militarism and the massive concentration of wealth.
It is no mystery why the G7, the G20,
the United Nations and other global organizations are entirely powerless to
respond to burning of the Amazon, even as scientists describe it as a threat to
life on earth that may be the equivalent of a world war.
The radical concentration of wealth has
made those global organizations into the play toys of those with money.
And the superrich have somehow convinced
themselves that money and technology can save them from the catastrophe that
awaits us. That attitude is best summed up by Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, of the
recently launched “Space Command” which will bring the war for dominance into
low orbit, into a region that should be the shared legacy of all of humanity.
“There is also a marketplace of
opportunity for humans not only to live and thrive in space, but also to have a
place to go if there is ever any problem with Earth whether it is from an
asteroid, from a disease, or any kind scourge of human nature or of nature that
can threaten human life. This is the broad arch of history that we sometimes
forget because we have lived in such a cocoon of protection and security for so
long that we forget the fact that there is a cycle asteroids and of contagion
that can wipe out from the dinosaurs to the human race. And there is nothing
you can do about it unless you have a sanctuary you can go to.”
Kwast does not use the word “climate
change,” but there can be no doubt that it is what he refers to by a “problem
with Earth.” He is selling a delusional fantasy that somehow the control of
space will allow some to survive catastrophe. This superficial and thoughtless
strategy is typical of the bankruptcy of global governance today and it is
leading us towards military conflicts in space, in the Arctic and the
Antarctic, and in the oceans which should be a shared commons, not the
exclusive property of corporations.
We face an ideological and systemic
collapse around the world that is at least as dangerous as that which we face
when the United Nations was established in 1942 and that even if Trump and
Bolsonaro are not sending millions to death camps yet, their assault on the
climate and their embrace of fossil fuels will be far more lethal for humanity
than were the German death camps.
We need a vision for a future world that
will move beyond this suicidal consumption-driven and military-dominated society
and will inspire us to risk everything we have to fight against such dark
powers as they tear our world apart.
The United Nations did not suddenly
spring into being. It was at the center of the drive to battle against fascist
movements which had taken over many nations through force and by ideological
struggles, roaming over large swaths of the Earth and threatening to destroy
much of humanity. It was a time, that is, not unlike our own.
A small group of intellectuals and
political activists risked their lives in all corners of the Earth to fight
against totalitarianism, and advocate for internationalism and for peace.
Eventually, they joined forces with Russia, China, the United States and Great
Britain, and with other exiled governments in London, Washington and Shanghai.
There were profound compromises in that process, but together they planned not
only for the defeat of the Fascists, but also for a new form of global
Those who had battled against Fascism in
the streets of Europe and Asia came together for a brief moment with those who
held institutional power and were able to rise above the exploitative systems
that had put them in power. The wisdom and the experience of those who had led
the struggle was reflected in government policy for a change, and an
institution dedicated to true global governance, both inspiring and infinitely
practical, was established.
The “United Nations” grew out of the
struggle to create a new system for international relations that can be traced
back to the Hague Peace Conventions of 1899, 1907 and 1914 (the final one was
disrupted by the outbreak of World War I). Those peace conventions codified the
principles of international law, proposed, and started to implement global
regimes for disarmament, and promulgated humanitarian laws for the conduct of
diplomacy, trade and war that included the punishment of war crimes. The
tradition of the Hague Peace Conventions, although completely ignored by the
media today, was the source of much of what we think of as international law
beyond trade policy. That tradition is what we most desperately need today.
The proposals of the Hague Peace
Conventions were developed further in the League of Nations after the
catastrophe of the First World War, moving the Earth closer to a form of global
governance that could counter global governance driven by multinational
corporations. This effort culminated in the Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928 which
set up a framework to end war in a systematic, legal and institutional manner.
That effort did not succeed, as we know
from the rise of Fascism, but it did not fail entirely either. The Hegelian
spiral continued upwards and even in the midst of the chaos of the Second World
War, the United Nations took shape, and a small group of intellectuals and
activists around the world struggled to push forward with a new model for true
Sadly, the United States, flushed with
confidence after its victory in the Second World War, was unable to pass up the
temptation to inherit the spoils of the British Empire. By the end of the
Korean War, the financial elites with deep ties to London were victorious over
those Americans who had taken cause with the global struggle against Fascism.
The United States thereafter turned the Soviet Union into a rival, rather than
a partner for world peace. The Cold War was born and the United Nations was
But even if the United Nations did not
realize its full potential during the Cold War l, it continued to play a
critical role defusing crises and proposing solutions to intractable global
The end of political economies focused
on a socialist model in Russia and China has profoundly distorted the discourse
on policy in the United Nations because the previous pushback on issues of
class and capital has vanished. Yet, even after the United Nations’ budget was
stripped to the bone during the George W. Bush Administration and United
Nations resolutions were ignored as a matter of course, even as American policy
drifted further and further away from international law under the Trump
administration, the United Nations remained vital as the place to which
citizens of the Earth feel that they can appeal for justice and for guidance.
The United Nations, stuffed with retired
bureaucrats in cushy jobs, funded (directly and indirectly) by multinational
corporations and billionaires, continues to drift away from it moorings. And
yet, again and again, we appeal to it to play the role that no other
institution can play, and on occasion it stand for the greater good and for
The desire for an agency of global
governance accountable to the people, in contrast to numerous secretive and
self-interested institutions that dominate global governance such as G7 and the
International Monetary Fund, has been enough to keep the United Nations going
even through the most difficult of times. The United States, however, never
regained the institutional commitment to the United Nations it had under
President Franklin Roosevelt.
We are facing political and ideological
dangers equal to, or greater than, those that we faced in 1942. We have not yet
witnessed anything in this struggle, in this chaos, as horrible as the
slaughter of millions by the Nazi armies in Poland, the Soviet Union and China.
Nevertheless, the decision of the United States to renounce all arms control
treaties, to launch wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and
elsewhere (and to openly prepare for war with Iran, Russia and China) suggest
that a conflict on that scale (or greater) is entirely possible.
The complete collapse of arms control
policy in the United States, now that right-wing and corporate power has taken
complete control of global and national governance, is best embodied by the
ideologue and psychopath John Bolton who has opened wide the gates of hell. The
United States and Russia now have thousands of nuclear weapons that are
thousands of times more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and
Nagasaki in 1945.
The threat of war against China made by
US vice president John Pence, a fascistic “Christian” leader who has drunk his
full at the teat of militarism, suggests that total war is not just something
to be experienced vicariously on video games, but quite plausible as American
policy. If Trump is not afraid of the catastrophic implications of climate
change what makes you think that he is afraid of nuclear war?
The breakdown in global governance
cannot be separated from the concentration of wealth. We now see in the
mainstream media, on Facebook or Twitter (which is the only media most citizens
have access to unless they come from privileged and educated families) that
opinions on climate, economics, and geopolitics comes primarily from
billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg, or from their
shills, and not from individuals with expertise, or with a deep ethical
commitment to the common good.
The “Wealth-X World Ultra Wealth Report
2018” reported that 255,810 “ultra high net worth” (UHNW) individuals (people
with over $30 million USD in assets) now control $31.5 trillion USD. That
amount is greater than the total assets controlled by 80 percent of the Earth’s
population, some 5.6 billion people. The increase in the wealth of these UHNW
increased by 16.3% between 2016 and 2017, and when the figures are released for
this 2018, the rate of increase will most likely be far higher. It is these
superrich, and not the United Nations bureaucrats, who call the shots in global
reform the United Nations; Transform the United Nations
The current institutional decay of
national, regional and international institutions is not theoretical or
forthcoming. It is right here, right now. The global liberal order that once we
trusted to guide us forward has collapsed, leaving behind a smoking crater
wherein investment bankers and their lackeys spar with vicious fascist tribes.
And although those groups may disagree
about who gets what part of the spoils, they are working together to burn down
the Amazon, and to prepare for war with China and Russia; they are deadly
serious and they have no intention of backing down—or even of negotiating.
Don’t bother asking them what they are
going to do; ask yourself, what are we going to do?
Such a dangerous and unstable world
demands from us nothing less than a global response. “Global” does not refer to
shared Facebook postings, but rather a coordinated international effort by
committed citizens of the Earth who are at least as well organized as the
investment bankers, and ethnic nationalists that we are up against.
This unstable world also demands that we
form institutions that go beyond the limited capacity of the United Nations so
as to address the single greatest political issue: The Earth is excessively
integrated in terms of finance, manufacturing, distribution and consumption but
we remain complete strangers when it comes to collaboration between ethical
intellectuals and citizens groups. We need a global system that supports, first
and foremost,the rational scientific analysis of the causes of the threats that
we face, and that oversees the immediate and effective implementation of a
massive response for the entire Earth—regardless of borders.
Numerous proposals for United Nations
reform have been made over the last six decades. Some, like the Millennium
Development Goals, have been partially implemented. Yet the vast majority of
the ideas proposed have been left to rot because the United Nations, and the
nation states of which it is comprised, are increasingly manipulated by global
investment banks and other vested interests who are concerned primarily with
their own profits.
The hour is late and the institutional
rot is deep. Whether we look at the degeneration of United Nations’ assignments
into perks for bureaucrats or the commercialization and the privatization of
the policy making process, the UN is no longer able to rise to the critical
tasks of preventing world war, ending the unholy concentration of wealth, or
reducing the catastrophic warming of our Earth.
The current situation is so serious that
a laundry list of piecemeal reforms for the United Nations will not do. What we
need is a proposal for a massive structural transformation, not a progressive
adjustment, that will change the function of the United Nations, and be a shift
equivalent to the move from the League of Nations to the United Nations.
We must make the United Nations a
bicameral representative institution, vaguely akin to the United States
Congress, or to Great Britain’s Parliament, so that it no longer represents the
outdated institutions known as nation states, but also represents the citizens
of the Earth in a democratic manner. That is to say we must make it function
more like a government, but do so by making it directly representative.
Such a move will give the United Nations
back the mandate that it had in 1942.
The current United Nations assembly
should become the upper house, the equivalent of the Senate in the United
States. This upper house, which could keep the title “United Nations,” will
offer each nation state a single representative. The current Security Council,
however, should be replaced with a speaker elected by all members of the United
Nations who works together with permanent and ad hoc committees to address
economic, security, welfare and environmental issues for the Earth as a whole.
The majority of the authority in global
governance, however, should be transferred to a new legislative body that will
serve as the rough equivalent of a lower house, or a “House of
Representatives.” The analogy to a lower house is limited, however, because
this assembly will play the central role in global governance.
This legislature, hereafter referred to
as the “Earth Congress,” will serve as a means of representing the needs and
the concerns of the citizens of the Earth at the local level, while at the same
time functioning as global institution for the formulation and for the
implementation of policies for the entire Earth. It will carry out the global
governance function which is currently monopolized by investment banks,
multinational corporations and the consulting firms that they support, and then
forced upon nation states through corrupt political systems.
The Earth Congress will be directly
engaged with citizens around the world, both responding to the actual concerns
of local populations and representing their interests and also informing them
about global issues in a scientific and rational manner. It will establish a
global dialog for the formulation of policy and the policy that it produces
will be binding across the entire Earth. It will not be an oppressive world
government because it will be far more democratic in nature than most current
nation states. Moreover the Earth Congress will provide funding for global
action based on an objective assessment of the Earth’s needs. It will not be
dependent on the whims of billionaires or the profits of corporations in order
to implement its goals.
Although the Earth Congress will draw on
the traditions of the League of Nations and of the United Nations, it will go
further by taking full advantage of new technologies to facilitate the
promotion of true cooperation around the world whether dialog between citizens,
joint research between scientists or cooperation on global issues between
governments. It will not have a central building where representatives gather,
but will rather have its meeting places distributed across the Earth, even as
policy is formulated in a centralized manner.
Because the Earth Congress is concerned
with democratic governance, education must be a critical part of its mission.
Governance is in decline around the world not so much because of corrupt
politicians, but because the media and educational organizations on which we
depend have declined radically in their quality and therefore most citizens of
the Earth are encouraged to respond to gimmicks and fads rather than to engage
in rational discourse and objective analysis. The citizens of the Earth are
subject to a broad anti-intellectual attack that makes political discourse
difficult and ethical governance nearly impossible.
The Earth Congress must offer to
citizens around the world the chance to learn about the critical problems that
we face and at the same time opportunities to participate in governance at the
local level that will be reflected in policy discussions at the global level.
Such a process requires a radical restructuring of the value systems promoted
by business in the local economy so as to make participation in political
discourse a high priority.
The Earth Congress will take the lead in
formulating strategies that allow citizens to work together with their peers
around the world. Trade will no longer be limited to the import and export of
goods monopolized by large corporations in a manner that greatly increases
carbons emissions. Rather a truly shared economy will be established in which
communities around the world can find like interests and coordinate their own
micro-trade and manufacturing cooperatives so as to form a citizen-based global
integration that counters the current concentration of capital in the hands of
those who dominate trade and finance. Such efforts should not be a sideshow,
but rather central to the future of global governance.
The actions of for-profit organizations
that seek to obtain short-term benefits through the destruction of the Earth’s
resources will be strictly regulated by the Earth Congress. The Earth Congress,
funded by a system of local contributions, must serve as a global organization
that capable of both assessing impact of current corporate exploitation of
resource and of definitively stopping such actions. It will be capable
overriding the criminal actions taking place in Brazil today, or creating a
long-term plan to wean the Middle East permanently of dependence on petroleum
for economic development.
The Earth Congress will regulate, on
behalf of the population of the entire Earth, the oceans, the Arctic and the
Antarctic, the atmosphere and the satellites and other devices that orbit the
Earth, and it will set out transparent and effective regulations to assure that
the internet is based entirely on renewable energy, is accessible to all and
promotes an open intellectual discourse based on the scientific method.
Policy will be made within the Earth
Congress, and not by law firms, or by think tanks, or by consulting firms that
lack transparency or accountability. The Earth Congress will be funded by
contributions from citizens (which will ultimately be obligatory like taxes)
across the Earth. It will employ such an approach because it allows it to
create institutions to govern the world that will replace those based on profit
today which do not consider the health of society or of the Earth. The Earth
Congress will not be allowed to accept questionable forms of support from
It is better to have a smaller budget
and be able to make accurate and objective decisions than to have massive
funding that promotes corrupt and dangerous policies.
The Earth Congress, as the primary
legislative body of the United Nations, will determine representation according
to the population of the entire Earth.
Perhaps one representative can be
assigned for every 50 million people (120 representatives for 6 billion
people). Some parts of the representation should be determined geographically
(to represent regions like Africa or South America) but at the same time, there
must be members of the Earth Congress who represent groups who are a
significant part of the Earth’s population, but who are too few in number to
have direct representation in local government. For example, the extreme poor,
or the handicapped, should be granted representatives to reflect their global
significance, even though they do not represent a large population in any one
country. Such an approach will provide a global democracy to counter the global
tyranny of multinational corporations.
The Earth Congress will be responsible
for assessing the long-term interests of humanity and of our precious Earth
without concern for national boundaries, or for special interests. It will then
propose long-term solutions to current challenges and implement them on a
The Earth Congress must insist on
long-term (minimum of 30 years) solutions to the most critical issues facing
the Earth and will encourage thoughtful and frank discussions about security
concerns such as climate change and immigration that are not driven by a need
for symbolic images, but real solutions.
Because it makes long-term policy, the
Earth Congress will also provide long-term financing globally that will make
solar and wind power, and other organic farming projects readily affordable for
citizens of the Earth.
The Earth Congress must move beyond the
short-term, case by case, arbitration of economic and political conflicts of
interests between nation states that have paralyzed the United Nations. Rather
it will plan for the future of humanity in an integrated manner with a focus on
the long-term ecological health of the Earth.
Problems such as saving dying oceans,
reducing the emissions of dangerous chemicals, countering the spread of deserts
and stopping the proliferation of dangerous weapons cannot be addressed by
nation states or international organizations that are dependent on the good
will of the wealthy.
For the Earth Congress, security will be
defined as protecting the Earth and its inhabitants. Its inhabitants are not
only humans but also indigenous animal and plant life. It is a basic assumption
within this new approach to global governance that no one owns the oceans, the
air, or the land and that all modern concepts like “real estate” and extraction
are extremely limited in authority. The Earth Congress will strictly regulate
fishing, pollution of the air and the water, the destruction of soil and of
natural habitats and it will focus on projects to restore the natural environment.
The interaction of experts in the Earth
sciences, the environment, agriculture and technology with groups that are
deeply engaged with ordinary citizens and with representatives of local
governments will create a positive cycle of inquiry, objective analysis,
constructive proposals and transparent and global implementation that will
usher in a new age for meaningful global governance.
future of global governance
There is nothing idealistic or
unrealistic about this proposal for the meaningful reform of global governance.
We already have a highly integrated
system for global governance administrated by investment banks and sovereign
wealth funds which use banks of supercomputers to calculate their short-term
profits and force through policy at the local, national and international level
to support their interests.
The rapid advancement of communication
technologies taking place today has already established a form of global
governance that overpowers the nation-state, whether we like it or not, whether
we know it, or not. Our only choice is to embrace the best of the traditions of
moral philosophy and good governance, and to use our creativity and our
industriousness so that we can create a better model for global governance, on
that addresses in a direct and long-term manner the tremendous challenges of
the current age, rather than the short-term profits of the few.