“This book shows the deep connections between our collapsing global ecosystem and our current world system of militarized nation-states and globalized corporate capitalism.” (p. xii) That is how Glen Martin succinctly describes his perceptive analysis of where we are and where we need to go. Despite our bleak situation which he documents in depth, he assures us that our situation is not totally hopeless because we “are in the midst of a paradigm shift from a world view that is inherently fragmented and mechanistic to a new paradigm that is inherently holistic, ecological, and premised on unity in diversity” (p. xiii). He notes that changes in individual attitudes and behavior will be insufficient unless there are also structural changes. “Properly designed institutions” are critical. Martin is explicit that the needed political blueprint “for founding a truly sustainable and democratic world civilization” (p. 145) is provided by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. That global constitution which has been developed by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) appears in its entirety as the book’s 70-page Appendix A. The critical period of its evolution from the mid-1950s to 1990 is reviewed on pages 66-71. Martin is now its president, and recent news is available at <www.radford.edu/gmartin>.
“Our Present Danger and its Solution” is the title of the first chapter. Martin cites many well-known scientists and thinkers (James E. Hansen, Jeremy Rifkin, Helen Caldicott, James Gustave Speth, John Cairns, Jr., and B. Sidney Smith) to support his contention that “our collapsing biosphere endangers everything” (p. 1). As a philosopher, Professor Martin is interested in the big picture of the overall changes occurring in our global community, the “paradigm shift from fragmentation to holism” (pp. 7-17) while at the same time most people have not made such a shift in their thinking. “Universally—in quantum theory, cosmology, ecology, systems theory, social science, and psychology—part and whole have come to be understood as inseparable from one another. . . . Yet our thinking remains mired in divisions, separations, and fragments that appear incommensurable with one another. The result is collective and personal egoism, war, conflict, economic exploitation, destruction of nature, & destruction of one another” (p. 8). We need to see things as parts of the whole which make them what they are. Rather than viewing the world as composed of 193 competing nation-states we need to see it holistically as a global community of humans within a larger biosphere. As examples of thinkers pointing us in this holistic direction Martin discusses E. Laszlo, E. Fromm, R. J. Lifton, Marx, Gandhi, Kant, Hegel, Dewey, E. E. Harris, H. E. Daly, K. N. Townsend, C. Birch, and J. B. Cobb, Jr. Institutionally, the ideal model for establishing a holistic planetary society, a global democracy, is the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
Focusing on the link between ecology and sustainability, Martin notes that now many economists (R. K. Turner, D. Pearce, I. Batemen, L. R. Brown, H. Henderson, D, Korten, H. E. Daly, K. N. Townsend, S. J. Goerner, R. G. Dyck, D. Lagerroos, J. Rifkin, and F. Capra) are making the point that economic theorists can no longer continue “as if investment, production, and consumption were self-contained without thought of the immense negative external consequences that production and consumption have on society and the planetary ecosystem” (p. 18). The new holism will mean a transformation of institutions. It will mean the end of militarism and widespread use and waste of non-renewable resources. There are two prominent global institutions that will need to be transformed as we move to a holistic planetary outlook–global corporate capitalism and the system of independent “sovereign” nation-states. These two kinds of institutions are historically linked, and both are anti–ecological (pp. 23-25).
Martin notes that despite the consensus about the paradigm shift taking place, only a few thinkers such as Shridath Ramphal recognize that these new changes “will always remain incomplete until they are brought ‘under the rule of law’” (p. 26). The existing system of voluntary treaties among nation-states and voluntary cooperation among international corporations “are all hopelessly inadequate forms of action in the face of our global climate crisis” (p. 27). We need to shift from the idea of negative freedom linked to the liberalism of the past to the new idea of positive freedom based on the quality of life in the community as seen in the thinking of Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, T.H. Green, Bosanquet, Ernest Barker, Errol Harris, and Jürgen Habermas. Democratic government is then seen as an instrument to promote the “common good of the social whole” (p. 32), a situation which requires “reasonable economic equality” (p. 33). But only a few of the progressive thinkers see that the global community needs “planetary democracy” (p. 35).
Martin gives us his own view: “Our global situation today requires the vision to create a constitutionally mandated planetary community of positive freedom in which human beings are empowered to deal with the global crises that threaten our existence and future generations . . . . The ‘common good of all’ needs to be the product of a global positive freedom that is only possible under a democratic Earth Constitution. . . . [T]he creation of government alone will not suffice. However, government as the mainspring of positive freedom . . . remains the necessary prerequisite for a truly transformed world order” (p. 39).
The second chapter provides the long-term historical background for the changes now taking place followed by the recent development of the Constitution for the Federation of the Earth. The third chapter gives a detailed explanation of and argumentation for the Earth Federation which incorporates specific measures to maintain the environmental sustainability of the Planet. The Earth Constitution is a totally ‘green’ constitution. In the fourth chapter Martin indicates why a revolutionary approach such as adopting the Constitution for the Federation of the Earth is required. “Perpetual compromises with the immense systems of economic exploitation and imperial sovereign nation-states have led to disaster after disaster for the people of Earth” (p. 129). “At the dawn of the twenty-first century, we are . . . in a position to self-consciously found a just, democratic, peaceful, and enduring planetary society” (p. 133). The Provisional World Parliament which is part of the Earth Federation Movement has adopted measures indicating what must be done to save the Earth. “Resistance and criticism to the present system, while appropriate, are not enough. We need a concrete, positive blueprint that we can envision, work for, and actualize. The Earth Constitution provides the best possible blueprint for system change—for funding a truly sustainable and democratic world civilization” (p. 145). The Appendix provides the full text of The Constitution for the Federation of the Earth plus signatures of the “original signatories” at the second and fourth Constitutent Assemblies held in 1977 and 1991.
This book is well reasoned and well documented, and its intention is to convert you to become a supporter of the Earth Federation Movement of which Glen Martin is a leader.