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Planetary Humanism

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As science advances and our technical skills expand, urgent problems keep bubbling up that cannot be solved on a national basis, like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, and environmental degradation. Necessarily, the world's nations are already giving up bits and pieces of their sovereignty to a variety of new international institutions. This is the only way most of these problems can be solved, and there seems to be no end to the problems themselves. Already, therefore, many important matters are being governed by an increasingly dense web of transnational institutions and commitments. The trend appears unstoppable, unless some kind of natural or manmade holocaust wipes out most of us and renders most of the planet unable to sustain human life.

Many people cannot see the forest for the trees. They recognize, and often resent, the stresses produced by rapid changes in our lives, but they cannot or will not raise their sights and look at where all these changes are taking us. There is a failure of imagination here, a short-sightedness that keeps them from envisioning a situation in which humanity as a whole has achieved peace with itself and the environment. Antagonists in regional conflicts may prefer to fight on, rather than compromise. National leaders often see their goals in narrow terms, ignoring the larger interests of humanity, while special interests will pursue their own goals at the expense of the common good. The so-called tragedy of the commons is replicated in a thousand ways in a million places.

Each of these forces resisting the current tide will change when it comes to realize that the issue is to adapt or perish. Our species is conservative, but not suicidal, and it is, ultimately, supremely capable of adapting to new challenges. It is reasonable to hope, therefore, that eventually humanity as a whole will learn to cope with relatively new transnational issues like global warming, nuclear weapons proliferation, and international terrorism. The problem is timing: when popular understanding lags behind, catastrophe looms.

Humanists everywhere have a special responsibility to inspire others with a vision of a future world at peace, and to encourage constructive steps toward creating a global order that will realize that vision. As I write, in early 2006, nowhere is this task more important, or more urgent, than in the USA.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

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