COLUMBIA — According to the preamble of the Earth Charter: “We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward, we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms, we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community”
(To view and endorse the entire Earth Charter, enter the following words into a computer search engine: “Full Earth Charter Preamble.”)
In keeping with the aforementioned vision, I offer the following propositions:
- There are a variety of pressing global problems — namely, war, human rights violations, vast increases in population, poor distribution of common resources, environmental degradation, hunger, terrorism and others that seriously threaten human life on this planet. And, because these problems are global in nature, they unquestionably require both local and global solutions.
- n Presently, there is a state of anarchy in relations between the world’s nation-states because of their many gross violations of international law, and their hopeless attempts to individually “protect” and maintain their sovereignty.
- The notion of total, individual national sovereignty requires each country to completely protect its own borders from a host of outside threats.
- Such protection is impossible because nuclear missiles do not stop at national boundaries. Neither does environmental pollution, global warming or diseases and viruses such as HIV/AIDS and the Asian Flu. Thus, total sovereignty on the part of any nation is an illusion.
- Human survival in a livable world requires that nation-states pool some of their sovereignty to fashion global organizations and institutions capable of maintaining global peace and security. Aside from protecting one’s own borders, national military establishments must be used only under the legally binding provisions of the United Nations Charter, as the means to prevent and settle deadly international conflicts. Thus, the primary function of national military establishments must be that of truly “defensive defense” of the homeland, and not that of empire building or illegal intervention into the affairs of other nations.
- Solutions to global problems require globally oriented citizens and politicians who work in the interest of Planet Earth, as well as that of their own countries.
- Ultimately, global problems can be solved if enough people have the political will to elect public officials who are knowledgeable and truly concerned with our many interdependent global problems.
- Today, on a worldwide basis, most human beings — including citizens of the United States — identify themselves almost wholly in terms of their own tribe or nation.
- The previously noted global conditions require that people also identify with, and have holistic allegiance to Planet Earth.
- Such identity and allegiance will require substantial changes in the values, attitudes and ways in which a majority of the world’s population thinks, feels and acts.
- Such change will require education for GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP from kindergarten through post-doctoral and other graduate work. It will also require various forms of adult education, and other means to impart critical knowledge on behalf of a well-developed global ethic.
- Consequently, one of the explicit, major goals of educational mission statements at all levels of schooling, must be “the development of individuals who are competent ‘humatriotic’ citizens of Planet Earth.” Such education should be meshed with complementary subject matter concerning national loyalty and national patriotism.
- Such education will require marked changes in today’s curricular goals and objectives, especially in the study of economics, ethics, religion, social studies, military science, etc., and will require adequate allotments of time, money and energy.
- Those who undertake the global citizenship education mission will have to possess high levels of vision, autonomy and commitment in order to alter the present-day model of narrow, nationalistic education.
- n In support of that philosophy of life and education, individual and collective appeals to the deity for divine blessings, must be two-fold: “God Bless America, and God Bless Planet Earth.” And perhaps, “God Bless the universe.”
Bill Wickersham, of Columbia, is an adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU, a member of Veterans for Peace and a member of the U.S. Steering Committee of Global Action to Prevent War.