Global warming didn’t pause at all during Cairo’s recent rebirth. In fact, every month of inaction on Earth’s climate emergency makes recovery that much harder and costlier.
In a recent essay, “The Right To A Future,” I proposed a new lexicon for conveying accelerating climate change as the greatest threat on Earth, a crisis that constitutes a theft of futures for the world’s children. I argued that climate change is the cumulative crisis, which has no partial remedy, and that addressing it sufficiently requires nothing less than systems change. I suggested replacing the bottom-line “economy” with “bionomy”: a steward-the-biosphere model of sustainable commerce. I called for a compassion revolution.
Tracking the Cairo revolution’s hopes, heroes and martyrs amid a complex of feelings from anger to elation, moved by the people’s demands for nothing short of regime change, I thought about the global context of the Egyptian drama: the complex of issues including power, finance, bribery, social justice and self-determination that gripped the world’s attention for 18 days. And I asked myself, what could replace the enormously wasteful Realpolitik power brokering, that age-old Machiavellian fear-based geopolitics of “political realism” and adversarial posturing?
What if Ecologik – the interconnected intelligence of Earthly and human systems – became the organizing principle of not only international relations, but also for how societies might reorder priorities? What if we looked at this idea with an Earth and child lens? Why not embrace a basis for redesigning institutional values that transcends politics, one based on what we know to be true about nature and human learning? Why not redesign around what’s real?
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The urgent need to address global climate collapse requires a dramatically different global village than we currently have. The world needs a sustainable blueprint for international relations, one to reduce conflicts, diffuse tensions and help stabilize climate. Hostility (and warring) among nations is both a cause of global warming and an obstacle to addressing it, thus, a distinct security risk for all nations.
In his memorable farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower eloquently warned of the dangers of military growth and he cautioned against mortgaging the present against our grandchildren’s future. Coming from a WW2 four-star general and supreme allied commander in Europe, these words are all the more extraordinary and imperative to the current geopolitics:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted …
As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow … We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
In this spirit, it’s paramount to remember that the chronic, war-making machinery of Realpolitik is a substantial contributor to global warming. Military might uses trillions of dollars annually, requires massive amounts of fossil fuels and is a major polluter.
With all the recent talk of the role of the military in Egyptian society we might well ask, “What is the role of the military in all human societies?” Can nations have security forces that serve rather than dominate citizens? Will the massive show of nonviolence in Cairo bring regime change in the rest of Arabia and beyond?
With two dictators fallen in two months (first in Tunisia and then in Egypt), are we on the verge of a period when tyranny takes a tumble and there’s no wall too tall to fall?
Get real! That’s what cynics tell people who are busy creating a different possible world. But hey, we’re all Egyptians now. We’re deeply moved by the Cairo triumph of peace signs and mobile phones, the nonviolent moral power that conquered fear and defeated tyranny. Wael Ghonim (Google employee), journalist Mona Eltahawy, author and feminist Nawal El Saadawi are among the many inspiring Egyptians daring to dream of what’s possible.
Get real? That’s what Egyptians are saying to US foreign policy, which for three decades financed a brutal dictator who stole billions, and to a regime that tried to defy the clear and resounding will of the people.
Get real! That’s what progressives demand of market fundamentalists who ignore what we know about nature and human nature, of politicians addicted to fossil fuels and false notions, of the tired left/right rhetoric that clogs clear thinking.
What’s real is the biodiversity that sustains us, the interconnected family of life. All we need is found here in the life-giving energies of Mother Earth, not in disconnected economic theories. Every human can learn to appreciate and respect the synergy of living systems that contain systems within systems. Within this communion the human pulse can find its rightful place.
What’s real is learned in the human family, the theatre of love and belonging, and this can inspire what’s real among nations. The longing of children for respectful love, of families for a good life, of communities for safety and vitality – that’s what’s real. Not the fear mongering of despots and nihilist ideologies; not the willful destruction of nature; not the trafficking of children for sex or slave labor; not the perpetual warring of the military industrial elite; all that is collective madness.
We, the people, dream of something dramatically different. We want a “glasnost and perestroika” to bring openness and restructuring to the grossly inequitable partitioning of wealth and resources that keeps billions in poverty and imperils our world. And in Egypt, we see signs of the possible and, perhaps, the birth of an era.
The Internet Revolution of Tahrir Square marks a turning point in international relations.
Worldwide, social media is knocking secrecy for a loop, as “facebookers and tweeters” instantly report what’s real on the ground. In Cairo, the outgoing regime couldn’t keep up with those who communicate at light speed. Arianna Huffington commented, “People can now connect to each other faster than any government can connect with its people.” Longtime political analyst George Will put it starkly: “It may be the case that tyranny’s not feasible any more.” Enter Ecologik.
Funny thing about social media’s boost to freedom of speech, information and communication: it doesn’t go well with secrecy. And this high-tech connecting savvy just might just be the unraveling of Realpolitik. Secret police and “intelligence” agencies with vast resources are meeting their match: vast numbers of people who wish to be free, to eat and enjoy life. And young people are leading this freedom rally with a digital dance. To them, social justice is not some socialist trick; it’s about fair trade and fair play.
The call for a more equitable sharing of the planet pie evokes the Robin Hood ethic we loved as children. As mature adults, we want to do our best for our children. Grieving the loss of wisdom, community and biodiversity on a scale that now threatens global climate catastrophe, tired of the globalarchy, we can dream of and work toward what is long overdue and eminently possible – a paradigm shift to systems’ smart societies, in a world fit for children.
In “Earth in the Balance” (1992), Al Gore proposed that ecology become the central organizing principle of societies. The idea didn’t take hold, partly because most people regard environmental matters pertaining “only” to air, water and soil, and because we didn’t hear more from Gore on his idea while in office. In “Child Honouring: How To Turn This World Around” (2006), I proposed that “Child Honouring” become our governing principle, since we can see the human face of ecology in the Child, the near and present concern of all families.
As children go, so goes society. Investing in early childhood development is among the best investments (for return) a society can make, say economists. And when that investment is comprehensive enough to thoroughly detoxify all infant environments, the link between child well-being and Earth restoration becomes clear. Remembering that child friendly means Earth friendly, we can know that doing right by the Child is also an effective way to restore our planet.
Tending well to our first environment (mother’s womb) and first garden (the early years), by respecting this formative period in human development, we can enrich the entire ecology of being across the human spectrum and within our Earthly habitat.
We are social animals, well endowed to explore a world of wonders. Respect for children’s personhood offers the best chance to grow the well-educated and emotionally mature adults that open and sustainable societies require.
What’s more, we can grow a synergy culture on Earth – a diversity of child-honoring societies that increase joy, reduce suffering, detoxify their environs and help stabilize climate – a vibrant global culture, whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
The real wealth of nations – in Egypt as in all nations – is in the well-being of their citizens. Caring is the key to that wealth. It is our sustaining virtue. With tyranny no longer feasible, Ecologik can come to the fore. We can indeed co-create a new global ethic. Worth tweeting!