Our Common Oceans and Seas
The people of the earth having agreed that the advancement of man in spiritual excellence and physical welfare
is the common goal of mankind...therefore the age of nations must end, and the era of humanity begin.”
Preamble to the Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution
The United Nations is currently preparing a world conference 5-7 June 2017 devoted to the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal N° 14: Conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the U.N. are invited to submit recommendations for the governmental working group which is meeting 24 to 27 April in New York.
The Association of World Citizens has long been concerned with the Law of the Sea and had been active during the 10-year negotiations on the law of the sea during the 1970s, the meetings being held one month a year, alternatively in New York and Geneva. The world citizens position for the law of the sea was largely based on a three-point framework:
a) that the oceans and seas were the common heritage of humanity and should be seen as a living symbol of the unity of humanity;
b) that ocean management should be regulated by world law created as in as democratic manner as possible;
c) that the wealth of the oceans, considered as the common heritage of mankind should contain mechanisms of global redistribution, especially for the development of the poorest, a step toward a more just economic order, on land as well as at sea.
The concept of the oceans as the common heritage of humanity had been introduced into the U.N. awareness by a moving speech in the U.N. General Assembly by Arvid Pardo, Ambassador of Malta in November 1967. Under traditional international sea law, the resources of the oceans, except those within a narrow territorial sea near the coast line were regarded as "no one's property" or more positively as "common property." The "no one's property" opened the door to the exploitation of resources by the most powerful and the most technologically advanced States. The "common heritage" concept was put forward as a way of saying that "humanity" - at least as represented by the States in the U.N. - should have some say as to the way the resources of the oceans and seas should be managed. Thus began the 1970s Law of the Seas negotiations.
Perhaps with or without the knowledge of Neptune, lord of the seas, the Maltese voted to change the political party in power just as the sea negotiations began. Arvid Pardo was replaced as Ambassador to the U.N. by a man who had neither the vision nor the diplomatic skills of Pardo. Thus, during the 10 years of negotiations the "common heritage" flame was carried by world citizens, in large part by Elisabeth Mann Borgese with whom I worked closely during the Geneva sessions of the negotiations.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918-2002) whose birth anniversary we mark on 24 April, was a strong-willed woman. She had to come out from under the shadow of both her father, Thomas Mann, the German writer and Nobel laureate for Literature, and her husband Giuseppe Antonio Borgese (1882-1952), Italian literary critic and political analyst. From 1938, Thomas Mann lived in Princeton, New Jersey and gave occasional lectures at Princeton University. Thomas Mann, whose novel The Magic Mountain was one of the monuments of world literature between the two World Wars, always felt that he represented the best of German culture against the uncultured mass of the Nazis. He took himself and his role very seriously, and his family existed basically to facilitate his thinking and writing.
G.A. Borgese had a regular professor's post at the University of Chicago but often lectured at other universities on the evils of Mussolini. Borgese, who had been a leading literary critic and university professor in Milan, left Italy for the United States in 1931 when Mussolini announced that an oath of allegiance to the Fascist State would be required of all Italian professors. For Borgese, with a vast culture including the classic Greeks, the Renaissance Italians, and the 19th century nationalist writers, Mussolini was an evil caricature which too few Americans recognized as a destructive force in his own right and not just as the fifth wheel of Hitler's armed car.
G.A. Borgese met Elizsabeth Mann on a lecture tour at Princeton, and despite being close to Thomas Mann in age, the couple married very quickly shortly after meeting. Elisabeth moved to the University of Chicago and was soon caught up in Borgese's efforts to help the transition from the Age of Nations to the Age of Humanity. For Borgese, the world was in a watershed period. The Age of Nations − with its nationalism which could be a liberating force in the 19th century as with the unification of Italy − had come to a close with the First World War. The war clearly showed that nationalism was from then on only the symbol of death. However, the Age of Humanity, which was the next step in human evolution, had not yet come into being, in part because too many people were still caught in the shadow play of the Age of Nations.
Since University of Chicago scientists had played an important role in the coming of the Atomic Age, G.A. Borgese and Richard McKeon, Dean of the University felt that the University should take a major role in drafting a world constitution for the Atomic Age. Thus the Committee to Frame a World Constitution, an interdisciplinary committee under the leadership of Robert Hutchins, head of the University of Chicago, was created in 1946. To re-capture the hopes and fears of the 1946-1948 period when the World Constitutions was being written, it is useful to read the book written by one of the members of the drafting team: Rexford Tugwell. A Chronicle of Jeopardy (University of Chicago Press, 1955). The book is Rex Tugwell's reflections on the years 1946-1954 written each year in August to mark the A-bombing of Hiroshima
Elisabeth had become the secretary of the Committee and the editor of its journal Common Cause. The last issue ofCommon Cause was in June 1951. G.A. Borgese published a commentary on the Constitution, dealing especially with his ideas on the nature of justice. It was the last thing he wrote, and the book was published shortly after his death: G.A.Borgese. Foundations of the World Republic (University of Chicago Press, 1953). In 1950, the Korean War started. Hope for a radical transformation of the UN faded. Borgese and his wife went to live in Florence, where weary and disappointed, he died in 1952.
The drafters of the World Constitution went on to other tasks. Robert Hutchins left the University of Chicago to head a “think tank”- Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions – taking some of the drafters, including Elisabeth, with him. She edited a booklet on the Preliminary Draft with a useful introduction A Constitution for the World (1965) However, much of the energy of the Center went into the protection of freedom of thought and expression in the USA, at the time under attack by the primitive anti-communism of then Senator Joe McCarthy.
In the mid-1950s, from world federalists and world citizens came various proposals for UN control of areas not under national control: UN control of the High Seas and the Waterways, especially after the 1956 Suez Canal conflict, and of Outer Space. A good overview of these proposals is contained in James A. Joyce. Revolution on East River (New York: Ablard-Schuman, 1956).
After the 1967 proposal of Arvid Pardo, Elisabeth Mann Borgese turned her attention and energy to the law of the sea. As the UN Law of the Sea Conference continued through the 1970s, Elisabeth was active in seminars and conferences with the delegates, presenting ideas, showing that a strong treaty on the law of the sea would be a big step forward for humanity. Many of the issues raised during the negotiations leading to the Convention, especially the concept of the Exclusive Economic Zone, actively battled by Elisabeth but actively championed by Ambassador Alan Beesley of Canada, are with us today in the China seas tensions. While the resulting Convention of the Law of the Sea has not revolutionized world politics – as some of us hoped in the early 1970s - the Convention is an important building block in the development of world law. We are grateful for the values and the energy that Elisabeth Mann Borgese embodied and we are still pushing for the concept of the common heritage of humanity.
Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Monday, April 24, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
C-span’s Washington Journal call-in program this morning asked its listeners “What do you believe the greatest environmental problem is today?” The callers mentioned indoor air pollution, asteroids, water pollution, animal slaughter, over-population, fracking, and even the hype of global warming. A much longer list exists (volcanoes, nuclear war, ocean acidification, deforestation, loss of top soil…) but the root problem is rarely mentioned. That being what we think, value, and actually do or don’t do.
Each of these human factors are largely driven by our examined acceptance of a single word - ‘independence’. There should be no doubt that this single mental construct is the greatest threat to an environment that has sustained our species since our origin, but also the greatest threat to our freedom and security. Historically, the very government we depend on to protect our freedom and security is based on this fantasy ideal.
In reality, everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING (organic, inorganic, or imaginary) is dependent upon a variety of other things. Yet we go about our lives as if what we do, or what we do it with, is our business and no one else’s. We call this ‘freedom’. Ultimately, we are all free. Free to do anything humanly possible. But we (and others) will never be free of the consequences.
We don’t need to worry about the Earth. Fact is, in the long run (the next 4 billion years) the earth and the natural environment will be fine. There has been at least five mass extinctions, where 50 to 95% of all multi-cellular species were wiped out over the last 600 million years. And, after each mass extinction, life returned to cover the planet with increasing abundance and diversity. Humans arrived in the later part of last recovery. And now, most scientists believe humans are creating the next mass extinction at a pace approaching 1000 times faster than any previous extinction. Humans will likely survive, but not all of us. And, unless we direct our sciences to mimic the powers of nature, and find a new means of surviving the end stages of our primary source of energy, the sun, all humanity will eventually go extinct.
There is a growing possibility that humans could go extinct long before our Sun goes red enveloping the Earth and its orbit. And our extinction is most likely to be the result of our own advances in science and technology which currently serve national and economic interests not that of all people and the environment. Those at the Science March who were advocating for more funding for science and technology seldom mention that science is only a tool. How it is used depends on the value system of the user, not the inventor. Unless our collective value system puts the protection of human rights and the environment ahead of nationalism, patriotism and/or profit, our prospects for the future are grim.
Nationalism as it is now in the absence of ‘justice for all’. It drives weapons development and the evolution of weaponry to unprecedented killing capacity and accountability. We are creating artificial intelligence to give us a military advantage. Its possible that AI will evolve beyond our control, and after attaining the insight that the human mind is fundamentally flawed in its capacity to believe anything and destroy everything, humans will be eliminated. In our species arrogance we forget how fragile our life form is. Thirteen organic systems and structures entirely dependent on each other and a far greater number of interdependent living and nonliving systems and structures makes for health and survival. As individuals, families, cities, states, and nations we are infinitely vulnerable to a variety of microscopic and global macroscopic factors. Factors no independent government can stop, no matter how tall the wall, or how powerful the military.
Because of our unchallenged worship of ‘independence’ “We the People” of the world still have no global democratic system or structures to assist us in protecting our valued lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness…each of which is entirely dependent on our God given life support system we call ‘the environment’. These values used to be ‘self-evident truths’.
We humans have always altered our environment for better or worse, mostly worse, but we in our technological power/arrogance continue to ignore reality. The health of the earth’s environment has the last vote. And, human freedom, security, prosperity, and perhaps our species survival rely on that vote.
If we cannot redirect our intelligence, creativity, science, technology, resources, and laws toward mimicking the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” (as our nation’s founding fathers stated in the first paragraph of our Declaration of Independence) we should prepare for the worse.
So on this Earth Day remember that Earth and life on it will be fine for the next 4 billion years. We may not. Science will only prove valuable if it is applied in the long run to the value that ‘all people’ are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Rights not limited to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ But also the fundamental right to a sustainable environment and justice for tall.
The more one reads, questions and thinks outside our dysfunctional culture/society one will increasingly conclude, beyond any doubt, that unless we apply science to the Golden Rule (promoted by every religion) human progress will be thwarted. Ultimately we are free to do, and believe, anything we want. But without understanding and responsible actions in relation to our global interdependence, our security is not possible.
The most effective means of demonstrating our responsibility today would be our collective action in achieving each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030. Read, question, think, and act responsibly. The greatest power you have is educating your elected officials regarding the nature of reality.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Brahmanism: "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you" : Mahabharata 5:1517
Christianity: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12
Islam: "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." Sunnah
Buddhism: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana Varga 5:18
Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31:a
Confucianism: "Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you." Analects 15:23
Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shag Kan Ying P'ien
Zoroastrianism: "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself. " Dadistan-i-dinik
Justice for all, or security for none.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
If you would like to monitor progress on the SDGs…which are essential indicators of global justice and security, this is the website to keep handy.
opendata/opendata/2017-atlas- sustainable-development-goals- new-visual-guide-data-and- development?cid=EXT_ WBBlogEmailShar
If you are interested in making the SDG’s important to your elected officials, consider participating in the 435 Campaign for Global Justice.
Three things are vital to a peaceful, free, prosperous and secure future for humanity.
1. A comprehensive approach to ‘justice for all’
2. A means to fund it and/or enforce it.
3. Motivating action in the context of enlightened self-interest…national security.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Today is the 100th Anniversary of the US entry into the first World War. No one really knows why that war was fought but most agree that the way it ended set the stage for the World War II and nearly twice as many casualties. There should be no dispute that the horrors of World War II set the stage for the Cold War and dozens of genocides, revolutions, and famines that followed that killed more people than both World Wars combined.
There should be no doubt that current global war against terrorism, now called violent extremism, is a direct result of the consequences of the global injustices perpetrated during the Cold War.
The most important question now, is how do we end war before it ends us? Given the evolution of weaponry and the dozens of new factors that make a continuation of war by any means (bio, cyber, nano, space, robotics or AI) a form of insanity what are we to do? Our freedom, security and prosperity will increasingly be lost.
The urgency of our era can be seen from multiple perspectives. The evolution of weaponry. The evolution of pathogens. And the failure of our political systems to evolve in response to these threats.
There is only one viable pathway to an alternative future where freedom, security and prosperity can be maximized for all the world’s people. We the people must demand that our governments put the protection of human rights (see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) above the rights of nation states to do as they please, without being held accountable.
After the horrors of WW II most people agreed we needed to prevent future war. From that view emerged the UN system and the most important document in human history -the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then world leaders failed to make human rights a priority.
We now have what may be our last chance to end the trajectory of world war. Replace it with world law. We all know that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so the next best option is meeting the Sustainable Development Goals which is a close equivalent of enforcing the UDHR.
There is no shortage of money to achieve these goals. It can be found in off shore accounts and even many US states where banks are now holding approximately $14 trillion in money that should have been put into the service of human survival instead of enriching less than one tenth of one percent of humanity.
Time is not on our side. Our survival will depend on our capacity for adaptation to these changing times. More military spending is not going to help. More treaties and weapons bans will not help. More hopefulness will not help.
Only a movement of movements generating sufficient political will for our leaders to move away from war and toward world law will work. Demand that our elected officials take this path. There really is no other way.