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Patterns of Thought and Human Survival: Holism vs. Fragmentation

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Climate disruption is dawning upon even the most close-minded of human beings. The proliferation and growing possibility of planetary devastation through weapons of mass destruction is beginning to dawn upon even the most close-minded military fanatics. Careful assessment of possible human futures gives us a bleak picture indeed. Even a Bernie Sanders, who is giving momentary hope to tens of millions of ordinary Americans, is not capable of transforming the overall assessment of a bleak and possibly hopeless human future.

In October 2015, the UN announced its new development goals, now called "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" to serve as a guide for all nations until 2030. These replace the failed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were in effect from 2000 to 2015. The Guardian reported that these new goals address the inadequate assumptions behind the failed earlier goals: "While the MDGs, in theory, applied to all countries, in reality they were considered targets for poor countries to achieve, with finance from wealthy states. Conversely, every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs. The new agenda, with 17 sustainable development goals at its core, recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with a plan that builds economic growth and addresses a range of social needs, while tackling climate change."

Recently scientists have revealed that the amount of heat in the oceans has doubled since 1997, in a mere 20 years, with immense unknown consequences for life in the oceans and by implication for all life upon the Earth [1]. Meanwhile Vladimir Putin said he "hopes nuclear warheads will not be needed to deal with terrorists or anyone else, after Russia launched cruise missiles from its submarine at Syria" [2] The threat to human existence from both these sources is no longer even veiled or repressed by the media: the possibility of the end of the human civilization project as we have known it is very real and immanent.

However, at the same time a great hope of a fundamental paradigm shift has arisen among a small portion of humanity, a paradigm-shift that I examine at length in my newest book One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract (2016). For more than a century now, since the scientific revolutions initiated by the work of Albert Einstein and Max Planck, scientists have been confirming and elucidating the holism of the universe and all the differentiated forms of existence within it--from galaxies to star-systems, to planets like the Earth, to the evolution of life, to the ecosystem of the Earth, to the oneness of humanity as a single species of homo sapiens.

Science has discovered that the universe is a single whole, systematically differentiated into innumerable parts. It has discovered that the universe is composed of levels or "fields" of overlapping wholeness, that every whole is necessarily differentiated by parts but that those parts cannot be understood apart from the wholes that make them what they are [3]. However, this is the crucial point: science has shown that every part in the universe is inseparable from the wholes of which it is a part, and science has shown that one cannot understand any part within the universe without comprehending the wholes within which it is a part.

It is precisely these insights that have not yet dawned on most human thought processes. We continue to focus on the parts independently of the wholes, and we continue to begin with the parts and operate from them. The new Sustainable Development Goals presented by the UN to the world in October contain the same failed assumption: that these are goals to be pursued by some 193 independent member states of the United Nations. That is why the SDGs will fail and the planetary environment will continue to collapse: because the ecosystem of the Earth is one interconnected whole and it cannot be addressed through the independent actions of some 193 independent parts. It must be addressed as a whole, by humanity acting as a whole, or we will not have a climate that sustains human life by the end of this century.

Similarly, news sources are now seriously proposing that "World War Three could start tomorrow" [4]. If World War Three begins tomorrow it will mean the end of human civilization. All scientific accounts of the effects of a major nuclear war agree on that. Yet we continue to think from the parts, and think in terms of the parts, and in this process we never get anything but more parts: more fragmentation--militarized nation-states confronting one another, competing with one another, skirmishing with one another. An ever-increasing emphasis on "homeland security" (whether in India, from which I just returned, or Russia or Britain, or the U.S.): every nation hunkering down on its "security" and military preparedness.

Science has shown that our planetary ecosystem is a whole, that human beings are a whole, and that human civilization is a holistic process of evolution all over this planet. And it is precisely these wholes that make possible an entirely new way of being (involving harmony and interdependence) and new way of understanding our situation. But instead we hunker down on the fragmentations, on the parts, under the illusion that this madness of fragmentation can somehow ensure our security and our future. This is exactly the opposite of what a century of science tells us we should be doing.

I took the photo above earlier this month of an overpass in Bangalore, India. It is symbolic of the point I am making. It correctly states that "destroying nature today" will lead to a "disastrous future someday." Then it shows a green trash receptacle to the right as if throwing trash in that receptacle can possibly make a difference to that impending disastrous future. The problem of climate collapse is not addressed by individuals throwing trash in receptacles, nor by concerned nations trying to limit their CO2 emissions. It can only be addressed if we begin thinking in terms of the whole system, the entire unsustainable system of the Earth.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth begins from the wholeness of humanity and civilization and shows how the parts (persons and nation-states) can and should be integrated into one harmonious and interdependent system of mutual thought, discussion, and decision-making. It establishes a World Parliament made up of representatives of the people of the world, the nations of the world, and "counsellors" chosen by the people and nations for their knowledge and wisdom to represent the whole of the world. Through a carefully planned and step by step process, it eliminates all weapons of war from the nations of the world. Through an integrated and scientifically informed process, it ensures environmental sustainability for all economic, commercial, and consumer activities of the people of Earth.

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Glen T. Martin is professor of philosophy and chair of the Peace Studies Program at Radford University in Virginia. President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), the Institute on World Problems (IOWP), and International (more...)

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