Before we leave our earthly bodies at death, we could ask ourselves these questions: Are we leaving our Mother Earth and the human race in a better condition than they were when we were born? What kind of a society and world will our children and grandchildren inherit?
Since my birth in 1947 human population has tripled to about 7.5 billion people. The consumption of natural resources, especially by industrialized societies, is increasingly straining the environment. Based on scientific evidence about 98% of climate experts have concluded that the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) by human activity is causing the Earth to absorb more heat from the sun. This global warming is changing the climate and causing more extreme weather conditions such as destructive storms and the melting of glaciers and permafrost. Warmer air holds more moisture causing in wet regions more rain and melting snow resulting in floods. Global warming will also cause in dry regions more heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. Rising oceans will flood lower elevations, and excessive carbon will increase deadly ocean acidification. Gradually warming with less glaciers, permafrost, and snow will reduce fresh water in rivers with devastating consequences for agriculture, industry, and domestic use.
Since the end of World War II nuclear bombs, other weapons of mass destruction, and advancing military technology threaten humans with mutual destruction unless our society learns how to resolve conflicts without the massive violence of wars.
Since 1980 economic inequality has been growing as the capitalists in the financial sectors have been accumulating almost all the increased wealth produced by human labor and the extraordinary advances in technology. The richest one percent of humanity now own 48% of the world’s wealth. The top 10% own 87% of all assets while the other 90% of humans make little or no economic progress or suffer from poverty.
Through most of human history each generation could look forward to opportunities for a better life than their parents had, especially in the past few centuries. Even now technological development continues to offer marvelous benefits. However, the catastrophes and suffering from global warming, wars, and economic inequality, which are likely to aggravate each other and become worse unless they are prevented, are currently causing the growing megacrisis facing humanity. If we do not implement radical remedies, the next few generations will likely suffer widespread poverty. Billions of people may die from starvation, disease, and war.
Humanity is facing an existential crisis that threatens the well-being and even the survival of the human race. We must find better ways to solve these problems because the current policies are leading us to disasters. This book is an attempt to educate people on the serious dangers we face by describing what is likely to happen if we continue these failing policies and by suggesting how we can solve these problems in more humane ways.
The development of language enabled the human species to communicate with each other and form cooperative relationships. Social relationships began with families and friends, gradually expanding to include clans and tribes. By mutual cooperation humans could work together in caring for each other, enabling them to improve their lives, overcome threats from other animals, and successfully adapt to their environments. Following the invention of tools and agriculture, humans began settling in villages that gradually expanded into towns and cities. By communication, cooperation, and commerce individuals could help each other improve their lives in creative and productive ways. To guide their actions in beneficial ways people in these large groups organized governments and laws for protecting everyone in the group or state.
Sometimes these groups and states came into conflict with each other over territory and resources. Some groups used weapons to raid others they considered alien or expendable. The groups attacked usually tried to defend themselves, and thus wars began a few thousand years ago. Occasionally powerful states tried to dominate others and formed empires which would eventually fall as other political organizations replaced them.
In the recorded history of the past five thousand years the rise and decline of civilizations occurred first in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Egyptian Old Kingdom was replaced by the Middle Kingdom followed by Hyksos rulers and the New Kingdom. In the Near East the rising and falling empires were the Sumerians, Akkadians, ancient Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Neo-Babylonians, Persians, Parthians, and Sasanians. In ancient India the Harappan civilization collapsed and was followed by the Aryans, Mauryans, Guptas, Mughals, the British, and finally independence with division into India and Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ancient China had the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties followed by warring states, dynastic empires of the Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Mongols, Ming, the Manchus, and Maoist Communism. Japan became aggressively imperialistic in the 20th century and was defeated in World War II.
The ancient Minoans and Myceneans were followed by the Greeks and Macedonians, who were led by Alexander and conquered the Egyptians and the Persians. The competing Hellenistic empires of the Ptolemies, Seleucids, and Antigonids were replaced by the Roman empire which declined during the dark ages of Europe. The Islamic empires were the Umayyads, Abbasids, Seljuqs, Buyids, the longer-lasting Ottoman empire, and the Persian Safavids. African cultures suffered from European imperialists and slavery. In the southern portion of North America the ancient Olmecs were replaced by the Mayans who collapsed after water degradation undermined its agriculture in the 9th century; the Toltecs declined and were replaced by the Aztecs, who in the 16th century were conquered by Spaniards as were the Incas in South America.
In North America native tribes were overcome by European imperialism, and in the 18th century mostly British colonists expelled the imperialists of their mother country by revolution (except in Canada and the Caribbean). In the 19th century the Spanish and Portuguese empires were replaced by revolutions in Latin America. The European empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary fell during the Great War (World War I) when revolution replaced the Russian empire with Soviet Communism. Fascist Germany and Italy were defeated in World War II. The Soviet Union’s “super-power” empire broke up in the early 1990s and was replaced by capitalism which is also transforming Communist rule in China. Following World War II and especially after the fall of Soviet Communism, the United States of America became the most powerful military empire in the history of the world.
Kirkpatrick Sale has described why empires collapse with the following four reasons: environmental degradation, economic meltdown, military overstretch, and domestic dissent and upheaval. A basic cause of these four factors is excessive economic inequality by which rich elites exploit natural resources, use the military to protect them and their power, and greedily accumulate so much wealth that poverty destabilizes society economically and politically. These are also the telltale signs of the current capitalists’ domination, a worldwide elite class led by Americans and their dollars which is rapidly worsening the global megacrisis and threatening civilization with unprecedented disasters.
Jared Diamond in his book Collapse found that the five sets of factors related to the collapse of a civilization are environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, friendly trade partners, and the society’s responses to its environmental problems with the last one being always significant.
Recent research indicates that many civilizations have declined because of strained natural resources and economic injustice. Ecologist Garrett Hardin has explained that the “tragedy of the commons” is that without effective laws and regulations resource exhaustion will occur until user rights and obligations are defined with benefits and responsibilities allocated. Unregulated market forces do not resolve the negative externalities which result from environmental pollution, economic injustice, and wars. To solve these problems collective action is essential from local to supranational levels.
The people of each nation are responsible for their own conditions and government, and so we each can set a good example by working to improve ourselves and the policies of our own governments. Because I was born in the United States and have lived here all my life, much of this is focused on how we can improve the United States. I realize there are other people in North America and South America who are also Americans; but when I use the term “Americans” here, I am referring to those who live in the United States of America which is the only nation that has the word “America” in its name. In many cases other nations are already developing reforms that are more advanced or successful than some conditions in the United States.
The United States is rich and the most powerful nation in the history of the world. However, the excessive militarization of the US as a superpower since World War II has caused many problems and will continue to do so until better ways are found. I believe that what makes the United States great is not its military power, but our ideals of freedom and equal rights. Through its dominating and aggressive foreign policy, its increasing economic inequality, and its massive use of resources and pollution, the United States recently has been leading the world in the wrong direction. As citizens of this country we are responsible for correcting our national policies. If we could get Americans to live up to our best ideals and reform our unjust policies, then the United States could help lead the world in moving toward disarmament and peace and in solving global warming and poverty.
Let us begin by examining ourselves and putting our own lives in order. Given the current megacrisis we face, what are the strategies and priorities we can apply which will most likely bring about the reforms we need? Everyone has the right to choose their own actions, and people can be doing many different things to help the situation. I am suggesting some of the ways I believe we can use to bring about needed changes to prevent more global warming, to move toward disarmament and the prevention of wars, and to promote a more fair distribution of wealth and economic benefits.
So many things need to be done to shift global priorities and situations, and everyone can help in various ways. The first chapter “Spiritual Evolution” explores the spiritual and ethical principles that can guide humanity toward a better future. The second chapter “Choosing a Better Future” summarizes the major choices facing humanity at this critical stage of our social, political, and economic development. The dangers of climate change and the practical solutions are described in chapters 3 and 4. Specific improvements are proposed in chapters 5-8 “Economic Democracy,” “Democratic Reforms,” “From Wars to Peace,” and “Global Reforms and Human Rights.” The process of creating the political will to make the necessary changes is discussed in the last chapter “Love and Nonviolent Strategy.”