A Treaty To Safeguard Humanity

A Treaty To Safeguard Humanity and the Biosphere From Potential Catastrophe’s Issuing From Artificial Genetic Manipulation

Whereas the artificial[i] manipulation of genetic material, the substrate of all life, and is “likely to be the most radical experiment humankind has ever carried out in the natural world.”[ii], posing grave and even catastrophic results equivalent to nuclear holocaust for humans, other creatures, and the global biosphere for all time to come, and whereas the same promises major improvements in human health and other benefits, it is necessary to bring these processes under the active control of humankind by means of an international treaty.

The Treaty

Article One: The manipulation of genetic material to create new diseases or make old diseases more virulent for purposes of making biological weapons, shall be a crime against humanity prosecuted according to the protocols of the International Criminal Court and any appropriate national court with a penalty of life in prison without parole.

Article Two: All forms of and practice of artificial genetic manipulation shall be strictly confined to qualified scientists at universities and other certified institutions of higher learning whose work shall be overseen on site by independent ethics committees.   No government laboratories will be assumed to qualify under these terms of restrictions.

Article Three: An independent organization of scientists, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose members are drawn from at least twenty-five different countries will be constituted to oversee and investigate all such research to evaluate its future impact on society and on the biosphere and recommend continuation or discontinuation of said research. These recommendations shall have the force of international law and violations prosecuted under the protocols of the International Criminal Court. The scientific community shall make the appointments to the Agency independently of national governments.

Article Four: It shall be illegal and construed as a crime against humanity to manipulate human genetic material that would result in transmission to subsequent generations or to in any way attempt to clone human beings.

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What we can do

  1. Learn more about genetic manipulation.
  2. Debate and refine these provisions with others.
  3. Carry these provisions to any national or international organization to which we belong or which we think will be interested.
  4. Carry these provisions to our own federal officials and elected representatives.
  5. Carry these provisions to appropriate bodies in the United Nations, particularly ECOSOC.

[i] That is, any form of laboratory based manipulation, e.g., gene splicing, CRISPR, etc., outside of traditional methods of breeding of plants and animals by selecting for traits to be passed on via natural means to the next generation

[ii] Jeremy Rifkin, The Biotech Century: Harnessing The Gene And Remaking The World

(New York: Penguin/Putnam, 1998), p. x.

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A Green and Just Planet Earth

Getting To A Green and Just Future On Planet Earth

If we are to save the earth from the assaults of Hypercivilization, and so save ourselves, we need to change our minds. A number of thinkers have been suggesting what we need to do to get to a green, just and sustainable future for planet earth. Ted Trainer writes: “To save the planet we do not need miraculous technical breakthroughs or vast amounts of capital. Essentially we need a radical change in our thinking.” Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, says: “We need a positive vision of an abundant future: one which is energy lean, time-rich, less stressful, healthier and happier.” It’s what economist David Korten calls “The New Story” and “The Great Turning.” Willis Harmon reminds us: “Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in society have come about not from the dictates of governments and the result of battles, but through vast numbers of people changing their minds, sometimes only a little bit.”

We need a different set of foundational beliefs that don’t repeat the lie that we are all individuals in a zero sum competition with each other to acquire ever more material goods in an ever expanding economy. That’s not the path to the good life; it’s the road to a ruined Earth and a new Dark Age. So what might be the new cultural postulates that could undergird a green and just society? Here are twelve suggestions.

  1. The most first and most fundamental of the ideas that will undergird Ecocivilization is the idea of community, which ought to be so obvious as to be not worth stating, yet it is crucial to do so in this age of radical, narcissistic individualism. There is no such thing as a self-made person. We humans all rely on one another, but even more profoundly on the other members of the geobiotic community—trees, plants, animals, soil organisms, the atmosphere, the oceans, etc. Other foundational concepts flow out of and into this, including the following eleven changes from our present beliefs.
  2. From privatization to preserving the Commons. Water, air, soil, food, atmosphere, parks, peace and security are rights of everyone, not to be sold to profited self-seeking corporations.
  3. From anywhere is everywhere to restoring a deep sense of place. We can’t know who we are until we know intimately where we are.
  4. From treating the earth as a momentary utility to seeing the Earth community as sacred.
  5. From ignoring the limits of nature to respecting its design, knowing what we can and, more importantly, can’t do without long term harm.
  6. Moving from mindless experimentation (nuclear power, genetic engineering, geoengineering, terraforming) to the precautionary principle which says those who want to introduce changes must themselves first prove them harmless.
  7. From design by guess to redesign by biomimicry—nature as teacher.
  8. From never enough to asking how much is enough.
  9. From crude measures of economic growth to determining and measuring true happiness and well-being.
  10. From rigidity to resilience, global dependence to local independence and self-sufficiency.
  11. From our war system to a peace system. [For more, see my book, From War to Peace: a Guide to the Next Hundred Years, McFarland Publishers).
  12. From irresponsibility to responsibility, from letting corporations externalizetheir environmental and social costs to the rest of us to requiring accountability from them.

These 12 should not be considered linearly but systemically in their mutual and ongoing interrelationships. They are all interlocked with each other. All could be derived from any one of them. You really can’t think about one without thinking about all of them.

The good news is that this great post-Enlightenment Rethink is already developing. It can be found in numerous books, articles, magazines, classes and courses and in countless conversations world-wide. David Korten’s “Great Turning” is underway.

Our Civilization Can Collapse? No Way. . . .

Our Civilization Can Collapse? No way. . . .

 

“We may live in the strangest, most thoroughly different moment since human beings took up farming, 10,000 years ago, and time more or less commenced.”

Bill McKibben

 

“In effect, the human race has entered into a great wager. We are, so to speak, betting the planet.”

Charles C. Mann

 

Oops—We Created “Hypercivilization.”

The history of life on earth is three billion eight hundred million years old. In that long time span the basic building blocks of life: the cell, complicated organisms and complex ecosystems developed. But in a brief geological moment of the last 200 years our species has radically altered and simplified planetary ecosystems by creating “Hypercivilization,” a powerfully destructive way of interacting with nature characterized by an unprecedented overreach in population, energy capture and dispersion, urbanization, and a chemical revolution, all leading to the toxification of the biosphere, massive habitat loss, extinctions, desertification, environmental diseases, and climate change, etc. We have changed the conditions in which life evolved. We are in uncharted waters.

Neither we humans nor the earth has ever been here before.

Hypercivilization is a greatly exaggerated, globalized and intensified form of civilization; a radical discontinuity with the evolutionary and cultural past. In the twentieth century it spread like a tidal wave over the earth and continues to spread and intensify. Its main impact on earth’s life support system is destructive. In “Hypercivilization” the good life is defined as acquiring ever more material things called “”goods,” by a process called “economic growth.” Most negative impacts on humans and nature are externalized from this economic system. They will be assessed against our children for generations. Pollution, deforestation, drought, erosion, extinctions, overpopulation and consequent social ills such as modern war and extreme poverty became normative. “Hypercivilization” burst upon the earth and trashed it in a comparatively few moments of evolutionary time. But from our limited perspective in the present, it was a long time in coming.

The Foundations Are Cracking

In the last 200 years Homo’s technical reach has leapt into the stars and descended into the heart of the atom and the gene. Today, billions of hands are literally tearing at the web of life. The natural foundations on which civilization rests are already cracking and bending and sagging. The end result will be a drastic simplification of earth’s ecosystems to the point where they will not be able to sustain civilization. The trend is well underway and is continuing to accelerate. And yet, we do not see it because, while our evolution prepared us to see dangers that are big, hairy and fast, it did not prepare us to see dangers that are incremental and of our own making. Many civilizations have gone down before, some quite suddenly. We are not immune.

I don’t mean to discount the wonderful, life-giving and enriching aspects of the modern world. None of us would give up anesthesia, or all the rest of modern medicine. The advance of literacy is miraculous and the internet has made more knowledge available to more people more rapidly than ever before. The point is that we must use our new-found knowledge of the natural and social worlds to benefit ourselves, and that requires understanding and confronting “Hypercivilization.”

How do we get out of this situation? Many experts are working on it. For starters, get

“The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crisis” published by Watershed Media. Get from Amazon or better yet, your local bookstore.