22 March 2012
If Mother Earth were a patient in the hands of a good doctor what would the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis look like? Can the planet be cured of its ills at all and what would it take to achieve this? Is there an alternative to the path of willful suicide forced on all life forms on the globe by the blind greed and inhumanity of a few?
Even for a layperson, at very first glance, it is very clear that our planet is indeed at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The symptoms are all there. Mother Earth suffers from dangerously elevated blood pressure, blockages of key arteries, toxic poisoning, smoked out lungs, a damaged liver and multiple injuries untreatable by existing antibiotics.
On top of all this the Planet is also mentally unstable showing all signs of being compulsively obsessive and manically depressive, capable of coming to a violent end abruptly! Global warming is but one expression of a severe bipolar disorder afflicting the Earth.
The underlying etiology of the diseases afflicting the patient is broadly well known. The growing global inequalities, the absence of global democracy, the arms race and wars that it spawns, the ecologically destructive path of blind industrial development, the manipulation of the global economy by countries and corporations and the valuing of profits over interests of people or future generations.
It is also possible to pinpoint the specific pathogens that have driven the planet to its current state of ill health. At the top of the list are global corporations that over the last century or more have become authoritarian, unaccountable centres of concentrated wealth and power – forming cancerous tumors that deplete Mother Earth of its ability to sustain itself.
Governments around the world have become agents and brokers of corporations subverting the interests of their own people and welfare of natural ecosystems. Politicians who vie with each other for power- despite their proclamations of concern for democracy – are reduced to mere salesmen fooling the public into buying the dystopia propagated by the masters of big capital.
Urban middle-classes everywhere have fallen under the hypnotic spell of consumerist lifestyles and march zombie-like to the dictates of the politicians and the corporations they represent. Every revolt and act of dissent seems to be tamed, co-opted or crushed by the forces of capital and its numerous strategists.
So what could be the possible remedy to the Mother Earth’s ailments, a way that could begin to revert the path of predictable and painful death that lurks ahead? What will it really take to Heal the Planet? Given below is a set of suggestions, of course incomplete in their scope, but something to get the ball rolling towards a better future:
•Rights of Mother Earth: The source of human conflict in many ways stems from our lack of concern for other species as we ultimately do to each other what we do to nature itself. The term ‘human rights’ will never have true meaning without overturning the deep-rooted idea that our planet belongs exclusively for the human species and its benefit.
The time has come to recognize clearly and reflect in our laws and procedures the Rights of Mother Earth and all of nature, including the thousands of other living species that co-exist with human beings. This has already been done in a pioneering though limited way in countries like Bolivia and Ecuador, through amendments to their national Constitutions.
Globally, for the idea of ‘Rights of Nature’ to have practical meaning, laws are needed to end the operations of corporations that are poisoning, defacing and destroying large parts of our world. The arms companies, mining corporations, nuclear power plants, chemical polluters and all carbon spewing monstrosities have to be stopped immediately.
•Sharing global resources: Every species on Mother Earth has a right to the resources of the planet as part of its inalienable Right to Life. For the human species this means redistributing existing access to land, forest, water, health care and other resources through the implementation of a ‘global minimum wage’ to ensure the welfare of every member.
Since we live in world already brought to the brink of disaster by the operation of vested interests of different kinds over the centuries there is a need to work out a scheme of compensation for damage done historically. The concept of ecological debt whereby those nations and entities most responsible for destroying natural resources compensate all those who have borne the negative consequences of such destruction, has to be implemented urgently.
•Revaluing the idea of capital: In the recent history of the planet nothing has been as pernicious or destructive as the manipulative, tsunami-like flow of capital around the world. Those who control large quantities of capital have used it to squeeze the globe dry of its resources.
Even more insidious has been the way the idea of money and its value themselves have been defined to suit the interests of a few powerful nations and cabal of financial entities.
The time has come to re-define capital as not something determined by mysterious ‘demand and supply’ but by its relation to the use of energy, the only universal and accurately measurable unit we have historically. The value of national currencies, under this principle, should be held inversely proportional to the per-capita consumption of energy in each nation. This, for example, would make the US dollar the lowest valued currency and that of Sierra Leone the highest, enabling the poor to use more energy and the rich to consume less.
•Implementing Global Democracy: For too long now corporations and those who benefit from them have hidden behind the fog of nationalism to prevent the world from uniting against them. National governments too have willing handmaidens of corporations in dividing citizens of Planet Earth on sectarian grounds of nationality, religion and other identities.
The need today is for institutions that reflect the democratic aspirations of people around the world directly instead of turning into petty agents of global corporations. For this the notion of countries as fenced off private property belonging to a few dominant classes or groups has to go. The global commons has to be recovered from those who divide the planet into their personal fiefdoms and this should be done by first making borders of all kinds meaningless at the local level itself.
The cure for Mother Earth’s ills depends not just on having a good diagnosis and knowing the line of treatment but also the skill, commitment and care with which the patient is actually looked after. Healing is much more than the mere application of technical procedures. Being a good doctor demands not just the practice of medical science but also the art of politics based on sound social and cultural understanding.
Without bringing about a sense of balance in global economy, politics and society the Planet will relapse into its danger of multiple-organ failure at any time. Letting the patient die or even remain in a state of permanent coma is not a real option at all in this case.
Whether Planet Earth will survive the ordeal it has been subjected to by sections of the human species or not depends ultimately on what each one of us manages to do in the service of life around us. The flourishing of life, in all its forms, is the only guarantee of the survival of Mother Earth itself, for if there is anything that truly characterizes life it is the innate ability to resist its own demise and in turn beget more life.
Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and public health activist based in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He can be contacted at email@example.com