Yes, I know that many who usually appreciate my writings will recoil at the sight of this headline, but this article is since long overdue.
The unfolding of the Brexit event chain has mostly been a debate about how the United Kingdom is affected, but the departure of the United Kingdom has re-galvanised the federalists within the European Union, and during 2017 increasing calls have been heard to increase the amount of federalisation within the European project. Notable examples are commission president Juncker and German opposition leader Schulz.Read more: On the European Union – a case for Confederalism
I would argue that the EOS must speak in favour of the European integration project, and that we should argue that other eco-progressive and green forces ought to support the project of increased integration, not only in Europe but in other regions of the world.
Why? Because there was nothing good on TV on Sunday?
No. Because countries like Austria, Sweden and even Poland have an abysmal effect in terms of the important ecological issues. Certainly, they are capable of acting as role models, but in terms of substantial impact, they play an insignificant role. Sweden for example could try to switch to a fully sustainable society within ten years, and can theoretically even succeed with that. However, if the rest of the world does not follow, the end result will anyway become a sixth mass extinction event causing a loss of complexity which will affect all societies, Sweden included.
Countries like the United States, the Russian Federation, China, India and Brazil, which encompass hundreds of millions of people and entire bio-regions within their borders, have a greater ability to have a positive impact on the Earth. Should the European Union unite, and also include countries such as Turkey and Russia eventually, we would be in a much better situation if we chose to move towards a total transition.
This does not mean that we should strive towards hyper-centralism, for several reasons, notably the issues of authentic democracy, transparency, subsidiarity and information bottlenecks. We must always strive to approximate the right balance between centralisation and localism, and to ensure that the centralism is the minimum required to achieve substantial goals within limited areas.
Nevertheless, the current trail of globalisation remains directed towards benefitting multinational corporations and economic growth, without questioning whether how long-term sustainable said economic growth will be. Meanwhile, politically, we are moving towards increasing fragmentation and nationalism, which under a regime of global free trade only can mean a race for the absolute lowest standards in terms not only of ecological but also of social sustainability.
Ideally, we would need to move towards a Terran Confederation – a super-state composed of either all or most of our planet’s human civilisation. But since that is not politically viable at the moment, we need to argument for greater regional integration so we can get geographic tools to foment change, while ensuring the autonomy and a future for democratic governance on the local level.
- It is well-known today that many of the greatest ecological, social and civilizational challenges of our age are global.
- The convergence of crises which is currently emerging will – if not properly addressed – result in a Sixth Mass Extinction Event and a Civilizational Collapse.
- We need to utilise the political dimension to shift the world towards a total transition, which is necessary.
- The power to exert political power is mostly centred into the political institutions of nation-states, which primarily are engaged in benefitting their national interests, their elites and their citizenries.
- There are currently 196 nation-states on the planet, most of which are swimming right above the threshold of being capable of sustaining their own infrastructures.
- Only twelve of these nation-states have a population above a hundred million humans, while there are 7,5 billion humans on the planet’s land surface.
- By creating fewer political entities with the mandate to exact transition policies, we can simplify the process towards transition.
- Unifying huge areas under the same governance will create democratic and cultural problems, so there is a trade-off.
- This trade-off can be alleviated by federalism or confederalism.
- Ultimately, what institutional forms humanity decides to constitute itself in matters little unless all forces which strive towards a total transition can unite and win a critical mass for a programme of a total transition.
Global challenges; National interests
The concept of nation-states evolved in Europe from the predominantly kingdom-like Eurasian political entities, during the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the predominant ideas of the Age of Enlightenment was that governments were primarily answerable before their citizenries – the people – and thus the predominant view was shaped that the state should act accordingly to its “national interests”.
Imperialism spread European ideals to the rest of the world, and decolonization led to every piece of land in the world (apart from Antarctica and small patches of disputed lands here and there) being constituted into the nation-state form, no matter whether the inhabitants living on those lands view themselves as belonging to the same nation or not.
In our world of today, even the most despotic of tyrannies are formally basing themselves on constitutions which serve as fig leaves to provide a framework for the territory to be accepted as a nation-state, and their local warlords and torturers as presidents and prime ministers. In many other failing states, local gangsters and tribes are in reality holding the real power. Some states are really nothing more than occupying armies of mercenaries hell-bent on defending small elites which both exploit the territories they control, and invite foreign companies to exploit them. To a large extent, these companies are based in wealthier nation-states with vast middle class clusters centred in glitzy inner cities and suburban villascapes.
Nevertheless, the order of our world is based upon that each recognised nation-state should possess one vote at the UN General Assembly, no matter whether they represent more than one billion or less than one million citizens, and no matter whether they can claim to be genuine nation-states or even fully exert control over their territory. Most nation-states’ elites are also divided on what constitutes public welfare and national interests.
This is making the process of initiating the Transition excruciatingly painful, but even if all nation-states were homogenous entities with clearly defined national interests, it would still be a daunting task to move towards the steps necessary to take if we want to safeguard human civilization during the 21st century.
The dilemma at the heart of it
In today’s world, the prestige, popularity and stability of a government is generally determined after the annual economic growth within the nation-state. The challenge of instating environmental regulations is a well-known hazard within Economics, meaning that nation-states which install regulations meant to curb some of the excesses of exponential growth will subsidize nation-states which decide to install laxer or non-existent regulations. Since shareholders generally strive after the highest profit margins, they tend flocking to countries which either do not have environmental protection laws, or which are cheating on laws against polluting the environment and releasing excess greenhouse gasses (as well as abusing their labour, terrorising unions, allowing child labour and slavery-like conditions, etc…).
Since most nation-states have influential business communities and corporations, there is also an internal pressure for governments to give as few concessions as possible when it comes to necessary (but all too often insufficient) international treaties aimed at curbing man-made climate change, the deprivation of biodiversity and other types of regulations which will be expensive for businesses.
According to the orthodoxy ascribed to by most governments today, what is good for business is good for economic growth, and what is good for economic growth is good for all the people, from the tycoons in their palaces to even the homeless (since people afford to give more donations to shelters). And yes, that is – from a certain perspective – true. The problem, as many of you already know, is that this order is built on unsustainable foundations and is encouraging us – through fiat money and debt – to destroy our planet’s biosphere. In short, by stimulating exponential economic growth with today’s system, we are digging a deeper pit for ourselves to crawl up from.
This competition between nation-states about who will be most attractive for investments and best at generating economic growth is shortly speaking fuelling the destruction of the planet’s land surface for future generations.
While speaking out against destructive free trade treaties and policies intended to maximise economic growth figures within the rules set up by the current game may be popular amongst certain segments of the native working class and farmers in many developed countries, we (who desire a more sustainable world) must realise that we cannot achieve that world by pandering to Protectionism and Nationalism or other populist notions.
Human beings are by their nature creatures of habit, and most citizens of developed nations currently enjoy a middle class life standard, which they generally have positive feelings towards and are willing to protect (thence the support of protectionism). Also, many of them cling to these ideals, even if they currently are struggling against poverty, debt or marginalisation because they are enmeshed in the values of their surrounding society, both in terms of ideology and commercial brainwashing.
What we must realise is that while the citizenry may largely oppose agreements such as TTIP and TTP and the ISDS mechanisms if they learn about them, this opposition is not rooted in the long-term effects for ecological, economic and social sustainability, but rather are largely conservative responses against disruptive reforms which may inflict harm on entrenched parts of the working and middle classes.
In short, in order to foment the Transition – the greatest project of the history of Humanity and the most important struggle of the 21st century – we need to morally and mentally prepare the citizenry for a period when the changes on the macro-level will affect everything on the micro, when we all must question and ascend above what we have taken for granted. The Transition would see immense economic and social changes, and may for decades mean a lifestyle vastly different from what the general population of developed nations have become used to for several generations now.
What we also – however – must take into account is that if the Transition takes hold on a small nation-state, and institutes sweeping changes, it would, if the rest of the world is still marching on to the tune of Davos, lead to one national population bearing a very heavy burden for largely symbolical reasons, since what a nation of 10-20 million is doing with its national economy and infrastructure will not do much to alter the course the planet is heading towards. Moreover, the sacrifices during the initial stages of the Transition, especially if it is for no gain, would certainly erode public support for the Transition until the political leaders having vested their political capital into such a project would be removed, either by democratic means or by other.
Some may claim that the important issue is the moral cupping, namely that we as a collective choose to commit ourselves to a national course which the rest of the world will frown at, that the Sixth Mass Extinction Event will happen anyway but that we can choose to at least take a symbolic stand by committing to a Transition on the national level.
One can have many thoughts about such a position, but the Earth does not have any opinions whether or not your intentions were good. The biosphere needs to be saved, period, and the biosphere cannot ever be saved by national politics alone, which even the current Establishment understands. That is why the world leaders attempt to curb the excesses of the current system – while of course preserving the system itself – through binding and non-binding international treaties.
And now we are back to the starting point, for these treaties will always not only be defined by the incompatible goals of pressing gas and break at the same time, but also by the competing interests of nation states, and the “national interests” – give as little as possible while gaining as much benefits as possible.
The Prisoners’ dilemma in short.
A case for European Federalism
The Earth Organisation for Sustainability is an avowedly and openly globalist movement – because our goal is not that one nation-state or bio-region should successfully engage into the Transition. A Sixth Mass Extinction Event will affect everyone, no matter whether they live in Switzerland or Somaliland, so therefore only a concerted response by a majority of the human race can successfully and thoroughly commit ourselves to a total transition. Our Globalism is not one which exists to solidify or maximise the destructive potential of the current system, but on the contrary one which seeks to transcend political divisions and form cross-national platforms for carrying out the Transition.
Thus, a united Europe – even if initially not formed for the explicit purpose of carrying out the Transition – would be an immensely powerful bloc in the world, comprising around a tenth of the world’s population and some of the largest economic and industrial areas of the world. In fact, it would be one of the three largest economic regions of the world.
If such a power was to embark on a route of Transition, it would indeed have a tremendous impact which would be felt throughout the entirety of Earth’s surface, both in terms of Ecological, Economical and Social sustainability. It would be a seismic shift, able to provide leadership and a focal point for local transition movements throughout the world.
Even reactionary reforms would have a huge impact – reforms such as for example banning weapons’ or surveillance exports to countries at war or dictatorships, removing remaining post-colonial arrangements between former colonial powers and states nominally independent since the 1960’s and for example ceasing to illegally conduct fishing outside the coasts of West Sahara or the Horn of Africa.
Of course, establishing this super state is no guarantee that the situation will improve in itself – rather those who desire a sustainable future for Humanity must work tirelessly and steadfastly to shift the Zeitgeist towards what is the only course that allows for humans to thrive in the long term.
And yes, it is hardly surprising not a popular foundation to support European Federalism, because of quite obvious reasons, some of which are legitimate – such as the fear of eroded democracy and autonomy – and some which are more rooted in chauvinism and reaction. This scepticism is prevalent amongst many of us.
Given the severity of today’s situation, we have few options. We must work for a trans-national, global Transition which brings us towards a sustainable future, but working for that would be easier, at least here in Europe, with a European federal state which could take a stronger position in relationship to powerful non-state entities.
For that reason, wherever we live, we must support international cooperation and unification, while striving to ensure that the movement for the Transition should grow strong within the context of those regions.
A cautious, conditional approach
To support federal unification should not entail a support for any kind of policies supported by federalists, especially not if said policies would move economic sovereignty to institutions intended to foment the continuation of the current status quo. We must always ensure that there is a healthy dose of:
- Democratic influence within the legislative bodies.
- A high degree of subsidiarity (that decisions are made as close to those affected by them as possible) and autonomy.
We must also avoid the Siren song of identifying too much with our regional power constellations and their conflicts with other power constellations. Instead, we must ardently stand for the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts in order to focus on the Transition, which should be the first, second and third priority for all of Humanity during our lifetime.
What we should do
EOS members throughout the world should work to facilitate sustainability in all its forms on the local, regional and global levels, and must within the constraints of laws, conscience and the EOS by-laws struggle to make the Transition blossom. EOS members active in the United States should focus on adapting their local communities for the Transition and also forming the foundations of a Proto-technate, to test variations of our concepts and ideas of a sustainable future civilization, just like EOS members in India, China and Africa… and Europe for that matter.
What EOS members, in my opinion, should not do, is to invest themselves – in their capacity as members – in political activism or bickering which may contribute to polarisation and conflict. Instead, we must strive to always where we can, bridge conflicts through diplomacy, non-violent communication and peaceful social activism, contributing to or initiating Transition efforts on the ground.
As an organisation, however, we should be able to state at least what institutional and social trends we find agreeable and would like to voice our support for, and what trends we take as offensive and disagreeable in relationship with our goals.
It is my belief, that if our increasing relevance should be sustained, that we should judge the current trends in the world in relation to our three criteria. It is also my belief that a world with more unification would be a world where the Transition would be easier, if we can manage to form a strong movement and explain to the public why everything must change.
Thus, the efforts of European federalists such as Martin Schulz are laudable, even though they may not (yet) share our sense of urgency.