Reorganizing for intergenerational justice

Bob McCormick, of the “citizen’s blog” Global Summit, argues that to achieve long-term intra- and intergenerational justice we will need to reorganize human activity on the macro level.

When discussing any facet of our ongoing pursuit of justice, there are three salient facts that should not be overlooked.

We are very young

First, any judgement about our ability to pursue justice should include the fact that, cosmologically speaking, we are a very young species. Our ancestors first appeared approximately 200,000 years ago. If you divide that number by 25 (the number of years representing a single generation), approximately 8,000 generations of humans existed before ours.

Of those 8,000, only the last 20 ever saw a printed book, only the last five have experienced human flight, only two have used a computer, and only one is totally aware of the adverse, long-term consequences of today’s version of human activity.

Regarding future generations, our time here will end in one of three ways: by our own hand, a cataclysmic collision with an asteroid, or our Sun’s end-of-life explosion. If we can avoid the first two, we should have about 8,000,000,000 years more of sun/earth/human existence. Dividing that number by 25, it is possible for 320,000,000 generations to be born after ours. We have had only 8,000 generations of ancestors and we could have 320,000,000 generations of offspring.

This fact alone should make it clear that the ongoing evolution of our intelligence, as it relates to every aspect of human activity including our sense of justice, is in the very early stages of our personal and collective development.

We are many

The second fact to consider when discussing our pursuit of justice is our exponential growth over the last century. It took us 199,900 years to reach 2 billion members of the human family and 100 years to reach 7 billion.

Many of the organizational structures used by our ancestors to regulate and guide human activity have become seriously outdated and are no longer capable of effectively responding to our needs.

We are disorganized

The third fact to be considered would be the global nature of human activity today. For nearly 200,000 years human activity was a local, regional, or at most, a national affair. Today, the borders created by our ancestors to protect themselves and pursue their interests have also become outdated. War, poverty, hunger and pollution are all threats to our survival in no need of passports.

Our food, resources and our goods and services distribution systems are increasingly handled by multinational corporations. For the first time in our history, we now use the term a global financial crisis.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the short-term successes or failures of any particular nation are of little consequence compared to our collective, long-term survival. We are young, we are many, we are disorganized and, thanks to our new global communication technologies, we are the first generation to see with our own eyes the human suffering and environmental destruction caused by today’s version of disorganized human activity.

Existing efforts

We are reacting to our new found awareness in several ways.

There are over 1,000,000 non-government organizations working on peace, environmental and social justice issues. Our nations are hosting or attending meetings/summits to discuss fiscal, social and environmental problems and solutions.

According to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, we have over 5,000 think tanks, most of which are focused on a particular aspect of human activity. The majority of these efforts are ad hoc attempts to react to an existing problem.

There are a limited number of think tanks and organizations – the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) and the Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (FRFG) among them – that are attempting to create a long-term solution that might allow us to stop reacting to social and environmental injustices.

There is a thought that unites the individuals at these think tanks with those working on reforming the UN, promoting the World Federalist Movement and sharing the Earth Charter. Although the actual wording may differ, the underlying message is clear:

Effectively addressing our intra- and intergenerational judicial responsibilities will require a fundamental change in how we organize and conduct human activity.  

A call for new agencies…

This article is an attempt to reintroduce an idea that has been clearly stated by hundreds of our best long-term thinkers and pointed at by thousands of others. We cannot fulfil our responsibilities to one another, our environment and all future generations using the organizations and institutions created by our ancestors.

Human activity is now a global affair requiring global regulations and global institutions with the necessary authority to enforce those regulations. In the absence of enforceable regulations, human greed will trump human intelligence and compassion every time, even when our collective survival is at stake. Continually relying upon individuals, corporations or sovereign nations to voluntarily agree to cooperate for the good of all, even if it does not serve their individual, corporate or national self-interest, is not a workable, long-term survival strategy.

… and a global summit

In the discussions on how we might fulfil our intra- and inter generational judicial responsibilities, it is time to include the potential benefits of holding a true global summit. 

Unlike the summits of the past, convened to address an existing problem, the topic of this summit should be: What are our common, long-term goals, and what new organizational structures will we need to achieve them?

Any discussion about our long-term goals would include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

  •  establishing a judicial alternative to weaponry to settle our national and religious disputes
  • creating and sharing the methodologies and technologies necessary to obtain and maintain a long-term, sustainable relationship with our environment
  • establishing whatever institutions/organizations are necessary to ensure that every one of our children has access to life’s basic necessities

There may be a thousand valid ideas that could help us attain a higher level of intra- and inter generational justice. When we consider them, we should not rule out a “beyond borders” attempt to establish and achieve our common, long-term goals.

Bob McCormick,