The beautiful phrase ‘Earth Without Borders’ has been used in more than one contexts from time to time. This is often used to convey the idea that those who work with a spirit of serving humanity should not be confined merely to serving their own country.
This may be particularly true of a profession of doctors which ideally should serve those the most who need care the most. Hence the USA may be attacking Iraq at a point of time but a US doctor may go to heal the people of Iraq injured in a bombing attack as she feels that it is these innocent victims who need her care the most. Hence the concept of doctors without borders or doctors without frontiers which has been taken forward by several senior and eminent public-spirited doctors in recent times.
Similarly we can speak of public service by other professions going beyond any narrow thinking to serve the entire humanity based on where it is needed the most. Somewhat similar is the concept of one world. In this thinking public spirited professionals such as doctors say that they regard the entire world as one, all people as one people, and they do not discriminate among them. They are willing and eager to serve anyone anywhere depending on where their services are needed more.
This concept has been important also for the spread of philanthropic activities to those areas where their care is needed the most as thousands of people have been enduring great risks and hardships to work in the most risky and difficult zones to serve the most needy persons, abandoning the comforts and security they can easily get in their own country.
All these understandings of ‘earth without borders’ and ‘one world’ are very noble but these have been confined to a very narrow base of some professionals and philanthropic organizations. We need to consider now if the time has come to move these to a wider level where the thinking of the entire world or most people can move much beyond the confines of nation states.
Like other concepts of human history the concept of nation state evolved in terms of certain needs and served its purpose at a certain stage of human history in terms of providing unity of certain people at a certain time. But it also led to a lot of problems when this unity of some more powerful people was use to dominate and exploit other people. This created enormous distress in the world. Of course this needs to be checked. In addition we need to look at changing times. There has been a certain need for the strong concept of nation state at a certain stage of history, but is this still the most important need today , or does the entire humanity have some bigger needs today?
If there are more pressing needs today then should the concept of nation state change in important ways, and should it give way partially to the concept of earth without borders and one world in such a way that in most important and urgent contexts the care and protection of the entire world without any discrimination can receive more attention?
Most of us have been accustomed to thinking of our world as being structured mainly on the basis of nation-states. However there is another way in which we can look at world, and this is to look at the world as just one unit, one vast family of human beings.
Of course for day to day governance decentralization is best – the more the better – and so for smooth and people-friendly functioning districts or provinces have to be created, and in fact decentralization has to proceed much beyond this. But this is only for managing daily affairs better (decentralisation is always better than top-heavy centralisation) and the basic reality should remain that of one world, in which all people are equal and live without any discrimination as equal citizens of this world, with equal access to certain basic human rights.
To this we should add that Earth is not just for human beings. The concept of one world should therefore include the welfare of all forms of life (and not just human beings).
From the point of view of welfare of all forms of life this is obviously a much better way of looking at world, and it is not surprising that several eminent and thoughtful persons have been supporting the idea of one world in one form or the other at various times.
However, more than any other point in human history, there is now more compelling need for this ideal to be advanced and realized to the extent possible. The reason why this time is so crucial for this viewpoint is that in recent times a survival crisis or existential crisis has emerged on our planet.
To understand the very critical times through which all inhabitants of planet earth are passing, the concept of a survival crisis is of crucial importance. Briefly, this concept refers to a range of serious problems which taken together can badly disrupt the special life-nurturing conditions of earth due to which such a wide diversity of life has flourished here. This disruption can take place within the 21st century, in fact as early as within the next few decades. Several very senior scientists have argued along these lines in several statements in recent times.
The serious problems which constitute the survival crisis include nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction including robot or AI weapons, climate change, ocean acidification, freshwater crisis, air pollution , disruption of food safety and around half a dozen other serious environmental and safety problems. Most discussion on these dozen or so survival problems takes place in isolation from each other but in the practical world we are more likely to face the combined threat of several of them taken together, increasing the risks .
From the point of view of the welfare of all living beings on earth this survival crisis constituted by all these problems taken together is clearly the most important issue. This is true for this generation but this is even more true regarding the welfare of future generations, our children and grandchildren as well as the next generations of other life-forms.
The present world leadership and international institutions have miserably failed to find timely and credible solutions for this survival crisis taken as a whole. There are several statements by leading scientists, experts and statesmen testifying to this. In fact some of the problems which constitute the survival crisis have worsened rapidly in the recent past.
Increasingly in my recent writings and books I have been pleading that the greatest importance must now be accorded at world level to resolving the survval crisis within the framework of justice, democracy and peace. While very significant reforms in governance at world level are needed to find and implement solutions which work, these can come only if there is a great resurgence of people’s movements at the grassroots and a yearning for social values in tune with the big challenges ahead. More specifically I have suggested the coming together of the movements of justice ( including gender justice), peace, environment protection, democracy and sincere spirituality to make it possible for people to respond adequately to the challenges ahead. It is tough, it is possible.
Is it possible to resolve the survival crisis within the existing structure of the world based on around 200 nation states of highly varying sizes but dominated by just about one-tenth (or even less) of the total number of nation states?
Unfortunately much less complex issues have not been solved despite efforts being made for several decades by the existing world system of power rivalries among and within the existing nation states and their vision guided by narrow self-interest. This self-interest is in turn guarded by powerful, highly resourceful elites and corporations which dominate the deep establishments of various nation-states.
In the context of survival crisis we cannot wait for too long. We have just a few years to take the most critical decisions, and to ensure that critical ‘tipping points’ and ‘planetary boundaries’ in important contexts are not crossed or transgressed.
Hence we cannot delay any further big reforms and changes which are long overdue, which in the interests of welfare of all people and all forms of life should have been made long ago, but their need is much more compelling now. The least we can do immediately is to at least put these reforms on agenda.
Of course no one is saying that merely restructuring the world at governance level will be adequate. We also need very basic changes in value systems and in human thinking to create and sustain a safer world within the framework of justice, peace and democracy. This is a continuing task which too is helped by the ‘one world’ and ‘world as family’ concepts.
While the concept of one world has often been discussed before, the special context todayis at two levels –
Firstly, we should link this concept of one world with the special need of our times to resolve the survival crisis.
Secondly, the concept of one world should co-exist well with increasing decentralization on managing daily routine affairs, with emphasis on justice and equality.