Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Solving Global Problems


Mother earth is considered as one of the most beautiful planets in the Universe. Earth is the only planet in our galaxy that has enough water and environment to support plant, animal and human life. Unfortunately global human society is suffering due to various problems, which should be solved before it is too late. Most of the problems are created and generated by the human, especially so-called civil society. Nature needs care and love and people must take care of our beautiful planet if human want to survive on the earth. Unfortunately directionless and purposeless technological and scientific developments damage nature and create the ecological and environmental imbalances. Climate of the world is changing very fast, catastrophes are taking place almost every day, unknown hazardous diseases are appearing every now and then. These are the consequences of irrational use of planet's resources. The only hope is that every person is capable of influencing the world in some way and that this influence would be positive. After all if we don't look after our planet we will die and humanity will disappear from the earth. 

Problems Facing Global Society: Critical Analysis
As we know that “Every year, six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday. Every 3.6 seconds, about the time it'll take you to read this sentence, another human being has died of starvation. Five million people die from water born illness every year. Almost 40 percent of the world's population does not have basic sanitation and over one billion people still use unsafe sources of drinking water. HIV/AIDS takes the lives of 6,000 people every single day, as 8,200 more are infected with it. In Every thirty seconds, another African child dies of malaria, which accounts for the deaths of more than one million children a year. A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth. Her North American counterpart has a 1 in 3,700 risk. More than 40 percent of African women do not have access to basic education, although it's proven that if a girl is educated for six years or more, as an adult her prenatal care, postnatal care, and childbirth survival rates will dramatically and constantly improve. Educated women are more likely to vaccinate their children. Every minute, a woman somewhere dies in pregnancy or childbirth. That's 1,400 women every single day and 529,000 women each year dying from pregnancy-related causes. About five women have already died as you read this.” 1

World Bank economist Jean-François Rischard2 (2002) seriously argues that the next twenty years will be of critical implication to our planet. Resolution of global problems over the next years will determine the fate of our planet for the next generations. Rischard points out the twenty most pressing issues facing the global community. These are classified in three groups, one Issues involving the global community are global warming, biodiversity and ecosystem losses, fisheries depletion, deforestation, water deficits, maritime safety and pollution, second Issues requiring a global commitments are massive step-up in the fight against poverty, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, combating terrorism, Education for all, Global infectious diseases, digital divide, natural disaster prevention and mitigation and third Issues needing a global regulatory approach are reinventing taxation for the twenty-first century, biotechnology rules, global financial architecture, Illegal drugs, Trade, investment, and competition rules, Intellectual property rights, E-commerce rules, International labor and migration
Russian Philosopher Alexander Chumakov believes that “At the dawn of global civil society, the test for humanity is to achieve unity while preserving cultural differences as well as the distinctiveness of nations and peoples. Such unity can be reached only by recognizing human values, especially human rights. However, these rights must be strictly determined and more than mere obligations. Hence, the most important task for philosophy is to develop foundations and principles for a world society and to formulate a global consciousness and a humanistic worldview that adequately reflects the realities of our epoch. Our action must increasingly be based on an acknowledgment of global values.”3
This evidence that human activities influence the global climate system continues to accumulate. Data indicate that Earth's surface temperature is rising. This increase can be attributed, in part, to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. It is becoming apparent that these climatic changes are negatively affecting physical and biological systems worldwide, Charles H. Southwick 4 well known ecologist argues that how we as humans affect global ecosystems and how these changes impact our health, behavior, economics and politics.

Winfried K. Rudloff, Governors State University suggests, “On one hand, globalization in science and education is rapidly taking place on account of the World Wide Web and the Internet. On the other hand, such high technology-based education is still in its infancy and mostly concerned with run-of-the-mill subjects that lack focus on urgent global problems. Specifically, most urgent problems such as resource depletion, environmental pollution, over-population, deforestation, the Greenhouse Effect, unchecked militarism, and rampant nuclear proliferation are studied to provide our students with a better understanding of the complexity of these interrelated issues. They should learn how to analyze problems of global importance and find creative solutions. After all, they are the generation of the future which they have to shape through knowledge and state-of-the-arts skills.”5

Solutions of global problems as suggested by most of the Secular Humanists to upholding and strengthening International law, application of the rule of law in combating terrorism, promoting secular values, laws and constitutions worldwide, asserting the rights of children to be free of religious indoctrination, rational solutions to global problems based on international cooperation, strengthening of the ‘Kyoto Agreement’ to provide an international carbon tax and the voice against unilateral pre-emptive military action, the policy of any country that seeks to promote a sectarian religious agenda, policies based on the presumption of religious superiority, theocracies of any kind, be they Judaic, Christian or Islamic.

A. Nagraj (Amarkantak) argues in his ‘human centric’ philosophy ‘Madhayatha Darshan Sahastitvavad’6 that physical-material, plant/pranic, animal orders are in the system (like cyclical/avartansheel) but the human beings are unable to fulfill their relationships with each other. The relationships among the material, pranic/plants and animal orders are mutually fulfilling and mutually enriching and this process is cyclic in nature. Right understanding of Nature and human being will be necessary to fulfill the relationship with all these orders. He further argues that the whole of existence is in the form of co-existence, as units submerged in space. Each unit is in self-organization within itself and fulfils its relationship with all other units. Every unit is reflected onto every other unit. There is harmony in existence. It means that no one has to create the harmony; it is already available/exists. One only needs to understand existence and align oneself with it. By understanding these processes in nature human being can be fulfilling to remaining three orders. All the three orders are fulfilling their relationship with human being. Subsequently Human being must organize their life style to fulfill these three orders.
Socio-political, economic and personal choices must be based on the laws of physics (natural laws) in order to be in harmony with Earth and the human life. This basic principle was clearly recognized by Karl-Henrik. He further argues in his article ‘Educating A Nation: The Natural Step’ that “It also happens that nearly all of our natural resources have been created by cells. Over billions of years, a toxic stew of inorganic compounds has been transformed by cells into mineral deposits, forests, fish, soil, breathable air and water - the very foundation of our economy and of our healthy existence. With sunlight as the sole energy supply, those natural resources have been created in growing, self-sustaining cycles - the "waste" from one species providing nutrition for another. The only processes that we can rely on indefinitely are cyclical; all linear processes must eventually come to an end. For roughly the past hundred years, humans have been disrupting the cyclical processes of nature at an accelerating pace. All human societies are, in varying degrees, now processing natural resources in a linear direction.” 7

Sometimes the scientific predictions are uncertain due to the complexity of an issue. What can be said about the present state of the world? Human civilization is endangered by anthropogenic environmental degradation, and by destructive social and individual conflicts. Healthy ecosystems are the major supplier of vital resources to humans.8 Scarcity of resources from the environment -- be it clean air, water, food, energy, or land -- leads to violent conflicts within nations, and to war and terrorism between nations9. Rwanda, the Sudan, and the Middle East demonstrate how violent conflicts emerge indirectly from an ecological deficit. Already today, 150 major nations of the world show an ecological deficit. Taken together, the ecological footprint of all nations in the year 2001 is some 20% bigger than the ecological capacity of the Earth 10.

A collapse of civilization is possible through nuclear weapons, and through loss of vital environmental resources. The current human activities are worsening the situation. Security once depended on military strength of a nation. The advent of nuclear weapons has ended this option; now military might lead to mutual assured destruction, and therefore the resolution of conflicts by the rule of international law has become a necessity.

The use of fossil fuels has advanced technology-based civilization to unprecedented levels. However today, we begin to realize that the consequences of our energy choices may lead to climate change, and the demise of fossil fuel based civilization.
Long term systemic thinking and appropriate action at the global and local levels are urgently needed for achieving sustainability, and civility in the world community. Sustainability is the overarching issue; it rests on three pillars: ecological, societal, and personal integrity.

Billions of human beings on the Earth are unhappy due to their inability to satisfy their basic personal needs (physiological needs, safety and security needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs) as defined by A. Maslow.11 Maslow has been a very inspirational figure in personality theories.  In the 1960’s in particular, people were tired of the reductionistic, mechanistic messages of the behaviorists and physiological psychologists.  They were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives, even a higher, more mystical meaning.  Maslow was one of the pioneers in that movement to bring the human being back into psychology and the person back into personality! At approximately the same time, another movement was getting underway, one inspired by some of the very things that turned Maslow off:  computers and information processing, as well as very rationalistic theories such as Piaget’s cognitive development theory and Noam Chomsky’s linguistics. 

In fact, every man wants to live with perennial happiness and prosperity. Almost all human efforts and time are spent in order to ensure physical (material) facilities. The inherent presumption behind this effort is that physical facilities will ensure interrupted happiness. If we look into this presumption, what appears is that in case of lack of physical facilities one feels unhappy. But it is well known that having enough of physical facilities cannot ensure continuity of happiness. Thus it becomes essential to address to the need of happiness and physical facilities separately. Consequently, one must understand happiness, physical facilities and the inter-relation between these two needs.

Well known scientist Carl Sagan in his widely acclaimed television series "The Nuclear Winter" (1983), explored the unforeseen and devastating physical and chemical effects of even a small-scale nuclear war on the earth's biosphere and life on earth. War and terrorism within and between nations is a critical global issue. An all-out nuclear war causing a nuclear winter would be a catastrophe for humankind; it would not only create social chaos, but also ruin the life-supporting ecosystem beyond repair4. It is now almost 40 years since the invention of nuclear weapons. We have not yet experienced a global thermonuclear war -- although on more than one occasion we have come tremulously close. I do not think our luck can hold forever. Men and machines are fallible, as recent events remind us. Fools and madmen do exist, and sometimes rise to power. Concentrating always on the near future, we have ignored the long-term consequences of our actions. We have placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy. Healthy ecosystems are the major supplier of vital resources to humans. Lester Brown says in ‘Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble.’ “Our global civilization today is on an economic path that is environmentally unsustainable, a path that is leading us toward economic decline and eventual collapse.” 12

“Environmental scientists have been saying for some time that the global economy is being slowly undermined by environmental trends of human origin, including shrinking forests, expanding deserts, falling water tables, eroding soils, collapsing fisheries, rising temperatures, melting ice, rising seas, and increasingly destructive storms,” 6. The links between environmental change and acute conflict will help us to evaluate our theory of environmental change and its contribution to conflict. Scarcity of resources from the environment (clean air, water, food, energy, land etc.) leads to violent conflicts within nations, and to war and terrorism between nations.13 Neomalthusians have argued that global environmental change leads to scarcities of resources that could lead to societal collapse. Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti serve as poster children for such arguments. 14

We can imagine the seriousness of the problem, today, 150 major nations of the world show an ecological deficit. Taken together, the ecological footprint of all nations in the year 2001 is some 20% bigger than the ecological capacity of the Earth. “Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the mid 2030s we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one”. 15

A poll survey report published in Washington Post ‘Mass Extinction Underway, Majority of Biologists Say’ A majority of the nation's biologists are convinced that a mass extinction of plants and animals is underway that poses a major threat to humans in the next century. The rapid disappearance of species was ranked as one of the planet's gravest environmental worries, surpassing pollution, global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer.” 16

A human monoculture without the support of other species is not viable. Anthropogenic, human caused mass extinction of species is a threat to human survival17. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment project reports on the loss of species in the last 30 years of the 20th century. 18

Humanism – historical overview
Before discussing the role of the Humanism and developing Human consciousness-values for solving the global problem facing human society, we have to overview the historical and conceptual development of the human society and its discourse in these regards.
Humanism has its roots over 2,500 years ago, when philosopher and thinkers in Greece, China and India formulated the idea than humankind alone is responsible for its own good, welfare and development. In the 1480s, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote a preface to the nine hundred-page theses that he submitted for public debate entitled ‘An Oration on the Dignity of Man’. Founder of Renaissance humanism was Petrarch who was also known as the "father of humanism." The crisis of Renaissance humanism came with the trial of Galileo, which was centered on the choice between basing the authority of one's beliefs on one's observations, or upon religious teaching. The root of the conflict was the Biblical teaching that "The truth will set you free" After and during the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, these ideas were revived and developed by Descartes, Diderot, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft etc. The growth of realistic knowledge about science, geology, astronomy and evolution in the 18th and 19th centuries showed that there was no need for religious and orthodox explanation of the various phenomenons and process of Nature. This opened the way to a coherent view of how natural processes led to the development of the human species. In the 19th century Jeremy Bentham, Marie and Pierre Curie, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hardy, T H Huxley, Robert G Ingersoll, John Stuart Mill, P B Shelley etc. and 20th century A J Ayer, Richard Dawkins, E M Forster, Julian Huxley, Nehru, Claire Rayner, Gene Roddenberry, Bertrand Russell have campaigned for the rights of nonreligious people, and Developed organisations and ceremonies which provide for their values and beliefs. Modern Humanism has evolved further during the 20th century which is promoted and supported by thousands Humanistic national and international organisations.

Humanist Values and Beliefs
Humanist Manifesto I (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973) and Humanist Manifesto III (2003) laying out a Humanist worldview. The central theme of all three is the elaboration of a philosophy and value system, which does not necessarily include belief in any personal deity or "higher power," although the three differ considerably in their tone, form, and ambition. Each has been signed at its launch by various prominent academics and others who are in general agreement with its principles.
Humanists believe that morality is based on human nature, human society and human experience; it has not come from a god or any supernatural entity. Humanists believe that moral values stem from the human need for happiness and the fact that we must live co-operatively together. They believe that there is no evidence for life after death, and so humanists place a special value on this life and on making the best of it. They do not expect justice in another life, and so work for justice in this one. Humanists try to follow the ‘Golden Rule’ treat other people, as you would like them to treat you, avoid harming others. Humanists value all human beings, celebrating both our common humanity and shared values, and the diversity of human culture. Prejudices based on race, gender, nation or belief should not be allowed to separate or discriminate human. Humanists believe that humans alone are responsible for sustaining and improving our quality of life. Humanism is based on reason, not faith their views of the universe do not depend on a belief in God or Gods. Humanists are agnostic because they think that we cannot know whether God exists or not. Because there is no evidence for the existence of God or for an after-life, humanists live their lives as atheists, and find other reasons for living good lives. Humanists do not have sacred texts, traditions, dogma, prophets, or any source of authority other than human experience. Humanists look for evidence before they believe things and like to think for themselves. Humanists believe that knowledge best advances through openness and cooperation, through experiment and observation, and through free enquiry and discussion. Humanists accept that science provides the best available explanations for the existence of the universe and life on earth. Humanists do not believe that the universe or earth was created by God.

All individuals should have a right to self-determination. Furthermore, they should have freedom of choice and freedom to develop their own values and lifestyle, as long as they do not deny the same rights to others. Society should restrict an individual's liberties only in accordance with social needs in a democratic process. Therefore, tolerance and respect of others becomes another of the basic moral principles. The right to self-determination, however, necessitates personal responsibility and moral growth through education and rational, critical inquiry. Humanism is the intellectual formulation of the recognition of universal morality in a global society with all its freedoms and obligations. Humanism is the moral philosophy concerned with the reality available to us through reason and scientific inquiry. It is an open-ended process that provides answers to human problems.
However, cultural and physical Anthropology categorizes ‘Humans’ in terms of race or ethnicity, and on the basis of differences in appearance. The term race or racial group usually refers to the categorisation of humans into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of heritable characteristics.19 old racial categories were based on externally visible traits, primarily skin color, features of the face, and the shape and size of the head and body, and the underlying skeleton.

The human racial categories are based on visible traits (especially skin color, cranial or facial features and hair texture), and self-identification. People often use physical characteristics such as these--along with area of geographic origin and shared culture--to group themselves and others into "races." But how valid is the concept of race from a biological standpoint? Do physical features reliably say anything informative about a person's genetic makeup beyond indicating that the individual has genes for blue eyes or curly hair? 19, 20 we can say that all human beings belong to a single ‘Homo sapiens’, and share a common descent.

Regardless of the medical implications of the genetics of race, the research findings are inherently exciting. For hundreds of years, people have wondered where various human groups came from and how those groups are related to one another. They have speculated about why human populations have different physical appearances and about whether the biological differences between groups are more than skin deep. New genetic data and new methods of analysis are finally allowing us to approach these questions. The result will be a much deeper understanding of both our biological nature and our human interconnectedness.20

The patterns of human genetic variation, however, correspond poorly with visible morphological differences.21 Most current genetic and archaeological evidence supports a recent single origin of modern humans in East Africa. 22 Current genetic studies have demonstrated that humans on the African continent are most genetically diverse.23 However, various studies by Am. J. Hum. Genet (2005), Bamshad M, Wooding S, Salisbury BA, Stephens JC (2004), Tishkoff SA, Kidd KK (2004) have indicated that compared to many other animals, human gene sequences are remarkably homogeneous.24, 25, 26, 27 Ethnic groups are more often linked by linguistic, cultural, ancestral, and national or regional ties. Self-identification with an ethnic group is based on kinship and descent. Race and ethnicity can lead to variant treatment and impact social identity, giving rise to racism and the theory of identity politics. Hence the question of equality can be solved on the basis of constitutional provision in all democratic states.

However Observations and recommendations regarding race and genetics by the National Human Genome Center of Howard University28 are “when the human species is viewed as a whole, underlying genetic variation and expressed physical traits exhibit gradients of differentiation, not discrete units. Therefore, modern extant humans do not fracture into races (subspecies) based on the modern phylogenetic criteria of molecular systematics. The biological “boundaries” between any human divisions (groups, populations, nationalities) are circumstantial and largely dependent on what traits are chosen for emphasis.”
Hence the question of equality and understanding the natural system can be solved on the basis of constitutional provisions, which are the part of the governance of the democratic states. The role of the global society must be considered.

Global Civil society
Chief Editor of the International Journal of Sociology François Houtart says “the debate on the limits, possibilities and opportunities facing civil society today is an open one. The issue was discussed during the World Social Forum in January in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which brought together spokespeople and representatives of civil society around the world.”
The concept of civil society is very fashionable at the moment. It is so widely accepted as to allow all kinds of interpretations, while at the same time covering all kinds of ambivalences. When the World Bank talks of civil society it is referring to a completely different reality than the one expressed by the Thai Poor People’s Forum or the Brazilian Movement of Landless Peasants using the same term. It is necessary to analyze this term away from the slogans. Civil society is the arena for social struggles and thus for defining collective challenges, but before reflecting on how to build it we should first take a close look at the different ways the concept is currently interpreted.

Global civil society represents the potential of transnational civil society to enhance democracy in global governance. Numerous works are devoted to the role of new ideas, norms, and discourse of transnational advocacy networks 29,30,31. The development of transnational networks may help to create new identities and awareness of global society that would improve the current discriminatory codes and practices based on established political boundaries. Richard Price32 implies that research into transnational civil society tends to overemphasize the effect of particular campaigns that aspire to liberal and progressive moral change and to downplay the ‘bad’ or failed campaigns. In a similar vein, Chris Brown33 suggests that the pitfall of the global civil society scholarship is to assume that transnational advocacy networks would provide a panacea for world ills and represent the universal values of the human race.

Then, what factors contribute to the achievement of global civil society, lest we fall for versions of cosmopolitan idealism? Those who turn to history as well as theory suggest that the birth of global civil society could occur only in the further development and maturation of civil society. John Keane34 argues that ‘so-called domestic civil societies and the emerging global civil society are normally linked together in complex, cross-boarder patterns of looped and re-looped circuitry’. The normative divide between domestic and global civil societies is nationalism, a collective sense of unity based on the cultural tradition and the recognized existence of a nation in a particular region. However, according to Edward Shills35, civil society is sustained by national collective self-consciousness because its normative basis is a collective willingness to accept the legitimacy of the law and of authority, which enhances plurality of interests and ideals. Thus, nationalism is also an important vehicle for global civil society. Doak’s work on liberal nationalism is especially relevant here. He argues that internationalism and nationalism are interconnected (rather than mutually exclusive) because both require the existence of the state at least in the realm of imagination. Internationalism, which he describes as liberal nationalism, ‘upholds the principle of cooperation between states (and between the state and international organizations), finding in them a means of evaluating social norms that do not violate human rights, even while protecting the special rights of citizens’36. Thus, there is no global civil society without a shared sense of national community.

The relationship between nationalism and internationalism is similar to that between civil society and global civil society. As civil society embraces civil and grassroots activities and the sustained participation of people in communal affairs, global civil society also involves activities of autonomous individuals in the pursuit of pluralism. Like civil society that ‘must be understood in relation to the state’, if not in ‘opposition to it’ (Schwartz)37 (emphasis in original), the concept of global civil society can exist beside a sense of belonging to a nation or a state. What is significant about global civil society is that it leads to rising above parochial interests and encourages the development of a cosmopolitan world citizenship beyond national boundaries. In other words, global civil society does not surrender its respect for every human existence to the supremacy of a particular state and nation. In this sphere, ‘the citizen is a proud creature, ready to stand up for basic values of the open society, ready to go to battle for them if need be’38. Thus, it comprises a cosmopolitan dimension that indicates a shared vision of the world, which provides the rights and dignities of the individuals.

A. Nagraj propounded Madhyastha Darshan, which is basically a human centric philosophy. At its core is the co-existentialism. Nagraj ji has elucidated on the harmony and balance in the human conduct as well as in natural phenomenon. He has proposed some guidelines (Human conducts) for the humanity that is known as Manviya Samvidhan (human constitution). Keeping human being in the focus, based on human mental faculties he has presented a number of sutras that are of very high value for establishment of universal human order. These sutras enlighten the path to the solutions of present day problems. It shows to the humanity a way for satisfied, prosperous, fearless and co existential life.++
Article by:
Prof (Dr) Surendra Pathak
Senior Journalist
IASE University, Gandhi Vidya Mandir, Rajasthan

  1. Millennium Goals - Global Problems ~ Global Solutions Forum, www.laroche.edu/global/goals.htm

  2. Jean-François Rischard, Twenty Global Issues, Twenty Years to Solve Them (2002)
3. Alexander Chumakov, Human Values: The Key to Solving Global Problems (Abstract), The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy (1998), Alan M. Olson (Editor)
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  16. AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race American Association of Physical Anthropologists "Pure races do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past."

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  25. Summary of the observations and recommendations included in the National Human Genome Center position statement on race and genetics by Charles N. Rotimi in Understanding and Using Human Genetic Variation Knowledge in the Design and Conduct of Biomedical Research. (2007).

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  33. Doak. 2003. ‘Liberal Nationalism in Imperial Japan: The Dilemma of Nationalism and Internationalism.’ In Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895–1945, eds. Li Narangoa and Robert Cribb. London and New York: Routledge Curzon: 17–41.

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  35. Dahrendorf, Ralf. 1997. After 1989: Morals, Revolution and Civil Society. St. Antony’s Series. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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  37. Sandeep Pandey, Jeevan vidya, http://www.servintfree.net/~aidmn-ejournal/publications/2001-11/JeevanVidya.html

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