Our Planet's Future
Our Planet’s Future relies upon thinking as a planet. The planet is our most important reality. It has existed for a very long time and we can be sure it will not stop existing for a long time. If it stops existing then human reality will cease.
And, of course, the planet does not depend upon us. We depend upon it. It existed way back when some of our ancestors thought the Earth was flat and had edges that one might fall off. They never found those edges because they didn’t exist but, until it was shown that the Earth was round, it seemed more ‘logical’ that the Earth was flat because that was the immediate visual experience.
But although we now agree that our planet is ball-like, in many respects we are still being guided by unplanetary visualisations and concepts. One example of this is our focus on chunks of our planet’s surface called nations. Man-made nations are just that, made in various arbitrary ways – products of geography and politics and wars and agreements of groups of men and women.
Nations come and go. They change. But our planet doesn’t change when we draw lines on maps, or sign agreements, or fight wars and for this reason I suggest that we think on a planetary basis. Let’s make our planet the one and only nation, or should I say entity, or territorial reality.
Let me provide one planetary thought to get the ball (our planet?) rolling. I will say to you that our planet has no enemies unless and until another hostile planet arrives into our planet’s vicinity.
And on this basis of a ‘single planet’ concept, there is no intelligent reason for us to keep killing over 55,000 of ourselves every year, as we have indeed been doing since the establishment of the so-called United Nations after the second world war ended in 1945.
Dare I even suggest that those 55,000 killings are 55,000 stupidities. We don’t approve of murders and murdering, but aren’t those 55,000 annual killings 55,000 murders when considered on a single planet basis?
Someone just suggested I look at a book called The Next 100 Years. On the back cover of it I read “World War III taking Place in Space?”
Now, on a planetary murdering basis, I think World War III has already taken place. Why? Because if we add up all our war murders that have occurred since the end of WWII in our various conflicts causing those 55,000 murders every year, they add up to more killings than occurred in World War II itself.
And of course nothing has significantly changed in our nation’s present behaviour patterns to cause us to think that there won’t also be about 55,000 international murders in the next 12 months.
Unless a huge number of people read what I have just written and thereupon say, “Hey, let’s get smarter and change our behaviour on a planetary scope to halve the international murders to 22,500 so that there won’t be 55,000 more murders in the next 12 months as there have been every year for the last 66 years.” Fat chance.
But, be that as it may, I shall keep writing and thinking and smiling. The smiling is not because I enjoy thinking about murders. No. The smiles are ‘cooperative planetary’ smiles which I have acquired by drawing a line in time and saying, “Let’s create what I shall call ‘Our Future Planet’ and let’s base its future design on the basis of what we know at the time of drawing that line and start from scratch with a future design.”
And let’s use the line in time to leave our present planet, with its present competitive realities and its history with its United Nations and its 55,000 killings and its deadly weapons, nuclear bombs, etc., on the other side of the line and let’s see what we can come up with on the ‘future side’ of the line.
So far (June 2012) Our Future Planet, a new charity, has acquired 7,000 Citizens of Our Future Planet. None of them has suggested any nations, or nuclear weapons. Oh, I’m not imagining that these may never be suggested, but then I’d like to think that the other Citizens of OFP will not agree with such suggestions. And, therefore, when I think as a Citizen of Our Future Planet I am much happier than when I wander back behind that fabulous line in time.
Now, as a thinking Citizen of Our Future Planet, I would like to make one proposal for the nature of Our Future Planet and that is that it be a cooperative planet. One single planet that is characterised and constructed on a cooperative basis.
Now that may sound rather simplistic and even simple minded. But it isn’t. Why? Because it eliminates one of the fundamental faults of our present planet. That fault is competitiveness. All competitive procedures and activities have one fundamental flaw. Competitive procedures produce losers. Losers are failures. Those 55,000 deaths every year are planetary failures.
Now of course our present planet worships competitiveness under various names such as free enterprise. Now of course free enterprise produces winners and the opportunity to win in a competitive scenario, but inevitably, no matter what the details of the scenario, it will produce losers. Losers are an inevitable fundamental characteristic of competition. Now when I raise this fundamental reality of competitiveness, one common reaction and response is, “But man is a competitive animal!”
And I agree that man is an animal and that many animals (but not all) do indeed compete. But then, as a human, I then point out that men (and women) are unique animals because of their intellectual capacity to learn!
And one of the things man can learn is to cooperate rather than to compete. Now whether or not man is intelligent enough to learn to cooperate instead of to compete and produce losers (55,000 a year for starters), remains to be seen.
Personally, as a smiling optimist, I believe we are intelligent enough to become a cooperating planet without all the losers that our present planet’s competitive nature produces.
The potential benefits of a cooperating planet are immense. Why? Because our ‘present planet’ competitive procedures produce an immense number of losers. And indeed almost all of us are losers in some competitive scenario or other.
And indeed, on a manufacturing, product-producing basis, the number and percentage of losers is horrible. If a manufacturer of computers or cars or aeroplanes had such a high number of losers – faulty products – they would go bankrupt very fast.
Now let me move on to another area of ‘present planet’ competitiveness and let us look at the immense number of human failures this competitive scenario produces. Let’s look at our present planet’s competitive educational systems.
Just for a focused approach to a large subject of education, I shall concentrate on the secondary school system as found in American public (state) schools. This is where my own educational career started. After graduating from Ohio State University, from their School of Education, I taught for two years in a Columbus, Ohio, high school called Linden McKinley.
I taught five classes, 45 minutes long, every day, some in English, some in Algebra. I had about 30 students in each of my five classes. I never worked so hard in my life and I never produced so many losers. All the teachers at Linden McKinley, as was typical of all American high schools, gave a variety of grades to their students along the lines of the so-called Bell Curve, ranging from ‘A’s to ‘B’s to ‘C’s and to ‘D’s and ‘E’s. Now these were given on a competitive basis. Most students were given ‘C’s as that’s an average grade. That meant the student was more or less average. A very few got ‘A’s, a few more got ‘B’s, and the students who were already turned off and ‘beaten’ by the competitive grading system before they reached my classes in the 10th year of their schooling got ‘D’s and ‘E’s. Some of these losers came to school less often and didn’t bother to do homework much. Some just stopped going to school.
Now in this competitive, teacher-centred, classroom, system that I found myself in, I had no choice but to operate this competitive school system. There was no way I could not give my students grades. There was certainly no way I could give all 30 of my students in one class only ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades. The system demanded I give competitive ‘C’ and ‘D’ and even ‘E’ grades. I had to produce losers. I quit after two years.
At Ohio State University I was taught how to teach the subjects – Maths and English. I was not taught how to produce losers. My university professors were too busy teaching me about the beauty of Mathematics and English. They surely knew what I would encounter in my job, but they didn’t know how to teach me how to avoid the competitive classroom system that I was destined to enter.
Living in Bath, England, today, I am no longer teaching secondary school classes, but when I read about the immense number of teachers who quit after just 3 or 4 years, I am not surprised.
Nor am I surprised when there is immense dissatisfaction and despair with the schools’ results here in Britain. It comes down to the competitive procedure wherein students in every classroom are given a Bell Curve range of grades and teachers here must produce losers.
Now Britain’s present Minister for Education, Mr Michael Gove, never having taught in a school himself, doesn’t know what I’m talking about here. He thinks that the way to improve the results of his schools is to make the tests harder and that this will cause the teachers and the students to ‘work harder’. What he fails to realise is that, no matter how hard he makes his tests, there will always be a competitive range of grades, including 30 to 35% failures or de facto losers, as judged by the grades they are given.
Gove’s fault is that he cannot even conceive of a school system which isn’t competitive.
Now, without modesty, I will say that I conceived of and designed a non-competitive secondary school educational system. It had no classrooms wherein teachers were forced to give grades along the Bell Curve line.
In my school design, made for a so-called Charter School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, instead of being one of 30 in a classroom (where the first lesson is normally “Sit still and shut up, the bell has rung!’ - so I, the teacher, can try to teach all 30 of you different individuals the same identical ‘lesson’ ”), my student-centred system respects each student as an individual customer of learning to pursue individual interests at individual paces of learning with a great deal of cooperative group projects (but never failing to learn that the ultimate cooperative project is planetary cooperation).
And naturally my student-centred schools will make good use of Information Technology whenever of benefit and value to each student’s goals.
Here again we currently in Britain see the pathetic nature of Education Minister Gove’s approach to increasing the totality of Britain’s acquired knowledge and capacity in foreign languages. Gove’s pathetic proposed procedure is to train thousands and thousands of foreign language teachers over a 2½ year period so that there will then be teachers to start teaching foreign languages. But which ones? The ones he and other adults think children should learn.
Now if Gove really cared about the youths over which he has duties and responsibilities as Minister of Education, he’d realise that he can give all students immediate access to any language. An Apple iPad will give them access to expert teaching of virtually any language which each individual student wanted to learn.
Education is one of our present planet’s immense areas of failure because of our school’s present competitive school system. At present our school system quickly turns off and de-motivates students in that the largest majority of these will receive and accept grades like ‘C’, ‘D’ or even ‘E’. They are the losers. Only the ‘A’ and ‘B’ ones can feel like winners.
By replacing our present planet’s competitive procedures and systems, with their inevitable losers, with a future planet that is cooperative by design and does not demand losers and failures, our planet’s future will be fantastically happier and more beautiful with smiling cooperation.
Now of course I know that this will involve immense changes. But the first step can be quite instantaneous. The first step is to recognise competition’s fundamental fault, i.e., producing losers.
And then the second step is to design Planetary Cooperation. And here planetary is fundamental. It won’t do to have two or three huge cooperative entities because they will still end up being competitive in relationship to one another. No, the key is one Cooperative Planet and to assume that another competing planet won’t attack us.
If we decide to try to create a Cooperative Planet, what are the next steps?
One step is to raise the issue at major planetary meetings such as the one in Rio re Global Warming. Previous global warming conferences have demonstrated one of the fundamental characteristics of such conferences, namely that our present planet’s winners don’t accept a cooperative approach because that will reduce their power as winners. Twenty years ago at Rio, the USA refused to sign agreements that they saw would reduce the winners’ powers. And guess what? It looks like they won’t agree again even though global warming continues to increase steadily.
We must stop competing in our economic scenarios and go for Planetary Cooperation. Jonathon Porritt’s laments (honest and sincere but meaningless in terms of changing the course of global warming) are inconsequential and irrelevant. Jonathon says our present planet’s Non-Governmental Organisations trying to work the corridors of power is utter folly. Of course he is right.
But he’s wrong (or the newspaper editor) to label his article in The Independent, 15 June 2012, Where’s the Energy to keep fighting for the Planet? A much more appropriate title would have been Where’s the Energy (and the imagination) to start cooperating for our planet’s future?
One thing I am sure of is that there will be no one attending the Rio Summit who will be representing the Planet. There will be people representing various nations and NGOs. But no one will represent the Planet, just as there was no one 20 years ago in Rio speaking on behalf of the Planet. Why? Because only a cooperative Planet could send such a delegate.
The Rio+20 Conference will be attended by loads of representatives of various competing nations – the ones that kill 55,000 of each other’s citizens annually – but none of them would dare to speak on behalf of our planet because sadly we have not reached that level of planetary cooperation.
Historically we probably started as little tribes who then evolved in City States and then into nations but we still haven’t become a planet because to do that we would have to be co-operators because, if there is only one entity, our planet, then competition is little more than planetary suicide, self- destruction, and no one at Rio+20 will say “Let’s commit planetary suicide!” Unfortunately, whether anyone said that and anyone heard them, we are most probably doing just that by our failure to reverse global warming and to reduce our planet’s human population. We haven’t even built a United Planet Building, let alone decided who shall be inside it.
But, having said that, I will suggest that Nations and National Representatives are not the United Planet Building occupiers. Nations are competitors. The United Nations has demonstrated that. May I suggest schools and universities should send representatives. At least they don’t have deadly weapons and armies. And of course our planet’s youths have probably the greatest stake in our planet’s future.
Read Karl's book, Our Planet's Future for a fuller picture of a future transformed through cooperation.