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How to change the world? Those concerned about the dangerous drift of global development are asking this question with increasing urgency. Dominant institutions have proved too timorous or too venal for meeting the environmental and social challenges of our time. Instead, an adequate response requires us to imagine the awakening of a new social actor: a coordinated global citizens movement (GCM) struggling on all fronts toward a just and sustainable planetary civilization. Existing civil society campaigns remain fragmented and therefore powerless to leverage holistic transformation. To create an alternative vision and effective strategy for realizing it, consciousness and action must rise to the level of a GCM. We propose a new organizing campaign with the explicit aim of catalyzing this historic agency. This effort would expand and diversify in a “widening circle”, adapting to changing circumstances as it evolves. From the onset, such a project must foster a politics of trust, committed to balancing unity and pluralism on the road to our common future.
A decade ago the Earth Charter sounded a clarion call to “join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.” In the years since, the drumbeat of crises that has rippled across the global field—and reports warning of still greater dangers ahead—has underscored this historic imperative to “join together.” The burning question is no longer “if ” or “when”, but “how”? What bold actions can forge a world polity for our interdependent world and common future?
The historic underpinning of potential unity lies in the entanglement of people, nature, and generations by long webs of economic, cultural, and environmental connectivity, binding us into one allembracing social-ecological system. In the Planetary Phase of Civilization, humanity and Earth have become a single community of fate. We are in the midst of a turbulent transition from the world that was to some form of global society, with no exit and no separate solutions for individuals, communities, or countries. The shift is generating a host of ominous transnational problems —climate change and ecosystem degradation, economic instability and geopolitical conflict, oppression and mass migration—that left unattended might well pull us toward a bleak tomorrow.
Nonetheless, we still have time to bypass the future on offer, though it will not be easy. Charting passage to a happier outcome demands rapid emergence of ways of thinking and acting matched to the profound challenge posed by global transition. Our concern and accountability, indeed, our very sense of self, must expand across the barriers of space and time to embrace the whole human family, the ecosphere, and the unborn. We stand at an inflection point of history full of peril, but also promise, if we can come together in a joint venture: creating a culture of solidarity and politics of trust within a movement to build democratic institutions for peace, justice, and sustainability.