The Earth Democratic Federation: Last Best Hope For Beating Climate Change
Our governments are going to lose the fight against climage change and damn us all if a radical shift in trajectory does not happen fast
And sadly, no amount of protest or civil disobedience is going to get it done.
Beating climate change is simply impossible without building a global democratic government dedicated to winning the most crucial war in Earth’s history.
That’s the hard truth — period point blank.
Anyone who pretends that the existing international order can adapt to handle the challenge is misinformed or worse, hoping to profit.
The Sixth IPCC report lays things out clear for anyone with training in systems science. We’re already seeing the impacts of warming that is now locked in — 2020–2021 is the new normal under the best-case scenario.
A global government is our only hope — the world is too disorganized deal with Earthwide issues like carbon emissions and pandemics.
First off — when I say global government I don’t mean what you probably think.
Most of us have been educated to believe government is all about power, setting and enforcing rules to keep people from turning on each other.
But this isn’t true. It is another myth sold to us by the powerful to justify their control over us.
Real government is simply about governance — providing services other social institutions like markets and charity don’t offer to everyone equally. Rules and enforcement clearly have to be part of that sometimes, but they are ultimately incidental to the deeper purpose — helping people get along.
Governance is best when it is as local as possible and democratically accountable. Generally speaking, the further you are from a problem the less you understand it, so local is better — yet always best when supported by organizations working more broadly.
Getting local people to agree to follow government rules is fundamentally about persuasion — offering them things they value in exchange for compliance with certain rules.
When governments fail, it is usually because this bond is broken. People stop believing agencies want to help them, and view them instead as oppressors.
Failure to understand what effective government is and why it works is the basic reason the United States of America can’t figure out counterinsurgency and is slowly ripping itself apart from the inside. Government here is about money, prestige, and authority alone — not actually helping real people or their communities.
Government sucks so badly in so many places because the origin of most of today’s governments was as organs of sovereign states intended to maintain elite control over the general populace. Democratic governments tend to be less bad only because people living in them have fought for generations to tame their regimes — Europe’s so-called stable, advanced democracies only got there through centuries of bloody conflict.
These governments were built to dominate those under their sway more than they were set up as service providers — they remain organs of entities founded on the claim to a right to use violence in their territory. But a government built up from scratch need not have to have population control as its focus.
Instead of worrying about territory and domination, a global government must focus entirely on basic, fundamental governance. The efficient and flexible provision of universal services like defense, basic welfare, and human rights.
Essentially, creating safe spaces for democracy and markets to emerge on their own. Not telling people what form they ought to take.
Climate change threatens us all —but worse, it doesn’t threaten us all equally. Some regions stand to suffer more harm than others, which allows those living in more resilient countries to ignore the plight of people elsewhere.
This division is why all climate action under the present system, relying on sovereign countries to cooperate on a voluntary basis, is doomed to fail.
As much as I adore what Greta Thunberg is doing and what she has inspired, I also know that demanding world leaders act won’t get us anywhere. They will only ever pretend to act because their true interest is not the welfare of all their people, but maintaining their own power and that of their particular country.
The only way to beat this basic collective action problem is some mode of unified global governance capable of helping places that want to adapt to the future get on with it. Actually building local capacity in a coordinated way the existing landscape of scattered international organizations and the United Nations haven’t been able to figure out how to do.
Our only hope lies in building an Earth Democratic Federation.
For over twenty years we’ve been sold a myth about global issues by our leaders, a fantasy that the planet’s two-hundred odd sovereign countries can independently cooperate to deal with global threats. Climate change, nuclear war, and human rights violations were supposed to be handled through the United Nations and its member states.
This system hasn’t worked for a very simple reason that isn’t changing any time soon: deeply entrenched power imbalances between countries.
The harshest truth about climate change is that some countries will, on the whole, benefit from it. Russia in particular, Canada to a lesser extent. Rare valuable materials will be easier to access as permafrost melts in the Arctic and warming polar regions will allow for more agricultural development, plus ice-free seas allow for faster shipping.
Countries don’t care about climate change so long as it doesn’t impact them more than it does their rivals. Most are run by people rich enough to escape to a climate refuge when things get bad.
And even in a world wracked by severe climate change places like Pacific America, Northern Europe, and New Zealand will have the technology and relative stability to stay better off than the Gulf Coast, West Africa, or South Asia.
Relying on individual countries to do anything when climate action right now means making your economy less competitive in the short run is absolute folly. The past twenty years have been utterly wasted because of the focus on Paris Accord style agreements that rely on country-level action.
Frankly, between nationalism and the inane focus on people’s personal carbon footprints — a tactic taken directly from Sunday school sermons to alienate people from the true drivers of carbon pollution — it is now more likely than not that within twenty years no one will talk about climate change mitigation at all. Adaptation and resilience will be all the rage — accepting climate change and simply trying to make it suck less.
Not a bad goal in and of itself, but woefully insufficient — again, because some places are wealthy and so able to pay for more resilience than others.
Bottom line: there is absolutely no point in even talking about meaningful climate change action without coming up with a way to create globally binding consequences for failing to make substantial progress on carbon reductions.
In short, for any rule to matter it has to be enforceable — and there is no way to enforce climate rules without a global institution that can make consequences stick. An independent organization that can unite and pool the resources of whatever geographic areas are initially willing to participate in global climate actions to make direct infrastructure investments in communities across the globe.
I call it the Earth Democratic Federation because the scope is necessarily global, the organization must be directly accountable to the people it serves, and a federal structure done right different places with different needs get the treatment they deserve.
Its mission will be to guarantee five basic freedoms to everyone, everywhere: Home, Health, Livelihood, Association, and Expression. Home is safe and secure housing; Health clean water, food, air, and access to medical care; Livelihood the education and tools needed to pursue suitable work; Association choosing where you live and work and who you spend time with and vote for; Expression the ability to pursue happiness as a person sees fit.
All participating districts — which can be as small as a city or district and as large as several countries combined — will forward 1% of their annual gross domestic product to the Earth Democratic Federation to allow it to operate. A 1% tax on high wealth accumulations will be applied. Annually $2 trillion will be spent to maintain continuous global operations.
Each district will elect by direct popular vote a representative to the Earth Assembly, a governing body collectively responsible for deciding where to invest these precious funds, the product of the labor of billions of people.
The hands and eyes of the Earth Assembly will be the Earth Defense Forces, a comprehensive security force capable of deploying anywhere on the planet to secure and develop any place in need of international help.
The EDF and any international aid groups willing to participate will partner with local organizations and peoples wherever needed. There they will establish a safe and secure democratic haven where international investment can flow directly to people in need, enabling them to build the kind of lives they deserve while also ensuring that this development is sustainable and carbon-neutral.
In places where people now have to burn pitch to light their homes they will be equipped with solar panels and electric appliances to both preserve both their health and that of the planet. Where water is scarce and polluted efficient infrastructure will be deployed and placed in the hands of local people. Agricultural techniques and technology will be supplied to improve land practices. And green energy will power local clean manufacturing placed in the hands of the community.
The great secret of climate change few in the wealthy, developed world are willing to speak is that solving the climate crisis requires solving the poverty crisis. Those of us living in North America, Europe, and Australia & New Zealand have the option to reduce our consumption and ought to — but billions abroad are still desperate to simply survive.
And they will use the cheapest fuel sources to develop and have the kind of lives we take for granted — they’ll have to, their very lives depend on it. The only way to prevent that from being coal and tar sands oil is to build green alternatives as quickly as possible.
If not, carbon reductions made by the rich won’t matter — they’ll be swamped by people with no better option because the rich countries didn’t give them one.
And just as the developing world’s lack of access to vaccines thanks to dumb patent laws and inadequate investment in the infrastructure needed to manufacture them locally is dooming us all to the emergence of even worse Covid-19 variants, so will global inequities doom all efforts to combat climate change.
Unless we start building an Earth Democratic Federation right now.
In the United States, it is often asked (rhetorically) who will lead, if not America, on major global issues like climate change.
The answer to that is the Earth Democratic Federation.
Because forget the propaganda — the United States of America cannot lead. It lacks the skill and the will and the patience preferring a simple world divided into two camps, “authoritarian” and “democracy,” where it gets to say who is in which club.
The same old divide and conquer game imperialists and colonizers have played to delay the great reckoning that awaits all they have built.
The truth is that people are divided only by the fact we can’t know and interact with everyone. Our associations are what define our individual sense of reality, a fragment of a far greater whole.
This is in fact humanity’s greatest strength: people can and will act to take care of their community and landscape if they are empowered to and know what to do. What is required is building a set of stable, reliable social institutions to provide governance ever steered by democratic accountability.
But you can’t build them without creating a safe, secure, stable environment that gives people an opportunity to build trust and understanding. And this can only be done in many cases by an impartial outside body with the ability to enforce the peace if necessary.
To stop climate change it is necessary to have an international force with the necessary equipment, skills, and professionalism to get this done.
So far, no national military has proven remotely able to do so. In twenty years of trying the United States and its European NATO allies failed to accomplish this mission in Afghanistan, with utterly devastating consequences for the people of that war-torn land.
The Earth Democratic Federation can and must take on the job of protecting peoples no one else will. They must be armed and equipped to fight against climate change, pandemics, or any other enemy that threatens us all by being made more sustainable.
What is required, of course, is resources.
I can envision a better future where at last Earth has something more effective than the worthy but flawed United Nations. One where no one has to fear starvation amid a years-long conflict. Where disasters prompt an immediate and effective response that leaves the affected people better off than they were before.
Where we build out so much green energy capacity that we can start to suck carbon from the atmosphere, not accepting 1.5C of inevitable warming but rolling it back.
Actually defeating climate change with active planetary management.
I just need a couple trillion dollars annually for the next fifty years to make it happen.
Close to a billion at first.
The odds of this happening are, of course, close to zero.
But not completely zero. Unlike twenty years ago, when the outline of these truths first became evident to me while finishing my degree at UC Berkeley, ideas can go global in the blink of an eye.
People will even donate their hard-earned dollars towards a crazy project aimed at restoring hope to a seemingly hopeless world. Heck, they’ll donate to almost anything. People are cool that way.
The key is getting enough folks talking about the possibility to start the ball rolling.
So Greta Thunberg, if you’re out there listening— spread the word, will you? Beats trying to make intransigent governments take incremental steps always subject to being rolled back at the next election, I’d think.
I prefer grassroots organization myself, but at this point if a league of evil genius billionaires would put seed money in a trust account overseen by an independent board — hey, take what you can get when you want to build a force to save the planet.
I don’t want it for myself (okay, most of it) because all I really want out of life is to hang out with my family — including our animals, the more the merrier — play video games, and write science fiction.
But I can’t have that if the forests are burning down around me, people are dropping like flies from a pandemic, and the air and water are toxic.
Trillions sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn’t. The world spends $2 trillion on defense already — and why shouldn’t defense against climate change be treated with equal concern?
The world’s economic is over $100 trillion annually, and there’s $400–500 trillion in wealth floating around.
1% of the wealth of only the 1% is close to $2 trillion. Seems a fair price for stopping the disintegration of planetary society, right?
The only sure way to solve a collective action problem like global carbon emissions is an organization able to produce change and enforce agreements at the global scale.
As the EDF gains members, it will become possible to establish close links to enable technological exchange and trade. As an entity capable of guaranteeing member security, the EDF will be highly attractive to smaller countries without large standing military forces.
It will grow into a powerful force for democracy and human rights on the world stage, leveraging trade agreements to pull as much of the global economy into a network emphasizing fair trade and labor protections. Favorable deals will rely on partners meeting key standards, including democratic accountability to their own people.
It has to happen, because there’s really no other way out, folks. Nationalism and sovereignty are deadly poisons threatening all climate progress. Even the greed of fossil fuel companies pales in comparison when it comes to subverting climate action.
Put Exxon out of business, the demand for cheap fuel will produce another. Put a dictatorial regime out of business by giving its people autonomy backed by green development and integration into global fair trade networks?
It’s gone forever.
So anyone out there with some pull and wealth to spare — help me save the world.
No, not you, kind generous reader of normal means. You’ve got kids to feed or elderly parents to care for. There’s plenty of crowdfunding causes you can support already.
I’m talking about you, multi-millionaire. And especially you, billionaire.
Come on, haven’t you won the game enough for one lifetime?
Even if you don’t think so, consider this. The way things are going, those life spans ain’t fixin’ to be super long. People are angry out there, and the technology of destruction has become rather democratic of late, if you hadn’t noticed.
Even those of you wealthy enough to imagine a great escape to orbit or Mars or beyond can’t get too cocky.
Because you know what costs millions of dollars, has you and your buddies inside, and moves real slow at first, making it a gorgeous target for an errant drone or long-range rifle or even the callous misplaced decimal of a mission control engineer with an axe to grind?
I think you know all to well, Bezos, Branson, and Musk. I’m sure you vet your people well, but think about it… are you 100% sure?
Smart people don’t tempt fate unless they have to.
So some advice: help fix the planet, then you can go play with your orbital toys.
It’s only fair.
Fund the Earth Democratic Federation before it’s too late for us all. Give me a billion dollars in seed money to hire the right people and I’ll rock the world — literally.
Between MacKenzie Scott and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Richard Branson and the 2,000 or so other billionaires on this planet there’s got to be enough spare cash lying around to buy an insurance policy against global collapse. Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle and that pet prince of yours — some of you folks have got to have the vision and common sense required to see this is necessary and plug it in your networks.
The Pentagon or Beijing or remote islands in the South Pacific — none can compare to a true global democracy. And sooner or later, one will be built, or the human species will perish.
I say get on the right side of history now. Really, what have you got to lose?
Pool the funds. Get in touch. I was apparently put on this planet to play Gandalf, so let’s get the ball rolling and slay some foul Orcs, shall we?