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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 24 New Delhi June 2, 2018

Finding Hope Amidst Despair

Saturday 2 June 2018, by Bharat Dogra

During the first two decades of the 21st century it has become increasingly clear that this is going to be the most critical century of human history in the sense that survival issues or existential issues created by human activities are likely sooner then later to have an over-whelming impact. Among environmental issues there are climate change and at least eight or and nine other issues (like freshwater shortages, species extinction and drastic changes in oceans as well as land use).

Among security issues there are weapons of mass destruction (like nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) plus cyber warfare and robotic weapons (or AI warfare) which are dangerous enough in themselves but also enhance the threat of other WMDs.

Secondly, it is equally clear that so far the preparations to meet these extremely tough challenges of existential or survival threats have been alarmingly inadequate. Whether we see the progress in checking greenhouse gas emissions, or in climate change adaption measures, or in eliminating nuclear weapons, or in stopping military use of robots—all of these are most critical survival issues but the achievements in terms of resolving these issues in time have been shamefully inadequate.

This raises the question: whether remedial action is still possible or whether it is already too late. We may already be late in some contexts, but surely in several other contexts it is still possible to do much. On the whole rather than say that it is too late, it is better to say that it is never too late.

While it is realistic to say that the overall situation is depressing and extremely difficult, we should nevertheless make full use of the openings that still exist. At no other time in human history was there greater need to find and utilise all openings of hope despite the widely prevalent despair.

More specifically, an extremely difficult but not impossible task is to resolve the survival issues in time within the framework of peace, justice and democracy.

To achieve this, the path ahead involves—

1) A great upsurge among peoples of the world and a huge increase in their acceptance of this great responsibility,

2) The coming together of peace, environment, justice, equality and gender movements to achieve this great task,

3) The linking of local with global issues to obtain involvement of common people in these tasks,

4) Linking up of the issues which help to create happier and more responsible life-patterns with the big survival responsibilities so that both can be achieved together.

5) On the issue of resolving survival issues before it is too late, there needs to be growing unity of the world’s peoples cutting across all divisions and boundaries including national boundaries.

6) Keeping in view the needs of resolving survival issues in time, mechanisms and world institutions need to be established to take the necessary, well-thought-out decisions in good time—the beginning of a democratic world government at least on carefully identified a dozen or so critical survival issues.

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