Tag Archives: species extinction

COP26 will fail unless we grant it the powers of a supra-national council

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H.G. Wells’ ‘end of the world’ fantasy saw civilisation saved by a friendly virus, but in 1951 a new type of apocalyptic fantasy appeared in cinema screens.  In The Day the Earth Stood Still humanity was given an ultimatum: put aside petty squabbles and come together, or be annihilated.  Michael Rennie’s authoritarian ‘alien’ was clearly a depiction of human reason triumphing over the insanity of armed conflict, and the film reflected the founding principle of the United Nations; endless wars were the problem the human race faced.

We are now living the reality, and the problem isn’t wars.  We face the end not only of human civilisation but of much of the natural world, and one of the millions of species headed for extinction could be our own.  However, the message of hope from 1951 is as powerful as it was then.  By uniting behind a single purpose, the concerted efforts of the human race could overcome the challenges we face.  We don’t have the stern, but kind-hearted, alien laying down the law, so what we need instead is a world council tasked with creating a survival plan, and empowered to enforce it.

We already have the UN, but that was created after the horrors of World War II, and felt its first duty was to render impossible future invasions and annexations, so its founders sought to guarantee the sovereign right of countries to be free from the fear of invasion.  Individual national sovereignty is an idea which is now hopelessly out of date, and it has become positively harmful.

Climate summit meetings still accept that each country has a right to act as it will within its own borders.  They try to achieve consensus about what each can realistically do about climate change, but those that don’t want to sign up don’t have to.  Sovereignty is a meaningless luxury when the damage to the environment affects the entire world, and sovereignty was probably always a delusion (Imagined Communities,  Benedict Anderson, 1983), with the lines on today’s maps mostly just the residue of past wars and arranged marriages.

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