We are currently facing three interrelated existential crises:
Climate change causing droughts, storms, floods, killer heatwaves, wildfires and rapidly approaching global tipping points. In addition to the death and destruction resulting from these natural disasters, some experts predict more than a billion climate refugees in the world by 2050. Imagine the social, economic, and political impact of a tenfold increase in refugees around the world.
Pandemics: Since March 2020, COVID-19 has killed more than a million Americans and millions more around the world, and experts predict we will experience more pandemics at a higher frequency as a result of bio lab releases, continued incursion into wild habitat and factory farming. A recent report estimates there are some 1.7 million unknown viruses in the animal kingdom with 850,000 of them potentially transferable to humans.
Nuclear Annihilation: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have set their symbolic “Doomsday Clock” to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest in its 75-year history. Nuclear war was off our collective radar (so to speak) for many years. Now, as a result of the proxy war between the two major nuclear superpowers in Ukraine and the new nuclear arms race, we are once again just one ghastly decision or dreadful miscalculation away from annihilation. The latest studies indicate that a full nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia would kill five billion of the eight billion people on the planet and end civilization. Even a relatively smaller exchange between India and Pakistan could wipe out two billion people. Of course, we would take many other species with us. It’s not called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) for nothing.
These threats threaten all people of all nations and do not respect national borders. For the first time in human history, all nations of the world have mutual interests.
These threats cannot be addressed by militarism, yet the U.S. government is spending more than $880 billion on the Pentagon, which is more than 50% of federal discretionary spending and more than the next 10 countries’ military spending combined.
These threats are relatively new in human history and therefore require new solutions. They cannot be solved by any one nation, but rather require, by definition, international cooperation.
We are stuck in an obsolete and destructive paradigm that is characterized by “might makes right,” zero-sum games, endless arms races leading to mutually assured destruction, treating the world as a geopolitical chessboard and practically continuous war over land, resources, power and ideology. While we are told repeatedly by our government how critical these wars are, we are essentially fighting over deck chairs while the ship is on fire and sinking.
These existential threats require a new international relations paradigm that is characterized by the following:
• Strong, democratized international institutions;
• De-escalation of hostilities;
• An end to the demonization of one another;
• Relentless diplomacy leading to trust and cooperation;
• International treaties in all domains. We are only safe and secure when all nations feel safe and secure;
• An end to great power conflictual orientation
• Much smaller military budgets and the use of international nonviolent systems to resolve conflicts;
• A reduction leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons;
• An end to the barbaric institution of war. War needs to join slavery, child labor, and treating women as chattel in the dustbin of history; and
• Focus (time, energy, attention, money) on the real threats to our safety and security.
People tell me that humanity has been at war for all of recorded history. I respond by saying that we are — supposedly — rational creatures with a built-in evolutionary survival instinct. If that is true, we can change when required. It is now required that we evolve if we are to survive.
There are a number of governments in the world that are stuck in the old paradigm. I believe that the people of those nations will need to demand these changes from their governments who are leading us all to our doom.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was correct when he said we will either learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. The choice is ours.
Consider joining or creating a nonviolent action on Sept. 21, which is the International Day of Peace to start this process. Everything we hold dear depends on it. The Doomsday clock is ticking ever closer toward midnight.
John Miksad is chapter coordinator for World Beyond War, a global movement to end all wars.