The UN is planning to wash our brains; maybe it isn’t a bad idea.
The New American, publication arm of the far right wing John Birch Society, is hyper “patriotic” in the old school sense (since the “patriot act” has pretty well boogered up the word for everyday use). One of the things the Birchers fear most is loss of national sovereignty. Though I’m not particularly right wing, I agree with Birchers on many subjects, and mistrust of the U.N. is one. We have different reasons for our agreement, but we do generally agree on the UN.
However, in this week’s offering from the New American is a panic piece about a new UN push to enculturate, or re-socialize, or brain wash, people into accepting the new reality of our planet and the precarious position we are in. In their article (link below), the New American’s European correspondent Alex Newman accurately describes the elements of a recent UN document which, like the famous Agenda 21, addresses key issues which are leading to global environmental degradation. I encourage you to read the original document, http://www.post2015hlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/UN-Report.pdf
The description includes key ideas: being “green”, which NA identifies as a “religion”; changes in patterns of consumption (meaning we get a lot less than we are used to); human rights (which left and right wingers alike agree should only apply to some humans); the distribution of wealth (socialism!);and a new awareness of our impact on the environment.
The New American folk are generally Christian. They believe someone is in charge: He will step in if it is His will. Meantime, He told us to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the Earth, and by golly that is what we’re doing.
If you don’t drink that particular flavor of koolaid, the situation is very different; it is terrifying to consider the collapse of humans as a species. The less you believe in Creationism and the more you understand evolution, the more obvious it becomes that, yes, we could nearly disappear as a species, and no, it wouldn’t really take a long, long time. With no grandpa in the sky, it seems we have to find a grandpa on Earth, in New York, to be precise, in the form of the United Nations.
I personally don’t believe in a grandpa in New York, either; I don’t believe the UN can or will save us. Neglect that for a moment, and consider how the New American represents the world as we saw it 50 years ago, and the UN report reflects our current reality.
One of the biggest, and most revealing, complaints about the UN approach to Birchers is the egalitarian nature of the Beyond 2015 plan. From the NA article:
“Perhaps the most important transformative shift is towards a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability that must underpin the post-2015 agenda,” the report says. “This partnership should involve governments but also include others: people living in poverty, those with disabilities, women, civil society and indigenous and local communities, traditionally marginalised groups, multilateral institutions, local and national government, the business community, academia and private philanthropy.” In other words, everyone and everything.
The Beyond 2015 report directly addresses migration, noting that about one person in seven is a migrant, living part or all of the time in a place different from where they were born. Migrants are a problem for New Americans; populations grow because people move through. In the global society, migration will be a feature as long as travel is relatively cheap, and as long as there are large wealth differences between different places.
The NA article correctly realizes that all of the UN action items will result in less wealth for wealthy nations, more equally spread resources, a greater attention to global climate change, and it wants all parties to have input, not simply the wealthy.
Indeed, the report picks out these elements for the focus of the plan:
1. Leave no one behind (end extreme poverty)
2. Put sustainable development at the core (we should not use more resources than there are)
3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth (redistribute opportunity)
4. Build peaceful and effective, open and accountable institutions (non violence and responsible government)
5. Forge a new global partnership (become aware of our common predicament)
The New American finds these elements to be the devil’s own work. In contrast, I think it sounds like a gaggle of beauty contestants all listing their desires for world peace and an end to hunger. In my view, the group of UN bigshots missed the problem by a mile. There are far too many people. No amount of jiggering the world and considering everyone’s feelings is going to make the difference.
And therein lies the agreement between the New Americans and I: the UN is simply not going to be able to pull this off, and I’ll refuse to give up my gas guzzling SUVs and steak so another billion people will be able to eat rice, and in the end, it’s all pointless anyway. NA believes its pointless because its a global cabal trying to steal our stuff and we know better, and I think it’s pointless because it isn’t going to work.
The UN won’t actually be able to stem population growth; yes, developed nations already have fewer native births and their birth population is stable, but as population grows elsewhere there will still be over population because of migration. The drafters of the report used three possible trajectories for the population: level off near 10; rise to 16; decline to 6 billion. Other, more dire predictions propose the population will rise to 8 billion and then somewhat suddenly drop to 4 or 5 billion. Still other estimates place the carrying capacity closer to 2 billion, if we want the environment to stabilize. If we can level the population off at 8 or 10 billion people with everyone living meagerly, why not cap the population at 3 billion and let people live well.
I see the UN asking for far too little far too late.
Still, I realize that the UN is closer with their grandpa in New York than the New Americans with their grandpa in the sky. If we are to continue as a species, we have to do a couple of important things right away. One, the one the New Americans complained most about, is a change in the way we conceptualize the planet and our sisters and brothers on it. .
This is a closed system, and we are rapidly depleting it. The natural systems we rely on are changing, shifting out of that delicate equilibrium of weather and into something probably less hospitable. If we push the carbon cycle too far, or deplete toothed fishes too far, or reduce atmospheric oxygen much more, it is possible the carrying capacity will, once again, drop to a few million humans. The NA are oblivious to it; the UN recognizes the problem, but can’t bring itself to talk honestly about the implications. There are too many voices, too many truth claims; they can’t tell the rich nations to stop using oil and metals, they can’t stop the poor nations from wanting what others have. To speak honestly about our situation and the necessary changes would be to choose sides and consider dismantling capitalism. Simply not going to happen, regardless the concerns of New American.
In the meantime, their half measures are going to bugger it up for everyone. In a situation where some of the players feel their sacrifice is not efficiently used, they will defect. I am joined in my doubt by ecologists and others who doubt a central government, even one as big as the UN, can efficiently, without corruption or bloodshed, transition us to what must be considered a global age.
Still, we have to do something, something sudden and drastic, and we have to think about things in a new way to get through it. That root message the NA attempts to disarm is undeniable. Unless we act as a species to dramatically reduce population in first and second world nations, reduce our use of petroleum. reduce populations every where to that which can be sustained by local production, allow natural systems to stabilize, we are in for trouble that makes past troubles seem minor.
The New American article is here: