Creating a governing body for the planet

Dr. Nels Granholm

Dr. Nels Granholm

Three recent events came together to encourage me to write this column.

Two distinguished visitors came to Brookings (Dr. John B. Cobb Jr. and Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen).

Also, Dr. Peter Singer, an ethicist at Princeton University, wrote a short paper in the 10/11/02 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Who were these visitors?

What did they have to say?

And why should we be concerned?

In short, what’s the huge thrash?

Who cares?

These gentlemen have distinguished themselves in matters of global concern. All three acknowledge the plight of global humanity and global resources.

One billion people are starving while living in chronic poverty.

Global resources (timber, fresh water, topsoil, arable land, oceanic fisheries, fossil energy stores, biodiversity, minerals and other extracted materials) are dwindling.

Numerous civil wars annihilate thousands of noncombatants?women and children.

Terrorism abounds.

It’s a sad situation and getting worse.

It seems we should care.

Cobb, Pinstrup-Andersen and Singer care. They suggest rational strategies. There are ways to proceed.

Cobb approaches the resolution of global problems by a unique mix of theology and a radical brand of economics that stresses sustainability rather than growth.

Cobb is concerned that our present global emphasis on “economism,” the religious pursuit of wealth at the expense of everything else, will simply exacerbate global problems.

Thirty years ago one-sixth of the world’s population was starving. After thirty years of globalization, one-sixth of the people are still starving. Apparently, the kinds of growth economics inherent in globalization have not been successful in resolving global hunger.

As a current director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Pinstrup-Andersen’s good heart and dedication to the fundamentals of free market economics have enabled him to make progress toward the alleviation of world hunger.

As a recent Distinguished Harding Lecturer at SDSU, Pinstrup-Andersen stated that wealthy nations have an obligation to help feed the poor for two fundamental reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, unless people from wealthy nations are willing to work toward the elimination of root causes of global instability, we will never be free of terrorism no matter how enormous our standing militaries.

Pinstrup-Andersen also suggests the need for some form of international accountability to oversee and regulate components of globalization.

Singer’s sense of global ethics and desire to adhere to principles of equity, justice, and fairness lead him to discuss the creation of a global governing body.

Such an institution could supercede the interests and sovereignty of powerful nation-states for the overall well-being of the poor and the rich in our now single, global world.

Our one fragile world needs a form of global accountability that transcends the interests of nation-states and serves to genuinely improve the well-being of our global citizens.

Only then may we create a world community that truly embodies ethical goals of justice, peace and prosperity.

Dr. Nels Granholm is a professor of biology. Write to him at [email protected].