Do We Need A Constitution For The Earth?

There is a slowly growing public demand for an evolutionary ontological theory, whose philosophical basics could be a starting point for dealing with the current crisis in the fields of science, education, politics and law.

The national constitutions of modern states have been adopted as supreme legal documents expressing the will of the people in general philosophical wording. They declare the will to build, protect and develop a particular country as the homeland of free citizens equal under the law.

Planet Earth was never actively engaged in the human impulse to develop a particular kind of society. She did not seem actively to hinder human interests; she did offer resistance of a kind, but made the implementation of human interests possible by her impartial processes. The current expansion of technical and consumer Culture (civilization) demonstrates quite clearly, though, that this epoch of the apparent acquiescence of Planet Earth in human development is over.

The artificial global Culture created by human beings – the planetary technosphere – becomes ever more autonomous, surpassing original human intentions for it, and clashes with the independent, pre-existing and more sophisticated planetary biosphere. Despite being itself a temporary artificial system, this Culture mindlessly fights its natural host system which had previously established all the natural prerequisites for the evolution of Culture. That is why, for the first time in history, our self-confident human Culture is existentially threatened. It must stop its undeclared war against the Earth, which it cannot win.

The role of human beings as a species engaged in a hopeless struggle with the biosphere must therefore dramatically change. The originally inconspicuous inhabitant and, later, cruel conqueror of the Earth must become its humble admirer and defender. Now urgently needing long-term co-operation with Nature, human beings must attempt to reconstruct Culture in a biophile way.

Despite the fact that some contemporary Constitutions contain articles about environmental protection, enforcement of these articles has been hindered by the undefined relationship between Culture and Nature. For example, the Constitution of Ecuador and some laws of Bolivia acknowledge, to a limited extent, the rights of Mother Earth to life, diversity and renewal. Even though these are mostly no more than expedient measures against the increasing commercial exploitation of these countries’ natural riches by multinational mining companies, they do represent a conspicuous shift in legal understanding from conceding the rights of an individual person or legal entity enjoying the status of legal subjects under the law to conceding these same rights to part of a territory. However, the Earth is neither merely a river nor a protected natural area. It is a planet-wide, internally-integrated assembly of all animate and inanimate systems. We must therefore acknowledge to the whole Earth the right to exist and to evolve.

This requires us to adopt and dispense a new ontological concept of existence. What has been called ‘existence’ for over two thousand years, and what has been linked to permanence and stability by philosophers, has to be now declared to be a process, a creative activity. It is high time to acknowledge the Earth, which was originally perceived by humans as an inert centre of the Universe and later as merely one of the planets in our Solar System, to be a unique process of natural evolution, a subjectivity superior both to humans and to Culture.

The path towards a moral and legal acknowledgment of the subjectivity of the Earth is blocked by many obstacles, however. We have to work our way through a veritable jungle of modern prejudices concerning mere ‘objectivity’ and the reality of Nature, and our right to own it. This philosophical conception of the Constitution for the Earth is therefore based on the ontological evidence that human Culture is not a continuation of natural evolution by other means. It takes into account the fact that Culture is not simply an association of people or the kind of biological social organization that ants live in, for example. It is an impersonal artificial structure consisting of mass and energy, stolen from the naturally-originating Earth. Culture is an active anti-natural system with its own constitutive information (intellectual culture) but without its own material or energy sources. The foundations of Culture are, unfortunately, the highly-organized animate and inanimate structures of the Earth. In short, Culture is therefore a dangerous reconstruction of the ingeniously-ordered Earth, pre-set as it is in a biophile manner, only for the benefit and limited consumer interests of our own biological species.

Even though a biological predisposition towards an aggressive adaptive strategy in dealing with Nature is inherent in people, its current anti-natural form could hardly have originated without additional support from the area of Culture itself. The still surviving tribes of hunters and gatherers in the world are living evidence that the human genome contains not only the potential for an adaptive strategy towards Nature but also the latent traces of fear, humility and respect for things exceeding human power. It seems that the marked suppression of this biophile potential in the human genome and the assertion of the predatory intellectual paradigm must have occurred relatively recently. A single-layer, non-universal way of contemplation, unification of thinking and existence, non-critical hypostasis of general terms, arrogation of superiority of human thinking to the world of Nature – all of these appeared first only in Greek mythology, philosophy and science.

If we accept that the predatory intellectual human paradigm was born in ancient Greece and has been fostered by modern science and philosophy, we must also concede that Euro-American culture bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the contemporary existential conflict with Nature. Profound self-criticism is therefore a task for philosophy, which was once in the vanguard of the dismissive theoretical approach of humankind to Nature. It is now philosophy which must attempt to reveal and break up the ruling predatory intellectual paradigm.

I am writing and teaching for over thirty years that our proud technological Culture is actually threatened by itself, because it carelessly destroys the prerequisites for its own long-term existence – those that were created only once, through evolution. Our Culture strives for growth and expansion at the expense of Nature; it scorns the Earth and denies it the right to natural renewal and evolution.

If the human species is to be sustained on the Earth then the planet must remain undamaged and unpolluted for as long as possible. It is necessary to realize that humans are biologically conditioned by natural structures and it is also necessary to concede the Earth her so-far-hidden characteristics and rights, what philosophers call her ‘subjectivity’. When Descartes once conceptually divided reality into ‘subject’ and ‘object’ (res cogitans and res extenza), he could not have known that both human beings and the Earth were products of the same natural evolution and that his hypothetical ‘object’ was not only a mere expansion but, for the ‘subject’, a superior creative activity harmonized with the whole of the Universe. He could not have known that our temporary human ‘subjectivity’ is no more than a part of the older and wider ‘subjectivity’ of the Earth. Insistence on Descartes’ anthropocentric distinction between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ today is therefore non-scientific, erroneous and politically foolhardy. Insistence on a perceived human superiority to Nature and failure to acknowledge the independence, values and rights of the Earth is a way of digging a grave for humankind.

The hypertrophy of cool rationality, which is based on the still-ruling predatory intellectual paradigm, has helped to establish ideological, objective and organizational forms of our globalized anti-natural Culture. The artificial cultural ‘subjectivity’ of these forms – entrepreneurial, political, financial and military – which has found its legal expression in the subjectivity of legal entities, is still closer to the feelings of the general public than is the subjectivity of the whole Earth. We are now slowly coming to the recognition, however, that these artificial subjectivities, supported by the mainstream media, require highly sophisticated means of covering their interest in power with the appearance of the general human interest. It is sad that the law has also become interconnected with power, and accepted its part in the slick deception of the public. This might be one reason why it has ceased to be a minimum standard of general human morality.

Yet even the extremely weakened morality, the rules of which according to Hume cannot be merely the results of our reason’s deliberations, has fortunately preserved its ability critically to judge all human activities. Growing numbers of people do not believe any longer in the moral neutrality of science and technology, in predatory-oriented economics, politics and law. There is a slowly growing public demand for an evolutionary ontological theory, whose philosophical basics could be a starting point for dealing with the current crisis in the fields of science, education, politics and law. Let it be hoped that this proposal for a Constitution of the Earth gives strength not only to a biophile-oriented spirit of jurisprudence and to the spreading of a true ontological fundamentals but also to our failing morality and the growth of a new pro-natural ethos, without which we shall never overcome the global ecological crisis.