The United Nations has just released a report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: a Future Worth Choosing.” Authored by the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, it states that the planet is on the brink, devastated, thanks to unchecked exploitation. To avert environmental, economic, social and political disasters, we must adopt the sustainable development paradigm. Unprecedented universal cooperation is needed to save this earth and its people.
With 56 recommendations, the panel seeks to eradicate poverty; reduce inequalities; establish democracy and protect human rights worldwide; advance gender equality; ensure universal access to quality and affordable family-planning and other sexual and reproductive rights and health services; establish a global fund for education to achieve, at minimum, universal primary education by 2015, if not universal access to a college education no later than 2030; enable the full participation of women in the economy by putting in place economic policies that explicitly address the unique challenges that limit women; apply price incentives and disincentives, through taxation, to make sustainable choices more available; aim for an “ever-green revolution” to double productivity, at least, while drastically reducing resource use and avoiding further loss of biodiversity, topsoil loss, water depletion and contamination; coordinate between countries the management of water resource while bearing fully in mind that water plays multifaceted roles, including for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, industry and energy; coordinate marine and coastal planning between governments to protect ecosystems; ensure universal access to affordable sustainable energy; provide citizens, especially those in remote areas, with access to technologies, including universal telecommunications and broadband networks, by 2025; ensure that all citizens are provided with access to basic safety nets… On and on it goes, but I will stop here, though I’ve only glossed over half of this panel’s goals, all worthy, certainly, yet not achievable, none of them, on this earth, and especially under this system of world governance, dominated as it is by aggressive, militaristic countries with imperial ambitions. Simply put, the trend is not towards more universal justice, equality, peace, higher education or broadband access, but less and less of everything, often dramatically and abruptly less, as we move forward. Austerity will kick most of us in the face, as it already has many Greeks, Italians, Irishmen, etc., and, yes, Americans.
On a planet under stress, the big boys will not cooperate but go at each other’s throat while trampling many of us “excess eaters,” to borrow a phrase from Henry Kissinger. Take the standoff on Iran. It is instigated by Israel, the US, UK and France, and opposed by Russia and China. Of those, only Israel is not a permanent member of the UN Security Council. “Security Council” is truly a misnomer, for it has repeatedly unleashed insecurity and terror through wars, as in the invasions of Iraq and Libya.
The big boys didn’t acquire their obscene heft by taking care of the little guys, which is what the UN panel is recommending with its la-la land wish list. I’m surprised it didn’t add universal cheesecake and coffee or cognac after dinner, for I’d certainly like that. And why stop at sexual and reproductive rights? Why not guarantee free and endless access to high quality sexual gratification, and I don’t mean the virtual kind, since that’s already amply available in late Capitalism?
I happen to be born in a country that has experienced the paternalistic attention from four of the five imperial powers currently on the Security Council, and the only reason England never gave Vietnam a nasty spanking was because France was already there. Whenever a big boy announces he’s ready to help you, it’s best to load your weapons.
In short, don’t look for help from the leading nations, for they will become ever more ruthless as their economies sputter, stagnate and collapse. Thanks to fossil fuels, the world has enjoyed more than a century of unprecedented growth, yet even in the best of times, when oil was ridiculously cheap, at not even $20 a barrel, with seemingly enough for everyone, forever, the scramble for black gold generated millions of victims, so with peak oil already here, with demand outstripping supply, one can expect more violence, not less, and more disregard for human rights everywhere.
During the last Super Bowl, a self-congratulatory orgy of ritualistic violence, speed, machine worshipping and unchecked consumption, Madonna appeared as a hybrid Egyptian, Sumerian and Babylonian queen. Sitting on an enormous winged chariot, she was pulled by 50 Roman slaves/soldiers. It is more than curious, these megalomaniac and imperial signifiers, especially the allusions to Iraq, a country America has thoroughly destroyed. Gleeful in her role as this empire’s most famous cocktease, the aging and stumbling star spent 13 minutes celebrating herself, with her huge, projected face pulsating from the ground. After a religious-flavored finale, she suddenly disappeared downward with a puff of smoke and bang, leaving behind, inexplicably, “WORLD PEACE” hugely written and glowing in the dark.
Grafted onto a night dominated by car commercials, feel-good nonsense from war profiteering GE and hype for several war movies, the Material Girl’s final message was absurd, at best, if not cynically sinister. Live, from the partying heart of empire, one that is always fighting several wars, with more to come, we wish you “WORLD PEACE”! This joke is even sicker if one remembers that Madonna is infatuated with Israel, and that the last time she was there, in 2009, she made no mention of the Palestinians, but visited their butcher, Benjamin Netanyahu, at his home. Now, as Israel threatens to bomb Iran, Madonna is scheduled to sing in Tel Aviv. Mindful that retaliatory missiles may interfere with their enjoyment of pop music, Madonna’s Israeli fans are actually petitioning Netanyahu to postpone his attack on Iran until after the concert. Don’t call off carnage, just delay it. How nice of them.
As our leaders kill, we are fed pop music, until it’s our turn, too, to be slaughtered. They have all the guns and money, while we have next to nothing but inconsequential words. Under such an arrangement, I don’t see anything resembling a smooth and sane transition to justice, peace and sustainability. Oil inflated our number, so its scarcity will surely deflate it, and this decrease won’t be facilitated by family-planning, but through starvation and the universal hygiene that is war, to paraphrase Marinetti. If and when this earth approaches sustainability, it will be because most of us are no more.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.