Pledging Allegiance: celebrating a Declaration of Interdependence
Nation States as Anachronisms in Times of Global Crises
Our common Earth was a very different place when Captain George Thatcher Balch, a Union army officer during the civil war, first drafted the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’, or when Francis Bellamy later embellished it, and when in 1942 the US Congress formally adopted the pledge.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
— The Pledge of Allegiance (to the Flag)
I will not go into the detail of whether there has ever been a time in US history where the nation was not somehow divided by competing political ideologies and other divisions of race, gender, and wealth. Nor will I explore whether it would be truthful to say that “liberty and justice for all” have sadly remained a high aim that was never accomplished.
As I watch our political leaders — for example at the recent G20 (19+1) meeting in Japan — unable to come to consensus on how to serve all of humanity on a planet facing mass extinctions and rapidly approaching cataclysmic irreversible climate change, I do ask myself the questions:
To what extent is the notion of a nation state a construct from the era of empires and power-over which is coming to an end, and will it serve us in the coming planetary era of power-with?
Are nation states not an anachronism at a time where we collectively face the possibility of an early and immature extinction of our own species and so much of the community of life with it?
Is the ‘zero-sum game’ logic that makes us put one nation first, not an entirely inappropriate survival response on a planet where the only way to win in the long term is to make sure that everyone wins — all of humanity and the wider community of life?
I mean no offence to my American friends, pondering these questions in the days leading up to your ‘Independence Day’. I am thinking of your children, as much as of my own and those of parents around the world, when I ask these questions.
Is it not time to step into mature membership of the wider community of life and collectively work on healing the Earth and her people so we all have a future worth living for?
In the lead up to the 1992 ‘UN Conference on Sustainable Development’ at Rio de Janeiro, the David Suzuki Foundation published a ‘Declaration of Interdependence’. Here it is:
“Declaration of Interdependence
This we know
We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us.
We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins.
We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea.
We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell.
We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes.
We share a common present, filled with uncertainty.
And we share a common future, as yet untold.
We humans are but one of thirty million species weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world.
The stability of communities of living things depends upon this diversity.
Linked in that web, we are interconnected — using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life.
Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources and the energy from the sun, and therefore has limits to growth.
For the first time, we have touched those limits.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil and the variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.
This we believe
Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful that we have driven fellow creatures to extinction, dammed the great rivers, torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky.
Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.
We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope.
We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean air, water and soil.
We see that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.
And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever, full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.
We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.
So where knowledge is limited, we will remember all those who will walk after us, and err on the side of caution.
This we resolve
All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live.
At this turning point in our relationship with Earth, we work for an evolution: from dominance to partnership; from fragmentation to connection; from insecurity, to interdependence.”
Much of this ‘Declaration of Interdependence’ supported the subsequent development of the Earth Charter which was based on four core principles:
1.) RESPECT AND CARE FOR THE COMMUNITY OF LIFE
2) ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY
3) SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
4) DEMOCRACY, NONVIOLENCE, AND PEACE
(For the full document of the Earth Charter in different languages click here)
As one of the (militarily) most powerful nation’s is preparing to celebrate its ‘Independence Day’, maybe people in that nation and everywhere on Earth would do well in revisiting the ‘Declaration of Interdependence’ and the ‘Earth Charter’.
The only way to make America great again, in my humble opinion, is by understanding the deep insights encoded in these documents. We are literally all in this together! It is ‘life first’ and ‘humanity first’ or all of us will perish.
The only way through the eye of the needle of the tumultuous decades ahead is for us to celebrate our differences of opinions, perspectives and religions and find higher ground as one humanity deeply caring for the future of all life on Earth.
Let us reconsider who and what we are pledging allegiance to:
I pledge allegiance to the Earth — home to our united humanity, and to the web of life of which we are mere strands, one community diversely expressing the divine, interdependent, with liberty and justice for all.
— The Pledge of Allegiance (to Gaia)
Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures
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