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The Geopolitics of Global Citizenship



National citizenship has long been associated with connection to particular territory and the obligation to defend "the land of my birth." "Defending the nest" is common to other species as well, who are equally concerned with survival. Political identity has often been related to specified territory; it has also been formed by narratives about how national citizens arrived and developed in their homeland. Increasing numbers of people see the entire globe as their own and humanity's homeland. Threats to the homeland are no longer restricted to foreign armies or terrorists attacking a portion of the globe's surface. Threats to the home that sustains humanity and all life include exhaust pipes and smokestacks. Increasing numbers of people identify themselves as global citizens who have an obligation to defend the globe in ways that can sustain human security from environmental collapse. New long-term histories of the common origins of human ancestors, their relationship to the globe, and their global migration from Africa to the rest of the world have begun to establish new, global identities. Narratives of humanity's common origins and environmental narratives of our common destiny on our small planet bolster the development of global citizenship.
9: The Geopolitics of Global Citizenship
Lowell Gustafson
A new global geopolitics is supporting the development of global citizenship.1 Changing
experiences of the relationship among land, water, climate, history, and politics have led to
changes in key components of global citizenship, such as political identity, security, and
globalization. A citizen feels part of a homeland, often has been born and raised there, seeks to
protect it, and is committed to its future. Now homeland is no longer restricted to a nation, but
encompasses the entire globe. The “land of my birth” is no longer only a nation, but also the
Earth. Threats to the homeland are no longer restricted to foreign armies or terrorist groups, but
include exhaust pipes and smokestacks that endanger both the atmosphere and the security of
Geopolitics has traditionally analyzed the relationship between geography and human political
conflict among nations and other political actors in their struggle for access to land, strategic
position, and resources. World political maps outline the fixed borders that need to be defended
by the citizens of each nation. Between 1648 and 1989, according to Kalevi Holsti (1991), the
single most important issue over which wars were fought was territory. A security dilemma often
emerged when a nation felt insecure due to the capabilities of neighbours who may have been
planning a surprise attack. This insecurity often led to aggression in the alleged service of pre-
emptive defence. The motivation to defend one’s own territory has led to attacking that of others.
Global geopolitics analyzes geography and its relationship to politics in a broader context that
includes factors for the cooperation among global citizens necessary to protect the Earth, from
which all life, including human life, originated and is sustained. A narrative drawn from the
results of scientific research of Earth’s past places Earth in the context of the cosmos. The history
of the Earth includes the emergence and sustenance of life—and eventually of humanity.
Defending territory at this point in the history of the Earth entails a global geopolitics in which
humans protect the Earth from the ill effects of the anthropocene. The term anthropocene was
introduced by Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000. Geological periods are given various names, such as
the Quaternary (Pleistocene/Holocene) 2.588 million years ago (mya) - 0; the Neogene
(Miocene/Pliocene) 23.03 - 2.588 mya; the Paleogene (Paleocene/Eocene/Oligocene) 66.0 -
23.03 mya; the Cretaceous 145.5 - 66.0 mya; and famously, the Jurassic 201.3 - 145.0 mya. The
anthropocene is sometimes used to name the current geological age, viewed as the period during
which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
(Hamilton and Gemenne, 2015; Schwägerl, Christian and Lucy Renner Jones, 2015; and Vince,
2014) Global citizenship requires a sense of global identity. In this chapter, I will look at the
anthropological and sociobiological aspects of territorial defence, discuss traditional national and
imperial geopolitics, and conclude with a discussion of how global geopolitics contributes to
global citizenship.
Land of my birth
The anthropology of land
Political anthropology often observes that cultures understand themselves to have originated
from their land. The land gives birth to them, sustains and nurtures them, and demands
obligations of care and reverence in return. In a Yoruban myth, the divine being Orisha Nla
created humans from earth. Olorun, the supreme being, gave them life. In the Popol Vuh, the
Maya account of creation, the hero-twins’ father was resurrected from the underworld, sprouted
through the land, and became the Corn God. Ixmucane, the semi-divine Grandmother, fashioned
the kernels of corn that were produced into the meal from which the Maya were created. Every
time the Maya ate a meal of corn meal, beans, and squash, they were eating the God who was
given birth from their land and from whose fruit they were created and nurtured. Books Four and
Five of the Popol Vuh are concerned with the origins of a particular group of Maya, not all
humans. The Genesis account at Chapter 1:24 states that, “And God said, ‘Let the land produce
living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground,
and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’” The account later states that the first human
being was named Adam, perhaps arising from the Hebrew word adama, meaning earth, soil, light
brown or red. A literally translated name for Adam into English might be Earthling or Humus-
being (human). The Tanakh is concerned with the origin and development of the Hebrew people
as well as their special relationship with a defined, holy portion of land (sometimes called
Canaan, Palestine, Eretz HaQodesh, or Israel).
In other words, a great number of cultural and sacred myths emphasize how life and a people
originate from the land. The land itself gives birth to a nation or a people. It is sacred land. The
soil itself is the stuff of which we are made. Humus is the clay from which humanity is moulded.
My people are human, others are foreigners or something else altogether. My territory is
nurturing and sustaining. The land is fertile; it has soil from which sustenance-giving plants
emerge. The Earth itself may be seen as a living female. Earth goddesses are common, such as
Coatlicue in Aztec mythology, Pachamama for the Inca, Ki in Sumerian, Mahimata or Great
Mother in the Rig Veda (1.164.33), Mut in ancient Egypt, and Gaia for the ancient Greeks. For
all of these reasons, the land of one’s birth deserves filial loyalty and protection. Land, ancestry,
and kinship go together.
Social Science and Defending the Nest
Edward O. Wilson has long argued that human nature is deeply rooted in and connected to the
natural world. In his 1975 book on Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, he first investigated how
society is rooted in biology. Almost four decades later, he continues to develop his argument.
Wilson contends in The Social Conquest of the Earth that humanity’s social nature has
contributed to our ability to conquer the Earth. Our ability to organize ourselves is our most
powerful skill. We may lack fangs, claws, shells, wings, or cheetah-like speed, but we can work
together. We are not the only social beings and not the only ones who have done well in
surviving and thriving through social organization. Ant colonies and bee hives are highly
organized, with specialists in various functions. And they defend their nests to the death, as
Wilson argues (Wilson, 2012). The survival of the group depends on the defence of where the
young are born and raised, and where food is found or kept. Birds sometimes sing to warn others
of their kind to stay away from territory with limited supplies of preferred foods. The desire of
members of a group to survive and reproduce often leads to in-group cooperation and conflict
with others of the same or other species who might compete for resources. If citizenship includes
a sense of belonging, membership in a group that works together to protect the nest, it has an
origin deep in the past. Social creatures—including humans—cannot survive without
maintaining access to the land that gives them birth and sustains them.
Because land or the nest appears to be permanent to its human residents, it necessitates a kind of
special protection. Building one’s nation on permanent land is as wise as building one’s house
upon solid rock. If it can be secured, the land will stay under our possession for generations to
come, and my group’s ties to this land will be as permanent as the land itself. In short, protection
of the land is not just for the present, but also for our children and our children’s children. Each
of us experiences our own aging, but the mountains seem to remain.
Motherland / Fatherland
Land is a powerful source of political identity, especially when it is linked to family. Political
identity as formed by a group’s relationship to a defined geographic location has often been an
important factor in politics. We are loyal to where we were born and raised, we root for the home
team of our city or state or country, we fight for the motherland or fatherland, and we see land as
our origin. Nationalists have often referred to their motherland or fatherland. It is closely linked
to kinship; it is where we make our nests and raise our families. (Bouguereau, 1883)
Kinship was likely one of our species’ oldest sources of identity. The need to care for young
Homo sapiens for an extended period of time is one of the driving forces of human culture. Our
ability to work together in societies is made possible by our complex and relatively large brains.
It may well be that the growth in hominins’ brain size and complexity over the past seven million
years was in a positive feedback loop with our sociability. Each of our approximately hundred
billion neurons with a trillion synapses makes our brains the most complexly structured matter of
which we know. Our ancestors’ brains and sociability turned out to be more powerful than those
fangs and claws on the African savannahs where our ancestors and their competitors evolved.
But large brains came at a cost. They made childbirth for bipedal hominins dangerous and
lengthened the period of childhood dependence while the brain developed after birth. It took a
number of adults a long time to bring children to sexual maturity. Prolonged relationships among
child caretakers, who had to figure out how to work together for many years, led to intensely
strong relationships within a kinship group. Memories of one’s own former caretakers and a
sense of on-going obligation to them led to hominin burial rituals that are more elaborate than
how other species, such as elephants, morn their dead. Ancestor worship may be one of the
origins of religion. The nurturance and sustenance of caretakers within kinship groups, not only
mothers but also fathers and other relatives, often become linked to “the land of my birth.” The
hills behind the mother in William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s painting are part of the message, not
just a backdrop. The land is my parent and I am fiercely loyal to it, in this association.
There are seemingly endless cultural expressions about the motherland and fatherland. One
might point to classics like Rig Veda, part of Hindu sacred writings, which says that “One should
respect his motherland, his culture and his mother tongue because they are givers of happiness. . .
. A person who is respectful towards his land, civilization and language, attains greatness and he
acquires all the happiness of life. His deeds should be such that makes the motherland, the
culture and language proud” (First Mandal, 13/9, Rigveda ). One might also point, in a very
different cultural setting, to the evocative painting by Jacek Malczewski entitled “Motherland.”
(Malczewski, 1903)
A fully developed discussion about the different gendered views of the motherland and
fatherland would be important, but beyond our purpose here. Still, it is virtually obligatory to
include a quote from Adolf Hitler, who said: “There is a road to freedom. Its milestones are
Obedience, Endeavor, Honesty, Order, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Sacrifice, and love of
the Fatherland.” (Life 1939) But suffice it to say that not all art devoted to the fatherland is
aggressive. There is Má vlas, a set of six symphonic poems composed in the nineteenth century
by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. The second poem is Vltava, Mein Vaterland (My
fatherland). There is the moving Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. These are expressions of the great
significance attached to land as an ancestor from which we have been born and that deserves our
protection or veneration.
Many famous expressions of American attachment to the land easily come to mind. Irving
Berlin’s “God Bless America,” Woodie Guthrie’s “This land is your land,” and “America the
Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates are iconic American songs that celebrate the land.
Not to be outdone, the Brazilian national anthem praises the “beloved, idolized homeland.” The
"Lied der Deutschen," written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, from which the German national
anthem was taken, praises the “German fatherland.” A famous English poem by William Blake,
whose words are still sung at some English sporting events, celebrates “England’s mountains
green.” (BBC Sport, 2005) One might also recall Elton John’s tribute to princess Diana at her
funeral, which closely follows Blake’s line with “England’s greenest hills.” These are but a few
of the many expressions of reverence for the motherland or fatherland, the land which is an
ancestor, the hills where the ancestors still walk. Nations have a powerful relationship with
defined portions of land. Nationalists often seek to protect their nest, mourn the loss of their
nation and the losses it has suffered. Sometimes they call for pre-emptive aggression against
imminent or possibly future attacks.
National Geopolitics, History, and Identity
Ownership and access to land is one way that nations have traditionally affirmed their power.
The relationship between political identity and defined pieces of the Earth’s territory has been of
great importance in the national era since 1648. Political maps of national boundaries are
routinely used in many settings. In the United States, the America centric world map in Mercator
projection is commonly shown. America is placed top and centre, with South America below and
the rest of the world split in half and placed on either side of America. The message is clear. The
United States is at the top of the world and at the pivotal centre of world affairs. American
identity as the greatest nation in the world is confirmed by the Mercator projection. (Chicago
Daily Tribune, 1942)
National geopolitics is often linked to national histories and identity. The teaching of history
often relies on a national origin story in order to facilitate the larger political objective of identity
formation. When my daughter came home from her first day of public school kindergarten, she
had a colour-in-the-lines picture of George Washington. The process of state-sponsored identity
formation began right off the bat. Her first day away from her immediate family at school began
with a story about the father of her country. The issue was not to teach how to make personal
decisions about which type of leader she admired; she did not come home with group of pictures
of the Father of Our Country, a British king, a German dictator, a Chinese emperor, a Germanic
hero (e.g. Bandel, 1840), and many other leaders.
American political identity is bound up with a full awareness of the history of the American
experience. The academic field of history has often been associated with promoting national
identities. When the American Historical Association (AHA) was founded in 1884, “history had
only recently emerged as a distinct academic discipline. The first few professors in the field of
history had only been appointed at major universities in the 1870s.” (AHA, N.d.) The country
had survived its Civil War and the last spike of the transcontinental railroad had been driven in
1869. The nation had achieved its Manifest Destiny of integrating territory from sea to shining
sea. (See Gast, 1872) It was ready to tell its story. And the state was ready to sponsor it in
public schooling as a way of fostering nationalism and civic pride. To become a citizen of the
United States requires passing a test in part about American history, with questions about the
wars in which the nation has fought (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, N.d.) . Apparently,
it is important for citizenship to know what is required to defend the nation.
A key part of American identity was to be part of—and know about—the great stories of
migration from the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock to Manifest Destiny and the Oregon
Trail. American identity incorporates a rock on a seashore and ruts from covered wagons in the
Great Plains.
The study of political science, like history, was associated with being American and even
participating in American public life. Shortly after the AHA was founded, the American Political
Science Association was established in 1903. After American history, the other most prominent
questions on the naturalization test are about American politics. College courses on American
political science are often about the three branches of government. Knowing about and
understanding the events leading to—and the text of—the Declaration of Independence,
Constitution, Gettysburg Address, the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and much else became part
of being a good American citizen. All of this just barely begins the topic of how nationalism is
instilled through the teaching of history and politics. (See Anderson, 1991; Díaz-Andreu, 2007;
Ferro, 2003; Geary, 2002; Gellner, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1992; Kohl, 1996; Smith, 1988.) National
citizens identified with the nation.
New Identities from Older Histories
Ironically, new histories push the narrative of the past further back in time. Human histories
foster human identity, perhaps a prerequisite for human citizenship. The human past did not
begin with the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, the European International
System in 1648, the Golden Age of Athens in 500 BCE, or with writing in Sumer in 2,700 BCE.
It began with the beginning of Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago in Africa. The Father of
Humanity was not George Washington, Julius Caesar, or Gilgamesh.
A fuller story of humans begins with the evolution of hominins not long after our common
ancestors with chimpanzees lived about seven million years ago. The political lesson drawn
from this story was made on his state visit to Ethiopia by President Barack Obama in 2015. The
US President viewed and touched the 3.2 million year old fossilized bones of “Lucy” and “Ardi,”
whose bones are even a million years older. Obama referred to Lucy in his toast at the state
dinner and again the next day in a speech at the African Union. “I had the privilege to view
Lucy,” he told the audience at the African Union. “You may know Lucy; she’s our ancestor, more
than 3 million years old. In this tree of humanity, with all our branches and diversity, we all go
back to the same root. We’re all one family; we’re all one tribe. And yet,” he added, “so much of
the suffering in our world stems from our failure to remember that – to not recognize ourselves in
each other” (quoted in Baker, 2015).
The common ancestors of all living humans today did not live in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years
ago, but in East Africa many millennia before (Baker 2015). The story of migration did not begin
a few centuries ago at Plymouth Rock, but some 70,000 years ago from East Africa as Homo
sapiens first left their homeland where they had evolved. They reached Australia by about 50,000
years ago after having travelled along the coasts of South Asia. Eventually, they learned how to
survive the trip across Siberia and made it across Beringia, the land bridge connecting Russia and
Alaska during the last ice age. Some may have sailed across the Pacific to South America. By
about 20,000 years ago, they had settled the Americas. This is a human migration story that is a
heroic one. Without maps or previous knowledge of the routes they would take, our ancestors
made their way across the globe. Human history did not begin with writing five millennia ago. It
began with humans 200 millennia ago, with roots in earlier ancestors that push our common
narrative back much further than that.
Envisioning Global Geopolitics
Along with a new migration story, we have been seeing new ideas about the relationship between
land and politics. In the emerging global geopolitics, there is a key role for the Earth’s story—
rather than only nations’ stories—and that of the origins and sustenance of life on Earth in the
context of the cosmos. As a result of this shifting perspective, there is a growing desire to defend
the nest at the global level. The Earth as a whole is seen as the nest that produces and sustains the
lives of humans throughout the globe, so it becomes increasingly important for humans to act in
ways that defend our common global nest. There are changing public attitudes about the
relationship between people and the Earth’s geography. With the growing environmental
movement, there is an increasing perception of the interconnectedness of the Earth’s conditions
and human well-being. Changing understandings of the relationship of humans and Earth in
space may be reshaping political identity and producing a global geopolitics. (See Anders, 1968)
One of the most reproduced and evocative pictures of the past half–century is that of the
Earthrise from the moon, taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission in
1968. The Blue Marble was another famous photograph of the Earth, taken in 1972, by the crew
of the Apollo 17 spacecraft. The picture showed the entire, white cloud covered blue earth in an
empty, very black space. In 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft took a picture of the Earth from 3.7
billion miles away, showing our home planet as a small speck in an enormously large and
forbidding space. (NASA e, 1990; also see Sagan 2014)
At its current impressive speed of about 37,000 miles per hour, it would take Voyager about
50,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star outside our solar system. For all practical
purposes, we are alone. And there is nowhere else to go, until and if we ever have the technology
to get to other habitable planets. We either make it together on our one habitable planet or we
slide toward oblivion. There have been five great extinction events in Earth history, with a sixth
self-inflicted one now in progress. Over 99% of all species that have ever existed are now
extinct. There is no assurance about our species escaping the same fate others have experienced.
Postponing that inevitable occurrence will take concerted action. Earth security and human
security are perhaps our most pressing public policy concerns. Defending the nest now means
defending the Earth, not exclusively or even primarily the nation. Global geopolitics is a crucial
component of global citizens ensuring basic well-being and even survival.
Earth is humanity’s homeland. It is a one-of-a-kind planet in our solar system. Our ability to get
to another inhabitable planet is, at least now, not within our reach. It is our Earth with all of its
Goldilocks conditions that keeps us alive. Earth is just the right distance from the sun, keeping
water in the liquid form that is necessary for life as we know it. It has just the right oxygen
content in the atmosphere. It has a magnetic shield that protects us from solar winds. And we are
made from the same stuff of which it is made.
Globalization and Global Identity
As we have discussed, national identity has often seen land as ancestor. The land and kinship
have often been tied together. The land as father and mother has been a commonly held idea
throughout much of history. Current histories of the origins of life support the emergence of
global identities. Global identity is formed not only through increased international trade or
transnational corporations and investments, but also through scientific accounts of the emergence
of life on earth.
The story of globalization of humans begins much further back than the migration of our kind
from Africa. It begins with the elements and molecules that make us up right now. It is generally
thought now that a complex process of chemical evolution combined metabolism, membranes
from lipids, and reproduction in response to the environment in the first life forms almost four
billion years ago. The knowledge of the exact process remains elusive, but LUCA, or the Last
Universal Common Ancestor from about that time, seems likely to be the ancestor of all life on
Earth, including one of its most recent forms: us (Deamer 2011; Hazen 2005; Pross 2012.). The
common cultural motif of the Earth mother remains evocative.
The new attitudes toward the Earth and human relations are being reinforced by innovative
curricula, in which history is not taught within national frameworks, but as the history of the
entire past from the Big Bang to the present. The Earth and its inhabitants are placed within a
cosmic framework that has spanned billions of years. The Big History Project is a new
curriculum supported by Bill Gates which was piloted in 2011 and 2012, and now being adopted
by schools in Australia, the Netherlands, the United States, and elsewhere. Gates initiated the
project after listening to a video course offered by David Christian, who is the author of Maps of
Time: An Introduction to Big History. In the book and the course, Christian discusses what he
sees as the major periods of time since the Big Bang, each distinguished by one of a number of
major thresholds. In Christian’s account, history is not framed by national histories, but by the
13.82 billion year long history of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity (Brown 2007; Chaisson
2006; Christian 2004; Christian et al. 2014; Spier 2015.).
As we saw, the test for US citizenship requires a knowledge of basic events in American history
and the constitutional structure of government. Global citizenship is formed by a knowledge of
basic events in cosmic, Earth, and life history, as well as in the basic laws that govern their
development. The beginning of big history is not in 1776 or 1787 with the Declaration of
Independence or the US Constitution. It begins with a singularity, a point of infinite heat and
density without space or mass, from which energy, matter, space, and time emerged into a rapidly
expanding universe. Immediately after the “Big Bang,” up and down quarks formed relationships
through the strong force within protons and neutrons. Three hundred thousand years later, the
universe had expanded and cooled enough to permit the electro-magnetic force to form
relationships between protons and electrons within hydrogen and helium atoms. Gravity drew
some of these asymmetrically spread out atoms tightly together enough to start fusion, and stars
within galaxies were born. The result was heavier atoms, all the way up to iron in some stars.
The largest stars then exploded in a supernova that produced all elements heavier than iron.
These mixed with still pre-existing clouds of hydrogen and helium to form second-generation
stars, like our own sun. Since we are made of the elements fused in long dead stars, Carl Sagan
made the famous observation that we are made of star dust. If we left it there, we could talk
about a story making us universal or galactic citizens. However, for our purposes here, we need
to continue the progression of events.
While over 99% of our solar system’s matter was drawn into the sun, there was just enough
cosmic dust to form the terrestrial planets like Earth 4.5672 billion years ago. The elements that
had been fused in stars and the molecules like water that had formed in space were drawn
together by gravity to form what was then a molten planet with no oxygen in the atmosphere.
Chemical evolution increased the complexity of the relationship of matter and eventually
produced life. As Walter Alvarez (2014) says to develop Sagan’s famous phrase, “We are star
dust … concentrated by Earth!” It took almost two billion years before prokaryote cells became
eukaryote cells, and then a half billion years to get from the explosion of complex life in the
Cambrian period to hominins and then finally humans. The Big History curriculum teaches how
embedded the natural past of the cosmos and the Earth is in each of us. The Earth is made of star
dust, and we are made of Earth mud.
The Big History curriculum is part of a growing consciousness of the Earth as the changing,
rather fragile home for all of humanity. The Earth is a nest that has given birth to all life on
Earth. It has sustained life for a long time, but by no means every species. The requirements for
sustained human life are complex and by no means assured. There was virtually no oxygen in
Earth’s atmosphere when it was first formed through accretion of particles left-over from an
earlier supernova. Over two billion years, cyanobacteria and other prokaryote cells which
developed photosynthesis excrete oxygen, which gradually built up in the atmosphere. One effect
of this was that the Ozone layer of O3 absorbed much of the sun’s harmful radiation. With
manmade chemicals breaking down that ozone layer, human security is being endangered.
Human use of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide, which traps heat and is causing global warming.
Levels of carbon dioxide have steadily risen since the beginning of the industrial revolution, but
especially over the past fifty years, from just under 320 parts per million in 1960 to over 400
now (Tans and Keeling, N.d.). For a half century now, these levels are higher than they have
been for 400,000 years. NASA concludes that, as a result, “scientific evidence for warming of
the climate system is unequivocal” (NASA {b}). The effects on weather patterns, global
warming, rising sea levels, and the melting glaciers and polar caps are accepted by virtually all
scientists who study the issue.
A story of the cosmos and Earth’s place in it has been developed over the past couple centuries,
transforming our understanding of geopolitics. In recent years, world opinion leaders have also
developed a vision of global geopolitics and enjoyed some success in raising it on the world’s
political agenda. At the 2015 meeting of world political, economic, and cultural leaders in Davos,
Al Gore introduced the headlining presenter, David Christian, who presented the history of the
universe, earth, life, and humanity in one lecture (Christian 2015). Since leaving office, the
former vice-president made the environmental film, An Inconvenient Truth, and wrote The
Future: Six Drivers of Global Change (Gore 2015). At the Davos meeting, he wanted world
leaders to be aware of cosmic, earth, life, and all of human history as they together worked to
fashion a more global age.
Even if one is sceptical about the intent of elites at Davos, there are many more common, citizen-
led global movements. One of these is the cogent statement of the new vision in the Earth
The Earth Charter is a product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on
common goals and shared values. The Earth Charter project began as a United Nations
initiative, but it was carried forward and completed by a global civil society initiative.
The Earth Charter was finalized and then launched as a people’s charter on 29 June, 2000
by the Earth Charter Commission, an independent international entity, in a ceremony at
the Peace Palace, in The Hague. (Earth Charter International, N.d. )
The Charter notes that we are at a critical moment in Earth’s history and humanity’s place in a
vast evolving universe. Earth, it affirms, is our common home and is alive with a community of
life. “The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has
provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. . . . The protection of Earth’s vitality,
diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.” (Earth Charter International, N.d. ) Pando Populus is another
platform for people who care about the Earth and creating an ecological civilization (Pando
Populus, N.d.). There are by now hundreds of other such efforts (, N.d.).
Concluding Questions
Many segments of humanity are still protecting their own territorial nests, even if this is at the
expense of the sustenance of life on earth, including but not limited to humans. Many national
governments remain motivated by national geopolitics to gain advantage in a zero sum game in
which the relative power of nations is a hierarchy that matters even more than human well-being
and survival. Non-state actors battle states for control of territory. The use of fossil fuels is
melting glaciers and polar ice caps, resulting in rising sea levels that are threatening many coastal
Can state policy follow the lead of Big Historians, the educators, and others who produce such
work as the Earth Charter and realize the limits set at major environmental conferences? Can
transnational corporations be motivated by profits in protecting the Earth that protects us or do
they need to be regulated to do so? Can we expect to see a transition to global geopolitics after
centuries of national geopolitics that is sufficiently robust to change behaviour before we follow
the lead of other extinct species? Can global citizens with a global identity, concerned for global
security, and aware of human kinship emerge in sufficient numbers to affect public policy? The
need is clear. The outcome is not.
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1 I appreciate the comments and suggestions of Tammy Birk, Cynthia Brown, Irene Langran, and Robert Moore on
earlier versions of this chapter. Of course any remaining issues with it are my responsibility.
Full-text available
The importance of the mother tongue, and, more specifically, of mother-tongue education, is recognised globally. Use of the mother tongue is regarded as one of the most effective ways of acting and performing cognitively, socially and communally. The aim of this article is to encourage and promote the implementation and realisation of mother-tongue education through certain school/education models in order to achieve equality and liberation and to increase the incidence of highperformance education systems in a multilingual world. A comparative analysis of South Africa and Germany will also be undertaken with regard to language policies and the mother-tongue education situation in these countries' school systems. Several other aspects such as the choice of language as a fundamental right, the importance of international instruments, as well as some lessons to be learnt for both South Africa and Germany in respect of mother-tongue education, will be discussed. It will be concluded that, despite the existence of a multilingual world, the crucial importance of the use of the mother tongue and mother-tongue education should not be underestimated and/or ignored.
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