Thursday, September 02, 2010

Infrastructure Introduction


Introducing Section Two

By John Taylor; 2010 Sep 02, Asma 13, 167 BE

Here is a new draft of the introduction to the second part of Citizens Without Borders, which is about infrastructure in the cosmopolitan condition.

The Infrastructure of a Cosmopolis



A world authority would be a tool with which to halt the corruption eating away at citizenship, civilization and, increasingly, the very systems in nature that maintain life on earth.

In the first section we outlined the first detailed design for an instrument to remove corruption, the democratic, decentralized world government designed by John Amos Comenius in the 18th Century. His world government would not only be democratic but also inherently decentralized, certain never to degrade into the sort of global tyranny that would only make things worse than they already are. We also discussed the crucial temporal element of Comenian governance, a recapitulating decade plan to make universal, planetary needs the intimate concern of each world citizen. Borrowing a term used by Immanuel Kant, I will call this the "Cosmopolitan Condition."

Unfortunately, an effective instrument alone is not necessarily enough. There is no guarantee that we will use it, or use it well. The cosmopolitan condition must cut out the cancer and set our patient, the human race, on its feet. Then we must rescue the ecologies whose biodiversity sustains life on earth. That means acting decisively, but with restraint and moderation.

Our family just attended a Chinese "Terracotta Soldiers" exhibit at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. It seems to me that there is a cautionary tale in the story of Empirer Xin, who after many centuries of war among many rival kingdoms finally united them in the second century BCE. The result was the single nation of China, which of course is named after this man. Unfortunately, Xin then became too ambitious, perhaps because he was suffering from mental illness. The new emperor took on three or four megaprojects at once, including this buried terracotta army, only some of which could be put on display in Toronto. He also undertook the better known re-construction of the Great Wall. Within a few short years Xin had decimated his army and bankrupted the nation.

Many radical mega-projects have been proposed over the centuries, most of which ended up discarded on the scrapheap of history. Some, such as the tunnel under the English Channel, were finally successfully completed, albeit after centuries of delay. Others only an Empiror Xin would consider. These were either too expensive or so ambitious that they bordered on the physically impossible. To mention only those put forward by Buckminster Fuller, these include floating cities, domed cities and even flying cities. Others were practicable but there existed neither money nor the political will to implement them. In a multinational world, as in the warring kingdoms phase in China, the threat of attack from other nations is much more immediate. Military spending and arms aquisition bleed off funds that could go to human betterment.

This second section of Citizens Without Borders discusses how to use the wonderful new instrument of a democratic world government. On one hand, it would be foolish to follow Xin's example and take on more than we have the resources to deal with. On the other, it is already evident that only a crisis of unprecedented proportions will ever prompt the powers that be to hand over the reins to the peoples of the world. Ancient languages and cultures fade and entire species dying out, and earth's atmosphere and biospheres degrade with every minute that we delay to form a world government. Only decisive action can end our addiction to petroleum and combustion of carbon; only a strong will is likely to prompt entire industries to convert to renewable sources of energy. As sea levels rise, millions, perhaps billions of island and coastal dwellers will become homeless, jobless refugees. In such a dire situation a dawdling world democracy might prove almost as deadly as a global tyranny.

I am not suggesting several separate mega-projects but a single initiative integrating many ideas for a new physical infrastructure. They can be rolled out gradually, in a manner that not only pays for itself but actually creates wealth, if it is all done as part of the repeating decade plan. Unlike Xin's arbitrary measures that moved quickly at the price of massive enslavement and starvation of peasants through corvee labour, this megaproject begins with a single, merciful goal: to accommodate climate refugees and put them to work constructively, rebuilding their own lives while populating the deserts. In the end, we can expect that these cosmopolitan pioneers will invent an integrated infrastructure for a borderless planet.

I have sorted through the scrap heap of rejected pipe dreams and chosen those which I think might be helpful to re-introduce during the crisis that will inevitably come out of global warming. Combined, they amount to something that is both sustainable and worthy of what an entire united planet can aspire to.


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