Sahtouris-3/3-“The Biology of Globalization”


Richard Moore

                              CADRE Library
                       "The Biology of Globalization"
                    Copyright 1997 by Elisabet Sahtouris


     What's to be done?

     The new wave of outrage at corporate greed, as I said earlier, is
     a healthy reaction to this win/lose global economic Monopoly game.
     But globalization is the unstoppable and natural next phase of
     evolution; we are not entirely in control and it is very likely
     beyond our power to stop. Clearly we have already globalized
     transportation, communications, money, industries, food, weapons,
     pollution and other aspects of human culture. The good news is
     that we don't have to play Monopoly to globalize. There are, as
     Hazel Henderson has urged us for decades, other games to play:
     win/win games (Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics, 1991;
     Building a Win/Win World, 1996).

     As Henderson points out, it was the UN's most powerful nations
     that commandeered the World Bank and the IMF, then dominated GATT
     discussions and set up the WTO together with corporations and
     financial institutions. Yet the UN's special agencies, during the
     same timespan, formed agreements and treaties on nuclear
     proliferation (IAEA), air traffic rules (IATA) and postal rates
     (GPU), also working doggedly on health, education and security
     issues, as well as accepting a great deal of criticism and
     recommendations for UN restructuring, which is now an official
     process. Obviously the UN can only be as good as its member states
     will make it and as NGOs can push it to be.

     Polls show clearly that the American people support the UN
     overwhelmingly, while their presumably representative government
     does not pay its dues and periodically threatens to quit.
     Interesting global power shifts would happen if it did.
     Henderson's recommends a new UN funding structure by a tiny tax
     (.003%) on international currency transactions, global commons use
     fees, "sin taxes" on polluters, drug traffic fines and taxes on
     arms sales, to avoid the problems created by non-payment of dues
     by its members.

     The UN, whatever its problems and whatever our view of it is,
     remains, as Henderson points out, "the world's major networker,
     broker, and convenor of new global negotiations." All the new
     problems of globalization are centered in its spinoffs, especially
     the GATT and WTO. So we must also see as a sign of hope the
     relentless popular pressure of NGOs that is proving itself
     increasingly an agent of change. As an example, the UNDP under Gus
     Speth has been restructured to include NGOs and grassroots
     participation in its programs and supports demilitarization. In
     1995 the UN World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen,
     covered by two thousand journalists, discussed replacing GNP
     measures with a people centered and ecologically sustainable "new
     development paradigm." The 1996 UN Habitat II Summit in Istanbul
     hosted a World Business Forum that set up a process for Global
     Standards. Inside the World Bank, its own staff is creating
     significant progressive changes. In addition to NGOs, Labor
     organizations, religious bodies, investment and pension funds,
     meetings such as the Gorbachev conferences and grassroots
     movements are all playing a role in global awareness and the
     restructuring of human society.

     Historian Arnold Toynbee studied twenty-one past civilizations,
     looking for common factors in their demise. The two most important
     ones, it seems, were the extreme concentration of wealth and
     inflexibility in the face of changing conditions within and around
     them. We cannot go on playing Monopoly when a cooperative game is
     called for by our new and obvious global problems. The February
     1994 Atlantic Monthly showed a burning globe on its cover, to
     illustrate the feature article "The Coming Anarchy" by Robert
     Kaplan. He warned that anyone who thought things were still going
     well was ignoring three-fourths of the world. This year, same
     month, same weathervane magazine, new cover story, George Soros
     tells us that global corporate and financial capitalism is at

     Good! Now at least the picture is clearer and we can get on with
     the task of insuring our civilization against demise. We can prove
     ourselves a mature species, ready to learn from our parent
     planet's four and a half billion years of experience in evolving
     workable living systems.

     The Principles of Living Systems:

     Consider world economics and imagine it as the economics of a
     living entity such as your body. Think what would happen in your
     body if the raw material blood cells in your bones were mined as
     resources by the "northern industrial" lung and heart organs,
     transported to their production and distribution centers where
     blood is purified and oxygen added to make it a useful product.
     Imagine it is then announced that blood will be distributed from
     the heart center to those organs that can afford it. What is not
     bought is chucked out as surplus or stored till the market demand
     rises. How long could your body survive that system?

     When will we turn the UN and its spinoffs into a governing body as
     dedicated to service as our central nervous system? When will our
     diversity be as celebrated and non-controversial as the diversity
     of our cells and organs? When will we be as concerned with the
     health of every local bioregion in our global body as our
     individual body is, or practice its cellular full employment
     policy? When will we practice its efficient and universally
     beneficial economics?

     Obviously metaphors have their limits and I do not for a moment
     suggest we slavishly emulate body models. But bodies beat
     unrealistic mechanical metaphors of perfect societies running like
     well-oiled machines. They are something we all have in common
     regardless of our worldviews, our political or spiritual
     persuasions, and they do exemplify the main features and
     principles of all healthy living systems or holons (see box), be
     they single cells, bodies, families, communities,


                 Main Features and Principles of Living Systems

     * Self-creation (autopoiesis), self-regulation (autonomics),
     * Self-reflexivity -- (autognosis)
     * Embeddedness in larger holons
     * Input/output flow of matter/energy/information
     * Transformation-- of matter/energy/information
     * Complexity-- diversity of parts
     * Communications among parts (chemical, electrical, etc.)
     * Coordination of parts and functions
     * Balance of Interests among parts, with whole and with embedding holons
     * Reciprocity of parts in mutual contribution and assistance (Win/Win
     * Full employment of functional parts
     * Conservation of what works well
     * Creative change of what does not work well


     ecosystems, nations or the whole world. By understanding them we
     can assess the health of any particular living system and see
     where it may be dysfunctional. This in turn will give us clues to
     making the system healthier.

     Xilonem Garcia, a Meshika elder in Mexico, once said to me,
     "Anyone who knows how to run a household, knows how to run the
     world." This could be restated as "Anyone who knows the principles
     of living systems can apply them to any holon at any level of its
     holarchy." Oddly, we are aware of those principles operating in
     our bodies, and we seem to get them fairly well at the family
     level. Not many people starve three of their children to overfeed
     the fourth, or cultivate one corner of the garden by destroying
     the rest of it. At the community level they work to the extent
     that there is real community. Beyond that we seem to lose sight of

     We must not let globalization override the interests of people and
     local economies. The balance between the interests of the global
     holon and those of the regional and local holon economies it
     comprises is as important as the balance between the interests of
     any local economy and those of the people and other species which
     comprise it. The appropriate response to the world corporate state
     that railroaded the GATT and the WTO into existence under the
     rubric of "economic liberalism" without democratic vote, is the
     strengthening of self-sufficient local economies, as David Korten,
     Herman Daly, Edward Goldsmith and other members of the IFG explain
     clearly. It is also to launch a sufficiently strong movement to
     demand change in the GATT/WTO itself, and in their parent UN.

     Taking our cues from our bodies, or from the Earth itself, with
     its diverse ecosystems, we can see that bioregionalism-- basic
     local self-sufficiency economics-- is as necessary and important
     an aspect of healthy globalization as are equitable international
     trade relations. Certainly no one part of a healthy globalized
     economy will be able to exploit another. That means local
     economies will have to protect themselves against unfair trade and
     strong economies will have to genuinely assist weaker ones in
     their self-development.

     President Clinton's Commission on Sustainability, in its initial
     meetings, which I attended, actually argued whether discussions of
     ecological sustainability need involve economics. In the brief
     moment I was given to address the Commission, I pointed out that
     ecology in Greek is the logos, the organization, of the oikos (the
     household as society), and ecology the "household's" nomos or
     rules. The problem is not whether they need be linked but that we
     separated them.

     In nature living holons promote their own health, the health of
     their embedding holons (e.g. ecosystems) and the health of their
     embedded holons (e.g. cells) in the improvisational dance of
     negotiating interests I described above. The best life insurance
     for any species is to make sure all of its output in product and
     waste is beneficial to itself and its embedding holons. Recycling
     is a critical feature of Earth's dance-- there is no waste in

     Other species, whether fish, birds or mammals, have innate
     knowledge of how to live their lives, and their negotiations over
     territory are largely ritual and rarely involve murder. But humans
     have vast and unique freedom of choice with almost no innate
     behavioral limits. A healthy human social system requires invented
     guidelines for behavior. Law and ethics are the guidance systems
     we develop to limit our negative behavior and inspire our positive
     behavior. And they must begin with values.

     Soros' thesis is that "Market values served to undermine
     traditional values." As he says, "Unless [self-interest] is
     tempered by the recognition of a common interest that ought to
     take precedence over particular interests, our present system--
     which, however imperfect, qualifies as an open society-- is liable
     to break down." Clearly he espouses communal values, and there is
     more: "Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on
     money as the criterion of value... What used to be a medium of
     exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values."

     It is of course the market and monetary values of Soros and his
     peers that provide the role-model for all of our consumer society
     and, worse yet, for the poorer countries that made it possible
     though they have little chance of sharing in it. So we must cheer,
     or at least breathe a sigh of relief into the winds of change, at
     Soros' change of heart and his warning. If his peers can hear him,
     we may be able to avoid extinction yet!

     Could I address them, my message would be that we must consciously
     re-form our human systems into an Open Society conforming to the
     principles of healthy living systems, for we are driven by
     evolutionary momentum to self-organize a worldwide body of
     humanity whether we like it or not. My preliminary list of
     features and principles [see box] is intended as a guide to this
     process and is given here are a start; surely others will add to
     them, rearrange them, find new ways to weave them into our
     improvisational dance.

     Mark Twain tells the story of a young man returning from his first
     forays out into the world, amazed at all his father has learned
     while he was gone. It is of course a characterization of budding
     maturity: the ability to listen to an elder's accumulated wisdom.
     When we humans, after all a very new species, drop our adolescent
     arrogance of thinking we know it all and read the wisdom in our
     parent planet's accumulated experience, we too will mature as a
     species, to our own benefit and that of all other species, as well
     as the planet itself.


                  Restore democratic sovereignty
                  Create a sane and livable world
             Bring corporate globalization under control.

     Posted by: Richard K. Moore | PO Box 26, Wexford, Ireland
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