BIOLOGY OF GLOBALI - World Business Academy THE BIOLOGY OF GLOBALI Elisabet Sahtouris Elisabet Sahtouris

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    THE BIOLOGY OF GLOBALI

    Elisabet Sahtouris

    Elisabet Sahtouris is an evolution biologist, fu- turist, and consultant to the United Nutions un indigenous peoples. Author of Gaia and EarthDance, and co-author with Willis Harman of the forthcoming Biology

    ZATION

    Kevwoned, she lectures and appears oti ‘1 ‘V - and radio in Europe and North, South, and Centwl America.

    From the vantage point of a macrobiologist-a human species watcher -it’s encouraging to see the swell of in- terest in, even fervor for, a global human community with more equitable and less ecologically destructive economics. I rejoice that the words “community” and “communal values” are back in our vocabularv now that the Soviet stigma has been removed

    d u

    from them. We have suffered Ereatlv from their absence. The big question is whether we can restore community and comrnu- nal values before all is lost.

    As an evolutionary biologist, I see globalization as natural, inevitable, and even desirable. It is already well on its way and is not a reversible process. We are doing some aspects of it coopera- tively and well, to wit our global telephone, postal, and air travel systems, but the most central and important aspect of globaliza- tion-its economics-is currently being done in a manner that threatens the existence of our whole civilization. For this reason, we must become more conscious participants in the process.

    Fortunately life is resilient, and we are witnessing a growing storm of protest along with some quieter discussions of economic globalization. These are healthy reactions that can help lead us to survival. Their common features lie in the recognition that communal values have been overridden in a dangerous process that sets vast profits for a tiny human minority above all other human interests. Most of those looking at the problems of mar-

    PERSPECTIVES ON BUSINESS AND GLOBAL CHANGE 0 1997 VOL. 11. NO. 3 WORLD BUSINESS ACADEMY

  • 28 PERSPECTIVES ON BUSINESS AND GLOBAL CHANGE

    fhe currenf course

    of glo&ulizuficwl

    cannof confinue

    und must be

    changed fa u

    heulfhier one.

    ket-driven capitalism are aware on some level that the measure of human success must shift from money to well-being for all, and that to do this communal values wlusf be reclaimed and acted upon in a way that ensures a balance of local interests and the global interests we share with each other and all other species.

    The evolutionary process never goes well until individual, communal, ecosystemic, and planetary interests are met simul- taneously and reasonably harmoniously. This is an aspect of bio- logical evolution that unfortunately has not gained prominence, and is therefore not in our meme (social gene) bank. My pur- pose is to help put it there, for we humans, however spiritual we can alSo be, are inescapably biological creatures and could ben- efit greatly from the lessons already learned in the four-and-a- half-billion-year improvisational dance we call evolution.

    THE WAKE-UP CALL

    To see why the current course of globalization cannot continue and must be changed to a healthier one, we need to look at the inherent contradictions between what we have euphemistically called “free market capitalism” (in fact an incipient global to- talitarian capitalism) and what we should have: a democratic and ecologically sound economic system. I want to discuss this fundamental contradiction from a biological perspective, but let’s look first at the pattern of growing opposition to corporate glo- balization without representation.

    Such opposition has long had a grassroots character in the United States, with recent developments such as the Green Party drafting Ralph Nader as its presidential candidate. In addition, some capitalist entrepreneurs are uniting with each other to work out ways of doing alternative and responsible-to-community capitalism in such organizations as The World Business Acad- emy, Business for Social Responsibility, the Social Ventures Network, and the Conscious Business Alliance. A significant body of intelligent and respectable critics have gathered together in the San Francisco-based International Forum on Globaliza- tion (IFG), which has now published a volume of some forty essays on the subject.’

    But of all the recruits to this cause, one of the most surpris- ing is a multi-multi-billionaire drawn from the biggest winners in the global casino of cyberspace money created by the corpo- rate capitalism he now opposes: George Soros.

    Soros warns us of “The Capitalist Threat” in a cover article in the Atlantic Monthly. Hardly the first to point put the sacrifice of communal values to market values, he must nevertheless be heralded as one of the most convincing critics of big-time cor- porate capitalism to date. As Robert Kuttner wrote in the Los

  • Sahtouris: THE BIOLOGY OF GLOBALIZATION 29

    Angeles Times on January 27-“When a man who makes billions by understanding markets warns of their excesses, even the most ardent defenders of pure capitalism should pay attention.”

    In Soros’ ovSn words: “The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”

    Communism versus capitalism? Let’s look back for a mo- ment at “the communist threat.” Seen through the lenses of my worldview as a biologist, the capitalist/communist drama that played out for most if not all of our lifetimes reveals a funda- mental dramatic flaw. We played our own roles in it by buying into an odd and ultimately impossible ideological choice: to build society on the basis of individual interest or on the basis of com- munal interest.

    Or? Whatever labels we give to the human econo-political systems of various times and places, I think we can all agree that they are living systems. If we see them that way, this either/or choice makes no sense. A living system can maintain its health bonly while there is a balance of interests between parts and whole, between individuals and community. To sacrifice one to the other would kill the system, as it did Soviet communism, and as Soros

    I warns us could happen as well with capitalism. He points out that in nature, “Cooperation is as much a part of the system as competition,” and again, “ The doctrine of laissez-faire capital- ism holds that the common good is best served by the uninhib- ited pursuit of self-interest.” Butunless self-interest is “tempered by a recognition of a common interest,” the society, on which the market rests, “is liable to break down.”

    In practice, it turned out, there was more in comrnon be- tween the two systems than the surface ideology indicated. Alvin Toffler was the first author I recall talking about parallels be- tween the Soviet East and the Capitalist West: Both, he pointed out, were unfairly exploiting the Third World to support their large industrialist economies.2 Now David Korten goes further, in the International Forum on Globalization volume of essays, telling us ‘“that a modem economic system based on the ideol- ogy of free market capitalism is destined to self-destruct for many of the same reasons that the Marxist economy collapsed in East- em Europe and the former Soviet Union.” He spells out these common features as (a) the concentration of economic power in unaccountable and abusive centralized institutions (state or transnational corporations); (b) the destruction of ecosystems in the name of progress; (c) the erosion of social capital by depen- dence on disempowering mega-institutions; and (d) narrow views of human needs by which community values and spiritual con- nection to the Earth are eroded.

    A living system

    can maintain its

    he&h oniy while

    there is u buhce

    of interest5

    between parts

    and whok.

  • 30 PERSPECTIVES ON BUSINESS AND GLOBAL CHANGE

    Note that all of these illustrate systems in which the “top” level is empowered by &empowering local and individual lev- els. We are accustomed to understanding this about communist systems, but we have ignored the erosion of our own democratic principles in the process of capitalist globalization.

    GLOBALIZATKIN BY NAFTA, GATT, AND THE M/TO

    Also in the IFG volume, democratic activist Ralph Nader and attorney Lori Wallach show very clearly how the institutions of global corporate totalitarianism evolved from. the World Bank and IMF to NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO, which were estab- lished with very little understanding by anyone outside the ranks of their architects. How many citizens of the WTO’s seventy member nations are aware that their ‘“democratic” congresses voted away the sovereignty of their nations by agreeing to up- hold the provisions of the WTO, which can meet in secret and challenge any laws made at any level in our nation, our state, county, or city that are deemed to conflict with its interests?

    The objectives of

    the WU were not

    designed to

    being of the

    humun commu-

    The objectives of the WTO were not designed to promote the well-being of the human community. It appears to be set up by a handful of players who have now succeeded in gaining con- trol of a process designed to enrich a very small handful of hu- mans at the expense of all the rest. Nader and Wallach empha- size that the WTO is a permanent and legal structure the binding provisions of which ‘“cl0 not incorporate any environmental, health, labor, or human rights