A contract with our children.

Being Human, Collaboration, Geopolitics, Politics, Quotes, Society, Sustainability, Systems thinking

99% of what follows is from Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is a great book, much like all his others. I have only edited it in places to make it easier to read out of context. I think it makes a magnificent start.


If the scientific community were to propose a platform of political goals based on scientific principles, how would it be formulated, and what would the platform say?

It would help to have a macro-goal. Two present themselves:

1) Some form of the “Greatest good for the greatest number” rubric.
Without implying in any way that this “greatest good” could include or justify any planned or accepted structural or permanent disadvantaging of any minority of any size. As should be clear in the wording of the rubric, the greatest number is of course one hundred percent, including also the generations to come.

2) Even in the context of any religious or humanistic anthropocentrism, the life of our species depends on the rest of Earth’s biosphere. Even the utilitarian view of nature as something distinct and subservient to humanity must grant the biosphere the status of a diffused expression and aspect of our bodies. Interdependence of all the components of biosphere (including humanity) is undeniable. An observable, confirmable fact (breathing).


This leads us to the detail of the “Contract with Our Children”

1. Protection of the biosphere: sustainable uses; clean technologies; carbon balance; climate homeostasis.

2. Protection of human welfare: universal housing, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care, education, reproductive rights.

3. Full employment: Current economy defines 5.4% unemployment as optimum for desired “wage-pressure balance,” treating labor (people) as a commodity and using a supply/demand pricing model. Five percent in U.S.A. = approx. fifteen million people. At the same time there is important work not being done.

If government-insured full employment reduced “wage pressure,” forcing a rise in minimum wages from the private sector, this would help pull millions out of poverty, decrease their government dependence and social service costs, and inject and cycle their larger incomes back into the economy.

4. Individual ownership of the majority of the surplus value of one’s labor. 

People create by their work an economic value beyond what it costs to pay them and provide their means of production. This averages $66,000 per year for American workers, a surplus now legally belonging to owners/stockholders.

American workers therefore receive between a fifth and a third of the actual value of their work. The rest goes to owners.

A minimum share of 51% of the surplus value of one’s work should be returned to one, this value to be measured by objective and transparent accounting as defined by law.

3. and 4. combined would tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, by distributing the wealth more equitably among those who have created it.

5. Reduction of military spending

Match U.S. military expenditures to the average of other nations; this would halve the military budget, freeing over two hundred billion dollars a year.

More generally, all national militaries should be integrated in an international agreement upholding nonviolent conflict resolution. (Using black helicopters of course.)

Disproportionate size of U.S. military and arms industry a waste of resources. Doubling since September 11, 2001 resembles panic response or attempt at global hegemony. Results undermine goals outlined in the foundational axioms.

6. Population stabilization

Human population stabilized at some level to be determined by carrying capacity studies and foundational axioms. Best results here so far have resulted from increase in women’s rights and education, also a goal in itself, thus a powerful positive feedback loop with chance for results within a single generation.

Context/ultimate goal: Permaculture

A scientifically informed government should lead the way in the invention of a culture which is sustainable perpetually.

If reproductive success is defined as life’s goal, as it is in evolutionary theory, then stealing from descendants is maladaptive.

Protection of the environment, therefore, along with restoration of landscapes and biodiversity, should become one of the principal goals of the economy. Government must lead the way in investigating potential climate-altering strategies to mitigate current problems and eventually establish a balance that can be maintained in perpetuity.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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