Citizenship Goes Global

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

My day was split between talking to a social forum at a local church this morning about sustainability, climate change and divestment; an afternoon around other candidates for office in Michigan from the Green Party; and this evening after dinner I’ve been catching up on some websites that I used to frequent. One is PelicanWeb edited by Luis Gutierrez. Gutierrez maintains an extensive list of sustainability resources mostly with an eye towards global concerns, but with voices from around the planet visible.

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He also publishes a monthly newsletter, Mother Pelican in which I found an article in his June 2014 issue of particular interest. Canadian political scientist emeritus, Robert Paehlke’s  Global Citizenship: Plausible Fears and Necessary Dreams originally published in the Great Transitions
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Paehlke does a nice job of exploring the fears around global governance as well as unveiling the global governance of trade pacts that socialize [my word] the costs of that system on to those least able to pay, while funneling huge profits to those whose pockets are already full. Paehlke is seasoned enough to know that true global governance necessary to wrestle with the global problems of climate change and income inequality are not likely through nation states where power is closely held and exercised. Like others he finds hope in civil society.

That interpretation links well with the conversations I was part of this morning and afternoon. The morning group was looking for ideas largely relating to common consumption choices we each make regularly as well as  how to discuss different views civily with those we disagree with. These are folks willing to leave the comfort of their home on a wonderful summer morning to join in discussions with others around important social issues.

Likewise, those attending the afternoon meeting of candidates of the Green Party have little optimistic expectations of winning their races (actually I do think I can win mine)  but they believe that the status quo is not sustainable and that becoming involved in the political system by offering up alternative possibilities is worth their time. Both groups show that hope still lives. What was happening in my immediate world today was being replicated all around the globe by people just like you, folks unwilling to just complain about the state of the world, but willing to come together with others in the hopes that we might collectively forge a better future.

Paehlke offers these relevant insights in his essay:

      “Many doubt that citizens can influence decisions on a global level because they doubt that they can even do so on a local level. We need to respond to cynicism and hopelessness by asserting, based on analysis of historical conditions and emerging possibilities, that there is nothing naïve about believing that citizens, governments, and human institutions can prevent ever-rising inequality and the overheating of the planet…

     A multi-nation poll conducted in 2005 found that “for the first time in history, one citizen in five across the world strongly identifies with being a citizen of the world ahead of being a citizen of a home country. Those who fear global governance may find this alarming, but they are clinging to a fading past…

Many doubt that citizens can influence decisions on a global level because they doubt that they can even do so on a local level. We need to respond to cynicism and hopelessness by asserting, based on analysis of historical conditions and emerging possibilities, that there is nothing naïve about believing that citizens, governments, and human institutions can prevent everrising inequality and the overheating of the planet. – See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/document/global-citizenship-plausible-fears-necessary-dreams#sthash.ulNvBQ9C.dpuf
     What can we anticipate about the nature of a global citizens movement itself? A movement committed to expanded democracy, equity, and human rights must itself, in practice, be inclusive, equitable, and scrupulously democratic. Indeed, given that global institutions incorporating citizen participation will not emerge easily or quickly, the movement must be a model of democracy and inclusiveness to demonstrate the possibility of such democracy on a global scale”.
 This won’t move forward without many more joining with others to help make the impossible, inevitable. As Paehlke reminds us, political efficacy requires a belief that you can make a difference. My day has reinforced that belief. These various citizens both near and far are waiting for us to join them. No use waitin’…
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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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