One Earth: The Problems and Opportunites on a Very Interdependent Planet
Father Theodore M. Hesburgh. Member of the Holy See's Delegation to the United Nations, Vatican City representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (1956-1970).
One of the greatest intellectual and moral needs of mankind is to find a workable rationale for continuity in times of change. We cannot live in peace and progress in a world of abrupt and sudden and cataclysmic change if, at the same time, our era is characterized, in the words of Peter Drucker, as an Age of Discontinuity.
The workable rationale I suggest for conceptualizing continuity in change is bound up in the notion of interdependence. It is a notion relatively new in our world lexicon, but suddenly it has appeared in almost every article or book one reads on world politics or economics. Interdependence is involved in every current discussion of world development, trade or monetary policy. No one even attempts to analyze or prescribe for the present world problems of food or fuel or environment without focusing on the concept of interdependence. It haunts the current détente between the great powers, the search for lasting peace in the Middle East. Where mention of it is lacking at times, say in the sad situation in Northern Ireland, it may in reality be the hidden agenda of an ultimate solution.
Even the poets allude to it: ‘No man is an island’—the inspiring theme of John Donne.
Interdependence is a thought and a theme that runs counter to many of our shibboleths of the past: nationalism, ethnocentrism, rugged individualism, empire, cold war, East and West with never the twain meeting, declarations of independence. How did interdependence so suddenly emerge as an idea whose time has come? Partially, I believe, it came as a response to new and unprecedented challenges that have burst upon the world scene in recent years. More fundamentally, it represents a kind of modern Copernican revolution that involves a new way of looking at our world. I have been impressed by the fact that this new look is a fallout of the Space Age, whose most important result was not close-up pictures of the moon, but a new look at the world from afar. There it whirls in the black void of space, blue and brown, flecked with white clouds, in the words of Lady Jackson (Barbara Ward), our ‘Spaceship Earth.’
In the past, our vision of the earth was dominated, even in the age of exploration, as a world of immense distances, of infinite resources, ‘the treasures of the Indies and of Cathay’, of widely different varieties of mankind, flora and fauna: in a word, a world of immensity and variety and difference.
Now, when asked what impressed him most in viewing the earth from the moon, one astronaut said: “I could put up my thumb and blot out the whole earth”. Viewed as a small spacecraft, the passengers as crew, it is not a large step to understand their interdependence in all they do, living together interdependently on a planet with limited resources and growing needs. In fact, there are few serious human problems today whose impact and significance are not global, requiring, therefore, a global solution as well. I offer a small list: war and peace, human development, population, food, energy, unemployment, trade and commerce, communications, crime, arms control, drugs, environment, literacy, the use of the seas, the resources of the seabed, atomic technology, monetary systems, agriculture, air and sea transport, health.
In every one of these items, global considerations are needed to describe their full reality, and in each of them, we have a concrete example of the modern interdependence of nations and mankind globally. In the past, each of these problems or opportunities would have been viewed solely in the national or local perspective. Today, any local or national response to any one of these realities would be both inadequate and largely useless.
For example, in the area of world peace, recent months have seen us all focused on the Middle East. The land involved in the Arab— Israeli conflict was miniscule, some few square miles of sand wastes in the Sinai and some rocky hills on the Golan Heights. In the distant past this war would have been a largely local struggle. This year, it involved billions of dollars of the most sophisticated military equipment, provided to each side by the two mightiest military powers on earth. The tensions it generated risked sparking a global conflict and did, indeed, precipitate an oil embargo which, in turn, threatened the whole Atlantic Alliance, nearly ruined Japan’s economic miracle, dislocated fuel prices to an extent that will involve massive shifts in world capital balances, aggravated the emerging fertilizer and food crises worldwide, possibly will mean massive starvation in the developing world and consequent political and economic chaos among the Third World’s billions of peoples. The geography involved was only a few hundred square miles, but the repercussions were worldwide and of almost cataclysmic proportions. The earth will be reverberating from these crises for years yet to come. All of these concatenated developments both illustrate and are illuminated by the notion of interdependence.
It was the same notion of interdependence that inspired last summer’s United Nations Conference on [The Law of] the Seas in Caracas, the Conference on Population during August in Romania and the upcoming November Conference on Food in Rome. Interdependence was also a key theme of the recent United Nations Santiago Conference on Trade and Development and the Stockholm Conference on Environment in 1972.
As is the case of other great seminal ideas, this notion of interdependence is useful only if translated into the world of reality, to help understand real problems, to elaborate realistic solutions, to change mentalities and cast world views into a more meaningful perspective for a better world. We do, in fact, have an interdependent world. What is needed is to recognize the fact and shape world policy accordingly.
For this reason, it would be helpful for the purposes of this discussion to translate global interdependence into terms of a specific and urgent modern problem which, like all other such problems, both illustrates graphically the reality of interdependence and provides a frame of reference demonstrating how interdependence at work can bring hope to an otherwise hopeless situation. In turn, this exercise involves a totally new perspective for life on Spaceship Earth, a perspective that is applicable to other global problems.
I would like to focus now on the global food problem, not because it is the most important problem facing mankind—man does not live by bread alone—but because it is present, urgent, and itself interdependent upon other global problems, such as human rights, development, population, fuel, pollution, agriculture, trade, monetary balances, and a host of others relating totally to the future of life on this planet.
The food situation on this planet has never been more precarious than at present. Food was, of course, the almost total concern of primitive man, so much so that early man is characterized as a hunter or a gatherer, but never before has the whole matter of sufficient food for survival been cast in such monumental world proportions as at present. Food demand is up 50 per cent since twenty years ago, while world food stocks as of last summer stood at 27 days of world need, compared to a 95-day world supply available 15 years ago. Climate has complicated the situation. With some perceptible cooling in the northern polar latitudes due to the expansion of the circumpolar vortex, there has occurred a series of floods in the United States, Pakistan, the Philippines and Japan, with unusual drought conditions north and south of the equatorial line from Nicaragua through the Sahelian belt of sub-Saharan Africa through Ethiopia and into India’s Maharashtra Province and China’s Yangtze valley.
This climatic change has had a disastrous effect on food production. Last year, I visited some of the Sahelian countries in Africa where the Sahara Desert is moving south at about 30 miles a year. In the refugee camps around Nouakshott, Timbuktu and Gao, one sees hundreds of thousands of Tuaregs who have lost all their herds and are despondently dependent on a minimal amount of rice, wheat and corn flown in daily on military air lifts. It is like attempting to feed an elephant with a teaspoon. In those incredibly torrid and sandy spots, one sees the face of hungry desperation and realizes that human suffering transcends the grim statistics. People starve and die, not numbers.
As this is happening in the underdeveloped world, we in the developed world are consuming almost a ton of food grains annually per person while the poorest barely subsist on 400 pounds a year. We only consume 150 pounds of our grain directly as bread and pastry products, the rest going into the production of meat, milk and eggs. The poor consume all of the grain directly in bread, chapattis and tortillas. Affluence has doubled meat consumption during the past twenty years in America and Canada. Since it takes 7 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef, more grains are fed to animals in America than are consumed directly in the poor nations, thus further complicating the food crisis. Now the face of interdependence begins to appear. For example, a quarter of a pound less of beef a week per person in the United States would free over ten million tons of wheat a year for a hungry world—and contribute to American health, too, with the lowering of cholesterol intake.
Only three countries are exporting substantial amounts of grain today, the United States, Canada and Australia, who together export about 100 million tons. One might pray that the climatic changes will not further affect these breadbaskets of the world as they have Russia. The Russian wheat deal with America forced prices up threefold, even before the oil shortage. In the past, America kept about 60 million acres of farmland in reserve, mainly to stabilize prices. Now it is all in cultivation.
At this point last year, the oil crisis arrived. As a further indication of interdependence, we had an immediate fertilizer crisis. Several developments are worthy of mention. Japan, the supplier of one-third of the fertilizer to South Asia, had to decide whether to concentrate on producing autos or fertilizer for export. Autos won. The United States was in the middle of a price control program and quietly, to maintain lower prices at home, last October put an embargo on new export contracts for fertilizer. To complete the picture, one must realise that while oil and natural gas convert to nitrogenous fertilizer on a one-to-one basis, a pound of fertilizer used with the new genetic strains of food grains converts to ten pounds of grain in the developing countries.
As a result of these interdependent developments, India, for example, is almost a million tons short of fertilizer this year, which translates into a shortfall of ten million tons of grain. While this is happening, three times more fertilizer than India needs is being used elsewhere on lawns, golf courses and, ironically, cemeteries. In the underdeveloped nations, always short of capital, increased fuel and food prices will cost an extra $15 billion this year, just about twice the amount of the total assistance ($8 billion) they receive annually from all sources.
In the past, interdependence was seen in political terms as the Third World wooed by the Western and Socialist countries with various assistance schemes. Now that détente has arrived among the great powers, that motivation must be replaced by a new sense of interdependence. Some call for self-interest since we are moving into an age of shortage of industrial materials that mostly come from the Third World, oil being only the tip of the shortage iceberg. Now the banana countries, the copper producers, the bauxite group are beginning to follow the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ example in forming cartels to raise prices so they can pay for spiralling costs of fuel and food.
These interdependent developments have given rise to a new category among the 115 countries of the Third World, namely the 35 to 40 countries who have nothing with which to bargain, neither raw materials nor industrial potential, countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Sahelian countries of Africa, and some Caribbean nations. This is the new, so-called Fourth World, comprising almost a billion people who will go under without an additional $3 billion in aid this year. Norman Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Prize, recently returned from India where he saw farmers with containers waiting not hours, but days, for non-existent fuel with which to operate their well pumps. Without this pumped water, their crops died. For us in the developed world, the fuel shortage means inconvenience. For those in the Fourth World, it means death.
If we viewed the world as truly interdependent and all men as brothers, we would not allow this to happen. Some will say there is not enough money to help, but this rings false in a world that spends over $200 billion for armaments each year. Others will say that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should help—and indeed they should—but we must approach the whole problem globally, not piece-meal.
What would interdependence suggest to aid this dire food and fuel disaster for the Fourth World? We might begin by recognizing that the United States, Canada and Australia are in the same relationship to the devastated Fourth World vis-à-vis food, as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is regarding fuel. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have at least $50 billion surplus of income over import costs this year and the food grain producing countries will have—even in the case of a possible United States over-all deficit—greatly increased income from the export of higher priced food. The least that either group could do in a truly humane and interdependent world would be to make a concessional grant of food and fuel to these countries of the Fourth World which are put into a life-and-death position by the tripling of prices for food and fuel.
A long range solution would, of course, be to aid these countries to become more self-sufficient in their own food production, despite the drought. Plans are available for this, but again the capital would have to come from recycling the excess profits of the surplus countries, if the world was truly seen as interdependent. The alternative is to watch a billion people die of slow starvation. Such recycling would not only avert that tragedy, but would also help solve the serious imbalance that threatens the world’s banking, monetary and trading systems.
I have illustrated the notion of interdependence mainly by using the current food crisis, but I might just as well have spoken of population, almost half of whose net annual world addition comes from five countries, mainly in the Fourth World category—India, China, Bangladesh. Indonesia, Pakistan. I could have spoken of trade dominated by the 24 nations in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development which consume two-thirds of the world product of $46 trillion dollars, despite the fact that trade is nine times more important to the developing countries than aid, if one looks at the sheer dollar volume. I could have illustrated the notion of interdependence, or the lack of it in practice, by a broader look at the use of the seas which cover 70 pcr cent of the earth’s surface. It is the developed countries mainly that have the technology to use these seas and their pelagic floors efficiently for shipping, for fishing (often to excess with the extinction of useful species), for the production of off-shore oil, for the harvesting of minerals, such as manganese nodules containing copper and lead, as well as manganese. It should amply illustrate interdependence if I mention seeing a beautiful Caribbean beach, a small island’s only real physical asset, ruined by a developed nation’s tanker, voiding the remnants of Arab oil offshore while flushing its tanks. It reminded me of the prophet Nathan’s example to King David about the rich man killing his poor neighbour’s only ewe-lamb to feed a guest. Finally, I might have illustrated interdependence, or again the lack of it in reality, by observing that when the International Monetary Fund created a new trade mechanism of $10 billion, called Special Drawing Rights, nearly three- quarters of it went to the 25 industrialized member countries, leaving little over a quarter of the new monetary assets for the 90 remaining non-industrial developing nations who are in desperate need of new capital. Several Arab states, although members of the International Monetary Fund, do not participate in the Special Drawing Rights system.
Each one of these items could be developed at length to illumine and illustrate the need for a greater measure of real interdependence among the inhabitants of a shrinking planet with growing needs. Absent such considerations in any present workable form—even though discussions are finally in progress on these subjects—and I do not find it surprising that many thoughtful earth dwellers are losing heart.
In the face of such dismal discontinuities on the world scene, we are witnessing a whole spate of pessimistic and doomsday predictions. I assume you are acquainted with the thrust of the Club of Rome’s computer study that predicts either zero-to-minus growth or worldwide catastrophe, politically, economically, socially. A much discussed recent study in America, An Inquiry into the Human Prospect, by Robert L. Heilbroner, asks in the very first paragraph, “Is there hope for man?” and, by and large, the answer throughout the book is “No”. His second paragraph puts the case fairly well: “In another era such a question might have raised thoughts of man’s ultimate salvation or damnation. But today the brooding doubts that it arouses have to do with life on earth, now, and in the relatively few generations that constitute the limit of our capacity to imagine the future. For the question asks whether we can imagine the future other than as a continuation of the darkness, cruelty and disorder of the past: worse, whether we do not foresee in the human prospect a deterioration of things, even an impending catastrophe of fearful dimensions.”
At this point, I need not repeat to this audience the recent prediction of C. P. Snow that before long, we of the West will be watching millions of people engaging in food riots and dying on television before our eyes.
I have not indulged in this discussion of food and interrelated problems to scare the audience, but to underline the proposition with which I began, namely that we must urgently develop a new Weltanschauung, a world perspective based upon the interdependence of all mankind on this relatively small spacecraft with very finite life resources. I am not a prophet of gloom and doom. Neither am I a Micawber who believes that somehow everything will get better and turn out all right. It will get better, I believe, but only if we change profoundly, only if interdependence passes from an idea to a fruitful and operative reality in the political, economic, and social life of the whole planet.
We in the West began this century, theologically speaking, with strong Pelagian tendencies. With the scientific and technological revolutions spurring us on, we believed that we could do all things of ourselves, on our own selfish and insensitive terms, whatever the consequences to others. We created, in short order as history runs, a world of incredible global discontinuities and injustices. For example, one could always sense racial prejudices, but today billions of people are automatically and uncontrollably suffering geographic prejudice. If a child is born in the North, he or she faces an ever-lengthening life characterized by increasing health, education, economic and social well-being. If born in most of the southern parts of our globe, he or she will face a short life, illness, illiteracy, hunger, abominable housing, hopelessness. We in the northern part of this globe worry about overproducing Ph.D.s; many children in the Southern Hemisphere never enter a school. We speak of heart and kidney transplants; they never see a doctor from birth to death. Half the children already born in the poorest countries will die before the age of five. We are often overfed and overweight; they are undernourished from birth, often suffering brain damage therefrom. We speak often of second homes; they live in cardboard or mud and wattle huts. We travel anywhere on earth, now supersonically, in hours; they are trapped for a miserable lifetime in urban or rural slums. We spend more annually on foolish armaments, devilishly devised to destroy life, than they have annually available to maintain life.
And yet, we all are fellow travellers aboard a common spacecraft, ever more intimately interdependent. The decision of an Arab sheik, a Japanese industrialist, an American governmental bureaucrat leaves them without irrigation water and fertilizer and, consequently, without food. A decision between the great powers to end the cold war removes the one foolish reason that motivated a substantial part of the aid they received—so aid starts diminishing drastically just when the need is greatest. For example, this year, in a fit of pique against the oil embargo and price increase called by OPEC, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly refused the replenishment promised to the International Development Association. Our Senate later repaired the damage and the House was then persuaded to change its selfish view. Our food program for overseas was cut by two-thirds with most of the remaining third going to Indochina, Korea and Israel where military considerations dominate. Our Secretary of Agriculture does not want to replenish world food stocks, because, with a good harvest, we can more profitably sell food grains on the world market. I speak of these dismal facts in my own country because I know it best. The picture here in Europe is hardly better if one is looking for a global spirit of human interdependence instead of nationalistic selfishness. America still did more than closer Europe in providing and transporting food to starving Africans—about 600,000 metric tons of food-grains at a cost of $150 million. America, of course, has a long tradition of humanitarian aid.
After several generations of foolish Pelagian optimism had created this present cruel world scene, we are now, in the face of worldwide crises—inflation, shortages, unemployment, pollution, trade imbalances, etc.—seeing a new swing to pessimism, again theologically a recrudescence of Manichaeism, that sees man as essentially evil and capable mainly of destroying himself and his world. Again, Heilbroner expresses this position well towards the end of his book on the human prospect: “If I nonetheless publish these thoughts, with all their potential mischievousness, it is for two reasons. The first is that the weakest part of the humanitarian outlook, both philosophically and pragmatically, has been its inability or unwillingness to come to grips with certain obdurate human characteristics. As a result, we find buried within ‘humanist’ appeals a conception of human nature that is often as reactionary, in the sense of ascribing an inherent element of evil to man, as that of the most unthinking conservative.
“My second reason for advancing these views relates to the first. I have tried to take the measure of man as a creature of his socioeconomic arrangements and his political bonds. It may be that from some other perspective the prospect for collective human adaptation would seem brighter. But from the vantage point of this book, a failure to recognise the limitations and difficulties of our capacities for response would only build an architecture of hope on false beliefs.”
One is always in danger of oversimplifying when casting world views in definite categories, but I think that whether or not one likes the theological characterizations of Pelagianism and Manichaeism, there is little doubt that pessimism rather than optimism is the order of the day. If I had to characterize my own position, it would be one of Christian and cautious optimism. Theologically, I have good reasons for Christian optimism. It is my reading of the unwillingness of the affluent and powerful of this world to change, to begin to think interdependently, that makes me cautious. It is my hope that if we develop a new world view, a real understanding of our current situation on this troubled planet, we will begin to create a better world as the new millennium approaches.
Rather than think of ourselves as, in Heilbroner’s words, “creatures of our socio-economic arrangements and political bonds”, I would hope that we might indeed create new interdependent world-wide socio-economic relations, and new political ones, too. Rather than simply looking at the difficulties and limitations of our capacities for response, I would prefer to look at the new opportunities and creative responses that interdependence would suggest. Human ingenuity in the face of crisis has been one of mankind’s greatest glories. I am not blind to the evil and greed in man, but there is, with God’s grace
—something almost never mentioned in these studies—an enormous reserve of goodwill to be mobilized. However, I also believe that God’s grace both proceeds and follows upon some effort of our own to create a new world where justice and equity are the prelude to peace. I pray daily for this grace.
Sometimes a picture is worth a million words. Take the view of the earth from the moon, which reduces the size of our spacecraft. Instead of 36 billion people, difficult to imagine, think of a crew of five persons, each representing a segment of humanity. The person representing us and our world, mostly Judeo-Christian, white, Western, affluent, has the use of 80 per cent of the available life resources and amenities aboard our spacecraft. The other four crew members must share the 20 per cent that is left. The situation, though iniquitous and unjust, is still deteriorating. Our crew man is increasing his share to 90 per cent at the moment, leaving 2+ per cent for each of the other four.
Now I ask you—given the fundamental interdependence of a spacecraft’s crew—can you imagine much lasting peace or order or good life aboard this spacecraft? The other crew members are not just uneasy and frustrated, they are outraged, as well as hungry and hopeless, since our person also seems to have the only lethal weapon aboard. If our person, we ourselves, does not begin to perceive the utter injustice of the situation and begin to organize the use of these finite resources in a more just fashion, he will ultimately, inevitably, be overwhelmed by some manner of violence. It is no chance affair that one of the most troubled nations of all has just developed an atomic bomb.
My thesis is that we have every theological, philosophical and humane imperative to change, to respond, and we can find creative ways of doing so. And we must, if we wish peace as well as survival. I have been heartened by the words of Faulkner upon receiving the Nobel Prize for literature: “Man will not simply endure; he will prevail.” But mankind will not automatically prevail.
At this juncture, I believe I should advance some concrete proposals so that you do not think me a utopian dreamer or an impractical theologian. My proposals are necessarily in shorthand. They are spelled out at greater length in my book, The Humane Imperative, to be published this month by the Yale University Press.
First, for interdependence to become a central concern in the Western World, somehow it must be related to the key theological and philosophical principles that characterize our culture today.
1. Theologically, we might begin by answering the question of Cain in the Book of Genesis: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I hope we answer “Yes,” especially since our Lord gave us a most specific mandate: “Whatsoever you do for these, My least brethren, you do for Me.” No discontinuity here and no question who are our least brethren in today’s world. The choices are simple and stark: greed or altruism, hatred or love, growing discontinuities or new development: in a word, war or peace.
Beyond these specific imperatives, it seems to me that the movement to ecumenism in our times, new understanding between and among members of various Christian churches first, and then a broader religious understanding between Christians and non- Christians, is a most important underpinning for unity among the great majority of earth dwellers who believe in God—first the sons of Abraham: Muslims, Jews and Christians, and then the other great religions of the world: Hindus, Confucianists, Buddhists, Shintos, animists and others. Nothing cements world dwellers together so much as belief in a supreme being who has established a moral order binding on all of us who believe in Him, whatever we call Him. The disregard of that moral order today is at the root of our problem.
2. Philosophically, the unity of mankind is best manifested in our times by a new commitment to human dignity and human rights, to be observed always and everywhere. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, spelled out twenty-five years ago under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin, was indeed a high mark. That declaration in our day must be ever more matched by reality—even though all will admit we are yet far from the mark. Interdependence will be meaningless until we show in practice that justice to men and women and children everywhere is our goal and injustice anywhere by anyone will meet with condemnation by the human community. We are far from achieving this goal, but at least I take it that we have agreed on the road map.
3. The material realities of food, housing and health are important because they provide the indispensable material context within which human dignity may be a reality and not a travesty. As one who has worked for more than a decade with the Rockefeller Foundation on the Green Revolution, 1 can assure you that the world can feed itself if it really decides to do so. Population growth will have to level off because the net addition of 70 million people a year puts an intolerable burden on possible and probable agricultural productivity advances. Actually, every developed country controls its population, so that development and population strategies must go hand-in-hand. But this can be done if mankind determines to do it. Actually, it is much less difficult than putting a man on the moon and we have done that.
4. There are more illiterates today than twenty years ago. But during these years, we have developed technologies that now make it possible to teach everyone in the world — using the best of teachers and the latest teaching techniques. This involves synchronous satellites, miniaturized data banks, computers, television, miniaturised atomic energy, Xerography and various other techniques. But all are at hand. We have only to use them to create a University of the World. I use university here in its broadest sense: comprising access to the vast storehouse of human knowledge, science, and art through literacy and, in addition, access to all those practical arts and sciences and technologies that are indispensable to mankind’s total human and personal development. I believe we are suffering worldwide urbanization today with all its dire human miseries because the rural areas are so isolated and deathly dull. A University of the World through worldwide free television could change this, just as Britain’s Open University (a university without walls) has enriched the lives and the possibilities of so many of Britain’s people.
5. The political organization of the world would seem nonsensical to anyone visiting us from outer space. As Lord Franks said many years ago, our present problem is not East and West, but North and South. I would suggest a tn-regional global North—South configuration for future development. The three North—South regions would be first, the Orient; secondly, Europe, including Russia and its satellites, the Middle East and Africa; and, thirdly, the Western Hemi sphere. The northern components of these three regions, in my projection, would be interested in developing the resources south of them—the developed teamed up with the underdeveloped, the strong strengthening the weak with an infusion of capital and technology with the multinational corporations perhaps being most helpful in the process.
I should perhaps add a somewhat oversimplified, but necessary footnote of my mention of the multinational corporations as an engine for world development, since they are viewed quite negatively and with great suspicion by many developing nations today. In fact, multinational, or transnationals as they are sometimes called, are an impressive interdependent reality in today’s world, although some think that they highlight dependency verging on exploitation and political interference at times. Of the 100 largest economic entities in the world, 58 are sovereign nations and 42 are multinational corporations. General Motors is larger than Switzerland, Pakistan or South Africa. The combined sales of the multinationals top $400 billion, more than 10 per cent of the global gross national product and is still growing. While most of the multinationals’ investment is in industrial countries, a growing amount is in developing nations. For example, of the US-based multinationals’ cumulative direct overseas investment of $94 billion, $17 billion were invested in Latin America.
One should admit that the experience of multinationals in developing countries has been mixed, both positive and negative, depending on the company and the country. It is quite possible now to devise a tentative set of conditions that would clearly make the multinational corporation an engine of development, an agent of social justice in an interdependent world, even greater than country-to-country relationships, since the multinational has greater freedom of action and greater mobility, sometimes even greater vision.
First, the multinational has capital and technological expertise that the developing country desperately needs and could pay for out of new profits.
Secondly, the multinational can pick the best developing country for a given product and assure good markets for its delivery and sale.
Thirdly, the multinational could assure at least 51 per cent ownership of the local enterprise in the developing country. This is also the best insurance against nationalization and expropriation.
Fourthly, the multinational could devise a new developing-country technology that is labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive and which could train nationals for every level of work.
Lastly, multinationals could also consider regional development work for agricultural, as well as industrial, progress.
If these five conditions were observed, both the multinational and the host developing country would prosper together.
To return now to my tri-regional perspective, I would not see this as impeding normal East—West trade relationships, but at least each region would deal with the other totally and from a position of strength. In the political order, certainly this tri-regional arrangement would be better than the present foolish situation in the United Nations with almost 150 nations as large as China and as small as Gambia, each with an equal vote. Each of the three regions would come together economically, more easily than politically, but eventually a tri-regional political alignment, however loose, would be more rational, especially in liberating for regional and world development the enormous financial and technological resources now wasted on foolish armaments.
6. The greatest enemy of all of these proposals is nationalism, a kind of historical insanity that deeply afflicts us all. Rather than fight nationalism lodged so deeply in our bones, I would prefer to bypass it.
What I am suggesting is that each human being be given the option of dual citizenship. All are, in fact, citizens of the country in which they were born. Why not give everyone the additional option, in this largely interdependent world, of opting for dual citizenship—world citizenship, in addition to national citizenship?
Everyone opting for world citizenship would have to produce some evidence of their dedication to world justice and peace, some perception of the interdependence of all mankind on Spaceship Earth today. I think all of us will be surprised to see how many of the younger generation will opt for dual citizenship and work for global justice. This expectation, I trust not vain, is one of my main reasons for personal hope today and for world peace tomorrow.
Remarks By Lord Ashby on opening The Ditchley Governors’ Discussion of Father Hesburgh’s Foundation Lecture (21 September 1974)
I have been given the privilege of opening this discussion but before I do so I would like to say that when Father Hesburgh saw the elegance and civilization of the setting for the annual Ditchley Lecture he must have wondered whether the theme was appropriate. I would like to assure him that it was more than appropriate because this occasion is not one just for an enjoyable and elegant weekend; it is for the serious discussion of intractable problems of the world, particularly those in which Britain and America can co-operate; so his lecture was what our students call, with that horrible word, relevant.
Father Hesburgh and I belong to the same profession, tile academic profession, and those of you here who may not be familiar with it may be under the impression that it is composed of gentle, scholarly souls who do not like quarrelling with one another. Let me disabuse you completely: it was one of Father Hesburgh’s fellow citizens who described the academic profession as the bitchiest in the world, so that he will not be surprised if I now criticise what he said last night. The question really is the shape of the criticism.
With the theme of his lecture, that we live in an interdependent world there can be no quarrel whatever. The only point I think I would like to make is that this must not be regarded as something novel. God thought of this long before we did and the world of nature is incredibly interdependent as every biologist discovers, the web of interdependence is not only fascinating but extraordinarily well stabilised. What is novel, and I would suggest this is really the strategic key to our problem, s that man’s interdependent systems have not got the stabilisers which nature’s interdependent systems have. You turn off the electricity in Manhattan and you paralyse a great city. That does not happen in nature because there are built-in stabilisers; what man has failed to do with his great ingenuity is to build interdependent systems which have stabilisers.
Then there is Father Hesburgh’s diagnosis. I think we cannot fault him at all. It is true that 20 per cent of the population of the world is hogging 80 per cent of its resources. This he illustrated by the grim picture of what you can find in the Sub-Sahara. My only comment on that is that if the Sub-Sahara seems to be a long way off and beyond anything practicable that we in this room can do, you need not go to the Sub-Sahara to find this problem. Father Hesburgh mentioned Northern Ireland. I lived there for nearly ten years in what is called the Malone Road district of Belfast which I suppose is the Irish equivalent of North Oxford. Within fifteen minutes walk of my house there were those with malnutrition and without water closets or running water, and Father Hesburgh would be able to tell you the same thing about New York. I suppose it is fifteen minutes by bus from East 76th Street to 125th Street, the gate of Harlem, where you find the same thing. Well, 1 do not fault, and I do not think any of us could, either his theme or his diagnosis.
The problem arises when you come to the remedies. Now one has to approach any criticism of remedies very carefully. First, because I would like to commend, if I may venture to do so, Father Hesburgh’s courage in proposing remedies at all. Most people who talk about diagnosis stop at diagnosis and I think his great courage in proposing remedies is what really makes this morning’s discussions important and illuminating for us. Secondly the kind of criticisms we make must be made very carefully. In this profession to which we both belong it is very common to hear professors, when they listen to the kind of thing we heard from Father Hesburgh last night, say at the end: “I am far from convinced.” Now I will tell you what that means. It means “I don’t understand this, I don’t propose to try to understand it but I shall oppose it.” Now I am sure that is not the way to deal with some of Father Hesburgh’s remedies, if only because I, at any rate, have no remedies to put in their place. So what I shall do is to comment very briefly on two of the four practical suggestions he proposed; not to condemn them — I would not be impertinent enough to do that—but to point out what I myself think are the practical difficulties which have to be surmounted before these suggestions can become programmes for action.
First he mentioned co-operation to deal with the material resources of the world to distribute them better: food, health, homes and so on. To use his own words, “development and population strategies must go hand-in-hand, and [these strategies are] much less difficult than putting a man on the moon.” Now I venture to challenge this. When you come to think of what was necessary to put a man on the moon, it was the co-operation of a comparatively small group of people, a few thousand, many of them dedicated to the project, who saw in it an opportunity of enormous self-satisfaction, to solve mathematical and technological problems and to be in the space-ship itself. This required therefore the dedication of a handful of people in the scale of world population.
Now compare that with the problem of dealing with population explosion in India or the agricultural prejudices of tens of thousands of farmers in the European Economic Community, or even dealing with the traffic snarls in London or crime in Detroit. These are incomparably more difficult problems than putting a man on the moon because they require the consensus of millions of people. The point which I therefore would put to Father Hesburgh is this: I do not think we in this world have within sight the technology of getting, in a democracy, the consensus of millions of people. We know how to do it with concentration camps and machine guns; but we do not know how to get the consensus of millions of people to a great self-sacrificing movement in which they are all going to lose something so that another set of tens of millions, whom they have never seen, will gain something. I know heroic efforts are being made in this direction but on the scale in which Father Hesburgh sees it necessary for solving these problems I see no social technology — or perhaps I should call it political technology — capable of dealing with it. That is the problem.
Then this brings me to the vivid picture ho gave us of the five men in a space-ship— one a white affluent Judeo-Christian, the other four with black, yellow or red coloured skins, the white man hogging 80 per cent of the resources, the other four having to share 20 per cent. And he gave that as a vivid picture of what the world’s problems are like. But it left me with great doubts, First, we know from world experience that five people in adversity do not behave like that. This is the difference between small and large populations. Five people in adversity show marvels of altruism and if you did get an evil man trying to take everything from the other four he would be murdered and we would all say “a good thing too” and leave the other four to carry on. The problem comes when you multiply those five men by 700 million, then you get into a different order of magnitude.
You are dealing now with statistical biology and entirely different sociological problems. We have no technique for getting 3.6 billion people to behave like five; there is no known technique for doing this. This is the challenge that I would put to Father Hesburgh’s point, and that is why the difference in scale is really the problem we are facing. Five people in a family, fifty people in an extended family in an Ibo village can have self-arranged social stabilisers. There are no social stabilisers for 3.6 billion people in today’s world.
Father Hesburgh gave you the opportunity of being optimists or pessimists. I am afraid that as a biologist I have to choose a third option and that is to be a realist. I invite you sometime when you are worrying about this problem to go to a natural history museum and look at the pterodactyls and the brontosaurs and the pleiosaurus and then ask yourself whether man has any guaranteed tenure on the earth. If he has, he would be almost a unique organism. There is one organism which survived since the very earliest fossil records, a little tiny thing, but hardly anything else. Has man any tenure or any expectation of tenure? I doubt it and therefore what we may be facing is the beginning of the unbalance of the human race which may begin with the Judeo-Christian white man going down in the hierarchy, in the pecking order, and being replaced by the other kinds of people. Not pleasant: but then nature is not pleasant, this is one of the first things a biologist learns, and I think must teach the public.
Now I come to the only other point I want to make. It concerns a second of Father Hesburgh’s solutions and I am leaving him two on which I make no comment and which I hope will compensate for any criticisms which turn out to be valid about the others. But if they do turn out to be valid he has two left and they are two on which he is an authority: religion and philosophy.
Father Hesburgh spoke of education. He gave what I thought was a rosy picture of the way in which new educational technology can reach many millions of people, and so it can. But by education we mean, in the narrow sense, the training in a rational approach to nature. I know that Father Hesburgh himself and the great educational system for which his church stands would not agree with that only (it is much more than that); but secular education is in fact training in the rational approach to problems of all kinds. Now what I am going to ask is: will that sort of training help solve the dilemmas which he put before us last night? How in fact do you get the consensus of millions of people, without some kind of coercion, to agree on rational grounds? Experience shows that this is not the way changes happen.
Experience shows that environmental changes take place by crisis. There was cholera in the Thames but only after 96,000 people in London had died did Parliament put in a sewage system. There were 44 people killed by eating fish poisoned by mercury; only then did the world bring in legislation against the throwing away mercury. And my question is one to which I do not know the answer: is it inevitable that we have to have this chain reaction of damage and shock, followed by legislation in order to get a change? Can society adapt itself to changes in the environment before they happen or can it only adapt itself in response to the changes? As a biologist, I feel very strongly that the second of those two propositions is the one for which we would be more likely to find evidence.
And so Father Hesburgh put out a very striking sentence last night and in my mind as I heard it I had to change it round. He said things will get better if only we change profoundly. One of the questions which I hope we traverse this morning is: is he right or do we have to conclude we shall change profoundly only if things get worse? That, I think, is the 64-dollar question. And I again, because I am always tempted to do this, will ask for Father Hesburgh’s comment on one of the marvellous aphorisms from one of the greatest men in his profession, Cardinal Newman. In one of his essays, Cardinal Newman said:
“Deductions have no power of persuasion; man will live and die upon a dogma, no man will be a martyr to a conclusion.”