Contempt for the Earth and its inhabitants

On April 22 [2023], the UN celebrated Earth Day 2023. All indicators show the extent of contempt that the world’s most powerful rulers, especially the “Western” ones, have for the Earth and its inhabitants (human and non-human).

Take, first of all, the ecological and social disaster for which the richest countries are mainly responsible: A growing scarcity of good water for human use, the death of hundreds of important rivers and lakes, poisoning of oceans, deforestation, land degradation/erosion, loss of biodiversity, warming of the atmosphere… In addition, we have been denouncing for years the land grabbing by large private corporations of colonial and predatory global capitalism and its nefarious consequences, such as militarization of the natural commons and financialization of nature.

What about the nearly 4 billion people without health coverage, the 2.1 billion people without clean water, and the 4.2 billion people without regular and safe access to safe drinking water throughout the year; the 1 billion children, nearly half of the world’s children, at high climate risk. By 2040, 1 in 4 children will be living in areas of high water scarcity; [what about ] the 1.7 billion people without basic shelter; of the 650 million workers in the world living in extreme poverty (less than $3.2 a day); of the 3.6 billion people who make up half of the world’s poorest people and have the same wealth as the world’s 12 richest billionaires!

This is the Earth bequeathed to Humanity by the dominants who still dare to claim to rule the planet.

This integrated disaster of life is experienced by the dominants as an inevitable phenomenon of progress, [and is] also related, they say, to the perverse side of human nature. What a mystification! It cannot be said that the people of Earth have not struggled against this supposed inevitability of global social injustice over the past 150 years. On the other hand, they have succeeded in forcing many changes in favor of a more just and life-friendly society. However, since the late 1970s, countless reports have been published by the United Nations and other international institutions showing an intolerable worsening of social inequalities even within the so-called rich countries and the enormous gap in decision-making powers between the dominant social groups and the billions of people excluded with contempt and indifference from participation in decisions concerning collective life. See, just in these weeks, the latest autocratic turn in France regarding pensions.

Yet the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report (March 2023) left a small door open to the possibility of preventing the average temperature of the atmosphere from exceeding 1.5 degrees in 2040 (translator’s note: they mean “from reaching more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”). The report states that the extinction of life on Earth can be avoided provided we radically change our economic system of production and consumption. To this end, over the past 25 years, hundreds of millions of citizens have taken to the streets to demand change.

But the ruling classes have continued with their petty and superficial measures of adjustment, mitigation, and adaptation without any “essential” change. Worse, they don’t give a damn about the will of the Earth’s people, their protests, and their proposals. In recent months, for example, the U.S. has launched its massive oil and gas drilling program in Alaska, and the multinational Total is implementing its mega-project in Central Africa. As if nothing had happened… The ruling powers are no longer talking about decarbonizing the world economy in 2050; the fight against pesticides has come to a halt; the preservation of biodiversity is being entrusted to private companies listed on the stock exchange!

Let us now consider the ongoing global war. Here, the contempt for the Earth and its inhabitants is even more explicit and cynical.

Why has the devastation of Ukraine, which has already resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people, the flight of more than 6 million people from Ukraine, the destruction of the territories and lives of hundreds of villages and small towns in eastern Ukraine, and fomented terrible hatred between Ukrainians and Russians, between Russians and Americans, between Russians and Europeans from EU/NATO countries, continued for more than a year? I remain amazed and concerned about the huge wave of Russophobia in the West exposed by the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

Yet, no diplomatic attempts, nor the thousands of public demonstrations in Europe (rare in the U.S.) in favor of a cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations, nor the countless appeals for an end to the war, including the now daily appeals of Pope Francis (the only world leader who has not lost hope in a cessation of weapons) have failed to change one iota the will of the U.S., NATO/EU countries, Ukraine and Russia to continue the war…until victory.

Regarding the failure of diplomatic attempts, we quote what Michel von der Schulenburg, a former senior UN official, reported in his article this April 17 [2023] : “All peace efforts undertaken have been torpedoed by NATO, particularly by the United States and Britain. As early as the first week of March 2022, the then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftalii Ben-net [or Naftali Bennett] sought a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine. According to his recent statements, both Russia and Ukraine had an interest in quickly ending the war. According to Bennet, the ceasefire was “within reach” thanks to Russian concessions. But it did not happen, because they (the United States and Britain) blocked the ceasefire,” ment-pour-la-paix/.

The will to continue to victory is not the result of escalation on the ground. It was present before the start of the war in the U.S. strategy pursued after 1989 (collapse of the USSR) to expand NATO eastward, including Ukraine, to Russia’s borders. As is well known, Russia had repeatedly warned that Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO would undermine its core security interests and that a red line would be crossed. These warnings were not heeded. They were ignored. Ukraine’s accession to NATO has been systematically pursued by the United States and NATO. Moreover, they did not hesitate, openly in the eyes of the world, to support in 2014 the overthrow by force of a legitimately elected president (according to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)) in order to install a pro-NATO membership government in Ukraine.

The will to go all the way was present in Putin’s mind when Russia launched the military invasion a month after Ukraine bombed the Russian-speaking regions of Donbass, which had declared their regional autonomy while remaining part of Ukraine.

It can be correctly stated that the real main reason (not the only one!) that provoked the war in Ukraine and is currently fueling it was and remains the will of the United States, the world’s leading global power, to maintain or even strengthen, at all costs, its dominance and world supremacy. To this end, the U.S. has succeeded in subjugating all European countries to its objective, AND NATO, originally born as a “regional” (Atlantic) defense alliance has become a global military/economic/technological alliance serving U.S. world hegemony.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the USSR, was frowned upon by his fellow citizens because he tried to save the USSR by profoundly transforming it, and understood and anticipated the great danger. Speaking publicly to the United States, Gorbachev said, “Do not believe that the collapse of the USSR represents a victory of the United States over the USSR, nor a victory of capitalism over socialism. The system could no longer stand on its own feet because of its own ills. The USSR needed profound internal changes.”

Unfortunately, neither the United States nor the Russian leaders who succeeded Gorbachev, nor the Ukrainians nor the Europeans heeded the warning. On the contrary, they believed in the victory of the United States and capitalism. Thus, the U.S., under the umbrella of NATO and with the support of the European countries (with the exception of Germany and, not unequivocally, France), went ahead with the war against the new Russia, believing that by taking advantage of its weakening relative to the USSR, they would get rid of the rival world power once and for all and thus be better able to deal with the war against China, which, according to the U.S., had become its main enemy in maintaining world supremacy.

The declaration of technological war against China in October 2022 confirms this. The stakes are high, planetary, of great importance for the future. It is artificial intelligence. For the United States, its military security depends on “artificial intelligence-based” security. Convinced that their supremacy in this field will be good for world security, they believe that the supremacy of other countries, particularly China, will be a disaster for the world, the world – they say – of freedom! What contempt for others, and what contempt for the Earth and its inhabitants.

The reality is that in doing so, the U.S. is imposing on the world a global agenda centered on its global strategy for world supremacy, which it calls “the one war,” according to the principle they hold dear, “with us or against us.” While it is possible to address AI development policies on a more cooperative, common and shared basis, infatuated to the core with the capitalist culture of rivalry and market dominance, they have chosen an act of piracy of life on Earth that must be strongly condemned, without “but” or compromise.

The United States seems willing to do anything to maintain its supremacy. They have demonstrated this ad abundant (exceedingly). They are the only country that has used the atomic bomb. According to U.S. Congressional Research Service data, the United States has conducted 251 military interventions in other countries since the end of the Cold War in order to assume and maintain its leadership role. It is the only country in the world to have more than 800 military bases outside its own country (China and Russia have only 3 each) and has refused to sign more than 59 major international treaties.

What is urgently needed on this Earth Day is a major political initiative to promote a cooperative world (beyond lopsided multilateralism). I fully endorse Michel von der Schulenburg’s proposal for an early convening of an extraordinary peace meeting by governments from Latin America, Asia and Africa. The meeting should formally ask the United States, NATO and European Union countries, Ukraine and Russia to cease fighting and meet to negotiate peace. The extraordinary meeting should be an opportunity to lay the foundation for a new period of cooperation and peace for humanity and the Earth.

Riccardo Petrella