12 World Problems

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1. Pollution - of the air, the water, the soil. For Gadamer all of these problems are the consequence of the compartmentalized thinking of the modern era, along with the assumption that the earth is ours to exploit as we please without regard to for the future, for our children, for the earth itself. We must reassume our historical responsibility for our children’s future by protecting their heritage. The reckless anarchy of the exploitation of the earth must be replaced by responsible dialogue among the exploiters, and among the governments of the earth. At present, we have a gathering of the Big 7 or 8 on how to manage the world to their own advantage. Such a dialogue, however, brings up questions of justice and fairness in the allocation of the resources of the earth. A new protocol must be worked out whereby the universal declaration of human rights is more than a pious wish-list that is lost in the scramble of big corporations to exploit the resources of the earth. Here, Gadamer’s insight into the structure of dialogue can help address these problems.

2. Natural resources running out, or being degraded. The oil, the water, the old growth forests, are all limited resources. They must be conserved for the most important future uses. Oil is necessary for the operation of all sorts of machinery, yet it is not being conserved but recklessly pumped out of the earth and sold to the highest bidder. Drinkable water, too, is increasing rare; indeed, it is sold in stores for the same price of colas. But underground water is needed for crops, and the underwater reserves are running out. Here, national and international management are required. The ozone layer becoming depleted, whole species dying, while we argue over whether this is really a problem. The key word in later Gadamer is solidarity, the solidarities that hold humankind together in many nations. Again, all peoples have an interest in the wise management of the earth’s resources and again we must make international laws that restrain the anarchy of 400 sovereign nations each subject to the unbridled abuse by large corporations. They must unite to say NO to reckless, anarchic exploitation of resources about to run out.

3. Population growth outstripping resources worldwide. Here, two different problems come together: population growth and the finitude of resources. Gadamer’s philosophical reflections cannot slow the growth of population or increase our resources. What they do, however, is issue a plea for rationality and lay down the conditions for meaningful dialogue. The present situation is irrational, anarchic, and in the grip of powerful corporate and military structures. More importantly, it is in the grip of modes of thinking that see their solutions only by means of them. It is the mindset of modernity that needs to be addressed, criticized, and revised.
4. Unequal distribution of financial resources. Global poverty and hunger are increasing each year instead of decreasing. The agricultural land of the earth is owned by fewer and fewer people. Much of what is left in the hands of small farmers is being bought up by international agribusinesses—by multinational corporations distant from land but close to big money. In part, admittedly, the problems of the world are a function to increasing population and decreasing resources, but we must see that the global expansion of large aggregations of capital is also a factor. This is allowed by a modern thinking that gives permission to international anarchy, that does not demand justice and human rights in the allocation of land, does not demand ecological practices in the use of agricultural resources. Again, the nations of the world (and not just corrupt governments controlled by the military industrial complex) must grasp their solidarities, their common interest in controlling the consolidation of capital into larger and larger politically powerful units.

5. The...
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