Sometime soon one can imagine ‘the’ billionaire du jour announcing a Mars Project. As with anything they do, it will be done right – carefully choreographed with no production expense spared. The multi-year project will cost in the unimaginable billions, and will contemplate great risks, and greater unknowns. The exact reward will be uncertain, but it will be described as without equal in the human experience. The tease of man’s destiny in the stars will be laid bare for us all to aspire to.
So why can’t we do this for earth? A historic, systemic, global, civic movement with the scale, scope and resources to assure that there’s an earth for the billionaire’s astronauts to return to? Let’s call it the DEMOS Project.
Like so many, I have been increasingly concerned with humanity’s inability to deal with the pressing number of convergent, existential issues – from climate change to nuclear proliferation - and so much more. Each is a challenge of unprecedented complexity. Together, they represent a gordian knot that is beyond comprehension. And more and more of us are concluding that we have very little time to address them all - just years, not decades.
It is not for a lack of faith in humanity - all the inspiration needed can be found in the example of the human story. We are on the cusp of a new age where exponentially advancing technologies will eliminate almost all of human want and need. But it is also true that the accelerating pace of change and political polarization has left the foundations of our societies – our institutions - less and less resilient. The stability and permanence they are designed to afford us, are increasingly legacy systems that hinder our efforts to transform.
And it’s not to suggest that the great many of us who work very hard in these institutions, the governments, civil service, NGO’s, charities, non-profits etc., are somehow incompetent or are corrupt, but rather to make the simple observation that it is not enough. Certainly not to address the confluence of those existential issues alone. Certainly not in years. And certainly, not with certainty.
This call is to those with whom these words have the possibility of resonating, those who have not descended into the informational rabbit-holes – yes of the left too, but more worryingly, the populist, illiberal right. As our institutions become less and less helpful guardrails for the future we all share, too many seek comfort and solace in the imagined, romanticized pasts which they perceive in ‘their’ people, and ‘their’ ways.
Imagine. In these days it’s possible that Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s books can be banned, that one can no longer legally say ‘gay’ in a Florida school, or that Roe v. Wade is unmade. That it’s possible for Russian soldiers to commit genocide in Vladimir Putin’s name amidst whispers of WWIII, and it’s still possible for the United Nations to have to declare that “It's now or never” to take substantive action on climate change, warning that we are “firmly on track toward an unlivable world” should we not.
These things should not be possible. But they are, and currently, the momentum is with those who support them - despite the heroic efforts of countless good actors around the world working to prevail over them.
We need a Plan B.
As an unapologetically centrist globalist, I believe that my citizenship includes not only the place where I was born, but the world I share with you all - in all of your diversity. I am proud of my native Canada to be sure, but I am prouder of Humanity’s accomplishments, and prouder still, of our potential. I believe I share this point of view with tens, if not hundreds of millions of people around the world. But do we share it with one or more of the 2,500 or so billionaires in the world who could assure such a future?
It’s time for the DEMOS Project. The purposeful connection, empowerment and mobilization of the global community no longer willing to let the voices at the edges of our societies speak for us. A systemic, global, civic movement inspired by the innovation, courage, vision and collaboration of the Marshall Plan, Kennedy’s Moonshot or the COVID vaccine – with the power to prevail.
Who am I to issue this call? I was privileged to lead nearly 1,000 people from 35+ countries who invested 20,000 hours over four years to devise, test and prototype the organizational structure – the scaffolding – demanded of such an undertaking. It is feasible. It can be done. It must be done.*
Just as the billionaire will one day soon issue a call-to-action to leave our planet through a single purposeful initiative, who are their contemporaries who will respond to this call-to-action to save it?
It’s time for heroic benefactors to support and co-create the scaffolding to purposefully transform - from within and without, systemically and globally - leadership and the institutions they lead by 2035.
It’s time for heroic citizens everywhere to then mobilize, to make such a movement of ‘the people’ – the Demos – possible.
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