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July 5, 2012

A Declaration of Interdependence

Commons sense that can sustain us into the future

Each 4th of July since 1922, the New York Times has printed the text of the Declaration of Independence. In that spirit OTC prints here A Declaration of Interdependence drafted by historian Henry Steele Commager that was adopted on July 4th 199 years later by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. It was endorsed by 125 members of Congress the following January.

At that time there was little discussion of the commons, except as a “tragedy”. But this declaration could be seen as one of the founding documents of the movement that’s emerging now to preserve and sustain what belongs to all of us for the benefit of everyone, including future generations. —Jay Walljasper

The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, 1975

When in the course of history the threat of extinction confronts (hu)mankind, it
is necessary for the people of the United States to declare their
interdependence with the people of all nations and to embrace those
principles and build those institutions which will enable mankind to survive
and civilization to flourish.

Two centuries ago our forefathers brought forth a new nation; now we must
join with others to bring forth a new world order. On this historic occasion
it is proper that the American people should reaffirm those principles on
which the United States of America was founded, acknowledge the new crises
which confront them, accept the new obligations which history imposes upon
them, and set for the causes which impel them to affirm before all peoples
their commitment to a Declaration of Interdependence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men (and women) are
created equal; that the inequalities and injustices which afflict so much of
the human race are the product of history and society, not of God or nature;
that people everywhere are entitled to the blessings of life and liberty,
peace and security (and dignity) and the realization of their full
potential; that they have an inescapable moral obligation to preserve those
rights for posterity; and that to achieve these ends all the peoples and
nations of the globe should acknowledge their interdependence and join
together to dedicate their minds and their hearts to the solution of those
problems which threaten their survival.

Let us then join together to vindicate and realize this great truth that
(hu)mankind is one, and as one will nobly save or irreparably lose the
heritage of thousands of years of civilization. And let us set forth the
principles which should animate and inspire us if our civilization is to

WE AFFIRM that the resources of the globe are finite, not infinite, that
they are the heritage of no one nation or generation, but of all peoples,
nations and of posterity, and that our deepest obligation is to transmit to
that posterity a planet richer in material bounty, in beauty and in delight
than we found it. Narrow notions of national sovereignty must not be
permitted to curtail that obligation.

WE AFFIRM that the exploitation of the poor by the rich, and the weak by
they strong (also known as rankism) violates our common humanity and denies
to large segments of society the blessings of life, liberty and happiness.
We recognize a moral obligation (and a dignitarian imperative) to strive for
a more prudent and more equitable sharing of the resources of the earth in
order to ameliorate poverty, hunger and disease.

WE AFFIRM that the resources of nature are sufficient to nourish and
sustain all the present inhabitants of the globe and that there is an
obligation on every society to distribute those resources equitably, along
with a corollary obligation upon every society to assure that its population
does not place upon Nature a burden heavier than it can bear.

WE AFFIRM our responsibility to help create conditions which will make
for peace and security and to build more effective machinery for keeping
peace among the nations. Because the insensate accumulation of nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons threaten the survival of (hu)mankind we call
for the immediate reduction and eventual elimination of these weapons under
international supervision. We deplore the reliance on force to settle
disputes between nation states and between rival groups within such states.

WE AFFIRM that the oceans are the common property of (hu)mankind whose
dependence on their incomparable resources of nourishment and strength will,
in the next century, become crucial for human survival, and that their
exploitation should be so regulated as to serve the interests of the entire
globe, and of future generations.

WE AFFIRM that pollution flows with the waters and flies with the winds,
that it recognizes no boundary lines and penetrates all defenses, that it
works irreparable damage alike to nature and to (hu)ankind – threatening
with extinction the life of the seas, the flora and fauna of the earth, the
health of the people in cities and the countryside alike – and that it can
be adequately controlled only through international cooperation.

WE AFFIRM that the exploration and utilization of outer space is a
matter equally important to all the nations of the globe and that no nation
can be permitted to exploit of develop the potentialities of the planetary
system exclusively for its own benefit.

WE AFFIRM that the economy of all nations is a seamless web, and that no
one nation can any longer effectively maintain its processes of production
and monetary systems without recognizing the necessity for collaborative
regulation by international authorities.

WE AFFIRM that in a civilized society, the institutions of science and
the arts are never at war and call upon all nations to exempt these
institutions from the claims of the chauvinistic nationalism and to foster
that great community of learning and creativity whose benign function it is
to advance civilization and the health and happiness of (hu)mankind.

WE AFFIRM that a world without law is a world without order, and we call
upon all nations to strengthen and to sustain the United Nations and its
specialized agencies, and other institutions of world order, and to broaden
the jurisdiction of the World Court, that these may preside over a reign of
law that will not only end wars but end as well that mindless violence which
terrorizes our society even in times of peace.

We can no longer afford to make little plans, allow ourselves to be the
captives of events and forces over which we have no control, consult our
fears rather than our hopes. We call upon the American people, on the
threshold of the third century of their national existence, to display once
again that boldness, enterprise, magnanimity and vision which enabled the
founders of our Republic to bring forth a new nation and inaugurate a new
era in human history. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Throughout
the globe, hearts and hopes wait upon us. We summon all (hu)mankind to unity
to meet the great challenge.