The Dream of Peaceful Futures

This week, on September 21st, the world has celebrated the UN Day of Peace. On the same day, the Russian government has announced a new stage of war in Ukraine, beginning a first mass scale mobilization since the end of WW2 that now starts to affect millions of young people — scientists, artists, dreamers — being pulled into the war they have never supported. Hundreds of thousands now try to escape mobilization by hiding or leaving Russia.

The Peace Day is a great opportunity to reflect on the events of the last six months that affected my life and the life of so many people around me. On February 24, 2022, I woke up with a bad feeling — a feeling that something awful and irreversible is happening. The news kicked in — the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the scenario I have feared since at least 2014, was under way. And then, stories started to come in — of friends whose houses were bombed, whose relatives were killed, whose lives were ruined.

The war in Ukraine sounded like an alarm to the planet. For the first time in 70 years, the full-scale war is raging in the heart of Europe, and options for a thermonuclear war are now again on the table. This war is a tragedy for both nations which were indeed closely connected before in terms of history and culture — and its escalation has already produced a massive refugee crisis, an escalating information war, and unfolding global energy and food crises. The war has also challenged — perhaps completely phased out — the global security architecture that has existed since the end of World War 2. And to my peers from the NGO and social entrepreneurial sector in Russia, it has also highlighted how powerless a civic society can be to stop a war that is already happening — especially in an autocratic nation.

Europe was lucky to experience decades of “long peace” in the 20th and the 21st century. Yet outside the European continent, wars have never ended. There are now 27 military conflicts underway worldwide, some (such as Yemen war) resulting in tens of thousands people dead and millions displaced. Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia are the regions where populations are continuously suffering from military conflicts within and between nations, sometimes lasting decades. The war as a human condition pervades, and it continues to destroy human lives, cultural heritage, and natural ecosystems worldwide.

And ghosts of future wars are constantly lurking in our daydreaming and nightmares. Already in the 1980s, historian Theodor Dupuy has established that the lethality of weapons (produced by rate of fire, targets per strike, range, accuracy, and reliability) has increased exponentially throughout the human history. From “muscle age” into the “gunpowder age” and then further, weapons have evolved into thermonuclear warheads capable of annihilating a megacity or a small European country with a single shot.

Dupuy’s chart of weapon lethality

The MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction — has become a doctrine that has prevented military conflicts between developed industrial nations. But as the situation in Ukraine unfortunately shows, we cannot hope that major wars are done with. And risks of the future conflict are clear. As Albert Einstein has allegedly framed it:

There are enough emerging casus belli in the turbulent world of the 21st century. Competition over the essential resources, including non-renewable energy and ore, may aggravate as more economies shift from the globalization into regional and local supply chains. Water shortage that affects already over 40% of the world’s population is another source of conflicts. And realistic climate change scenarios predict that over 200 million people will have to migrate by 2050 from their home regions losing livability. Some researchers raise the stake suggesting that the number of refugees can be over one billion. By comparison, during the Migration period in the 4–5th century — also driven by the climate change — that has dramatically reshaped the history of Europe (and sealed the fate of Roman civilization), tribes that moved into Europe comprised less than 2% of the Roman Empire’s population.

It is hard to stop a war that has already begun — but it is possible to prevent wars from beginning. In the last several decades, civic activists, researchers, diplomats, educators, and artists have been learning to prevent local and international conflicts. And our collective capacity to anticipate the future — for instance, to forecast possible zones of conflicts that need to be mitigated — has also been growing. It is time to bring these capacities together and begin establishing the global peace as the ultimate global condition.

Global and unconditional peace opens the pathway into the next stage of human evolution. Geologist Vladimir Vernadsky envisaged this next stage as the Noosphere, the “sphere of mind” whereby humans become a (positive) geological force. He wrote: “in the tempest and the thunderstorm, the Noosphere is born, and eradication of wars and famine will be its first manifestations”. Vernadsky’s long-time peer and thought partner Teilhard de Chardin suggested that, in the rise of Noosphere, humanity entered a phase of “planetization”, to move beyond the wars and live as a single species. The collective body of our species would not only build up its Global Brain, but also its collective heart.

It is time to ask a bold question: can wars be done away with, once and for all? Can we begin living into our peaceful futures?

Buckminster Fuller has famously said:

Some may say that this impossible. That war, and not peace, is an ultimate human condition. That it is the human nature to be aggressive — and that wars, and even genocide, are commonly found in our primate relatives such as chimpanzees. While acts of violence were probably quite common in prehistoric societies (times were tough), a growing body of archeological evidence suggests that the war has probably only emerged with the rise of human agricultural settlements that fought between themselves and pushed hunters-gatherers away from the land. And even then, there existed civilizations of “long peace” that have been able to coexist in harmony with their human and natural environments for centuries, such as Indus Valley civilization, and the oldest Southern American civilization, Caral Supe.

And so, peace is part of our cultural DNA at least as much as war is. We need to consider how ending the war can become our Protopia — an optimistic and achievable future. Looking into the future of human evolution, we are asking: how, for the benefit of our species, can we make peace prevail?

This is why I have joined forces with a group of international future thinkers, many of whom the war in Ukraine has affected personally, to start the Peaceful Futures project. To bring our future thinking capacity in the service of human evolution, we embark on, and invite everyone into, the collective journey to explore the possibility of the world without wars — and to make it real through scalable educational, artistic, and civic initiatives. What this journey brings is up for us to see — but I expect to share some of the findings in this blog soon.

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A global thinker, change catalyst, facilitator, and mentor. Founder of Global Education Futures, co-director of Campus Co-Evolve, and fellow of WAAS

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Pavel Luksha

A global thinker, change catalyst, facilitator, and mentor. Founder of Global Education Futures, co-director of Campus Co-Evolve, and fellow of WAAS