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Before It Is Too Late
In the 25years since the first Japanese and English language editions of the Peccei-Ikeda dialogues, science and technology have opened new frontiers of industry and productivity. Yet greater material and physical comforts for some of the world remain imbalanced with greater poverty and conflict for most. While some 40 new countries have emerged from independence struggles, environmental degradation threatens the stability of hard-won freedoms, democracy and peace everywhere. The dialogues between Club of Rome cofounder Aurelio Peccei and Soka Gakkai International President Daisaku Ikeda offer sobering yet clearly hopeful views about the most durable course of change humanity must seek in its relations with itself and its environment.
Dr. Peccei and Ikeda first met in May 1975, when Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist association and mass movement for peace, culture and education, was newly formed. Their exchanges reflect not only the findings of the Club of Rome report Limits to Growthand the first United Nations conference on the environment and development, but also the indivisibility of the global community and the environment from values and priorities that prevail in daily human activity. As Peccei puts it, “Our individual imbalances, uncertainties and tensions tend to spread to our communities and societies and, multiplied, rebound on us as individuals.”
The authors elaborate their views in individual essays that preface their exchanges on the topics of “man and nature,” “man and man,” and “the human revolution.” They describe global realities that urge bold exploration of new options abundantly familiar to us today–from renewable energy resources and ecosystems services, to food security and an informed citizenry fully engaged in the resolution of global issues which affect their lives. Given these options, however, the authors dispel the surface optimism that all is solved by newer technologies and therefore the better course of human civilization a foregone conclusion, what amounts to a “fallacious belief” in the efficacy of political and economic strategies.
Peccei raises the point that national security and nuclear disarmament, for example, do not assuredly lead to peace, as peace is more than a world without war but at its core “a cultural state of soul and mind.” In fact, it can be said that disarmament has aimed narrowly to rid the world of existing nuclear stockpiles, and that, rather than deter the manufacture of more powerful tools of war, this has merely made room for them. “Attempts at disarmament have failed,” Ikeda posits, “because they have dealt with superficial things and have not faced the need for a fundamental inner revolution in all human beings.”
The authors pose and probe straightforward questions, which serves to invite readers into the dialogue to weigh their own views about the direction of humanity: Solutions to global problems could ultimately lie in more creative forms of cooperation beyond the nation-state framework. On the question of religion, Ikeda calls for action from a solidarity and integrity of aims, rather than from a syncretism of beliefs, as a contribution to the betterment of all humanity. Love and compassion may be the higher motivation to act, but we must come to grips with our baser instincts of greed, anger and folly. If education can lead to knowledge and empowerment, then proof of commensurate wisdom and vision must come of innovative learning that, in Peccei’s words, embraces “simultaneously the condition and dynamics of large contexts.”
“Structural and philosophical evolutions are indispensable,” according to Peccei, yet it is the grassroots or peoples’ movements–for social and economic justice–that suggest a public conscience at once conducive to and engendering of a more fundamental, human revolution. From their respective Western and Eastern views of the way forward amidst ever more complex realities, both Peccei and Ikeda hone in on the human revolution as the most crucial of modern humanity’s options. It is “more a change of course than the achievement of a goal,” says Ikeda. “Through it, we come to understand where the goal is and attempt to gain it.”