The Founding speech of Green Cross
by President Mikhail Gorbachev,Kyoto,
Japon, April 2O, 1993
Distinguished members of the Presidium and distinguished
delegates to The Global Forum:
I would like to welcome all of you who have gathered here
in the wonderful city of Kyoto, a city that is now in bloom.
The cherry blossoms are a reminder to all of us that we have
met at a time when people are inspired by new hopes when
they are thinking about a better tomorrow. I am sure that
from Kyoto will be heard not only the voice of wisdom and
the voice of concern but also the voice of hope.
I thank you for all your words of welcome and greetings
addressed to me, and also to the members of the Board of
Trustees who have gathered, responding to your appeal, in
order to launch here at The Global Forum, after long
preparation, a new global organization the
Intemational Green Cross. As you can see, the
baby was born on time, in term, exactly nine months after
you called last June for the creation of this organization.
I thank you for your congratulations, and I hope we will be
working together, hand in hand, thinking about our common
future and looking for answers to the most difficult
questions that we must face.
The theme of my speech today is the values and the
imperatives of the philosophy of survival.
Today, everyone seems to agree that mankind is at a watershed in its history. The presentday global landscape is one of profound crisis, which could end either in the death of humankind or in the breakthrough to a new civilization. The one that has existed for many centuries is close to exhausting its potential, unable to sustain and manage life on planet Earth.
It is true that a crisis of civilization was announced
many times in the past. But today's crisis is qualitatively
different. This time, we are speaking not just about
something that causes widespread malaise or about people's
protest against inhuman conditions of their existence, but
about a threat for the first time ever to the very
existence of the human race.
Of late, tensions between man and nature have degenerated
into an outright conflict between them. A real threat has
emerged that the very foundations of human existence could
be undermined, threatening life on earth. Technogenic
progress based on perfecting the technology of civilization,
far from having alleviated the conflict between man and
nature, has in fact aggravated that conflict.
For the first time in human history, signs have appeared
of a breakdown in the stability of the biosphere. I am
referring to the greenhouse effect, which is the biosphere?s
reaction to the alarming increase in the concentration of
carbon dioxide in it, currently exceeding 17 per cent. It is
too soon to draw farreaching conclusions from this fact,
but it is an indication that the biosphere may be losing its
stability and that changes in it are becoming irreversible.
Let me speak about another indicator of a possible
catastrophe, which is often neglected by the media and the
scientific community. I am referring to nature's fundamental
inability to increase its productivity indefinitely, without
The gap between demands and capabilities is widening at
an accelerating pace and could assume the character of a
planetary catastrophe within the lifetime of the generation
born in the 20th century. We have to recognize responsibly
and honestly, and say it publicly, that with ~e current
levels of consumption, standards of living and
technologies, the biosphere may one day fail to withstand
such anthropogenic pressure.
In saying so, I do not forget that there are hundreds of
millions of people in the world who are hungry or
undernourished. Nevertheless, mankind cannot build its
civilization on an insatiable passion for consumption, on a
thoughtless attitude towards nature.
The current crisis of civilization is, above all, the
crisis of the naive belief in the omnipotence of man, a
belief that there is no limit to his abilities and his
pretensions over nature. We are paying the price of human
pride. Industrial progress has not always led to a growth of
freedom and human happiness. As Dr. Thor Heyerdal said so
aptly at our meeting yesterday, it is becoming increasingly
difficult for us to define the criteria for and the concept
of people's happiness.
I am focusing on these global threats to human existence
because as a rule the environmental movement concentrates
its efforts on local problems.
The time has come to understand that the sum of
individual efforts and even a general ecological
literacy, though they are absolutely essential, are not
enough to solve the problem of humankind's survival.
Something qualitatively greater is necessary.
It is necessary, first of all, to declare this problem of
human survival and of saving planet Earth to be the main
issue today, one that has priority among the problems facing
mankind; to understand that in order to solve this problem
we need a totally different notion of man's place in the
biosphere. The time has come to understand that mankind,
like any other living species, is just one of the component
in the biosphere, and that it cannot live outside of it.
As for the biosphere itself, it existed for billions of
years without man, and will continue to exist even if the
human race is no longer there one day. It is time we
understood that mankind lives within the laws of the
biosphere's development, interacting with it as a part of an
* * *
I am calling for uniting the efforts of natural and
social scientists in the cause of human survival, because
the crisis of the interaction between man and nature is
being aggravated by a crisis of social knowledge.
We should understand that humankind has difficulty
adequately understanding its own interests. Too often, man
errs and moves towards the truth through delusions and all
kinds of myths. We have not yet found a way out of the
ideological crisis that has become so apparent in recent
years. The traditional forms of ideology, including its
religious forms, have not always been capable of explaining
what is happening, and have been even less capable of
uniting the people together in order to look for a way out
of the current crisis and to address the problems of the
magnitude that we see today.
We must see that the current crisis of our civilization
has been caused, to a large extent, by the crisis of our
fundamental values. At the end of the 20th century, dramatic
inherent conflicts have become apparent in the foundations
of our knowledge about society and its progress.
Against the background of the increasing integration and
internationalization of the economy, we are witnessing an
unprecedented outbreak of nationalism and clear tendencies
towards autarchy, separatism and ethnic and religious
isolation. The most archaic syndromes are resurfacing,
bringing to the fore hidden ethnic conflicts accompanied by
violence and unprecedented cruelty.
We have so far failed to find ways of harmonizing the
principles that form the basis of international relations.
We have yet to develop mechanisms of harmonizing the
democratic principle of state selfdetermination of nations
and the fundamental principle of international relations,
that of the inviolability of borders, of the integrity of
All too often, the idea of development, of progress,
conflicts with the need to preserve our planet, to assure
mankind's survival. The idea of cooperation, of working
together, often conflicts with the instinct of rivalry. Too
often, modern nations, in pursuing their selffsh aims,
undermine the global conditions necessary for life on Earth
thus bringing closer their own destruction.
There is no doubt that the liberation from communist
totalitarianism and the end of the Cold War were great
blessings, for they have sign)ficantly reduced the threat of
nuclear catastrophe. But we have to see that even this great
event of the 20th century the end of the Cold War has
not diminished conflicts and tensions in the world.
In Russia and in many countries of Eastern Europe, we can
see an abrupt swing to the right in social attitudes, a
growth of nationalistic sentiments, and increasing influence
of fundamentalism in its various forms. Conflicts of one
kind are being replaced by new conflicts, underscoring even
more dramatically how lntle we know about society and about
It has now become clear that the death of totalitarianism, in and of itself, does not lead to democracy. People who fought against totalitarianism have not always proved capable of strengthening and nourishing democracy.
Political freedom is of the greatest value. But our
experience has also shown that the growth of freedom, in and
of itself, does not automatically result in a growth of
morality, in ennobling the motives of people's behavior. The
world community must see, for example, that the breakup of
the Soviet Union has resulted in the aggravation of
crimecausing factors in CIS countries, in an explosion of
crime and drug addiction in Russia. We have come
facetoface with phenomena whose nature we find it hard to
Overall, we can say that the current crisis of the
natural environment and of the entire human civilization is
taking place against the background of the crisis of
traditional methods of resolving social tensions. Social
sciences and, even more, political thinking are still not
free from ideological preferences and bias; we are still
going around in a vicious circle based on attitudes of
class, nation and state, and even partisan attitudes.
So what is the way out? What should we rely on in our
efforts to assure the survival of mankind?
The first and the most important conclusion is obvious.
Without an ecology of spirit and of human thinking, all such
efforts would be pointless. When science and reason cannot
help, there is only one thing that can save us our
conscience, our morality. There is a need for moral
strengthening of the roots of the humanism of the 18th
century, which provides most of the underpinnings of our
The survival of humankind will be impossible without
solidifying and insisting on a simple thought: life as such
is the greatest moral value which should underlie modern
civilization. Today, it is not enough to say, 'Thou shall
not kill." Ecological education implies, above all,
respect and love for every living being. It is here that
ecological culture interfaces with religion.
Another important thought that was present during our
meetings here is that the beauty and uniqueness of life have
as their foundation unity in diversity. The
selfidentification of every individual and of the many
different nations, ethnic groups and nationalities is the
crucial condition for preserving life on Earth.
The philosophy of survival rests upon the philosophy of
diversity. If life itself is the greatest value, then of no
less value is the special character of every nation and
every race as a unique creation of nature and of human
We must abandon the philosophy and the imperatives of man
conquering nature, which nourished modern industrial
civilization, in favor of a philosophy of limits, which
makes us wake up and see the abyss of probable disaster. We
need a philosophy that curbs man's pride and passions. At
present, it is not enough to insist on what is already
obvious the organic unity of mankind and nature. Today,
we must make sure that Kant's moral imperative is applied to
man's attitude toward life and nature. Even in his thoughts,
man must not wish for nature what he does not wish for
No man has the right to live and enjoy life at the
expense of others. Man has no right to seek wellbeing at
the expense of another human being. Prosperous nations must
not seek wellbeing at the expense of poor, developing
nations, or big nations at the expense of small ones. But
the most important thing is that man must not live at the
expense of nature, for when we plunder nature, we steal from
The time has come to formulate the conditions of the
ecological imperative to draw a kind of line which
mankind must not cross under any circumstances. If the human
race proves capable of fulfilling these conditions, then it
will have a chance to refashion its niche in the environment
and to adjust its way of life to the needs of the
The ecology of moral and spiritual health presupposes an
absolute rejection of racism, chauvinism and national
arrogance in any form.
Today, it is not enough to understand that man is an
element of nature and that his destiny depends on a
reasonable coexistence with nature. We must also understand
that there are certain things that man cannot accomplish in
principle. During our meetings, we spoke at length about the
need to change motivation, to shift the emphasis from
technological to spiritual progress. Another important goal
is to improve our way of life so as to resist consumerism.
But, at the same time, we have no right to demand the
impossible the slogan of changing human nature is no less
destructive than the slogan of man conquering nature.
Today, a caring attitude towards nature implies, above
all, a caring attitude towards man with all his
contradictory passions, strengths and weaknesses. Yes, we
must understand human nature in order to live in harmony
with ourselves and improve ourselves. But we must not try to
recast or remold it; we must not seek the impossible. The
idea of man as a kind of deity is one of the most dangerous
and fateful ideas.
I am quite sure that it is essential now to understand
the limits of the elasticity of human nature, to understand
that not only man but society's life too is unique. It
requires that we treat it prudently, taking into account the
inherent laws of its development. It is true that without
developing, society would die. But we should also realize
that society has objective limits to its development, to how
much it can be preferred. We in Russia value the experience
of Japan precisely because it has been able to strike a
balance between continuity and growth, to find forms of
development that strengthen the most important foundations
of Japanese culture. Japan is a nation of the 21st century
primarily because it has been able to preserve tradition and
to enliven it with new content.
The philosophy of survival presupposes a more serious
attitude towards tradition, to what has been tested through
The old assumption that the most radical and
revolutionary actions assure lasting change and progress
was quite wrong. Today, we can say that evolutionary
development, the path of gradual reform consistent with the
nature of mankind and of society, is more effective than the
Coordination of all that coexists (interaction and
cooperation) is much more productive than the mutually
destructive struggle of the opposites. Struggles and
conflicts burn out the diversity of life, leaving a social
wasteland in their wake. The revolutionary way does not
guarantee constructive development but inevitably results in
sacrifice and destruction.
The civilization of the future can only be planetary.
However, the current processes of the globalization of human
existence do not mean, nor will they ever mean, a general
leveling of man's thinking and action, for this is contrary
to human nature. The civilization of the future will
certainly be characterized by a high degree of diversity,
preserving the authenticity of different cultures and
guaranteeing their full seHexpression. But its main focus,
always and everywhere, will be on man.
The 21st century will be either a century of the extreme
aggravation of the deadly crisis or one when mankind will
begin its recovery, its revival.
* * *
In conclusion, let me refer to some organizational
aspects of our work. First of all, it is quite clear from
what I have just said that we need a purposeful program of
studies that would enable us to define much more fully and
precisely a set of values and imperatives underlying the
philosophy of survival. We have to be aware from the outset
of the unique complexity of this task. Research of this kind
should be of interest and concern not only to scientists but
also to policymakers.
We need to identify value goals relevant not only to the
environmental movements but also to policymakers and
international organizations. We cannot lay claim to
the role of world government. But it is our duty to clarify
for.mankind the evolving environmental situation and to
reveal the zones that are offlimits to human activity.
The scope of such research should go beyond purely
academic interests. It should be similar to the kind of
program that the international community is trying to
implement in the area of disarmament, the elimination of
nuclear weapons and nuclear safety.
Political leaders must begin to assume that the issues of
the harmonious development of mankind and of the rest of the
biosphere will become part of their duties. The environment
will increasingly become a matter of the highest priority in
foreign as well as domestic policies. The main efforts in
the environmental area should be implemented at the
international level. Many environmental problems can only be
solved through joint efforts of all countries. Furthermore,
states must bear moral, legal and financial responsibility
depending on whether they understand the meaning of the
ecological imperative and whether they are addressing local
environmental problems in the context of the problems of
overall human survival.
Our research must be largely independent of governments,
whose actions inevitably carry the element of national
self~shness. We need objective knowledge, objective
information not affected by changing political winds. Those
who pursue this knowledge should be independent of national,
religious, geographic and other constraints. They must be
responsible to humankind as a whole.
It is time to set up a special institute for the study of
planetary environmental problems. It should become an
independent research center coordinating the scholarly
activities of national groups in the area of global ecology.
It would be appropriate to create such an institute within
the nongovernmental organization of the Green Cross,
but with financing provided by governments. Such a mixed
governmental/nongovernmental status would also make it
possible for private donors and foundations to take part in
this work of general human importance.
Research of this kind should be of a systemic nature. It
would, therefore, be appropriate to use for this purpose the
existing International Institute of Applied Systemic
Analysis, located near Vienna The governments of a number of
countries are already financing this institute.
To affirm a new morality, we have at our disposal some
effective means of education and training. At their basis
lies knowledge anchored in credible information and in the
cultural context of our time. Mankind must find enough
courage to change the way it educates young people, to
instill new literacy, a new language for communicating with
nature and new meanings of traditional concepts.
Here we will have to begin many things from scratch. We
need promptly to launch a competition for a high school
ecology textbook and to train teachers in the area. Another
extremely important task is to create a global network
linking the world's environmental organizations.
Among the key problems of our civilization is that of
developing a program and a strategy for the creation of
noosphere. There are quite a few places in the world that
are morally ready to become noospheric focal points. In
Russia, such focal points could be found in areas
surrounding old monasteries, such as Tikhonova Pustyn in the
Kaluga Region. The Russian religious tradition is quite in
harmony with the ideas of the coevolution of man and the
The emerging "environmentalization" of our civilization
and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the
entire global community will inevitably have multiple
political consequences. Perhaps the most important one of
them will be a gradual change in the status of the United
Nations. Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world
government. Indeed, such a process has already begun. One
day, however, the entire structure of the organization will
have to be reconsidered.
An advisory body will have to be established at the
United Nations, for the work of this organization cannot be
entrusted to politicians alone. Such a consultative council
should bring together representatives of various
professions, including both natural and social scientists,
rather than those of nations. It should be a group of
scholars with a known record of achievement and moral
credibility, whose views have authority for all nations.
Such a council could be called a Chamber of Professionals or
a Cabinet of Eminent Persons. This group of people should be
entrusted with the approval of research programs and plans
for global educational activities. In the era of ecological
crisis, when mankind acts as a single species, the
transparency of information and access to it are of
particular importance. Therefore, in addition to the
development of a planetary strategy of reactions between
humankind and the rest of the biosphere, the council should
assume responsibility for creating and overseeing a global
network of environmental information.
The 20th century has been, in effect, a century of
warning. Due to the logic of historic development, its
vocation was to caution mankind and to prepare it for the
need to develop a new consciousness and new ways of living
and acting. Has it fulfilled this role? No, at least not
To repeat, the 20th century will become either a century
of the extreme aggravation of the deadly crisis or one of
mankind's recovery and revival. At present, we are running a
race against time. What will happen next a critical
escalation of global threats and the collapse of our
civilization, or a critical growth of hope, of the
willingness and ability of the international human community
to develop new, truly humane ground rules of living
together, capable of saving civilization through its
It is up to all of us who live today on this planet to answer this question