Jonathan Blake & Nils Gilman - Planetary Subsidiarity: A proposed architecture for governance | 3/20

Deadly viruses, climate-changing carbon molecules, and harmful pollutants cross the globe unimpeded by national borders. While the consequences of these flows range across scales, from the planetary to the local, the authority and resources to manage them are concentrated mainly at one level: the nation-state. This profound mismatch between the scale of planetary challenges and the institutions tasked with governing them is leading to cascading systemic failures.

In the groundbreaking Children of a Modest Star, Jonathan S. Blake and Nils Gilman not only challenge dominant ways of thinking about humanity’s relationship to the planet and the political forms that presently govern it, but also present a new, innovative framework that corresponds to our inherently planetary condition. Drawing on intellectual history, political philosophy, and the holistic findings of Earth system science, Blake and Gilman argue that it is essential to reimagine our governing institutions in light of the fact that we can only thrive if the multi-species ecosystems we inhabit are also flourishing.

Aware of the interlocking challenges we face, it is no longer adequate merely to critique our existing systems or the modernist assumptions that helped create them. Blake and Gilman propose a bold, original architecture for global governance—what they call planetary subsidiarity—designed to enable the enduring habitability of the Earth for humans and non-humans alike. Children of a Modest Star offers a clear-eyed and urgent vision for constructing a system capable of stabilizing a planet in crisis.

Pre-talk reading material: Governing In The Planetary Age - NOEMA
Streaming link Youtube


Global → Planetary is an interesting decentering/de-anthropomorphization because the literal geometric center of the concept doesn’t change. But we’re talking about different filters on the surface of the sphere.

Expansion of safety from soul → body → life support systems → planet

Nils point about entanglement across regions is very similar to the one I made in this post, Think Entangled, Act Spooky

Idea is to go from “think global, act local” to “think entangled, act spooky” (as in "spooky action at a distance), to be aware of these planetary resonances.

Rithika’s set of near-future short stories is basically an exploration of planetarity Dispatches from Cascadia - Summer of Protocols

Critical point and probably the core of the book is that most-local-first rather than nation-state first is not just a design principle, it’s a kind of moral/epistemological principle, based on the idea that the most important information and stakes exist at the local level. But local first + entanglement gets away from fragmentary federalism and isolationism. This is libertarian but with interdependence enshrined as a positive principle.

My biggest question re: subsidiarity is how you avoid capture :smile: Take housing, for example: while it’s in many ways a local issue (“how many units to build in a city/neighborhood”), it often gets “captured” by national-scale interests (e.g. environmental reviews based on national guidelines).

Another way to frame this: this feels like a direct confrontation with a “seeing like a state” vision of planetary-scale problems. A potential failure mode is that providing leigibility to larger scales of oversight removes the most valuable local degres of freedom.

I have ideas on this, but thinking out loud: What are the different ways planetary subsidiarity approaches the question of ensuring legibility across translocal polities? What are the metalayers that ensure understanding and commensurability of decisions? Right now “global” and “national” layers dominate the imagination when we think of creating standards and protocols. What does a multispecies legibility operate like?

Edit: The elaboration on planetary sapience through technology networks starts to answer this.

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interesting how plate tectonics was denied for decades

Sapience is a good way to think about blockchains… what is the equivalent of “plate tectonics” type phenomena that could be surfaced and discovered if blockchains become part of the techsphere?

Re: Timber’s question… kinda a pity that “longtermism” has become a captured meme by a particular annoying cult

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+1. About time for a hostile meme takeover