In less than 200 years, there’s been a 700% increase in the number of people living on Earth. The human population reached a billion people for the first time in the early 1800s. There were 2 billion of us around 1927, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987 and 6 billion people in 1999.
The human constituency includes every person living on Earth today. More than 7 billion people are members.
For 200,000 years, we were barely aware of each other’s existence. The primary method of interpersonal communication was face-to-face. It was impossible for humanity to share a global conversation about any subject until recently. The human constituency is finding its voice. Our conversation is beginning.
Communities are more likely to join when members belong to the same nationality, tribe or religion, or speak the same language. Groups are more likely to continue if they share a common mission, offer exclusivity and provide tangible membership benefits or a feeling of success. Small communities have an easier time staying together than larger ones.
The human constituency is the largest group imaginable. Every one of us belongs. There is no exclusivity. So what brings us together?
Our Common Enemy
The most predictable variable binding together groups of people is a common enemy. Human nature is our common enemy. Embedded primordial instincts, which once served us well, are now threatening the future of civilization. For example, humanity’s fabulous tool-making capacity led to life-extending medical advances, but also builds weapons powerful enough to destroy us all.
The conversations we need to share are about human nature. We are only beginning to explore ourselves.
Terrorists are murdering wedding guests, pilgrims, students, campers, babies and doctors in the name of a ghastly assortment of malignant causes. Economic downturns and demoralizing unemployment are causing our heads to spin. Volcanic dust clouds, radioactive pollution and climate change are adding to our uncertainty.
Cynicism about human prospects creates a dangerous obstacle. Civilization is about overcoming natural limitations, and historic successes are demonstrable. Billions of people are living longer. Human life expectancy has nearly doubled in 100 years. We should not take these added years of life for granted. Few of us give up extra decades of existence to make a point about inescapable deficiencies.
Expansive Human Loyalty
Humans have been adding loyalties for thousands of years. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were loyal to a small group of people for a lifetime. They were loyal to the people with whom they shared their brief existence.
Twenty-first-century people support many loyalties at once. They are loyal to their family, nation and religion, even when these communities represent conflicting values. People maintain loyalty to ethnic groups, teams, leaders, political parties, gender and brands. Strengthening our loyalty to the human constituency need not weaken any of the traditional loyalties we are heir to.
Humanity is bound together by cultural and biological ties. Emerging evidence – including linguistic clues, human remains and the systematic analysis of DNA – supports the theory that all of us share a common ancestor. Philosophers and poets sensed this connection thousands of years before science proposed that it was probable. Long before science introduced the term “Homo sapiens” to describe every member of our kind; religious leaders were describing all humanity as “children of God.”
There are 7 billion versions of us, and we all depend on community for personal survival. Interdependence is inevitable. Everybody is moving into a neighborhood near you. Strengthening our sense of membership in the human constituency will do us no harm. Peaceful co-existence is a tangible membership benefit for all.
While we wait for our salvation, there’s work to be done.