A Planetary View Should Overcome Outmoded Nationalism


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

In this second installment of our conversation with former Governor Jerry Brown at his family homestead in Colusa, he turns his attention to broader global issues beyond the California state-nation. Though he is widely known for sounding the alarm over climate change, it is less known that he is equally unnerved about the prospect of hostility between nuclear-armed states in an era of rising nationalism. 

Even before he became executive chair of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, with its Doomsday Clock ticking close to midnight, Brown has long aligned with leading statesmen like Henry Kissinger and two Californians — (former Secretary of Defense) William Perry and (former Secretary of State) the late George Schulz — who have been deeply distressed over the largely abandoned drive toward nuclear disarmament. 

As a political leader well acquainted with how easily events can spin out of control, Brown is wary of America’s present confrontational posture toward China and Russia over issues far less consequential than a devastating nuclear exchange to which mounting enmity might escalate. Aside from greenhouse gases warming the biosphere, there is no more lethal mix for the former governor than nationalism and nukes. More than anything, today, he says, we need a perspective of the planetary to rise to these challenges.