In the modern world, we live not at peace but in an armed state of readiness for war - and though no war is declared, at any one time many parts of the world are experiencing devastating conflict. This situation is perpetuated by the pursuit of sovereignty, and by our signal failure to develop the means of collective security and accept the rule of law.

The acceptance of war in our midst distorts our social values, so that from birth we grow into unbalanced human beings, our gentler side suppressed in favour of competition, violence and greed. This "dominance mode" of modern society dominance of nature, and of each other - brings human injustice and ecological damage, which provoke further conflict in a spiral of mounting suffering and despair.

Co-operation, morality and spirituality are the foundations of civilization. Without the desire to co-operate, human beings would not congregate in large social groups. Without a shared morality, we would not be able to exist peacefully with one another. And without spirituality to provide a sense of common purpose, societies disintegrate in secular conflict. Society can be regarded as the outward expression of these innate human drives. By developing systems of management, belief and responsibility that have a general consensus in the society, we have learned to live relatively peaceably in ever-larger social groups, often containing great internal diversity. The larger the group, the greater the sense of common responsibility for the peacefulness of the society has to be. The ability of a social group to achieve this consensus effectively limits its size.

The fact that we have learned to cooperate in societies with many conflicting interests is a reflection of just how strong these drives are. At a global level, though, there are tremendous difficulties in bringing together diverse cultural groups with systems of belief that are, in some cases, opposed to each other. Now, however, we no longer have the luxury of being able to wait for the mechanisms of co-operation and consensus to evolve. Humanity is presently faced with a question: can we achieve the consensus necessary to co-operate as a single global community of more than 8 billion people by the year 2050?

The evolution of co-operation
The earliest unit of human social organization - the band - was prevalent until at least lO.OOOBC. Bands consisted of about 30 or 40 individuals at most, comprising related family units. By 7000BC, the farming village of Jericho had a population of approximately 2000 people. The largest Greek city states had populations of around 10,000. In Mexico in the 3rd century AD, the Teotihuacan civilization encompassed a quarter of a million people, 100,000 of whom lived in its capital city. Rome was the only metropolis of over I million from 400AD to 1800AD. Today, China is the largest single, cohesive co-operative group in the world. Its population of I billion is greater than that of the entire world of only 150 years ago. The increased size of organised populations is a measure of the social evolution of 'cooperation'. However, to avoid conflict it is necessary to neutralise internal differences which lead to tribalism, and external differences in wealth and education.