8.2

THE EARTH CHARTER

The Earth Charter was “created by the independent Earth Charter Commission, which was convened as a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in order to produce a global consensus statement of values and principles for a sustainable future. The document was developed over nearly a decade through an extensive process of international consultation, to which over five thousand people contributed. The Charter has been formally endorsed by thousands of organizations, including UNESCO and the IUCN (World Conservation Union) (EarthCharter).”

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Read The Earth Charter for yourself and start thinking about how some of these principles can become part of one’s teaching practice.

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations (Earth Charter Preamble).”

The Earth Charter in Action provides examples of how individuals, communities and organizations are doing work in service to the principles listed in the charter. This publication is a great resource for exploring approaches to peace.  Click on the “more chapters” link and then choose at least one of the essays to read.

“Thematic and descriptive essays from around the world tell of action informed by the Earth Charter and demonstrate its utility in diverse cultural contexts. They show its promise in working across the divide between the northern and southern hemi- spheres, across the faith traditions, the nations, and the generations.

“It is my desire that this book celebrates the ways in which the Earth Charter has been used. I also trust that it shows the efficacy of the Earth Charter in international law, religion, diplomacy, education, business, public policy, and many other fields – and that it points the way toward increasing usefulness (Corcoran, Introduction).”

Reflection Question: Which essay from the Earth Charter in Action did you read?  Share one quote from the essay that you found particularly inspiring, interesting, or thought provoking and explain why.

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25 thoughts on “8.2

  1. I read Nigel Dower’s essay, Athematic essay on global interdependence and
    universal responsibility, “The Earth Charter and Global Citizenship: A Way Forward.”

    The quote that really stuck out to me was when he said, “The values of the Earth Charter are not merely shared in the sense that they are the same for different people; they are shared in the stronger sense of people belonging to a community of shared values.”

    This quote really struck me, because when I thought back to past weeks in this course, we have talked about building a peaceful community. I feel that Dower is talking about how the community has a common goal. This community is comprised of different human beings where each others’ differences are not recognized, but rather the individual community members’ commonalities are highlighted. By doing this, the community is made up from the common values that unite all of us on this planet. Our common bond is that we all share and live on the same planet and what one community does can affect another community.

  2. I read “Awakening and the Earth Charter in Sri Lanka”. I learned about the word and movement “Sarvodaya” for the first time (and then read about it and learned more about it elsewhere after reading this essay). Here are two quotes I pulled out:
    1. “‘Awakening’ means developing human potential, and is a comprehensive process taking place on the spiritual, moral, cultural, social, economic, and political levels.”

    I appreciated this quote because it reminded me of the work of the organization Generation Waking Up (or GenUp). My interpretation of their work is that we all have the capacity to be empowered and empathetic people and actors in our world for change — but first it takes a process of moment of “waking up” to realizing and understanding the need for our action and change-making.

    After explaining some ways in which the materials economy is really hurting Sri Lanka…:
    2. “Though one can be paralyzed by despair at such trends, Sarvodaya and the Earth Charter are rooted in a distinctly different way of thinking and acting. Instead of giving in to the intense violence of civil war, Sarvodaya has seen that mass meditation involving more than two million ordinary people has, at critical moments, established an overwhelming ambience and psycho-social disposition for peace.”

    I am very inspired by groups of people and movements and ideas that get off the ground that are based on “distinctly different ways of thinking and acting”, as the essay stated. It is so impressive and even moving when efforts such as these gain traction and everyone can see and feel the impact. This type of thing is so important for change to take place, and it gives me hope for people to come together in similar ways and slowly but surely make positive change.

  3. Laura Westra’s essay “Securing Earth’s Bounty for Present and Future Generations” explores the state of law as it relates to the right of future generations. The quote that I find thought provoking is “… each generation has four duties. First, to conserve the diversity of the Earth’s natural and cultural base; second, to conserve environmental quality so that the Earth may be passed on to the next generation in as good a condition as it was when it was by the present generation; third, to provide all members with equitable access to the resource base inherited from past generations; and fourth, to conserve this equitable access for future generations.”
    This quote makes me think seriously about what my generation is actually doing to enhance the sustainability of the Earth. Yes, we do a lot of environmentalist talk, discussion, but are our actions really securing the Earth for the future generation. I believe we are in no way applying the third and fourth duties at this time in our society, so I dread what is going to happen to the next generation; hope we are not formulating a society of exploiters.

  4. I read A.T. Ariyaratne’s essay, “Awakening and the Earth Charter in Sri Lanka”. In the essay, Ariyaratne discusses the negative effects of industrialization and commercialization in urban areas. Then he writes the following paragraph:

    “Though one can be paralysed by despair at such trends, Sarvodaya and the Earth Charter are rooted in a distinctly different way of thinking and acting. Instead of giving in to the intense violence of civil war, Sarvodaya has seen that mass meditation involving more than two million ordinary people has, at critical moments, established an overwhelming ambience and psycho- social disposition for peace. Visitors to Sri Lanka’s most notorious prisons are now finding that meditation programmes sponsored by Sarvodaya have loosened the shackles of retribution. Jailed hardcore criminals have become remarkably less violent. Sarvodaya programmes in gender relations and children’s and women’s rights focus on “the spirit of the law” as well as the questionable workings of a legal system that, in general, pro- vides little succour to the poor.”

    I found this paragraph thought provoking. The idea of having a country’s people adopt meditation and, thus, incorporate peace into their lives is an overwhelming symbol of unity in a time of the negative effects and consequences of urbanization. It is also inspiring to read about the positive effects of meditation on violence, sexism, and other areas of conflict. It makes me wonder: What would happen if meditation were adopted by our school system? If everyone learned the theories of meditation and practiced meditation and applied techniques of meditation to their lives, would our society become more peaceful?

  5. I read the article on Kamla Chowdhry in India “The Spiritual Way, the Gandhian Way’’. The quote that I found to be interesting was, As Gandhi said, “Earth has enough for our needs, but not enough for our greed.” I agree totally with this quote. It reminds me of a phrase that Christians use, “God will supply all of your needs and not your wants’. We have a plentiful source of needs on earth and we must reverse our priorities and focus on the needs of what will make the earth a better place to live in.

  6. I read Steven C. Rockerfeller’s essay, The Way Forward: The Earth Charter in Action, which explores what the transition to sustainability might encompass and what that means. One quote I found to be very powerful was, ” Attempts to deal with problems in isolation will, at best, have only limited success. An inclusive, well-coordinated, long-term strategy is part of the meaning of living and acting sustainably.” This seems to cut to the core of what’s at stake when we seek to cultivate peace on a larger scale. There is much political debate over matters of ecology and global social justice, and perhaps imparting to our youth just how beneficial making decisions that are reflective and protective of the communal good are to us individually and nationally, we can effect change moving forward.

  7. I read the piece by Hamza Ali Alamoosh about young Muslims and Christians working together to support the Earth Charter in Jordan. I’ve been to Jordan twice, and have hiked in one of its national parks. When there, I thought it was interesting that the nomadic people were able to continue to take their animals into the park to graze, something that isn’t permitted in the U.S. national parks but seems respectful of the Bedoin traditions in Jordan.

    The quote: “The high percent of unemployment among young people and the feelings of depression induced by injustice and difficult life conditions have turned the Middle East into a dangerous place.”

    This quote struck me because Jordan has not yet experienced a revolution of people trying to overthrow the government in this recent era of the Arab Spring. It’s managed to stay peaceful regardless of receiving thousands of refugees from Iraq and then Syria. Yet Hamza seems to be saying that the peace in Jordan is fragile because the young people there experience many of the same difficult conditions as young people in neighboring countries. I think he’s right that a situation becomes dangerous when people don’t have what they need to live a good life and feel powerless.

    Jordan needs support from other countries to bear the burden of the refugee crisis so that it can stabilize (That’s my opinion, not something that Hamza says in his article).

  8. OK so I read The Earth Charter as a Vehicle of Transformation. My quote is rather long so bare with me. “This means
    not just strengthening and democratising our institutions of
    peace and security to better respond to and prevent violence,
    war, and conflict; it means developing, at all levels and in all
    spheres of life, a complex of attitudes, values, beliefs, and patterns of behaviour that promote not just the peaceful settlement
    of conflict, but, as well, the quest for mutual understanding, and
    opportunity for individuals to live harmoniously with each other
    and the larger community of life. Above all, it means promoting
    a new global security and sustainability ethic”. This to me is like starting over again. Learning how to walk, eat, all the things you learn when you are a baby. Can and will this be done realistically, I don’t think so because their is to much for people to lose with doing everything the right way. I want peace, I want our students to not have to worry about being the target or not of a shooting as they walk to school. I want our children to be successful once they leave college. Notice I said college and not high school. This is a great dream, but now we have to wake up and work with what we have. How can i start the transformation?

  9. I read Jane Goodall and Robert R. Sassor’s essay, “Our World’s Youth: Taking Compassionate Action.”. The quote I found particularly thought provoking was:
    “Our society has become one that makes decisions based on how they will effect the next shareholders’ meeting and neglects to address how those decisions will effect the next generation. Whereas, traditionally, many indigenous people made major decisions based on how they would effect their tribes seven generations in the future.”

    This quote provoked thoughts about our public education system. Are we preparing our students to take productive places in our American society/our global society? Why is the focus only on learning and passing core academic assessments? Are our students only to grow up and go to college; to learn the means to employment but not how to live? To consume but not produce?

    This quote caused me to ponder, what if our public schools had curricula similar to Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program? What if our students learned cooperation and compassion by learning the Earth Charter and how to sustain our planet? Wouldn’t they learn to make decisions that effect the future generations?

    Finally, I thought, perhaps I am the shortsighted one. It may seems our system policymakers and politicians are focused on producing statistics rather than future generations. But are they? Maybe I am missing the seven generation plan…

  10. I read Kamla Chowdhry’s essay The Spiritual Way the Gandian Way. One quote that I found interesting was, “Modern technology has been responsible for out disappearing forests, disappearing rivers and wetlands, disappearing biodiversity, disappearing fossil and mineral wealth, and increase in deserts, arid lands and wastelands’. Its interesting because I just stated how I personally think technology is the down fall of human and earth. I going to do more research and learn facts. I think this statement goes hand in hand with the footprint calculator.

  11. I looked at Martin Lees’ The Earth Charter as a Guide to Building a Culture of Peace and Sustainable Development.

    One extended quote that resonated with me. “Our planet is at risk of separating into two worlds within and between countries — a relatively safe world of wealth and privilege and a dangerous world of poverty and hunger, injustice, and misery. But these two worlds are fundamentally interdependent — through environment and climate change; through the movement of people, through migration, and mass tourism; and in the face of rapidly spreading deadly diseases which no respect no national boundaries.” then, “To achieve a culture of peace, we must explicitly strengthen international solidarity, trust, and cooperation.”

    These two worlds Lees described are encountered by me in my work every day — the children of the two worlds that exist within Northwest DC are both attending Woodrow Wilson High School. I’d like to see what I can do within the microcosm of my classroom to create the environment of solidarity, trust and cooperation that can hopefully carry over into these students future lives. I don’t know if I’m that good of a teacher, but I would like to make that kind of positive change in the perspective of our teenagers so they grow to realize we have more in common than not, and that our common prosperity is a mutual interest.

  12. I read Karine Danielyan’s “Five Years with the Earth Charter in Armenia: The Development of Democratic Institutions.” Armenia used the Earth Charter in their development as a democracy after gaining independence from Russia. They were influential in the drafting of it. Danielyan describes how it has been difficult to adopt the Earth Charter, especially when encountering opposition from others. She describes a student who has given up adopting it because of the immorality that exists throughout the world. Yet, Danielyan says Armenia will not give up. “We are obliged to take the path outlined by the Earth Charter; there is no other alternative. And may God help us to overcome all impediments on the way.”

  13. I would pair the “greater community of life” theme with the goal of “raising awareness and understanding of critical global problems” in my documentary film classes. I feel that film is an excellent way to create a community of people, both by creating the film and then by sharing the film with the community it is from. The goal of raising awareness is paramount in documentary filmmaking already, so it fits perfectly.

    • sorry this is my reply to 8.3. here’s my reply to this section:

      “Education, which is arguably the most important investment any country makes in its future, is treated as a ‘cost.’”

      This quote really stood out to me. In fact, I copied it down before I even realized what the reflection question was. Education is something I feel very strongly about, and Henderson says it clearly: we do treat it as an expenditure rather than an investment. How did we get into this situation in the first place? Where does this mindset come from that education is a luxury, not a right, not something which will better society? I will need to do more research on this or perhaps we can discuss it in class.

  14. I read the essay by Jan Pronk “The Earth Charter as the basis for a Comprehensive Approach to Conlicts in Sudan”. The quote is:
    “The Charter may have an environmental focus, but it also talks of governance, about social issues, about equal sharing in times of scarcity, about not over exploiting resources, and about taking care of future generations”.

    I found this quote to be thought stimulating not only because it reflects some of my own views, but because it touches on subjects often not heard in the development and humanitarian assistance debate I.e. equal sharing in times of scarcity. Who shares? What is to be shared in a global and interdependent world?

  15. Reading: Abelardo Brenes’s work, ” A thematic essay on responsibility to the whole Earth community and to promote the common good
    Universal and Differentiated Responsibility.”

    Quote: “We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more”

    I chose the quote above because of its controversy. To me, the most developed countries are constantly striving for more. America is certainly a consumerist society, and even privileged individuals are always seeking more. Thus, this quote seemed a bit problematic. Nevertheless, social enterprises give me hope and there is a large push and expansion of these sorts of businesses and their impact on developing countries. Maybe, its making this quote reality and understanding the potential this quote has to alter our markets and our mindset.

  16. Leonardo Boff (page 45) “Care is really the guiding principle, which forestalls all behaviors.All that we do with care is well done. What we do carelessly
    may be destructive.”

    I thought this quotation, and the argument it proposes, it problematic and perhaps destructive. Too often people try to oversimplify complex problems they argue are imperative. The notion that things done with care are done will is deceptive and ignorant. I recently started watching ‘Confessions: Animal Hoarding’ on the Animal Planet. So many of the hoarders think that their love and care for their animals means that their pets are taken care of. However, the people who have 260 cats in one home risk the health, happiness, and safety of each cat. Similarly, at the beginning of the school year AU offered an iPad as a raffle prize to students who switched to electronic financial notifications. After doing some research it became clear that one iPad was more environmentally destructive than the paper that would have been mailed to student for the specific financial student notifications AU sought to obviate. In terms of sustainability, ecological well being, and biodiversity care might not be enough. A job well done is not a result of care alone.

  17. Daniel Knoll –
    “We revere man-made master-pieces in museums, but we blindly destroy the masterpieces of Nature as if they belong to us and we have the right to decide on the survival of a species which has been on Earth since time immemorial.” (Pg 47)

    Homero Aridjis’s commentary on human’s priorities for industry over the protection of nature in “Saving the Landscape of our Childhood and Backdrop of our Dreams” hits home for me because it questions our authority as people to make the decisions we do, especially the decisions that affect our natural surroundings. Do governments have the right? Industries, local workers? Does anyone have the right to remove habitats and alter the future of an entire species, such as the logging decisions in Mexico and the destruction of monarch butterfly habitats? How do we balance the need to create jobs and support peoples families with the costs associated with production?

  18. I read the essay by Razeena Waiget, South African Initiatives that draw on the Earth Charter. It encourages the continued use of Earth Charter principles in marrying South African social politics with its environmental challenges. Waiget says this can be done through environmental education and justice, which includes questions of access to parks, benefits drawn from parks, and natural resource preservation. It’s fascinating because South Africa is truly so diverse – racially, environmentally, ideologically, etc. It has incredible natural spaces, but does not always allocate their benefits in egalitarian ways.

    This line gave me pause: “Through the environmental education projects and programmes, staff strive to develop a conservation ethic by responding to environmental issues in ways that produce mutual benefits for people and parks.” Often, conservation efforts aren’t successful because there is little incentive for individuals to be involved or to change their actions. This approach and the programs Waiget mentions do a good job of developing a conservation ethic by focusing on the good it can do for not only the land, but South Africa’s society too.

  19. Brendan Mackey, “Ecological Integrity – A Commitment to Life on Earth”

    “These market-based innovations would help ensure that the economic system better reflects important, yet ignored, environmental and social values.”

    It is interesting to me that there is an attempt to quantify the negative impact of different acts in order to use them in calculating production costs. I find this fascinating because it sounds like what we do in education. We know the general goal, but we want benchmarks to measure progress. Oftentimes, the biggest debate is in how to measure because this action in itself reflects different values that can be culturally specific. However, there are some issues that may transcend cultures.

  20. “One major
    objective of the national curriculum
    reform was for China’s students to
    master more scientific knowledge in
    order to make China more competitive
    in the global economic market. This, at
    first, seemed quite different from, and
    almost irreconcilable with, the stated
    goals of Education for Sustainability –
    to empower students to become
    informed and active citizens of an
    ecologically sustainable, socially just,
    and democratic society.”

    This quote was from the chapter titled: The Earth Charter and Development of China’s National Guidelines for Environmental Education in the School Curriculum.

    While I think it is great that the national curriculum is being reformed in order to include education for sustainability, this quote highlights the many different perspectives and motives behind the reforms. With so many stakeholders behind educational reform, true change is difficult. This quote highlights the different ideas behind environmental education’s implementation in China. Hopefully the main stated goals of Education for Sustainability will not be lost in a drive for making China more competitive. Hopefully the two goals can help to drive each other!

  21. I read “Ecological Integrity- A Commitment to life on Earth” by Brendan Mackey. This quote summarized his scientifically informed argument: “We may well survive in a world where Earth’s ecological integrity is destroyed and our well-being is totally dependent on machines, but there may be little wild nature, and poverty may
    still engulf communities around the world. There will be, no doubt, a future for humanity one way or another; but, will this be a future worth having?”

    To me, shows very clearly how our treatment of the environment is tied to morality. It is our moral duty to later generations to maintain the environment because their lives are at risk if we do not.

  22. “Being a young citizen in the Middle East is truly not an easy thing, and a lot of young Jordanians believe that they are not living in the Middle East by accident. To most of them, it appears that they are here for the purpose of building a secure homeland in a peaceful region and of building a fair world. Exactly this goal, which forges both Christian and Muslim youth together, is reflected in the Earth Charter’s inclusive, ethical vision of justice, sustainability, and peace.” — Hamza Ali Alamoosh “Black Iris: The Earth Charter as a Common Vision for Muslim and Christian Youth in Jordan”

    I found this to be an interesting passage because it speaks to the inclusiveness of the Earth Charter as a document and vision that unites people from all walks of life, all religions and ethnicities, etc. towards one common goal. The essay talks about when the Earth Charter was introduced to Jordanians it was not seen as a threat, but as an opportunity to reflect their aspirations for a better world because the ethical visions of the charter aligned with their religious values. In a region saturated with conflict, it is refreshing to here a positive, inclusive outlook on sustainability.

  23. “Students in Salem, Oregon, raise money
    so that shepherds in the Himalayas can build strong fences
    around their sheep at night, preventing the endangered Snow
    Leopards from preying on their livestock and, if caught, getting
    killed.” – Goodall

    I read the article by Goodall on “Respect and Care for the Community of Life”

    I chose the quote above because I am thunderstruck by its implications. I love to think of learning this way: as people considering conflict and solving problems. It feels so meaningful. I can imagine these young Oregonians elbow deep in brainstorming and activism. I can vaguely imagine them as adults, as well. Their exposure to such practical, real-world problems translating into proactive lifestyles and an awareness that everything we do affects others on a small or large scale. This is the only way to create meaningful change.

  24. I read Laura Westra’s essay Securing Earth’s Bounty for Present and
    Future Generations. One quote that I found particularly interesting was, “Intergenerational duties include the obligation to pass on the Earth to the next generation in as good a condition as it was when that generation first received it and a duty to repair any damage caused by any failure of previous generations to do the same.” I feel like we aren’t at a place where we are successfully tackling the first part of that and we haven’t even thought about how to handle the second part. I think we live in a place where it becomes easy to not think about the damage you are doing; when I lived in West Africa, we had to dispose of all of our own trash. Usually this meant burning it and that made us very aware of exactly what and how much we were throwing away. Having to consciously process that information made us much more likely to reduce the amount of waste that we were creating.

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