This diary is about our search for a cohesive vision and set of principles to underpin our future. It is about the efforts of progressives around the world to inculcate a paradigm for the world that counters the nihilistic, fascist force of the Right, and lays the foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future.
It’s about how there is one you probably don’t even know about, and it’s time you did. It’s called the Earth Charter.
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 recognise 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.
I want to introduce Bootribbers to the greatest consensus and (I think) most remarkable document the world has ever seen, the Earth Charter. Above is the beginning of its short preamble, and below is the document (almost) in full. Go grab a drink, sit down and give yourself proper time to read it; I guarantee you won’t regret it.
But before the rest of the Charter, a bit more about it.
The vision for the world that grew while we were distracted
Originating from the 1992 Rio Summit, the Earth Charter was formed through a global consensus and participatory process that lasted nearly a decade. The views and experience of thousands of people and organisations have informed the final Earth Charter, and as such it reaches across all racial, cultural and spiritual differences to speak to the common humanity of us all.
There is probably no other document in human history that can claim such an open and inclusive evolution. Because so many have added their voice to it, the Charter can claim like no other document, that it speaks to and for all human beings, encapsulating all we stand for and the challenges we face together. The Earth Charter is the people’s document, and sets forth the hopes and aspirations of a global civil society, setting out the principles we need for creating a better world.
Here is the rest of the preamble: –
Earth, Our Home
Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.
The Global Situation
The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous–but not inevitable.
The Challenges Ahead
The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another, or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realise that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.
To realise these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.
We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.
Is there anyone on Boo who would disagree that this sounds like one of the most sane, grounded and hopeful things you have read in a long while? Can you believe that it was written for the people, by the people? It profoundly speaks to me, and many others. Does it speak to you?
The core of the Earth Charter is a set of 16 principles, under which there are a short series of explanatory points. You can read the full document here – I have reproduced the 16 principles, and here they are:
I. RESPECT AND CARE FOR THE COMMUNITY OF LIFE
- Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
- Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
- Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
- Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
In order to fulfill these four broad commitments, it is necessary to:
II. ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY
- Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
- Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
- Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.
- Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
III. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
- Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.
- Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
- Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
- Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
IV. DEMOCRACY, NONVIOLENCE, AND PEACE
13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and
accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
- Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
- Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
- Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.
The greatest strength of the Earth Charter is laid bare in these 16 points; succinctly and profoundly, the Earth Charter delineates the fundamental links between ecological sustainability, economic and social human well-being, and the organisation of human society. In just 16 short, direct principles, it sums up the best and most hopeful aspects of our world, and our society. It lays out what could be not just for some of us, but what should be for all of us, and how wonderful and right it is.
I think – and this will probably be more controversial on this site – that the Earth Charter also successfully navigates a path between national sovereignty, respect for cultural diversity, and the driving need for international cooperation. The essence of this is encapsulated in the final passages of the Charter:
THE WAY FORWARD
As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning. Such renewal is the promise of these Earth Charter principles. To fulfill this promise, we must commit ourselves to adopt and promote the values and objectives of the Charter.
This requires a change of mind and heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. We must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. Our cultural diversity is a precious heritage and different cultures will find their own distinctive ways to realize the vision. We must deepen and expand the global dialogue that generated the Earth Charter, for we have much to learn from the ongoing collaborative search for truth and wisdom.
Life often involves tensions between important values. This can mean difficult choices. However, we must find ways to harmonise diversity with unity, the exercise of freedom with the common good, short-term objectives with long-term goals. Every individual, family, organisation, and community has a vital role to play. The arts, sciences, religions, educational institutions, media, businesses, nongovernmental organisations, and governments are all called to offer creative leadership. The partnership of government, civil society, and business
is essential for effective governance.
In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfil their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.
Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.
The Earth Charter as a living document
After the long process to create it, the Earth Charter was finally launched five years ago. As a document and a movement that aims to lay the foundations for an ethical global civil society, the Charter is not something that was ever going to be taken up and enacted overnight. But the process of creating it has in turn created a global movement to disseminate the Charter and encourage its adoption at all levels of society, and its one that is merrily growing and succeeding.
The work of raising the profile and increasing the adoption of the Earth Charter is principally responsibility of the Earth Charter Secretariat located in Venezuela; and the work also taken on by the many national Earth Charter societies around the world. You can get a feel for how successful they have been, and the many diverse and at times surprising adoption and uses made of the Charter from their very readable 2004 annual report.
I wanted to expose the Earth Charter to Bootribbers to see how you react. I want to see if it inspires in you the same motivation to make it a living paradigm, not just words on paper, as it does for me.
So, please read it carefully, have a look `round the website and annual report, and take the poll. Be honest. And of course give me your thoughts.