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The Earth Charter challenges us to choose a better way

The Legacy Project supports the global Earth Charter, and so can you. As part of our real-world commitment through the Legacy Project's site The Cedars and our virtual-world commitment through this website, our goals as a learning project include encouraging a view of the bigger picture. If we all just focus on our little picture, our little part of the world, we fail to see how the things we say, think, and do every day affect others and our planet.

Earth Charter

The Legacy Project works with children, teens, adults, and elders around the world. Our 7-Generation work is about your life story in the context of other lives/life on this planet in the even bigger context of lifetimes across generations. It's about past, present, future in the power of this moment – the big picture, something we call LegacyCubed.

The Earth Charter speaks to this bigger picture. Here are some legacy-related excerpts from the Earth Charter:

We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future.

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.

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 realize 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.

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.

Transmit to future generations values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth's human and ecological communities… Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.

Life often involves tensions between important values. This can mean difficult choices. However, we must find ways to harmonize diversity with unity, the exercise of freedom with the common good, short-term objectives with long-term goals. Every individual, family, organization, and community has a vital role to play.

You can download the complete English text of the
Earth Charter
(other languages are available on the Earth Charter website).

The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st Century. It seeks to inspire in all people – young and old – a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action.

Although in the Earth Charter there is a special emphasis on the world's environmental challenges, the charter is centrally concerned with the transition to sustainable ways of living and sustainable human development. The document's inclusive ethical vision recognizes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development, and peace are interdependent and indivisible. It provides a new framework for thinking about and addressing these issues. The result is a fresh, broad conception of what constitutes a sustainable community and sustainable development.

The Earth Charter is a product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on common goals and shared values. In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development issued a call for creation of a new charter that would set forth fundamental principles for sustainable development. The drafting of an Earth Charter was part of the unfinished business of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In 1994, Maurice Strong, the Secretary General of the Earth Summit and Chairman of the Earth Council, and Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International, launched a new Earth Charter initiative with support from the Dutch government. An Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the project. After years of consultation, the Earth Charter was launched in June, 2000.

The drafting of the Earth Charter involved the most open and participatory consultation process ever conducted in connection with an international document. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations from all regions of the world, different cultures, and diverse sectors of society have participated. The Charter has been shaped by both experts and representatives of grassroots communities. It is a people's treaty that sets forth an important expression of the hopes and aspirations of the emerging global civil society.

You can add to the global dialogue around the Earth Charter. What does the text mean to you?

The Earth Charter's language wasn't crafted for children, which can make it difficult to understand. Work together to rewrite it.

There are 16 key principles in the Earth Charter. Look at each and discuss how you can rewrite them to be meaningful for you:

Respect and Care for the Community of Life:

  1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.

  2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.

  3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.

  4. Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

Ecological Integrity:
  1. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

  2. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.

  3. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

  4. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

Social and Economic Justice:
  1. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.

  2. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

  3. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

  4. 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.

Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace:
  1. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.

  2. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.

  3. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.

  4. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.

Here's an example of a version of the Earth Charter written by a group of students in Australia:

Earth Charter for Children –
An Adaptation

We are living at a very important moment in Earth's history. Every day, the people of the world are moving closer together. We need to unite across cultures to choose our future: to protect nature, to respect human rights and to create a world where all can live together in peace and justice. We have a responsibility to care for life – both at present and into the future.

The Earth is our home: The Earth is only a small part of the immense universe in which we live. The Earth itself is full of life, with a rich variety of plants, animals and peoples. In order to survive, we as human beings need the soil, the water, the air, the plants and the animals. It is our duty to take care of life on Earth.

The global situation: Today, our way of living often harms the environment. The way that we produce and consume goods depletes the Earth of its supplies of water, air and soil, endangering the lives of many plant and animal species. The growing world population continues to drain the Earth of its natural resources. At the same time, we are faced with war, famine, misery, ignorance, disease, and injustice.

What can we do? The choice is ours: We can start making changes so that we can build a better future for everyone. The Earth Charter gives us a path to follow.

Everybody is responsible. To change our world we need to be responsible for our actions, because everything that we do is interconnected – everything on our planet is woven together into the fabric of life. We need to think about the way that we use resources and the way that we care for plants and animals. We need to think about the way that we treat other people. If we all take responsibility for our own actions, we can start to work together to care for the present and future well being of the human family and of all the living things on this planet. All of us can share in the hope for the future.

We must respect and care for all living things:

  1. Respect the Earth and all living things: people, animals and plants

    1. Understand the importance and the interconnectedness of all living things.

    2. Accept all people as living treasures with their own beliefs and opinions.

  2. Care for all living things, with understanding, compassion and love

    1. Use natural resources wisely, taking care not to cause harm to the Earth.

    2. Protect the rights of people and accept their differences.

  3. Form groups of people who act justly, treat others equally and work together peacefully

    1. Recognize everyone's right to be free and the right to choose how they will develop and grow.

    2. Include all people and work towards safe, peaceful and fair communities.

  4. Co-operate so that all people can enjoy the beauty and the fruits of the Earth

    1. Act responsibly for the present, making sure not to neglect the needs of future generations.

    2. Pass on knowledge and encourage future generations to be caretakers of the Earth.

Do you feel the adaptation above captures the main messages of the Earth Charter? What about your version?

As part of the Legacy Project's 7-Generation work, you can create your own legacy project that reflects the principles of the Earth Charter.

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org


Earth Charter

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