What is the Earth Charter?
The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a JUST, PEACEFUL and SUSTAINABLE global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well being of the human family and the larger living world. It is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.
The document’s inclusive ethical vision recognises 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 also a very broad conception of what constitutes sustainable development.
The Earth Charter is the product of a decade long, worldwide, cross-cultural conversation about common goals and shared values.
The Earth Charter is underpinned by four overarching principles:
- Respect and Care for the Community of Life
- Ecological Integrity
- Social and Economic Justice
- Democracy, Non-violence and Peace
The Charter enables people to broaden their perspectives on local and global problems, develop new visions of what is possible and then devise integrated, long term solutions for the future.
Why do we need an Earth Charter?
The opening words say it all
“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 promise and great peril. With the dangers of war, social and economic injustice and threats to the environment emerging, the human family must determine how to secure a sustainable future.”
The Earth Charter can be downloaded in 31 languages at the following website: http://www.earthcharter.org
If you would like to endorse the Earth Charter:
A wonderful initiative is the Little Earth Charter:
Edmund Rice Centre and the Earth Charter
Since becoming an affiliate of Earth Charter International in 2008, the Edmund Rice Centre has joined a diverse global network of people, organizations and institutions that participate in promoting and implementing the values and principles of the Earth Charter.
The Edmund Rice Centre’s approach to fulfilling these obligations is two-pronged: firstly continue to develop and find ways to integrate environmental considerations into the workplace and staff activities; and secondly, to continually explore and expand the way it integrates the Earth Charter principles into its existing social justice education, research and advocacy programs aimed at promoting human rights. We are happy to assist.
Education and the Earth Charter
Education is fundamental to the mission of Earth Charter Initiative. Earth Charter International has therefore created the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. The Center’s mission is to promote the use of the Earth Charter in schools, colleges, universities, and non-formal education programmes throughout the world and contribute to education for a sustainable way of life.
The Earth Charter Initiative seeks to collaborate with the efforts of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. In October 2003, UNESCO adopted a resolution "recognising the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainable development." The resolution affirms member states' intention to "utilise the Earth Charter as an educational instrument, particularly in the framework of the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development" (Resolution Reference 32C/ Resolution 17).
Australian Schools and the Earth Charter
Is your school keen to improve its role as a place that respects and cares for the earth and for one another? Do you want to become a no-waste school? Do you want to see some practical changes in your school such as composting, less water and energy use? Do you want to promote an understanding of how our every day actions affect poorer countries? Do you want to strengthen links with your local community? Do you want your school to more consciously link ethics with actions?
Whether you want it to be an integrated ‘whole of school’ approach, that is expressed in all parts of the curriculum and life of the school, or whether you want to begin very slowly, the Edmund Rice Centre can be booked to provide support.
The Charter has many educational uses in schools for developing an understanding of the critical choices facing humanity and the urgent need for commitment to a sustainable way of life. It can be used to advance many fundamental educational objectives: consciousness raising, application of values, critical thinking and planning for action.
A School Earth Charter Program could be adopted via a number of learning approaches:
i. Cross-curricular program – Earth Charter principles could be integrated into existing subjects or delivered as an independent unit of study where the core curriculum allows such flexibility. For example, science classes could conduct energy audits in the school and develop an understanding of greenhouse science and the impacts of global warming; Maths classes calculate total costs of waste in economic and environmental terms; English classes could write letters to political figures on the need to support renewable energy and deforestation concerns; Religious Education classes could consider the social justice implications of the environmental threats to people living in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific such as declining water quality and global warming.
ii. Extra-curricular activities – Teachers and students could consider setting up Earth Charter Youth Groups and develop ways of putting into action the mission and aims of the Charter. Furthermore, schools could consider strengthening linkages with community and environmental groups active in their local area (e.g. Landcare or neighbourhood centres) or investigate what their local council is doing to implement Agenda 21 in their community.
iii. Social Justice Coordinators Network – social justice coordinators or interested teachers could encourage students to form a social justice group, school council or eco-committee to design and plan initiatives for implementing Earth Charter principles in the school.
iv. Religious Education and spirituality – as we get in touch with the earth and God’s creativity, it inspires a sense of awe and wonder. Young people and adults are searching for meaningful spirituality and an understanding of the Earth Charter invites us to a renewed sense of God’s presence in all creation that promotes an inclusive society living in communion with, rather than exploiting the earth.
Learning Resources and Useful Links
Many resources are available from this site: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/categories/Education/
An updated version of the Earth Charter Initiative Handbook 2010 still under revision is available at: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/invent/images/uploads/EC%20INITIATIVE%20HANDBOOK%202010%20Eng.pdf
A useful website with much information is Catholic Earthcare: http://www.catholicearthcare.org.au/
Climate Change and the Earth Charter
Climate change -- caused by humanity's emission of greenhouse gases -- has emerged as a global issue of the highest urgency. On this page, you will find some articles addressing climate change from an integrated ethical perspective, as framed by the Earth Charter. This page was initially developed in 2007 to stimulate a dialogue on these issues, making the linkages with the Earth Charter.
To initiate this dialogue, two members of Earth Charter International Council -- Australian scientist Brendan Mackey of Australian National University, and Chinese lawyer Song Li of the World Bank wrote a report in 2007, to the ECI Council titled Winning the Struggle Against Global Warming. We invite you to read this paper and others that are related to this theme.
The Pacific Calling Partnership was formed in 2006 and is an initiative of the Edmund Rice Centre’s Eco Justice Section, which works in partnership with low-lying Pacific Islands that are being adversely affected by climate change. More information can be found at: www.org.au/pcp
Afternoon Tea for the Future is another sub-group of the Eco Justice section at the Edmund Rice Centre. A small group of community members meet at the Centre at 15 Henley Rd Homebush West and engage in an informal, but interesting talk and discussion on set topics associated with ecological justice. Sessions are held on a Tuesday afternoon in the centre library around six times a year. Link: http://www.erc.org.au/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=18&MMN_position=65:13
Our work is shaped by a commitment to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Charter, tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Declaration states -
That every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance"
UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was approved in 1951 and defined who is a refugee and sets out how refugees (and people seeking asylum) should be treated. The Convention also includes the principle of non-refoulement - the principle that a country cannot send a refugee back to a country where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Declaration was adopted by the UN in 2007, despite opposition from a small number of countries, including Australia. The Declaration sets out the rights of indigenous peoples, such as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education. It also "emphasises the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations". It "prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples", and it "promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development". Australia endorsed the Declaration in 2009.
The Earth Charter
The Charter recognises that humanity and the Earth are interdependent - we have a responsibility to to achieve sustainable development and sustainable ways of living. The mission of the Earth Charter is to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy and a culture of peace.
Catholic Social Teaching
'The permanent principles of the Church's social doctrine . . . are: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. These principles, the expression of the whole truth about the human person known by reason and faith, are born of "the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands summarised in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbour in justice with the problems emanating from the life of society".'
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church par.160
Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice - Presence. Compassion. Liberation
Presence: We are present among and stand in solidarity with those who are victims of any form of disadvantage, marginalisation and exclusion. In their presence, we build relationships based on mutual respect, trust and accountability.
Compassion: We respond with compassion, which refuses to accept global poverty and suffering and which awakens us to our responsibilities and compels us to take action.
Liberation. Compassion by definition demands action to address injustice. Justice is the social manifestation of compassion. A strong commitment to justice as the foundation for a peaceful world
Edmund Rice showed people that life could be lived differently, that human relationships could be different, that the dominant culture need not have the answers to how a society operated.
Philip Pinto cfc, Former Congregation Leader, 2006