On Wednesday, June 29, 2016 friends and colleagues dined and dialogued together to celebrate International Earth Charter Day at the SBI Estate Zonheuvel in Holland. June 29, 2016 also marks the 16th anniversary of the day the Earth Charter which was historically launched in The Hague in the year 2000.
In addition to bringing people together to celebrate Earth Charter Day, the event aimed to stimulate dialogue and raise awareness of the Earth Charter principles and how they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals. Conversations built upon the fundamental question: ´How do we want to treat our Earth and each other, and how can we achieve that? ´ Specific topics of conversation included inclusive economic growth and employment, sustainable consumption and production of food, and the strength of Africa.
The event began with a visit to a 16-year old memorial tree which had been planted on a past Earth Charter Day. Participants performed a small ceremony and shared a few words about the Earth Charter, future generations, and our collective opportunity and responsibility to care for the community of life.
Moving inside to share a meal, Economist Professor Johan Witteveen kicked off a series of conversations planned for the evening. He spoke about the impact of Brexit (UK´s exit from the European Union) on Europe and indicated that Brexit offers the EU an opportunity to revise its unrealistic target for budget deficits. This would give more room for countries that are doing well economically to invest in health care and education and to help countries with less economic resources. Among varying perspectives, there was a common underlying current: we need an economy that takes account of future generations.
Joszi Smeets, Director of the Youth Food Movement (YMF) and Michael Savage of EOSTA both stressed the importance of the true cost of Food. Reflecting the true cost of food is the only way to establish a fair comparison between organic and traditional products. The Youth Food Movement has launched a new initiative to call for food education in schools since many children are disconnected from their food and have limited knowledge about what they eat and where it comes from. YFM, with the support of EOSTA, has launched a campaign to convince parliament to discuss including food education in schools. They´re circulating a petition with the aim of 40,000 signatures for food education in schools: http://youthfoodmovement.nl/4730-2/.
Bas Maassen and Neville Mchina brought the topic ‘the strength of Africa’ to the discussion. Bas runs a project in Mali, the Dogon Project, which helps women begin small businesses through training, education, and micro-credit loans. So far, 5,000 women have started their own businesses through the project, and they hope that number will double by 2020.
Neville Mchina, a young African man currently living and working in Holland, pointed to the trauma that residents of Africa have endured and how that has in many cases created a victim mentality. He is committed to the empowerment of other young Africans, and is working to support other young people in realizing that they themselves can solve the problems they face. To do this work, Neville founded the initiative Rise Together for Africa which seeks to support African students in Europe in discovering their responsibility and leadership to use their new knowledge and networks to strengthen their home continent.
The evening concluded with the exchange of contacts and a commitment to support the initiatives put forward. Participants extend their recognition and gratitude to the event sponsors: Foundation SBI, Inner Sense, and Earth Charter Netherlands. Organizers plan to continue the tradition of gathering together for dinner and dialogues each year to celebrate the International Earth Charter Day.