Religion and Spirituality Archives - Earth Charter

COP22 and the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat in Marrakesh

From 5 to 13 November, 2016, the Earth Charter International Youth Projects´ Coordinator Sarah Dobson visited the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco with a two-part mission: to connect with young leaders and civil society organizations from around the world at COP22, and to participate in the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ programme for young ecologists.

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COP22, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, convened government officials from around the world to create international policies and strategies to combat climate change along with thousands from civil society who joined to influence and report on the negotiations and build networks and partnerships. Sarah met with young leaders from Morocco and every region of the world who are working, studying, innovating, and living with the urgent and earnest intention to transform our lifestyles and current systems to align with the protection and preservation of our planet. She met with people working in different youth networks with specializations in education, social entrepreneurship, science and research, and activism and explored ways that the Earth Charter can serve them whether as an ethical guide, a shared vision, or through our online trainings in ¨ Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics. ¨

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After a few days at the Conference, Sarah joined the first ¨The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat, unique programme series organized to foster dialogue and discovery. Earth Charter International served as a co-partner to the event which was organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and sponsored by the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA).

The 4-day programme brought together 20 young ecologists from 14 African nations: Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Nambia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They were joined by ecology experts and spiritual leaders of various traditions and backgrounds.

The first days were spent discussing problems and solutions from the African perspective in the areas of biodiversity, water, and agriculture before the conversation turned inward considering the attitude and paradigm which allow these problems to persist and have prevented a large scale shift toward sustainability.

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Woven throughout the discussions, the mentors shared their stories and wisdom. Ven. Bhante Duddharakita from Uganda spoke of the need to reduce not only carbon emissions, but greed emissions. Sraddhalu Ranade from India spoke of the androcentric and reductionist mindsets which have led us to the point of crisis. Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota Nation in North America spoke of how our language separates us from Mother Earth, pretending to be superior and separate to Mother Earth and inventing notions such as domination and ownership. We reflected on a paradigm shift to relationship with all life and contemplated how to retain and relearn knowledge cultivated and held by indigenous peoples.

The youth delegates and spiritual mentors brought their wisdom to the COP22, presenting ¨the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ as a side event which drew great attention and curiosity as it offered a deep, honest conversation about climate and our own intimate relationship with one another and Earth. The final day together was spent in a small Berber village nestled in the Atlas Mountains where the group shared delicious Moroccan tea and food and a final dialogue circle of reflection and gratitude.

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This program was the first in a series of regional ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreats which will gather young ecologists and spiritual mentors to examine the deeper causes and solutions to climate change which begin with our mindset and relationship to the Earth. All youth delegates and mentors from each regional meeting are then expected to then gather together in 2018 to continue building bridges and relationships and strengthen the movement toward a more life sustaining paradigm and way of living.

 

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The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change: Young Ecologists Turn Inward

From 18 to 23 January 2017, thirty young ecologists from the Americas and Caribbean working in fields related to environmental education, conservation and climate activism came to Costa Rica for a retreat on the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change. ¨ Earth Charter International (ECI) collaborated with The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA) to bring together young people with mentors from different spiritual traditions to uncover the deeper root causes of the climate crisis to inform our individual, organization, and systemic work in creating solutions.

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Delegates and mentors spent their first day at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development where the ECI Youth Project´s Coordinator led them in an interactive workshop to experience the Earth Charter. Participants explored the Earth Charter´s four interrelated pillars: (1) Respect and Care for the Community of Life, (2) Ecological Integrity, (3) Social and Economic Justice, (4) Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace, and then learned the incredible story of its creation which stands as the most participatory process of any document in history.

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The group then traveled to Puerta a la Vida, a unique eco-lodge in Puntarenas Costa Rica, where the group spent several days in ceremony, dialogue, and exploration. Dialogue sessions were facilitated by mentors who gave space to youth leaders to open discussions on topics related to their work. Topics included the impact of Climate Change on the Americas and Caribbean, loss of indigenous knowledge, and grassroots efforts to create change.

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Mentors Venerable Chang Ji, Jana Long, Dena Merriam, Mirabai Starr, and Hanne Marstrand Strong shared wisdom from their various traditions and experiences. Mentors Sraddhalu Ranade from India and Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota Nation in North America brought in systemic and biocentric perspectives to deconstruct colonial, oppressive, and anthropocentric paradigms and language to shift, expand, and deepen the conversations.  In one example, Tiokasin shared that he considers the famous statement ¨I think, therefore I am¨ is to be lost. He and his tribe instead live by ¨I thank, therefore I am—We thank, therefore we are.¨ He begins each day giving thanks to water, a word which in his native language of Lakota roughly translates to ¨the life energy that flows between us.¨

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The retreat closed with a ceremony of gratitude where each person chose to take with them a small, symbolic object that another had brought, bonding the participants to one another and the experience. This gathering was the second in the series of regional retreats; The first retreat was held in Marrakesh, Morocco in November of 2016 with African youth during the COP22. GPIW, DDMBA, and ECI will continue organizing spaces to build intergenerational and intercultural networks of grounded, conscious sustainability leaders with plans to host the next gatherings in Europe and the Middle East.

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Faith leaders, the Earth Charter and sustainable leadership

kelly-ngetiThis article was written by Kelly Ngeti, a member of the Earth Charter Young Leaders Programme. Kelly Ngeti, from Mombasa, Kenya, is passionate about working with and for the community, particularly in the areas of the environment, peace and stability. He is a core member, volunteer, and the Regional Coordinator at Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa, a pan African NGO that brings catholic youth to care for and protect the environment. Kelly is also an organizer with the Miritini Peace Initiative which was established amid the 2007-2008 post-election violence in order to promote peace and sustainable leadership. He is a former Mombasa diocesan youth chairperson, and an actor and writer with Big Dreams Productions. Kelly has diplomas in Sales and Marketing, Journalism, and Community Development and is pursuing a degree in Development Studies.

Editor: Josephine Schrott, Earth Charter Young Leader


On August 9th – 12th 2016, I was part of the team that was selected to travel to Same, Tanzania for a forum with faith leaders dubbed FLEAT, meaning Faith Leaders Environment Advocacy Training. The program is run by SAFCEI, the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute, and organized by Hope for Tanzania, an NGO that advocates for climate justice in Tanzania. Hope for Tanzania Director Rev. Elisa Murutu was one of the FLEAT participants.

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A series of forums has been scheduled throughout this year under the FLEAT program, with the agenda of engaging with faith leaders through advocacy and through their institutions to help promote eco-justice and sustainable development.

FLEAT is of the notion that even with the efforts made by lay people in advocating for climate justice and protection and conservation of our environment for the common good, the pace of impact is slow. Faith leaders can speed up the flow of information since many people believe instantly in what their spiritual leaders say. The objective is to advocate for faith leaders to take up a more leading role in advancing the environmental sustainability agenda forward.

I was able to present to this audience of faith leaders from different religious backgrounds and of different positions in their respective institutions. In the forum, there were a total of 70 participants with representatives from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa; pastors, ministers and the bishop of the Lutheran Church and the Pentecostal Church; priests and bishops of the Same, Tanzania diocese of the Catholic Church; representatives from the Islam religion and lay people.

The Earth Charter and Sustainable leadership were my two topics of engagement. With regards to the Earth Charter, I shared the history and its objectives then perused through the principles. It was amazing and encouraging how well the participants connected with the principles of the Earth Charter, each acknowledging their importance in protecting our environment and our earth. For further reading and endorsements, I left a link of the Earth Charter and urged participants to read it through, endorse it and then ask others in their respective institutions to do the same. I further urged them to make the Earth Charter their tool and point of reference in advocating for sustainable development, eco-justice and lobbying.

My second session focused on sustainable leadership. I specifically chose this topic as a point of reference to showcase how good leadership impacts action. I knew it would be exciting and very interesting to hear from the faith leaders their perspectives on good leadership, and what they have been practicing. Because they are leaders themselves with huge number of followers from their institutions, I had a feeling it was going to be an interactive session.

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I shared on the traditional versus modern models of leadership which I had learnt about in the “Leadership, Ethics and Sustainability” course I took with the Earth Charter. True to my instincts, the session turned out to be very interesting and provoked leaders to discuss more on the leadership of Tanzania and their own leadership ways. It was so encouraging how the modern model of leadership was picked up as a realistic resolution to leadership crises in all institutions. It ended with the majority of participants asking for the presentation so that they can disseminate it to their respective members.

My organization, the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (www.cynesa.org), continues to host and lead advocacy meetings and will carry this initiative forward in Kenya and the larger region.

 

 

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New book “Thomas Berry in Italy: Reflections on Spirituality & Sustainability” addresses the Earth Charter

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ECI is pleased to announce the release of a new book titled ¨Thomas Berry in Italy: Reflections on Spirituality and Sustainability” edited by Elisabeth M. Ferrero and published by Pacem in Terris Press.

This book, organized in 33 chapters by different authors, offers a rich and diverse collection of tributes to the memory of Thomas Berry. Contributors to this book were participants in the Assisi conferences on “Spirituality and Sustainability” or participants in the Study Abroad for Earth programmes held from 1991 to 2000 in Assisi, Italy.

The featured speaker and resource person for these conferences and programmes was the late Thomas Berry. A scholar in world religions, protégé of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and a great contemporary ecological thinker, Thomas Berry became the leading intellectual figure, in cooperation with scientist Brian Swimme, for an important school of thought known as the “New Cosmology.”

Part IV of the book offers Chapters that have a special focus on the Earth Charter:

– ¨The Earth Charter: An Ethical Framework of Spirituality and Sustainability¨ by Richard Clugston;
– ¨The Earth Charter as a New Global Ethic¨ by Elisabeth M. Ferrero & Joe Holland;
¨Tribal Link and the Sacred Map¨ by Pamela Kraft, and
¨A Unique Community of Life” – The Earth Charter in Assisi. A German View in a Global Context¨ by Frank Meyberg.

Here are some excerpts of the book in reference to the Earth Charter:

¨The Earth Charter, as a document and the focus of a social movement, is making a catalytic contribution accelerating our transition to sustainable ways of living…¨ (The Earth Charter: An Ethical Framework of Spirituality and Sustainability¨ by Richard Clugston).

¨The Earth Charter is an important document proposing a new way of thinking, living, and being as a paradigm based on a sustainable ecological vision of global ethics for all beings, institutions, governments and nations on Earth¨ (¨The Earth Charter as a New Global Ethic¨ by Elisabeth M. Ferrero & Joe Holland).

¨The Charter is seen by many as a vision of hope and a call to action; within its focus areas it promotes special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples…¨ (¨Tribal Link and the Sacred Map¨ by Pamela Kraft).

¨Berry´s thoughts are at the foundation of the Earth Charter process, both in the preamble and other parts of this visionary text…¨ (“A Unique Community of Life” – The Earth Charter in Assisi. A German View in a Global Context by Frank Meyberg).

Click here for more information or to purchase this publication.

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Theologian Leonardo Boff speaks at the Earth Charter Center

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On Friday, February 12th, Brazilian theologian and Earth Charter Commissioner Leonardo Boff gave a speech at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica, Mr. Boff gave an inspiring and insight talk in Spanish about the moral aspects of sustainability, the Pope’s Encyclical, and the Earth Charter.

“Something interesting that can be found in the encyclical and in the Earth Charter is the emphasis on not only using instrumental reason, which is analytical, but also kind leonardo-boff-charla-carta-de-la-tierra-sembra-arbolreason… the pain of the earth has to be considered our pain, the pain of people must be our pain …. we need to articulate the cry of the earth with the cry of the poor … the pain of the people must be our pain …. Modern culture is cynical and merciless, does not know how to cry (feel) because it has no compassion. Compassion means putting oneself in the place of others, to feel with the other, from the other …. compassion has two dimensions, the first is respecting each other and not to invading the space of others, and the second is picking up those who have fallen and helping them…”

The talk was attended by approximately 100 people with several more listening in online. You can watch the speech (in Spanish only) belowplaca-conmemorando-visita-de-leonardo-boff-carta-de-la-tierra.

The event was followed by a tree planting ceremony to commemorate the occasion and to launch the 2016 ECI Communication slogan “Sowing a Culture of Peace”. The tree planted was a Roble Sabana or Savannah Oak, a neotropical tree found from Mexico to Ecuador.

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Earth Charter Affiliate in the Netherlands publishes book in English

Brigitte van Baren, Earth Charter Affiliate with InnerSense of the Netherlands, and Johannes Witteveen, former Dutch Finance Minister and former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, have collaborated on a book called “Heart for the Earth, Heart for Yourself”. Professor Witteveen is a scholar of Sufism and is still engaged in the Sufi movement. Brigitte van Baren is a Zen teacher, coach, and author. The book was launched in Dutch in September and the electronic English version is available after November 23rd, in advance of the Paris COP21 Climate Conference.

Find more information in the attached press release.
Press release Heart for the earth

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EC+15 event at the Parliament of the World’s Religions

On Sunday October 18th, during the Parliament of the World´s Religions held in Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, a seminar entitled “The Earth Charter and the New UN Development Agenda” took place with the participation of three speakers including Mary Evelyn Tucker (co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University), Kusumita Pederson (professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis College New York), and Rick Clugston (ECI Advisor and Director at the Center for Earth Ethics).

Here is a summary of the key points they brought to this session.

-Mary Evelyn Tucker  Watch the video here.

Ms. Tucker briefly explained the process that took place to draft the Earth Charter. She emphasized that the Charter is a civil society document and the fact that the initial idea emerged during the preparatory process to the Earth Summit in 1992.

The contents of Earth Charter are ethical principles that join practical and policy issues. The Charter shows the relationship between ecology, justice, and peace. It provides a new perspective on the connection between people and the planet. The language of the Charter is inclusive and inspiring. The Earth Charter International Secretariat office was set up at the University for Peace in Costa Rica for guiding this movement. She said “the earth is alive” and recalled that at the 1997 Rio Conference, when the first draft was discussed, the indigenous people participating at that occasion were weeping because their world view was included in an international document for the first time.

Ms. Tucker suggested that, “The Earth Charter represents and reflects a language of a movement from a declaration of independence to a declaration of interdependence”. The world needs a new shift, which is not just for individuals, but for the whole earth community, all humans, animals, and all life in the ecosystem. It is a new geological era and we are all in this great transition. People’s energy force and actions could make a change and help the earth flourish.

Ms. Tucker stated that people are having a new “migration”, like birds and turtles finding their home. With the Earth Charter, we need to find the way home, back into the earth community.

– Kusumita Pederson Watch video here.

Dr. Kusumita Pedersen is Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis College in New York. She presented the Earth Charter in the larger context of global ethics. Like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which emphasizes human dignity, the Earth Charter also did the broad research necessary to find universally applicable ethics.

Dr. Pederson explained that people have different worldviews: the way one sees things and what one believes is real. For instance, some people may believe that certain groups of people or beings are less valuable than other groups.

The Earth Charter is distinctive because it honors all living communities, including different groups of human beings and different forms of life. This is a paradigm shift. Although it did not mention God, the Earth Charter does use the language of spirituality. For example, the Preamble states, “The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.”

Environmental problems have the potential to affect people’s worldviews and cause wars and conflicts. Killings and genocide often happen when there is a resource or food scarcity crisis (such as the droughts in the Middle East and ecological factors in the Rwandan genocide), and when some people are told that other people are less important than they are as a result. The Earth Charter was the first international document that used the word love. It represents the opposite worldview from genocide and all kinds of discrimination. The central ideas of the Earth Charter are justice, peace, and sustainability.

Dr. Pederson also echoed Ms. Tucker’s thought that civil society strategy is very deliberately adopted in the Earth Charter and the Charter is accepted by the UNESCO.

– Rick Clugston  Watch video here.

Rick Clugston gave a brief description of the evolution and negotiation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and used the Earth Charter as an assessment framework to look at the SDGs. Launched in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused on helping people address disadvantages and poverty, improving their living conditions, education, health, and income within 15 years.

The MDGs achieved some successful results, however, at the Rio +20 Conference in 2012, people knew that the MDGs were not sufficient to address many challenges and that global society needed to create new development goals. The central question is: how can we create a world that allows development for all and the flourishing of the ecological system? Over 2013 and 2014, governments and civil society intensely negotiated on the SDGs. The SDGs affirmed that we need a fundamental shift from the present economic paradigm to a new sustainable worldview to protect the whole Earth community.

Mr. Clugston quoted Klaus Bosselmann, a renowned environmental law scholar who has been promoting the Earth Charter for many years:

“The Earth Charter provides a strong definition of sustainable development, recognizing the three standard pillars: social, environmental and economic, but organizing them in a particular way. ‘Environment’ is not merely the resource base for human consumption, not just one of the three factors to be considered. Rather, it incorporates the greater community of life including human beings and the life-support systems on which we all depend. This shift to a broader life-centered perspective marks one key difference between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ sustainability. Furthermore, the social dimension (articulated in the Earth Charter in terms of principles for economic and social justice, democracy, non-violence and peace) represents a set of pre-requisites and goals for sustainable development rather than negotiable or merely optional considerations.”

The Earth itself and the whole community of life have inherited values. Mr. Clugston concluded that we are shifting from an inequitable fossil fuel based world to a better one that is more in line with the vision of the Earth Charter.

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Theologian Leonardo Boff reflects on the linkages between the Earth Charter and the Pope’s Encyclical

Similarities between the Encyclical Laudato si’: “On Care for our Common Home” and the Earth Charter, “Earth, Our Home”

By Leonardo Boff

The encyclical, Laudato sí’: On Care for our Common Home and The Earth Charter are two documents of worldwide relevance that coincidentally have many commonalities. They deal with the degradation of the Earth and life in its many forms, departing from the conventional vision expressed through environmentalism. They subscribe to a new relational and holistic paradigm, the only one, perhaps, which is still capable of giving us hope.

The Earth Charter is echoed in the encyclical, which, in one of its most fundamental passages, proclaims, “I dare to propose again this precious challenge: as never before in history, the common destiny calls on us to seek a new beginning.” (p. 207). That new beginning is being undertaken by Pope Francis.

Let us enumerate, among others, some of the similarities between the two documents.

In the first place, one sees the same spirit running through the two texts: in their analytical form, gathering the best scientific data; in their critical form, denouncing the present system that puts the Earth out of balance; and in their hopeful form, offering solutions. They do not surrender to resignation, but rather trust in the human capacity to create a new lifestyle and in the renewing actions of the Creator, “Lord who lovest the living” (Wis. 11, 26).

They have the same starting point. The Earth Charter states, “The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species.” (Preamble, 3). The encyclical repeats, “…we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair…the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view…” (p. 61).

They make the same proposals. The Earth Charter affirms, “Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living.” (Preamble, 4). The encyclical emphasizes, “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in ‘lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.’” (p. 5).

A great innovation, central to the new cosmologic and ecological paradigm, is the following affirmation in the Earth Charter, “Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.” (Preamble, 4). The encyclical echoes this assertion: there are some threads that run through the entire document, “…the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.” (p. 16). This suggests solidarity among all, shared sobriety and replacing “…consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing…” (p. 9).

The Earth Charter mentions the “spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life (Preamble 5). Similarly, the encyclical affirms, “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.» (p. 92). That is the universal Franciscan fraternity.

The Earth Charter emphasizes that it is our duty to “Respect and care for the community of life. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.” (Pillar 1 and Principle 1). The entire encyclical, starting with its title, “On Care for Our Common Home”, makes a sort of refrain from this mandate. It proposes “a more passionate concern for the protection of our world.” (p. 216) and “‘a culture of care’ which permeates all of society.” (p.231). Here caring emerges not as mere perfunctory benevolence but as a new paradigm, a loving of life and of all that exists and lives.

Another important affinity is the value assigned to social justice. The Earth Charter maintains that there is a strong relationship between ecology and “social and economic justice” that works to “protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer…” (9. c). The encyclical reaches one of its highest points when it affirms that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (p.49).

Both The Earth Charter and the encyclical go against the current thinking in emphasizing that “…every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.” (1. a). Pope Francis reaffirms that “…all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” (p. 42). In the name of this understanding, the Pope strongly criticizes anthropocentrism (pps. 115-120), because it views humanity’s relationship with nature as using and devastating her, forgetting that human beings are a part of nature and that humanity’s mission is to be her guardian and protector.

The Earth Charter devised one of the best definitions of peace that has come from human reflection, “…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.” (16. f). If peace, as Pope Paul VI was accustomed to say, is “the equilibrium of movement” then the encyclical says that it is “ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God.” (n.210). The result of that process is the perennial peace so desired by all peoples.

These two documents are beacons that guide us in these somber times, and that are capable of returning to us the much-needed hope that we still can save our Common Home and ourselves.

Leonardo Boff is an ecotheologian and author of the book Ecology: Cry of the Earth – Cry of the Poor, Orbis 2002.

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Steven Rockefeller on Laudato Si' and the Earth Charter

Laudato Si and the Earth Charter, by Steven Rockefeller

Laudato Si, the new encyclical issued by Pope Francis, is to a large extent a carefully crafted Christian theological discourse in support of ethical and spiritual values that are also fundamental to the Earth Charter.  Pope Francis, therefore, chose to include a quotation from the Earth Charter in the encyclical, the first and last sentences of “The Way Forward”:

As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning….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.

Even though some Earth Charter supporters will question the position of Laudato Si on certain issues, Pope Francis’ strong endorsement of ideals and values that are central to the Earth Charter vision is something to celebrate. 

Both Laudato Si and the Earth Charter recognize that there is an ethical and spiritual dimension to the world’s social and environmental crises that must be addressed, if the human family is to find its way to a just and sustainable future.  In this regard, the Earth Charter stresses the urgent need for a relational spirituality that involves an ethic of respect and care for the community of life as a whole.  The major theme of Pope Francis’ encyclical is “care for our common home.”  He laments the increasing degradation of Earth’s ecosystems and the loss of natural beauty.  Like the Earth Charter, the encyclical rejects the widespread and problematical view in industrial-technological civilization that the natural world apart from humanity has utilitarian value only and is just a collection of resources that exist for human exploitation.  The imperative to care for creation in the Pope’s theological vision is inspired by a deep sense of the intrinsic value and interdependence of all beings—of plants, animals, forests, mountains, rivers and oceans. 

Pope Francis emphasizes throughout Laudato Si the unique and equal dignity of each and every human being, but the encyclical also makes clear that people are an interdependent part of nature.  With this interdependence and humanity’s special abilities and powers goes the responsibility to protect Earth’s biosphere.  Pope Francis understands the great risks for present and future generations that are created by climate change, and he endorses the view of the vast majority of scientists that climate change is being caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.  He gives special attention to the interconnections between ecological degradation and the suffering of the poor. 

Caring for our common home according to Pope Francis requires a radical cultural transformation.  It means ending poverty and advancing social and economic justice together with ecological restoration and protection.  He urges us to develop a new appreciation of the interrelationship between the world’s spiritual, ethical, social, economic and environmental challenges and to adopt holistic thinking and integrated planning.  He calls for a new global partnership of all nations and peoples infused with a spirit of cooperation and a readiness to share equitably the benefits of development.  To all of this the Earth Charter movement can only say Amen.  Laudato Si is a courageous and prophetic statement that will hopefully have a far-reaching impact as governments gather to make critical decisions regarding the human future in the months ahead. 

                                Steven Rockefeller
                                Member, Earth Charter Commission
                                June 25, 2015

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The Encyclical Laudato Si’ and the Earth Charter

Earth Charter International joins the millions of people and organizations that have congratulated Pope Francis and are hopeful about the release of the highly anticipated Laudato Si’ Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home, which significantly echoes the ethical vision proposed in the Earth Charter.

This encyclical has generated great expectations and commentary around the world. World leaders are expressing their satisfaction with this document and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which will have great influence at the COP 21 climate change negotiations in Paris later this year, but also in the transition to a new paradigm of human coexistence with the environment. The document calls for the cultivation of responsible care for creation, with special attention to the poorest who suffer most from environmental damage.

For the global Earth Charter network this document is paramount, as Pope Francis makes an explicit reference to the Earth Charter reference in paragraph 207 of Chapter Six on Ecological Education and Spirituality:

P. 207. The Earth Charter asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start, but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would echo that courageous challenge: “As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning… 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”.

Central messages

The encyclical highlights the ethics of care that is central to the Earth Charter, as well as emphasizes several important Earth Charter principles including universal responsibility, interdependence, the common good, economic and social justice, and the precautionary principle, among others. These are principles that should underlie a new global consciousness, as stated in the Sixth Chapter Ecological Education and Spirituality: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” (P. 202)

According to the press release of Radio Vaticana, a central question in Laudato Si’ is, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” The Pope addresses these in P.160, “This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal”. This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values at the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? … Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.”

What are Encyclical Letters and what is their significance?

Encyclicals are public and formal letters of the Pope expressing his teachings on matters of great importance (ref. Catholic.net). According to Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, the Encyclical letters are the most important documents of Catholic Church teaching. As such, Laudato Si’ will have great influence not only for the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, but also for billions of Christians of other denominations. Encyclicals, when dealing with social, economic or political issues, are commonly addressed not exclusively to Catholics but to all men and women of the world, especially world leaders, regardless of religion. This is the first time that an Encyclical addresses the issues of environment and sustainability, and for this reason and the great popularity of Pope Francisco, the document has generated great expectations.

In various statements, several published in the New York Times, Pope Francis has made clear that he expects that this Encyclical will influence energy and economic policies, as well as encourage a global movement for sustainability, calling on people to put pressure on politicians for change.

At Earth Charter International, we will continue to analyze the background of this Encyclical, and how we can join forces to raise awareness of the ethical and moral dimensions of environmental challenges and sustainability issues humanity faces, and how we can find solutions to change the global paradigm towards a more just, sustainable, and peaceful society.

Find the full text of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ here: http://bit.ly/1Gi1BTu

Links to other articles on the Encyclical:

 

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