On 1 and 2 December, the ECI Conference, “Putting Planetary Well-being at the Core: A call to Turn our Conscience into Action,” was held with the purpose of bringing together people from all over the world to learn, share, and build new perspectives for turning conscience into action for a thriving Earth.
We are grateful with the participation of all who joined us and who supported this effort. Most importantly we are happy with the connections that were made, the talks held in the garden, under the trees or over the breaks and lunches. Providing a space for Earth Charter (EC) Young Leaders, Affiliates and EC friends to connect and exchange is what makes such a gathering meaningful.
The conference was opened with a brief remark from Mirian Vilela, ECI Executive Director, encouraging all to see the possibilities of changing the dominant narrative drawing on successful examples of contributing to planetary well-being; and from Michael Bracken, Chair of the ECI Board, sharing some insights we can learn from the butterflies and their short life span, the need for pollinating.
The first morning session was centered around what Planetary Health and Well-Being are, and why they’re so important. Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota said, “We need to learn how to live with nature, not against it. Earth doesn’t lie.” He reminded us that in his native language there are no “things” or “its,” everything is alive and interconnected. Fritjof Capra, Systems Theorist and ECI Council Member, emphasized the importance of the systems view of life and ethics for a common good, and highlighted the value of the Earth Charter. He said: “We must move to a civilization based on regeneration rather than extraction: an ecological civilization… The Earth Charter is really a magnificent summary of the kind of ethics we need for planetary well-being.”
Sam Crowell, ECI Council member and ECI Education Center Faculty, rounded out this first session with grounding exercises and bringing our attention to envisioning a threshold or a portal. His presentation offered important ideas on “Using the Earth Charter as a Portal for Awakening Planetary Well-being and Regenerative Learning.” “Once you start ‘Earth-Charter-ing’ you cannot go back,” Crowell said.
The second session was centered around examples of policies, projects, and actions that contribute to planetary well-being. We heard from Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta, former Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, who shared some of the ways in which Costa Rica has led the way in terms of ensuring free access to health care, right to potable water, and good quality education as well as the unique case of increasing the forest cover of the country. Ma Shuang, director of the International Exchanges Department at Liaoning University, shared some reflections on the change of lifestyles between the current and past generation of young people in China and their challenge to enter a path in education to help build consciousness to the need of reorienting society towards an ecological civilization.
The third session of the first day offered an opportunity to reflect on how our contributions to planetary well-being can be measured. We were joined by Olman Segura Bonilla, Director of the International Centre of Economic Policy for Sustainable Development of the National University of Costa Rica, who underlined the importance of indicators and indexes in helping us pay attention or see what is sometimes invisible. Ricardo Young, member of the ECI Council and the founder of the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility said “We belong to nature. We are nature. We need to learn how-to live-in symbiosis with nature and build on existing instruments of measurement.” Carlos Álvarez Pereira, Vice President of the Club of Rome, shared some reflections on the limits to growth.
The second day of our ECI Conference started with an interesting conversation on “The quest of Planetary Well-being and its implications to education. Initial remarks were shared by Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability, York University (Canada), Kartikeya Sarabhai, ECI Council Chair and Director, Center for Environment Education (India) and Alexander Leicht, Director, Oficina Multipaís, UNESCO San José (Germany). They offered an overview of some UN and UNESCO efforts in the past 20 to 30 years on reorienting education towards sustainability.
This was followed by a session on “Planetary Well-being, Education, and Consciousness,” were Grian Cutanda, Executive Director, The Earth Stories Collection, (Spain) presented on the importance of stories and particularly traditional stories in influencing our worldviews and on the Earth Stories Collection project. Mark Hathaway, ECI Education Center Faculty and Lecturer, University of Toronto (Canada) stressed that in order to achieve authentic health and well-being for the Earth Community, we need to decolonize systems and mindsets and for that a new kind of education is needed. And Joan Anderson, International Office of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai (United Kingdom /Japan) shared, among other things, key principles related to the Soka Gakkai Buddhist approach to education such as gratitude and intergenerational dialogue.
In the last session on “What legacy of Planetary Well-being do we want to leave for future generations?” we heard from EC Young Leaders, Melchor Muñoz, Laura Restrepo and Amanda Bennet on their enriching experience in facilitating the Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics course for young people; and also from Atsufumi Yokoi, Senior Vice President for Global Engagement Strategy and UNESCO Chairholder in Research and Education for Sustainable Development, Okayama University (Japan), who highlighted the importance of engaging and empowering youth in any process for expanding our understanding of planetary well-being.
Participants were deeply engaged in three breakout sessions dealing with worldviews, education and evaluating contributions to planetary well-being. Click here to find out more details and here to see the list of speakers.
We are grateful for our sponsors for their generous support and for believing in our work: Edward & Jeanne Bracken Memorial Fund, Medcom Benefits, Soka Gakkai International, Okayama University, Breesap Green Link and contributions in the memory of Debbie Crowell.