Inclusive Leaders Explore the Earth Charter

Guest post by Linda Hill, Inclusive Leadership Co-operative

Honour and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.” (Earth Charter, Principle 12)

What is a great way to involve children, youth and their families in learning about the Earth Charter pillars of respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, non-violence and peace? Organize an Inclusive Leadership Adventure! In February, 2015 on the West Coast of Canada, volunteers from the Inclusive Leadership Co-operative partnered with the Gabriola Island Elementary School Parent Advisory Committee to honor and support their Seventh Grade students and older youth to build awareness and skills for creating sustainable lives based on respect for all living beings.

Twenty Seventh Graders, twenty older youth and twenty adults spent three days developing Inclusive Leadership skills for bringing the Earth Charter to life in their homes, schools, and communities. Throughout the weekend, the Earth Charter provided a global framework for personal and local leadership development based on respect for diversity. An amazing array of activities raised awareness of the vital role each person plays in forging inclusive solutions in response to ecological and social concerns. The participants learned through co-operative games, art, drama, story-telling, and social justice workshops. They learned through nature walks, playing in the rain, opportunities to help in the kitchen, heart-to-heart discussions about personal lives, hula-hoop contests, costume parades, and a couple of hours of getting the adrenaline rushing while flying high on some incredibly fun rope swings.

Here are a few gleanings from participants and facilitators that highlight some of the ways this Inclusive Leadership Adventure brought the Earth Charter to life for this inter-generational learning community.

“At an Inclusive Leadership Adventure nothing is embarrassing because the gold at the end of rainbow is respect for the magnificence of diversity.”

“Inclusive Leaders take time for those who matter. Since every form of life has value this means taking time for everyone and everything.”

“One pillar of the Earth Charter is democracy, non-violence and peace so don’t argue or punch or be mean, don’t do things that make people die, and don’t bring drugs around us.”

“The Earth Charter says life can mean difficult choices. I really liked how we could use the skill of challenge by choice to choose to do whatever we want. We were with friendly, supportive people who encouraged us all to do the right thing. We got to make choices on where and how we were going to spend our time, including some of us helping in the kitchen and learning how to cook and clean up. The next thing I would like our whole class to work on is the skill of making choices that leave out losing.”

“Children, youth and adults can all realize our full potential to create a society free of discrimination.  I know lots of things about justice and about nature. People here really listened to what I had to say. The adults learned a lot from me.”

“So much was learned and shared over the weekend of exploring Inclusive Leadership within the Earth Charter framework, starting with building our skills for communicating with compassion. We came away from the weekend having learned so many new tools, new games for team building, and workshops from using computers to telling digital stories, to Anti-discrimination First Aid, creative writing, and even a dress-up show time. The whole four days was fabulous, I feel that this kind of inclusive team building is so valuable for our kids and especially the ones heading off the island for high school.”

“When students go to high school we will meet and get to know people from a wide spectrum of gender and sexuality orientations. Although the Earth Charter affirms gender equality and equity, it needs to be expanded to affirm the equality and equity of the full spectrum.”

“The Earth Charter says to transmit values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities. This boils down to doing what we love, encouraging others to get involved in what they love to do. Ball sports, hockey, and soccer are my life. I’ve learned determination, persistence, and how to practice until I become really good. Other kids learn the same things through music, dance, nature, or even cooking yummy desserts. Becoming really good at something is both a comfort and strong protection for living good lives.”

“I have come to realize that the reward of being an Inclusive Leader involves being entrusted to carry out important responsibilities. Even though so much is unknown, there is so much support. I really felt like I came into my own through the process of putting together something really beautiful that declared our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.’”

In summary, this Inclusive Leadership Adventure was a time of doing what the Earth Charter says so well in the Way Forward, “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.”