Inspiration on Earth Day. Webinars on 22 April 2020

Earth Charter International celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, with three webinars, each one in a different language: English, Spanish and Portuguese. Our purpose with these webinars was to open a space of dialogue and reflection regarding the theme of Earth Day this year, the climate crisis, and the current global crisis we are experiencing, with the COVID-19 pandemic, through the lenses of the Earth Charter. These three seminars involved about 1,000 participants on April 22 and some 10,000 people have subsequently viewed the recording of them on YouTube.

First Webinar: Worldviews, Systems Thinking, and Values in the Planetary Phase of Human Civilization: during and beyond the pandemic.  With Fritjof Capra and Sam Crowell. (English)

Second Webinar: Towards a New Paradigm of Earth Community: Collaboration in Times of and Beyond the Pandemic. With Leonardo Boff and Mateo Castillo. (Spanish)

Third Webinar: Towards a New Sense of Global Interdependence and Universal Responsibility in Times of Crisis. With Ricardo Young, Rose Marie Inojosa and Marina Silva. (Portuguese)

In each seminar, the moderator Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of Earth Charter International, started the dialogue with a brief introduction and a series of questions which provided an opportunity for each guest to offer their perspective. These are some of the questions:

  • What are the linkages between a healthy planet, healthy people, climate change and the current pandemic?
  • Which kind of planetary consciousness we ought to have? How do we cultivate the common good of all and how can the Earth Charter be used in this?
  • What does the Earth Community worldview include and what is the role of education in cultivating that? What is the role of education in this planetary phase of human civilization and in stimulating climate action?
  • What is the relevance of a sense of interdependence and universal responsibility for the current times?
  • What are the major roadblocks to move humanity into an era of collaboration and human-nature harmony? And how to overcome them?

We invite you to see the recordings and enjoy the wealth of ideas and inspiration from these excellent speakers.

Some key messages from the speakers:

Fritjof Capra

Ph.D., Physicist and Systems Theorist, is a Founding Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California

“In my view, the coronavirus must be seen as biological response of Gaia, to the ecological and social emergency that humanity has brought upon itself.  We have exceeded Earth capacity to fulfill our consumption patterns.”

Fritjof Capra affirmed that, until now, our political and corporate leaders have stubbornly resisted the warning of scientific evidence about the environmental crisis. Now, our elites are forced to pay attention, as COVID-19 has brought the early warning to real time. Intrusions in ecosystems are destroying the balance between species, and as such, this virus jumped to humans. This has happened many times in human history.  Population density is a key variable for spreading the virus, and it’s a consequence of profit maximizing.

“Worldwide health crisis is going hand in hand with economic crisis,” he said.  But, from the perspective of Mother Earth, there are positive consequences, pollution of many cities have disappeared and CO2 emissions have decreased.  This doesn’t mean that we want to continue in this situation, but we have seen what is possible when people see that their life is at risk.  We know that the world can respond with coherence when there is political will.

Fritjof Capra affirmed that we have the technologies to do a shift from an undifferentiated extractive growth to a regenerative qualitative growth, to use clean energy and organic and regenerative growth, he wonders if there will be the political will to change. 

“Will we be guided by the ethical principles so beautifully expressed in the Earth Charter?” He asked. “We don’t know, but the corresponding social policies, that were unthinkable before, are now been considered,” he added.

About the concept of Earth Community and how education can promote it, Fritjof said, the systems view of life, is a view that sees life in terms of relationships, patterns, and contexts.  Nature sustains life by nurturing communities. Ecosystems are sustainable communities, of plants, microorganisms.  So we can learn from nature how to build nurturing communities.  We should bring these ecological principles into education, I call this ecological literacy.

Fritjof Capra commented on the evidence that there has been a paradigm shift in many segments of civil society, noticing that at least in the United States there is a majority of people wanting to take climate action, as well as action against gun control; however, at least in the US, Congress doesn’t respond to these demands. In this sense, he thinks that one of the major roadblocks for collaboration during this crisis is the obsession of our political leaders with the illusion of continuing corporate and economic growth.

Regarding the question of how to make the Earth Charter actionable in different parts of society, Fritjof said that the COVID pandemic can teach us something, that we can overcome this with collaboration.  It is our collaborative efforts, by social distancing, washing our hands, and wearing masks, what will help us overcome the crisis.  It is behavior for the common good, which means ethical behavior.  “The principles of ethical behavior are laid out in the Earth Charter.  So the Earth Charter during this pandemic is an extremely valuable tool to practice our ethical behavior.”

Sam Crowell

Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Education at California State University San Bernardino and former Director at the Center for Research in Integrative Learning and Teaching

During this webinar, Sam Crowell emphasized the importance of a paradigm shift as one of the prerequisites to bring about changes to address the crisis we are living.  He sees education as a cultural project, that is fundamentally tied to the metaphors of a culture and its worldview. When a worldview is not adequate for the times, the social institutions begin to struggle, and the consequences will continue to be felt.  When the worldview is inadequate, it can’t open up to creative ways to address issues. 

“We see that the world is interconnected, we can’t isolate one aspect of our situatedness, the world is connected in ways that we can’t imagine.  Complexity is part of our existence.  Because we are connected, all that we do is important, it will make a difference. Every one of us, from a systemic perspective, can have an impact in changing things.”

Regarding the Earth Community concept and how education can promote it, Sam Crowell referred to the Earth Charter text, where it says that we are one human family, one Earth Community with one common destiny. He said that those metaphors of community and family once we see they are wrapped up in the notions of interconnectedness start to create its imaginary view, a worldview.  A worldview is how we perceive things and how we look at the world and ourselves in relation to the world.  We are always in relation with that world, we are coupled with the environment, as Humbert Maturana affirms. When we identify with that notion, our inseparability with the environment, then that worldview of Earth Community becomes more tangible. 

Sam Crowell also referred to the role of education for sustainable development during this pandemic.  He said that if a systemic view of life is incorporated in education systems, then it can become a reality. But, the way it is incorporated is important, in this sense he affirmed that an experiential learning about systems, about the values and principles of the Earth Charter is what can make education transformative.

“I think education systems should focus on the hearts and minds, sustainability should be the central purpose of education, and the ethical principles of the Earth Charter.”

Sam added that organizations and institutions all reflect a set of values, and sense of purpose. “It’s important to challenge the values in these institutions, and ask: are these the ones we want to follow?” he asked. He suggested that we should question the values of education especially if the values we are following are not helping in the current situation.

About the Earth Charter, Sam argued that “if we look at it as statement, we miss its value or potential, because the Charter was meant to be a dialogue. The Earth Charter is an open conversation of the essential values that are needed in XXI Century.  The dialogue goes around how to put it into practice, we should try to grapple the principles, struggle to see how to implement these principles into action.”

Leonardo Boff

Theologian, Philosopher and Writer. Member, Earth Charter Commission

“I see the Earth Charter in the following way, it has helped us to rediscover Earth,” with these words, Leonardo Boff began sharing on the new paradigm of the Earth community, with which, he affirms, we perceive ourselves as a single entity: humanity and Earth.

“For me, the new paradigm is ‘Earth.’ We have countries with their geographical limits, but now the great task, as Chardin said, is to see Earth, as a common house. “The Earth Charter gives us an ethic, some principles, a formula for living with all human beings. It talks about the community of life. It is not that the Earth is there and we are here, we form a unit. The Earth is alive, it is our home, with a unique diversity of life. The Earth has its limitations, we have to take care of it, so it is a challenge to take care of it.”

On the COVID-19 crisis, Boff mentioned: “The virus seems to me to be a counterattack by Earth to us, to give us a signal, so that we reflect and stop this violence (against Earth).”

Coming out of the crisis, and referring to the final part of the Earth Charter, “the common destiny calls us to a new beginning,” Boff affirmed the importance of changing the mind, not thinking of the Earth as a trunk of resources, and change the heart, “we need to cultivate a sensible reason to hear the cry of the Earth and the poor.”

On this planetary consciousness and the common good, Boff mentioned that the Earth Charter provides elements for a new consciousness, based on a sense of interdependence of all with all and universal responsibility and care, promoting values ​​contrary to the consumer culture.

On how to transform consciousness, Boff mentioned that it is important to move away from a logic of competition and rescue the sensible and cordial reason. “We have inflated the importance of technical-scientific reason, we must develop the heart.” While recognizing the richness of diversity, we can move towards a more humane and compassionate conscience.

For this change, spirituality is fundamental, mentioned Boff, which is not religiosity, but is the deepest dimension of the human being. “Just as we have the body that is in contact with the cosmic energies, we have the psyche with our dreams, archetypes, passions, and the depths of us, the big dreams, the big questions, where do I come from, where am I going, what is my purpose on this Earth.” Boff argues that cultivating the spirit is essential in order to generate that new consciousness. “The kingdom of the spirit is made of friendship, solidarity, passion, and love.”

In relation to one of the challenges to harmonize diversity with unity, and promote the common good, Boff mentioned that it is important to build peace, since it does not exist naturally, it must be built. Practicing solidarity, Boff mentioned, is part of that construction of peace, this has allowed us to make the leap from animality to humanity. “A spirit of kinship, as the Earth Charter says, it is not enough to know it with your head, you have to practice it, transform it into an emotion, of caring for the Earth, feeling like brothers and sisters, from the Common House.”

How to keep the flame of hope in the current context? This question from the public generated a beautiful reflection on the part of Boff, who replied: “There is a phrase from Saint Augustine, one of the great thinkers of Christianity, that says: we have the three virtues: faith, that if we lose it, we can continue living, love, that if we lose it, we can find another love, but we cannot lose hope, because if we lose it, the alternative is suicide. Hope has two beautiful sisters: outrage and courage. We have to fall in love with sister outrage and marry sister courage. Maybe we can’t change the whole situation in the world, but I can change the world that is in me. It has to start with me, the energy that one emits spreads throughout the world, fueling the wave of outrage. Starting with us, changing our way of being, and this spreads like rays of light, strengthening all of us who work for the good of the Earth. We can imagine ourselves as a seed, it has everything it needs inside. That seed that we are, growing and caring for it, becomes the beginning of a new world that is going to be born, which will be a tsunami of goodness.”

On education and the change of conscience, Boff mentioned that it is important to overcome the atomization of the various knowledge, materials, to see them as windows to the same reality. It is important to help students make connections. Promote an eco-pedagogy that considers all knowledge in function of life and that they are connected, in addition to incorporating ethics.

Boff mentioned that we can learn from the wisdom of the Earth when we feel part of it, feeling the rain, the sun, the hunger, the joy of eating. It is to be attentive, to observe, to admire we feel with the depth of the soul, and this opens us to coexistence with others.

Final message: “I wish that everyone can read the Earth Charter, internalize it, because it is a text of high ethics, bearing a spirituality and a new vision of the world… And that, without concern, letting ourselves be carried away by this wave, the result will be a deep peace, I wish that everyone has that peace, that it saves them from this virus, and that life is stronger than death, and God who is God of life will triumph.”

Mateo Castillo

Earth Charter Focal Point in Mexico. Member, Earth Charter International Council

Mateo Castillo extended an invitation to transform and reinvent the current paradigm in the context of the global crisis that goes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Mateo recalled that global threats include nuclear and biological warfare, climate change and technological disorganization; therefore, “the paradigm must confront these threats and turn them into opportunities.”

“This new paradigm requires a deep synergy of values ​​that I have only seen manifested in The Earth Charter. I have not seen an ethical document that collects and harmonizes values ​​with such clarity and wisdom, placing them right through principles to promote conscious actions in humanity in the search to a better world.”

This paradigm, commented Mateo “favors the creation of a being that is Creative, Loving, Pacific, Autonomous (free) and Sustainable.”

Mateo recounted six scenarios where we have opportunities to transform the paradigm: “social, economic, environmental, cultural, political and spiritual; all these scenarios need harmonizing, re-understanding each other to achieve a new lifestyle.”

He emphasized the last scenario, on which he said he will dedicate the rest of his life; which for him involves the transformation of conscience, the spiritual dimension.” Anger/rage, selfishness, indifference, envy, denial, etc., are conflicts that do not allow us to grow spiritually… From this (spiritual) dimension, the most important decisions are made and the main meaning of lifetime. This means the capacity for relationship and connection that all beings have with each other, generating information and constituting the energy network that sustains the entire universe.”

On the challenges we have to harmonize diversity with unity and promote the common good, Mateo mentioned that “the challenge is ourselves. Our internal demons as a society: hatred, discrimination, ambition, pride, greed, individualism, etc., which does not allow us to harmonize unity.

He added that “in order to face the challenges, we must trust our faith, which allows us to turn our attention to an ethical framework, it is here that the Earth Charter challenge humanity to implement it in our way of living together and of doing things. For this reason, the Earth Charter remains a permanent force.”

Mateo concluded by saying that from this pandemic we have an opportunity to change course, based on a paradigm “that allows a new world that is diverse but united around solidarity and healthy concern for the common good. A cooperative world and that solidarity is exercised in a global way… We need a new way of thinking to save the Earth and this way of thinking can be built on the values ​​and principles that the Earth Charter shares with us.”

Rose Marie Inojosa

Former Director of the Open University of the Environment and Culture of Peace (UMAPAZ) São Paulo

Interdependence has been demonstrated with this pandemic and with the inevitable collective effort to continue living. The matter at hand is to practice the sense of universal responsibility – how is shared responsibility perceived in such a complex and unequal society? How can we answer for our own actions and those of others? How do you perceive yourself as co-responsible for people, for living beings, for the Planet? And how can this responsibility be manifested? A great form of this demonstration is social solidarity. The poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade said that “love is learned by loving” — we are learning to understand interdependence and we are learning to exercise solidarity – an expression of universal and shared responsibility.

We are living a great opportunity, which is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to transform our world, our cities and our communities.

We have before us various possibilities for the future – to return to the direction we were taking (since it will not be possible to return exactly to where we were) or, with the support of the Earth Charter, to take a step towards a new direction, hand in hand with the human family and the other families of this Community of Life. Hopefully, it is a new beginning. The community of life walking together with the respect that we sometimes leave aside.

Ricardo Young

President, Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility and Institute Democracies and Sustainability

What this crisis is revealing to us is a visceral interdependence, of the human being with the community of life. There will be no way out with another discourse that is not integrating and regenerating. We will only be able to regenerate the social fabric if, at the same time, we regenerate the planet and the fabric of life on this planet.

The hegemonic forces presented no solution for our world, putting it where it is now. And the forces that are responding to this, in this moment of crisis, are forces that dialogue with the principles articulated in the Earth Charter — we are a planetary community. The rest is fiction. We are only going to solve our problems interdependently.

In this crisis, we physically move away to find ourselves virtually, ceasing to live with each other and at the same time we are sharing a common destiny. The Earth Charter is, since its creation, a new ethical reference — there will only be social justice if we understand the centrality of life through the reintegration of the human being with the community of life. I see the Earth Charter as humanity’s ethical compass. In it, we find solid elements on the way forward. To give consistency to actions. We live in a planetary world, here and now.

Marina Silva

Historian, and former Senator and Minister of Environment

It is necessary to have the structures that set in motion a new way of being. To establish a social bond. This happens when I, in the present, connect with the past and with the future. Loving is an investment. We have to think about this crisis of civilization experience from the perspective of global interdependence and universal responsibility. How do we take ownership of it? How do we make meaning out of this experience of crisis? If we cannot create meaning for this experience, we will be changed by it and we will not change from it. We had a desire to change. But the pandemic surprised us — we should have changed ourselves before being changed. Now we are already being changed. What brought us success is what is leading us to failure. We will not have a massive “awakening” of people because many are eager to “get back to normal.” The community of service is what shows the interdependence between all forms of life. The State has another role in the face of the crisis, being the State of service, offering the leadership of service and not of power. It is this community of service that shows interdependence.

The values ​​of the Earth Charter must be the investment to feel more democratic, more culturally diverse. The principles of the Earth Charter make life more creative, productive and free. We must do with people, leaving the old logic of doing for people.

We are not aware of identification we have with the current system. And the “un-identification” occurs unconsciously from spaces of dialogues, from our painful or loving experiences. And when we find out, we are already “un-identified” with the current system, when this happens, we can no longer return to the patterns practiced by the majority. There we have two paths: being a person who pays the price to change reality or we become cynical people, seeing how things happen without taking any attitude.