From 27 June to 4 July, a group of about 60 participants gathered in Rome and Assisi for the Spirituality and Sustainability Conference, convened by The Center for Ethics of Saint Thomas University in Florida and The Center for Earth Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Earth Charter International was among the many co-sponsors of this unique event. The programme involved diverse informal moments for participants to share and connect, as well as panel presentations and discussions on:
– Encyclical Laudato Si´
– Thomas Berry Vision, Saints Francis and Claire
– Ecological Spirituality and its Indigenous Roots
– The Great Transition: Earth Charter and Ecological Civilization
– Transformative Paths: Education and Policy Advocacy
At the Earth Charter panel, Marryssa Pallis, an Honors student majoring in Political Science at Florida Gulf Coast University, opened the discussion with a wonderful presentation on the various and continuous efforts of FGCU in bringing the Earth Charter over the years to various courses, programmes and research projects, engaging and inspiring the student community with its articulated ethical vision of sustainability.
Sofia van Winden, from the Soetendorp Institute for Human Values in The Netherlands shared her thoughts on the importance of ecocentric values and spirituality in international cooperation, which has been a largely anthropocentric field focused on economic growth. She raised the question of whether modern development models can respond adequately to current concerns and asserted that adequate responses require a thorough analysis of the values that underpin global development policies. She also discussed her involvement in organizing a task force on the Earth Charter and Inter-faith spirituality.
Song Li, member of Earth Charter Associates and an ECI Advisor, shared a reflection on the current Chinese model of development; this model was successful in getting many people out of poverty, but it caused many other problems for the environment and people´s health. She suggested that China requires strong efforts to improve social and environment conditions, and for that a change of people’s minds and hearts is essential. She emphasized that the Chinese cultural tradition is very rich in regards to the relationship between people and nature, as well as the importance of building on and reviving traditional values for the common good of humanity.
Tommy Short, member of the Earth Charter International Council, shared his belief that sustainability should be considered a logical transition and that we all need to embrace a new sense of future looking at the impact of our actions in the long term. He stressed his ongoing commitment to the Earth Charter Initiative mission and the importance of engaging the private sector at all levels in this vision.
Mirian Vilela, ECI Secretariat Executive Director, who moderated the panel, offered an overview of the Earth Charter movement and highlighted the fact that many discussions that helped to polish the Earth Charter text took place in Assisi towards the end of the 90s, especially around the principle of compassion.
She stressed the importance of the notion of Earth Community that is articulated in the Earth Charter and that it is found in the thinking of St. Francis and Thomas Berry. She concluded with a reflection on Principle 2 of the Earth Charter that makes a call to care for the community of life, understanding, wisdom and largeness of heart is essential.
The Conference continued with a panel on Education where Professors Peter Blaze Corcoran and Maria Roca from FGCU shared their experience in bringing the Earth Charter vision to their university, teaching practice and research efforts.
The Planning Committee of the Conference involved Rev. Msgr. Terence E. Hogan, Rick Clugston, Elisabetta M. Ferrero, Joe Holland, and Arthur W. Kane.
You can also read the Blog from Maryssa Pallis on this at: