Patricia Abuhab and The Earth Charter Game: An Education Strategy for Sustainability

Thirty years ago, I decided that my contribution to a better world was through education in formal and non-formal spaces. Schools, teachers, students and communities have always been my companions on this path of teaching-learning, of individual and collective growth. I deeply believe in our transformational potential. In the processes of education for sustainability that I develop, Ecopedagogy and the Earth Charter are my main foundations. One of my personal challenges is developing educational processes that balance reason and emotion, that stimulate creativity, sensitivity, reflection and dialogue for the inspiration of more conscious and coherent practical actions with the planetary context in which we live. The transformation we want to see in the world occurs daily, in the here and now. The constant search for coherence and for our true essence as human beings, in my opinion, is one of the ways for the transformation of individual and collective reality, simultaneously. It becomes increasingly necessary to get out of the comfort zone, to not get used to or settle for situations, but to persist in building a more harmonious, just and sustainable society for all. I feel that, every year, it is more urgent to question ourselves to ask ourselves about our role in this global community, of which we are part. Change begins with us.

I am a restless, questioning and inquisitive person. The visible and deep ethical crisis that humanity has lived through for many years has always touched and stimulated my educational actions. I deeply believe in the ability to transform ourselves, to constantly review our values ​​and attitudes. In the teaching-learning paths that I have traveled in schools and communities I have always found, at the same time, anguish and the pulsating desire of people to want to know how they can collaborate towards a better world.

The need is strong, for tools and strategies that reconnect us with the perception that we are part of a community of unique life, that is totally interconnected and that shares, and is generously welcomed by the planet. In the sense of planetarity and a loving and careful systemic vision, the Earth Charter brings essential reflections. It works like a compass, a north that indicates fundamental inspirations for new actions. They are principles and values ​​that guide us towards a new path, for the common good, for sustainability.

My first encounter with the Earth Charter was in one of the countless meetings held during the Charter construction process. In 1999, I participated in one of these meetings at the Paulo Freire Institute in São Paulo (Brazil). From that day on, I was deeply delighted, grateful and excited about the inclusive and participatory way in which the Earth Charter Commission conducted the process of building the Charter in dialogue with multiple organizations, communities and people around the world.

It was then that, throughout my work as an environmental educator, I felt the need to make the Earth Charter not only known by teachers, students and community agents, but, mainly, that it was experienced, that it came out of the rational sphere and that was towards the awakening of the senses, of the imaginary, of the important exercise of coexistence in a time in which human relationships are increasingly virtual. I believe in creative, libertarian, innovative, stimulating educational processes that enhance the virtues and abilities of each one, that promote dialogue, the exchange of ideas and knowledge, that increase the perception of the world, of the environment in which we live, that enrich interpersonal relationships and, finally, that nurture personal and collective growth.

But how do you do this? I dived into myself for inspiration. I connected with my inner girl, who reminded me that from an early age I always liked games. I used to play with my family and with my friends. But one thing that caught my attention in most games was that there was always one winner and many losers. I was wondering: why couldn’t it be different? Why couldn’t the world be less competitive? The logic of most games is to win alone. I always thought that winning with another would be much more beautiful and fun, as opposed to winning alone. This is also the logic or modus operandi that guides relationships in the contemporary world. A competitive world of exclusion, domination and exploitation. I think the world has already experienced a lot of this logic and has been suffering in all areas from the consequences of this.

With this concern, with inspiration from my childhood and life story, I and three other friends decided to create a cooperative board game for all ages and to propose the experience of the principles and values ​​of the Earth Charter. There were years of research and development of this material.

We perceived that creating an educational game would be an excellent strategy for disseminating the content of the Earth Charter. A game that reflects humanity’s current challenge: either everyone wins together or everyone loses. Through play, stimulating people to connect with the current planetary reality, learning, reflecting, exchanging experiences, knowledge, love and joy. Board games have this binding power to promote coexistence, to strengthen relationships. In the Earth Charter Game, we need to cooperate with each other to create a strategy that will lead us to solutions to collective challenges. We can choose the starting points and the paths, but we need to unite to overcome the challenges, and not to destroy or eliminate someone. Dangers exist and we can lose. In the game there are several metaphors that connect us to our reality. Intentionally, the game recreates situations similar to those that humanity currently faces and provokes the reflection that actions for a more sustainable life are only possible through collective collaboration between individuals, cultures and nations. The board portrays the planetary biodiversity and cultural diversity of the peoples of the Earth and invites players to stroll around the planet on a journey of learning, cooperation, joy and love.

In 2011, the first edition of the Earth Charter Game was born. Our wish was to be able to play the game in all languages. Yes! Well, the Earth Charter is, for me, a great planetary reference to inspire and promote a new way of being and living on the planet, a very ambitious goal, I know. But dreams serve to be launched into the Universe and propel us. Finally, we managed to launch the first edition in Portuguese and English with our own resources. A great joy! In 2019, we made the second edition only in Portuguese with some innovations: the board is now a puzzle and we created new cards.

And so, as the seeds are scattered throughout the world seeking fertile ground to sprout, the Earth Charter Game, in its 9 years of life, has brought the Earth Charter to people of all ages, in 30 countries around the world. They are families, teachers, students, professionals from different areas of action, in schools, universities, NGOs, governments and companies, who use the Earth Charter Game as an educational tool for sustainability, with the most diverse intentions: to work specifically with socioenvironmental content in schools in a creative and motivating way, to strengthen human relations between members of a family or friends, to work leadership in company groups, to learn and exchange experiences on worldviews in a fun way, to enable protagonism, raise awareness for fundamental issues, promote reflection and action, the perception of their environment and the broader context in which we live and that is where it goes.

Since 2011, I have held approximately 160 workshops for more than 3,200 people, including teachers, school leaders, multipliers, boys and girls, youth, families and professionals from various areas of activity in different Brazilian cities. The workshops aim to be a pedagogical instrument to enhance the knowledge, practices and strategies of facilitation and deepening of the knowledge of the Earth Charter Game, for different ages and audiences. Throughout these years, experiences with the Earth Charter Game have revealed that there is a deep desire in children, youth and adults to experience cooperation and contribute to building a better world.

Patricia Abuhab
São Paulo – Brazil
+55 (11) 976219710
[email protected]