Why the Earth Charter is Even More Important Now: Looking Back & Moving Forward

By Valeria Santos, Earth Charter Young Leader

Let’s set the scene. 

It’s the year 2000. The 21st century is welcomed with ambition as the world dreams with futuristic cities and gets ready to accept technology into everyday life. Globalization is more real than ever after the birth of the internet, the world wide web becoming a social system and social media coming right around the corner. Energy consumption averages 2% increase per year and the environment will soon meet the consequences of overconsumption. By now, humans have discussed sustainable development for more than a decade, ever since the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) popularized the term. Leaders recognize the world is evolving into an unbalanced place, and reducing inequalities becomes a common goal: it’s the birth of the Millennium Development Goals. 

Global leaders gathered in 2000 to adopt the Millennium Development Goals. Source: United Nations

Nonetheless, the world hadn’t yet aligned under the same values and principles that would make the transition to sustainability happen. So, it became a necessity to have a document that would serve as an ethical guide for the change to come. For this purpose, the Earth Charter launched in June 2000.

This document became the reflection of a dream shaped by no other than love and care for life on planet Earth, ultimately, a dream of harmony among all. With its inclusive vision of all cultures, traditions, intellectual influences, and both ancestral wisdom and recent scientific knowledge, the Earth Charter aimed to become universal and timeless.

Among everything happening in the world, it marks a milestone in the global ethics movement. From 2000 and on, environmental awareness and activism took part in popular culture.

Fast forward to the present year. 

Humans have proved themselves how far they can drive technological development. As of today, we have seen civilians travel to space, we have designed wind turbines to be over 240 meter tall and installed massive solar farms, office jobs have gone remote, and we are even imagining life in a parallel digital universe within the next decade. As we once pictured, technology touches nearly everything we do and connects people through screens, but our earlier futuristic sci-fi movies failed to predict how quickly the consequences of our unlimited growth would become evident, and at what scale.

Big scale wind energy. Source: Pexels

The Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change 2021 by the IPCC, states that based on data, human influence can be attributed to the unprecedented rate at which global warming is happening. In over 2000 years the planet has never warmed up as fast due to natural patterns like solar or volcanic activity, thus, human activity is proven to be playing a role in this. The consequences are too many to list, but there is high confidence that global mean sea level will continue to rise, there will be marine heat waves and specific regions of the world will experience extreme rains and droughts.

The effects of lack of caring and inaction towards environmental protection have come beyond what the average person could fathom at the start of the century. Twenty years have passed by, and we still haven’t built actual sustainable systems. Instead, most of what we build still links to overuse of resources. Moreover, our search for solutions has been inefficient because of the way we address problems. We are quick to find short term fixes for temporary relief: addressing technological problems with more technology, replacing fossil fuel with minerals for batteries and panels and plastic for paper. At the core of this, is our limited vision and lack of understanding of the intricate systems that govern the world.t

Community with a sense of purpose

To induce systemic change then, we must become aware of the connections between ourselves and the ecosystem that sustains us. What was once a promise to take action with the launch of the Earth Charter movement, is now imperative. Living in the high-tech and complex network that we are moving towards requires full use of our rationality and compassion to realize that social and environmental responsibility are inseparable from economic activities. As Maurice Strong recognized earlier on, science data is not enough of an argument to drive change. “The goal must be to change hearts as well as minds”.1 Now that we have the sufficient knowledge, what is left  is to put our hearts and time into change. The Earth Charter and the community behind it are the antidote for the disconnection humans suffer. It invites us to be aware of our influence over the systems that we are surrounded by and look for purpose within them. It’s now more relevant than ever that we don’t miss the opportunity to reconnect with the purpose of that lifelong dream of living in harmony on Earth.

1 Steven Rockefeller, Maurice Strong and the Earth Charter (2018)https://earthcharter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Steven-Rockefeller-Maurice-Strong-and-the-Earth-Charter-3.pdf

Valeria is a mechanical engineer from Caracas, Venezuela. Graduated from Universidad Metropolitana in 2021 and since has been working in engineering projects regarding sustainability certifications and renewable energy systems. 

Her interest in linking her job to the ethics behind sustainable development led her to enroll in the LSE Course in 2021, where she later discovered many motivations. Her purpose is to add real value to the world through her work as a professional as well as through personal projects such as the ECYL network.  

As a side project she runs an instagram account dedicated to sharing the latest news on wind energy and spreading knowledge on the energy disruption we are currently living: https://www.instagram.com/windenergies/