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The Earth Charter and Sustainable Development

© Earth Charter International (ECI)

The Earth Charter is the outcome of an extensive process of worldwide consultation and dialogue with civil society, under the leadership of some of the most distinguished figures of the international community, including Maurice Strong and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, is now undoubtedly one of the most powerful instruments for promoting the changes in our ways of life which must take place irrespective of any differences that may exist between us and which are driven principally by the imperative need to conserve life on earth.

The principles emphasized by the Charter are of the utmost importance:

  • To preserve humankind in its integrity, unity and diversity must be reconciled.
  • The recognition of others is the foundation of all relationships and all peace.
  • Acceptance of the constraints imposed by preservation of the common good is indispensable to the exercise of freedom.
  • Material development must advance human development.
  • Innovation is not an aim in itself; it is a means to serve human development and the safeguarding of the planet.

Clearly then, planetary unity is the minimum national requirement of an ever more circumscribed and interdependent world. However, if such unity is to be achieved, we need to acquire awareness and a genuine sense of shared ownership which binds us – as has been stated by the eminent thinker Edgar Morin in the "Seven complex lessons in education for the future" (published by UNESCO in 1999) – to the earth, as our first and last home. If the concept of home includes the idea of commonality, a relationship of affective affiliation and a shared destiny, then we can accept the concept of the Earth as our Home.

As human beings we all experience nowadays the same basic problems of life and death and have as a community the same planetary destiny. Hence the urgent need to learn to become part of the planet. If that is to happen, education has to be seen as the main means of bringing about change and affirming values, attitudes and behaviour. To learn to become part of the planet involves many challenges: learning to live, share and communicate; learning also to be, but not just to be part of a culture but also to be inhabitants of this planet.