First, Do No Harm: A Common Commitment for Planet Earth

Feb 13th, 2022 | By | Category: Environment/Sustainability

By Geoffrey Holland, writer for Transition Earth.

[Photo by Qingbao Meng on Unsplash]

[Photo by Qingbao Meng on Unsplash]

Do no harm. This is an axiom first illuminated in the Hippocratic oath that originated in Greece in the 5th century BCE. It has mostly applied since then as a pledge taken by medical professionals to affirm their commitment to the good care of the patient’s they treat.

The evidence tells us we humans need to apply the principle of ‘doing no harm’ broadly as a planetary-scale guiding principle.


Our Culture of Dysfunction

What is abundantly clear is that humans – all 8 billion of us – are complicit in a ‘Perfect Storm’ of destructive behavior on a planetary scale. The big question now is will we survive out own delusional overreach?


‘Life as we know it can be sustained only if we preserve functioning ecosystems on at least half of planet Earth.’

~ E.O. Wilson, Biologist


By far, the biggest reflection of human hubris is our success in populating our planet. I use the word ‘success’ with a caveat. If growth in numbers is how we measure success, then humans have been wildly successful.  We are now twice the 4 billion we were just fifty years ago and growing by 75 million more humans every passing year.

The overriding caveat is that our Earth’s finite store of resources – the ones we humans need to survive – is collapsing under the weight of relentless human demand.  In fact, in terms of weight alone, humans and the livestock animals we eat now add up to over 90% of all the animal biomass on Earth.

Too many people, not enough resources. That reality is irrefutable. Humans are taking almost everything the planet has to offer for themselves.  The biological fabric of our world, the only world we have, is under siege, by us. We humans are entirely responsible.

A huge part of the human cultural dysfunction is driven by the idea that humans are above and superior to nature; that our Earth’s natural living bounty was put here for humans to plunder without concern for consequence.


The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

~ E.O. Wilson, Planetary Citizen



Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash


The extreme human overreach in the exploitation of our planet’s resources is undeniable.   We have to ask ourselves if we have the ability to get past our own worst instincts.

In the words of biologist E.O. Wilson, “Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”

For millennia, humans have functioned and evolved ignorantly and mindlessly with regard to the Earth’s natural system, which we all depend on.

Consider where we are as our planet’s apex species at the beginning of the 21st millennium. It’s not a pretty picture. We’ve got climate change, extreme weather, and increasing food insecurity. Our oceans could soon have more plastic waste than fish. Toxic chemicals from industry and agriculture are poisoning the world’s fresh water. The living biodiversity of our Earth is collapsing.

The corrosive cultural idea behind all this is that humans are obligated to exploit our Earth’s living systems to exhaustion. It’s the message we get from much religious dogma.  It’s the way humans have operated on Earth for thousands of years.

Now, with 8 billion humans on Earth, on the way to 10 or 12 billion, ‘business as usual’ is a sure ticket to suffering, death, and destruction on a global scale.

The human story on Earth does not have to go that way.


‘Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.

~ Isaac Asimov


Nature is About Nurture

The time has come for humans to embrace their proper place in nature. We all must come to see ourselves as part of nature, not above and superior to it. Nature did not bless humans with superior, self-aware brains so they could behave like parasites ravaging our Earth’s resources like there is no tomorrow.


‘The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.’

~ David Attenborough, Planetary Citizen



Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash


Replacing Dominance with Partnership

For something like ten thousand years, since the beginning of permanent settlements and agriculture, humans have built their diverse cultures around dominance and hierarchy. Men have been in charge. Women have been oppressed. Nature has been subjected to mindless exploitation and overreach.

The distinguished social scientist, Riane Eisler has illuminated ample convincing  evidence of this in her books and writing, beginning with The Chalice on the Blade, published in 1988.

There is now a clear way forward past the long-entrenched dominance paradigm. It is Riane Eisler’s grand solution. She calls it ‘The Partnership Way’. It boils down to women and men, standing together as gender equal partners, shaping a future built on economic fairness, social justice, and responsible planetary stewardship.

I don’t see any reason why we can’t choose that life-affirming course. I like to think that most people can agree that a gender-equal partnership based on common wisdom and purpose is the wisest way forward for humanity.


“In sum, the struggle for our future is…the struggle between those who cling to patterns of domination and those working for a more equitable partnership world.”

~ Riane Eisler


Next Question: How do we find the path to a ‘Partnership Way’ for the planet?


An Earth Charter for Humanity

‘The real goal of the Earth Charter is that it become like The Ten Commandments.’  – Maurice Strong


Partnership starts with common purpose.  All of gender-equal humanity must stand together behind a common vision for survival.

At this moment on the world stage, there are several manifestos that reflect global common vision. I have looked at them all. I appreciate their intent, but I believe the world needs to get behind a single common testament; one eloquent code to live by that defines what is best for all of us; a worthy code that guides the human commitment to planetary stewardship.

I believe the common code we must embrace is the Earth Charter.


‘Crafted by visionaries… the Earth Charter is a document…that seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations.’

~ Earth Charter International





Stewardship as Our Common Destiny

If you care about life on Earth, now is the time to inform yourself about the Earth Charter and its sixteen stewardship principles. Please do that. Please learn about the Earth Charter, then stand with tens of millions of other humans across the planet who are making the commitment to planetary citizenship.

The Earth Charter defines a wonderful, transformative brand of common purpose. We must all get behind the Earth Charter as our monument to human potential. We must make it our common inspiration as citizens.

I believe the Earth Charter will become a guiding light for all our human family; a trusted set of principles that we share and live by.

The Earth Charter defines our common course. It is how all humans stand together to ‘First do no harm’.


‘Individuals learn faster than institutions and it is always the dinosaur’s brain that is the last to get the new message.’

~ Hazel Henderson, Author, Futurist



After  a distinguished career as a writer/producer, Geoffrey Holland now divides his time between serious journalism, and his advocacy as the Artist/Provocateur, @emanpdx.


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