Embracing the Earth Charter

Sep 14th, 2021 | By | Category: Environment/Sustainability

By Geoffrey Holland, writer for Transition Earth.

earth charter

To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms, we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny

~ The Earth Charter


The idea for the Earth Charter first emerged in 1987, and atter a multi-year process that included distinguished leaders like Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev, was refined and finally presented to the world by the Earth Charter Commission in the year 2000. It is a document built on sixteen principles that offer a solid foundation for building a new human era that is life-affirming and sustainable.

The reason we humans need a bold new start should be abundantly clear to anyone who has been paying attention to events, particularly in recent years. Words that apply: climate change, extreme weather, food insecurity, toxic chemical contamination, violent territorial conflict, human overpopulation, and global biodiversity collapse. The world we know is coming apart at the seams.

Humanity is in big trouble in so many ways all over the planet. We are entirely responsible. We must be the ones to forge a transformative new direction.


Humanity in the twenty-first century now faces the greatest test of our collective wisdom in our million-year ascent. Whether we succeed or fail is entirely in our own hands, minds and hearts, not just as individuals or nations, but as a species.

~ Julian Cribb, Surviving the 21st Century


The Systems View of Life

The traditional scientific view is that all of life and the universe we know function like mechanical parts of a machine, and we tend to view the parts in isolation.

More recent evidence suggests that all of life and reality are substantially connected.

Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, says that the fundamental dilemma in the traditional view of reality is the illusion that you can have unlimited quantitative growth on a planet with limited resources. The current economic system requires constant growth to function, which can only result in the exhaustion of our Earth’s supply of essential resources.

The wiser course, based on a systems view of life, would shift the emphasis away from quantitative growth to Qualitative Growth, which Capra tells us is ‘the kind of balanced, multi-faceted growth we observe in nature where certain parts of organisms, or ecosystems, grow, while others decline, releasing and recycling their components which become resources for new growth. Qualitative growth is growth that enhances the quality of life through continual regeneration.’

The Earth Charter principles encourage a life-affirming, qualitative growth paradigm that emulates and complements nature’s grand design.


Leaders guided by the moral compass of the Earth Charter should be called “Earth leaders,” rather than world leaders, because their vision is the well-being of humanity and of the larger community of life on Earth, rather than political, economic, or corporate success.

~ Fritjof Capra, Systems Scientist


Repudiating Exceptionalism

The notion of American Exceptionalism emerged in the early 19th century when European settlers used ‘Manifest Destiny’, fueled by Christian dogma, as justification to displace native Americans from their traditional lands. It was a brand of cultural genocide that will remain an indelible stain on the history of the Americas.

The sense of superiority many Americans of European decent continue to harbor toward people of color is rooted in this early brand of exceptionalism.

The tribalism that drives the current polarization of American politics emerges from the entitlement that exceptionalism encourages.

In fact, the survival of humanity depends on the demise of exceptionalism.  It has to be relegated it to the dustbin of history.

The Earth Charter is a set of principles that calls on every person to get past their prejudices in favor of a shared planetary citizenship built on unencumbered gender equality, social justice for all, and a moral obligation for responsible planetary stewardship.





We live in an age in which the fundamental principles to which we subscribe – liberty, equality and justice for all – are encountering extraordinary challenges, … But it is also an age in which we can join hands with others who hold to those principles and face similar challenges.

~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg



A New American Brand of Politics

He who has the money and power makes the rules. That’s how it’s been from the beginnings of industrial era America, and that’s how it is now. The bankers, billionaires, corporatists, and the insular tribalists that support them are wedded to misogyny, racism, and business as usual. They deny climate change. They are against anything that might disrupt their narrow self-interest.

We are at a point of reckoning right now, with the old order doing all it can to hang on to its political hegemony by crippling the voting rights of the poor and people of color. Who will prevail? Will it be the tribalists who want to retain their cultural dominance, or will it be the substantial majority of Americans, who choose gender equality, social justice, and responsible planetary stewardship?

The American mid-term election in November, 2022 is the next chance, possibly the last chance voters will have to turn away from the dark course we are on.

Consider what a new brand of American politics could look like; a better brand of politics built on a foundation of gender equality and social justice. The list that follows reveals just some of the change that could come with a government that is empowered by voters to truly be ‘of, by, and for the People’.

  • The Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment would become law.
  • Corporations and the wealthy would pay their fair share of taxes.
  • The system of legalized bribery for politicians would end.
  • New public policy would put the common good ahead of private self-interest.
  • Government would aggressively address climate change and other environmental challenges.
  • Healthcare would become a right of every American.

In fact, all of that can emerge when the Earth Charter is embraced as prime inspiration for where the global human culture needs to go.


In the political realm, we now have a series of grassroots movements of young people who are passionate about systemic social change (Fridays for Future, the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, and many others). Their values are also consistent with those of the Earth Charter and with the systemic understanding of life that has emerged at the forefront of science. 

~ Fritjof Capra, Systems Scientist


[Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash]

[Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash]


Buying in on a Planetary Scale

It would seem to be a monumental task: getting everybody on Earth on the same page.

With eyes wide open, an informed public would surely see no alternative. We must change our ways now. We must get everybody on the same page now.

I wish I had more confidence in a positive outcome for this story. We have to believe it’s possible, despite the fact that at least half of humanity is under the thumb of one unscrupulous dictator or another.  If we fail to turn the tide, we’re done. It’s dog eat dog on every level. We’ve got countries like the US, Russia, and China that are armed to the teeth.  We have the capability of annihilating every living thing on Earth about ten times over.  It’ll be tribe against tribe, locally, regionally, nationally, fighting for dominance.  The strong might survive initially, but the savage and bloody conflicts they fight will come at the expensive of the vast majority of the world’s people. It will also leave our living biosphere ravaged, and human survival very much in doubt.

Is that really what we want from each other?

Business as usual is a dead end for humanity. The evidence for that is painfully clear. At best, we are on course to make much of our home planet uninhabitable; at worst, no one survives.

On that sober note, let’s talk about what we have going for us.

Let’s start with the fact that unlike any other era of human history, we are all connected; all of us; every nation, every culture, every language, as never before.

It is possible for any connected person to reach any other connected person anywhere else in the world in seconds.  The broadcast and the social media have global reach.

This is a wonderful thing.  Unfortunately, at this time, most broadcast media and social media outlets are owned by private for-profit interests. Their customers are not their viewers. Their customers are the big money interests that buy advertising time. I’m talking about the companies that sell beer, cars, oil, and every other kind of consumer commodity.  The media’s revenue depends on advertising revenue from the corporate world. Media content is not shaped to inform and enlighten, its primary purpose is to deliver an audience for its advertisers.

The best we can say at this point is we have the technical capacity to link all of humanity in real time.

The Earth Charter perfectly reflects the principles that should be the foundation for the next version, the better version of humanity.  We must find ways to deliver the Earth Charter message through our deeply conflicted public media.  We have to encourage every ounce of creative energy we can muster to present the Earth Charter to all the world’s people..

Every person who recognizes that life on Earth is under siege must embrace their duty as planetary citizens… We must all come together. We must stand with leaders who will get us past the incrementalism. We need bold public policy based on the Earth Charter. That’s how we galvanize public opinion in every corner of our planet. We need all the world’s people standing for a common Earth vision.

It’s time we all became planetary citizens.

When voters gain control of public policy through the forward-thinking people we elect, we will see our broadcast and social media reconstituted to serve the common good.

Getting to where we all must go will be a struggle. At the moment on our Earth, we do not have strong cross-cultural bonds.  We must get past that.

I remain cautiously hopeful.  I believe we will get past that. I see humans of every persuasion choosing their better instincts, and also the Earth Charter.   We will save our planet for future generations in the process.

Speaking of future generations, there is a step that can be taken to encourage children to see themselves as planetary citizens.

A principal leader behind the Earth Pledge is the founder of the Rainforest Action Network, Randy Hayes.  The mission is to encourage schools to let their students pledge their allegiance to the planet we all depend on.

What better way to complement the Earth Charter? What better way to put children on a path to be citizens who are committed to the sixteen principles of the Earth Charter?



We talk about national flags and loyalty. But, it really is the local ecosystem that people grew up with. That becomes the thing we all can bond around; we can bond around that, plus our children, and our shared hopes for the future. Once you get to that level of understanding; that we’re all members of the human family, that’s the level at which we can all come together.

~ Hazel Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age


[Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash]

[Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash]

Let’s All Take the Earth Pledge

When I was a boy, from my first moments in school, I remember arriving in the classroom, and the first thing we did is put right hand over heart and share the pledge of alliance to the United States of America. It was a ritual. Every morning at 8:15 AM, we pledged our loyalty.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids all over the planet started their school days with the Earth Pledge? Imagine, tens of millions of kids around the world pledging allegiance to our Earth every morning at school.

Beyond that, wouldn’t it be awesome if in the third grade, eight-year-old kids in every corner of the Earth could get three weeks of learning focused on the Earth Charter and what it means to live by its sixteen principles… It wouldn’t have to stop there. Students could get new lessons based on the Earth Charter in the sixth grade, the ninth grade, and the twelfth grade.

I would so love to see this.

A simple morning ritual for kids.  That is how we encourage our children to become loyal Planetary Citizens; each of whom will have grown up with the sixteen principles of the Earth Charter.


The Earth Pledge

I pledge allegiance to the Earth

To its mountains, rivers, soil, and sky

One planet, irreplaceable

To be cherished and protected by all



Geoffrey Holland is a writer/producer, and author of The Hydrogen Age.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.