Sunday, July 29, 2012

Earth Charter for Intellectuals Only?

Someone recently said in a meeting that I attended that they felt that the Earth Charter was for 'intellectuals'...

I paused and thought about his statement and when I asked him to elaborate he said that most of the information found online about the Earth Charter catered to what he saw as 'academia' and scholastic circles.  He also said that most of those circles bled into groups of people who he felt were 'wanna-be elites'.  

I shared with him a bit about my experiences and feelings about the Earth Charter and before the meeting ended he had taken an interest in learning more.  He said that what I shared made him feel more open to the possibility that the Earth Charter could be a powerful personal tool for growth.  

What I shared with him was this:

The Earth Charter is the first document written that covers basic values and principles for sustainable living.  

The Four Pillars of the Earth Charter can be seen like the Four Directions of an Indigenous Medicine Wheel (East, South, West, & North) and also the four parts of being human...Body, Heart, Mind, & Soul.  

The Earth Charter is a document filled with principles that need to be fulfilled through our ongoing efforts as individuals and until we integrate the concepts that these principles anchor into it is hard to see how the larger collective will benefit.  

In other words as individuals we must comprehend the intrinsic value of the principles before we can effectively communicate with others about the Earth Charter.  

For example in the first pillar (Respect & Care for the Community of Life) number 2B reads:

"Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote common good."

The premise of this statement is that when someone has freedom, knowledge, or power in their world then there is an obligation and responsibility to use them for 'common good'.  To affirm this an individual can take actions in their own personal world that are based on deliberations around 'common good'.  

For example:  John gets a raise at work that pushes him into a higher tax bracket and he needs to decide how to use the new resources that are available.  He can:
  • Use the extra money to upgrade some aspect of his own material world
  • Use the extra money to help a friend who needs some support
  • Use the extra money to pay down some debt
  • Invest the extra money for his future
  • Donate the money to a local project that benefits his larger community
All of the above uses of the resources are valid and hold merit singularly, but if John wants to affirm the 'power' (=energy) that the extra revenue represents and 'promote common good' (remembering to include himself into the 'commons') he would be wise to do ALL of the above.  Most people would simply choose one of the choices or choose the ones that either serve only the self or others.   By doing ALL of the above using smaller increments of the resources John is promoting 'common good' and balancing his life in ways that align with the principles of the Earth Charter.  

He can of course evolve it from there and choose to:
  • Buy organic/fair trade clothing or products in his personal material upgrade.
  • Share the Earth Charter with the friend who needs 'support'
  • Research the 'why' of debt in our economic system and learn about alternative local economies that are currently emerging everywhere.
  • Invest in socially responsible businesses.
  • Find local projects that are geared towards sustainable living to donate to.

This was the example that I gave my associate that made him want to look deeper into the text of the Earth Charter and reconsider his previous opinion about it being for 'intellectuals only'.  

The Earth Charter is a document that can be a tool for personal growth as well as collective 'common good'.