The Earth Charter sings


Walking with lions South Africa
Walking with lions, South Africa

There is a document that women should care about.

It reads like a ritual: “Rejoicing in the wonder and beauty of the Earth, we share a reverence for life and the sources of our being . . .  Earth is our home. We are members of an interdependent community of life. Earth itself is alive.”

It is smart: ”Peace is more than the absence of violence — it is the wholeness that comes with harmonious relationship with the self, other persons, other life forms and the Earth.”

Women can find their place: ”The full participation of women at all levels of planning and management decision-making is fundamental to the achievements of equity and sustainability.”

And Indigenous peoples are included: ”The culture and interests of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to control their lands and natural resources, must be respected.”

These are passages from the Earth Charter that Maurice Strong, Chairman of the Rio Earth Summit (1992) and Mikhail Gorbachev introduced years ago. It has become the center of a global campaign among NGOs and women’s groups that successfully lobbied for its adoption by the UN in 2000.

It’s about time. We realize that one reason why it is hard to save the planet is that the values governing our decisions are wrong. The “market” mentality is spreading like wildfire, even to the far corners of rural societies– a culture of profit without regard for sustainability, overconsumption, and just plain greed. Even the UN is on the wrong track when it states that “human beings should be at the center of development.” That anthropocentric view has led to the mistaken notion that nature can be exploited as long as human needs are fulfilled. But our destiny is connected, like a spider’s web, to an entire community of life. Our responsibility is to maintain balance in the entire ecosystem of planet earth.

Beatrice Schultess, a dynamic leader in the indigenous people’s movement in Central America once explained to me, “For us, the Earth is a living being. More people see that now. Even a NASA scientist agreed with me that this was possible.” If that is so, and the Earth is like a breathing, growing body and the Charter is more than an international set of principles to help humanity — it is intended to save all of life. As such, it is Mother Earth’s Bill of Rights.