Never so Relevant: Discussing the Earth Charter Initiative with Fritjof Capra

Credit: Presidencia de la República Mexicana – goo.gl/pB3xF7, CC 2.0

Last year saw one of the most historically symbolic events of recent years – 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement in order to cut back on pollution contributing to climate change. So when on the 1st June of this year President Donald Trump announced that he would pull the US out of the agreement, there was a huge reaction, with many of the leaders of countries around the world expressing their dismay.

Of course, Donald Trump is far from being a person who represents every citizen of the United States of America, and many very senior business and political leaders in the US responded by declaring their continued support, such as New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying that:

“The US will meet our Paris commitment and through a partnership among American cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris Agreement process,” he said.

“The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets.

The Paris Agreement complements other related global initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which allow companies to report information on sustainable development performance using common indicators and a shared set of priorities. They also provide a framework allowing deeper conversations and the building of stronger relationships with the not-for-profit and NGO sector. This allows commercial organisations to implement systemic solutions which authentically engage both their customers and also a wider range of stakeholders, such as the local communities in which a business is present.

Another global initiative is the Earth Charter, which first began to be considered in 1987 when The World Commission on Environment and Development (known as “the Brundtland Commission”) launched Our Common Future Report with a call for a “new charter” to set “new norms” to guide the transition to sustainable development.

The wording of the Earth Charter was agreed at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on the 12th -14th March 2000, leading to the launch of the charter at the Peace Palace The Hague, Netherlands on the 29th June of the same year. It is described in the following manner:

The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It 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. It is a vision of hope and a call to action.

You can read the full text of the charter here.

In terms of governance, the Earth Charter Initiative Council oversees the work of the Earth Charter International Secretariat. It sets major goals, policies, and strategies for ECI, and provides guidance and leadership to the broader Initiative. One of the leading members of the Earth Charter Initiative committee is Fritjof Capra.

Credit: Earth Charter Initiative

Given the historical, political and environmental significance of the events of recent weeks, it was absolutely fascinating to have been able to discuss the Earth Charter in depth with Fritjof and all of the participants of the Spring 2017 edition of Capra Course, Fritjof’s on-line course which is based on his most recent book The Systems View of Life, co-authored with Pier Luigi Luisi.

Earth Day celebration. Brazil, Sao Paulo

Because our discussions about the Earth Charter Initiative on Capra Course had been so interesting, I took the opportunity to interview Fritjof about it, its history, his role on the ECI council, and why it is so relevant in today’s systemic global crisis. Fritjof explained its importance by saying that:

The Earth Charter is so important, in my view, because it lays out in great detail an ethical vision for creating a world that is sustainable, just and peaceful. These three principles are not difficult to understand, but to apply them concretely in business, politics, education and so on is quite a task. The Charter, which was composed over many years in a unique global collaboration, has achieved that. It is a declaration of 16 values and principles, each consisting of several sub-sections, for building such a sustainable, just and peaceful world. The document was completed in 2000 and if you read it today you will see that it is still fully valid. It is a magnificent summary of the kind of ethics we need in today’s world, in our time.

My interview with Fritjof was published today on Sustainable Brands, including the systems map which Fritjof drew to explain it in detail. You can read the interview in full here: Never So Relevant: Fritjof Capra on the Earth Charter Initiative

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