The following is an excerpt from Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) student, Riwa Melki’s essay “The Earth Charter: A Guide to a Better Future” written for her ethics course “ENS 205: Environment, society and ethics” with Dr. Tanos Hage.
The Earth Charter
consists of compiled principles of sustainability, environmental and social ethics, and a model of a more efficient way of living. It is considered one of the most important benchmarks for sustainability and is still actively expanding our knowledge through education and events to raise awareness on a crucial issue we are facing as human beings: our horrible impact on the environment and how we can fix it. . .
The preamble states that as a human race, we must work together to protect our Earth. With all our differences we must unite to evolve into a sustainable approach to life. We have to be held accountable to what we have done to the planet and work on protecting it as a community. This is the exact message this “Environment, society and ethics” course carries: the responsibility of each individual in their effect on the Earth and what we are willing to do for the continuity of a safe environment.
Humanity has ignored the livelihood of other species and life for its own benefit for too long, and it is time to take a step in protecting biodiversity, the resources and beauty given to us. Injustice towards communities and non-human life, poverty, overwhelming human population and resource depletion… all of these issues should be a priority because if we don’t react quickly, we won’t be able to fix these irreversible threats. However, we have a choice; the shift to a more environment friendly lifestyle and development would resolve most of our problems, if not all. This shift also needs to encourage individuals to live simply, not excessively (“human development is primarily about being more, not having more”; preamble - the challenges ahead, line 4).
We have a choice to become more eco-centric and to implement the 16 principles the Earth Charter holds for the good of all beings and ecosystems. These norms focus on the value of life, regardless of its value to humanity and what we make of them, as well as social equality and ethical justice. In addition, they emphasize our role as moral agents and our duty in having a healthy and balanced relationship with our environment. It is also important to create an ecologically responsible community with rights for everyone, no exception. But the most prominent and prioritized concept in this document is sustainability. We have a responsibility towards future generations and our environment that has done nothing but provide us everything we need to survive and flourish. Future generations have the same rights as we do to resources, biodiversity and a safe environment to live in.
It is our duty to restore our environment’s integrity with these things in mind: biodiversity, renewable resources, pollution prevention, sustainable methods in industries and economy, educating and sharing these methods, and many others. It is imperative to promote peace and respect towards each other as human beings and towards life in general, as well as equality in all its forms. Allowing everyone to have access to the education and knowledge mentioned in this document for a better tomorrow will definitely insure one; removing discrimination against women, indigenous people and minorities will protect them and promote their participation in the movement, while also respecting traditions and values held by different communities. Furthermore, institutions need to be held accountable to any harm or breach of these rules; complete transparency and participation to solve the issue, not worsen it.
Human beings are capable of achieving so much, but at what cost? Yes, technology has helped us evolve and move forward, but has set us back in relation to the world around us. We tend to use technology to solve the problems, instead of avoiding them all together. That’s where the Earth Charter comes in: it created a guideline to take on a more ethical and progressive way of living for the benefit of the whole ecosystem. We are all interconnected and the sooner the dynamic between us changes, the better. In a time where greediness is everywhere and humanity is at its ugliest, this document brought hope and encouraged people to be part of the solution.
The goal is the same; development and facilitation of human life. But using this model, we will be doing it for the environment too. Many solutions and initiatives are being applied, but there is still a need for more. Individuals are capable of doing great things, but are hesitant because of the system and its mechanics. This is why uniting as a whole group, demanding improvements and defending this cause, is crucial for it to work. Placing human, animal and environmental rights into question and having uncomfortable conversations to fix them would be the first step into a better future, further assessing how to fix each specific problem and preventing them. Unite as humanity, take responsibility, and initiate change for a better tomorrow!