Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Earth Charter - Comprehensive But Unlikely

The Earth Charter created by the Earth Charter Commission was read and discussed in the University Colloquium class. The document is divided into four principles, which are comprised of sixteen total parts, by which the people of Earth should live in order live with optimum sustainability and cooperation. Here is the link for the actual website of the commission where you can read the charter: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/.

The principles are very comprehensive and include many ideas that were talked about in the University Colloquium class. One such parallel that I see is in the first principle - Respect and Care for the Community of Life. Number two under that heading says that "with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people." This is basically the theme of the novel A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith, and also a point in the article by Aldo Leopold entitled "The Land Ethic." Number four on the charter deals with preserving Earth's resources for future generations, which is part of the definition of sustainability, and major theme of the University Colloquium course.

Principle II. Ecological Integrity, pretty much encompasses every topic concerning sustainability and the environment that was suggested in the class. "Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems," reads number five, which is under the second principle. It is directly related to such articles as "Endgame" by Michael Grunwald, and the writings of Aldo Leopold and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. "Reduce, reuse, and recycle," the need for "efficiency when using energy," and promotion of "environmentally sound technologies" are all integral to sustainability and appear under number seven. Alternative energy sources and "environmentally sound technologies" were given in State of the World 2009, and shown on videos. I recall one new technology from a video shown in class that would capture carbon in huge filters, and I also learned about the difference between top and front-loading washing machines and that there are more energy efficient surge protectors available.

Of course, the University Colloquium class, in and of itself, is right in line with number eight, which tells of the need for the knowledge of sustainability to be spread. The writings dealing with ecological education by David Orr would fit in with this item. This also ties right into number fourteen under principle IV - "integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life."

In regards to environmental issues, The Earth Charter seems to have all of its bases covered, even addressing economic, political, and social problems. Nobody could fault it for not being thorough, but perhaps it is too ideal. I believe it is merely dealing with symptoms of the global issues of today. It's like a prescription for how to get better, but something tells me that not everybody is going to take the doctor's advice, so to speak. I would instead agree more with David Orr in his article "The Problem of Sustainability," in which he narrows the environmental problems down to a fault in the human condition. People will have to change at a more primal, basic level in order to see and understand just how important the environment is. They will have to be intelligent and educated thoroughly. Otherwise, nothing else that The Earth Charter proposes will even matter.

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