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Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education

The Earth Charter

 
 


In 2009, Florida Gulf Coast University signed on as an affiliate of the Earth Charter, in recognition of the fact that this global charter encompasses FGCU’s mission.  Here at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education we are committed to upholding the values and pursuing the mission of the Earth Charter Initiative.  The Earth Charter Initiative's mission is as follows:  "to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace."

The Earth Charter, Preamble, paragraph one

The Earth Charter Initiative involved the most open and participatory consultation process ever conducted in connection with the drafting of an international document. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations from all regions of the world, different cultures, and diverse sectors of society participated. The Charter was shaped by scientific experts, government and civil society leaders, students, and representatives from indigenous groups and grassroots communities. It is a fundamental expression of the hopes and aspirations of the emerging global society.

While a growing number of faculty at colleges and universities are attempting to teach about sustainability, the obstacles are considerable: First, the definition of sustainability continues to be problematic. Educators and others struggle with vague and, even, conflicting notions of the concept. The promise of the Earth Charter is that it provides an integrated ethical vision of sustainability built on a broad global consultation. The Earth Charter unites ecological and sociological conceptions of sustainability, empashzing care for nature alongside democracy, social justice, and peace.

For University faculty members and students alike, the Earth Charter provides: a comprehensive and validated description of the necessary and sufficient conditions for sustainable development; a statement of specific principles that can serve as guides for actions that are sustainable and ethical; and a call-to-action to move toward a culture of collaboration for ensuring respect for life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, and a culture of peace. The Earth Charter provides higher education with a vision of another way, and with methods and a network of tertiary educators throughout the world who are promoting more humane and sustainable ways of life.

The Earth Charter Scholarship Project

The Center recently laid plans to pursue a global role in Earth Charter scholarship. In partnership with Advisor Rick Clugston and the Earth Charter Initiative, the Center sought financial support from private foundations to advance its leadership role in promoting Earth Charter scholarship in the international Earth Charter movement. We received a grant from the Rockefeller Philanthropic Collaborative to convene a small group of internationally-recognized Earth Charter scholars for a residency at Florida Gulf Coast University and on Sanibel Island in February 2009. Rick Clugston also successfully applied for a grant from the Germeshausen Foundation.

The Earth Charter Scholars Consultation took place on Sanibel Island, February 18-24, 2009. The meeting focused on understanding and strengthening the Earth Charter's contribution to education for sustainable living in higher education.

Over the twenty years that individuals and organizations have been drafting the Earth Charter and translating it into action, a wide variety Earth Charter based educational resources have been developed. Tasks for the assembled Earth Charter scholars were to review these educational resources, to identify those of high quality, and to organize these resources and determine what additional resources should be developed. They also explored the best strategies for working with the almost 300 universities that have endorsed the Earth Charter and supporting the broad network of college and university scholars and educators that are using the Earth Charter in their teaching, research, and service.

The Scholars focused on six tasks during their working sessions on Sanibel Island:

Evaluating educational resources that reference the Earth CharterIdentifying the best essays on the Earth Charter and suggesting how these could be organized and published Drafting an Earth Charter Education Handbook or Manual that combines material from various Earth Charter documentsPutting together a resource package or database for colleges and universities featuring "Humane Sustainable Living with the Earth Charter" materialsInventorying and structuring the Earth Charter Archives, including materials from the drafting and implementation phases, from different offices, and so onIdentifying Earth Charter scholars for the higher education network

The Earth Charter Scholars Consultation is a first since the Earth Charter was finalized in 2000. Many scholars participated in the development of the Earth Charter between 1987 and 2000 and many areas of scholarship have evolved in the current decade. This is the first gathering, however, for the purposes of setting the scholarly agenda for Earth Charter education. Visiting participants in the consultation included Steven C. Rockefeller, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Mirian Vilela, Kiran Chhokar, Shafía Sucar, Brandon Hollingshead, Brendan Mackey, and Michael Slaby. Since the Earth Charter has been such an inspiration for the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, we saw this as a fitting way to mark our Fifth Anniversary Celebration. Our Anniversary wascelebrated with the Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Weekend on Friday, February 20, 2009 and Saturday, February 21, 2009, during the Earth Charter Scholars Consultation. The Scholars were our lecturers and joined our Annual Fundraising Celebration on Saturday.

Earth Charter Curriculum at Florida Gulf Coast University

The Center supports curriculum development related to the Earth Charter.  Center Senior Faculty Associate, Professor Maria Roca, teaches a full course on the Earth Charter.  Her description of the course is as follows:

Florida Gulf Coast University's "Living the Earth Charter" course is an interdisciplinary studies class that has students use contemplative practices to examine ways of applying the Earth Charter both personally and communally.  Adding heart to a Bachelor of Arts Degree at FGCU, the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor offers courses that are designed to help arts and sciences students become active members of a community of inquiry.  Ideally students and faculty members work together in these courses to explore the cultural, social, historical, philosophical, moral, scientific, and humanistic roots of contemporary issues and how they have developed across time.  Because these courses are structured to encourage problem based learning, students are called upon to learn in ways they may not be accustomed to, requiring critical, creative, systematic, and collaborative thinking and demanding the ability to intellectually defend connections among multiple points of knowledge. This style is a key element to the Living the Earth Charter course as the chief aim of the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor is to prepare for the future by reaching a deeper and more coherent understanding of how and why our world is changing.  By bringing multiple perspectives to bear on contemporary issues and analyzing carefully their historical foundations we are more apt to develop a fuller understanding, and perhaps, a better, or more tolerable sense of ethics if not actions.

To follow this mission, FGCU's "Living the Earth Charter" course has students not only contemplate the principles of the Earth Charter but also analyze cultural values, their roots and how they can either block us from or aid us in achieving a just, sustainable and peaceful global society. Regular group discussions and mediation promote respect for all participants inside and outside of class. Literature focuses on the creation of the universe, connections to our surroundings, responses to the Earth Charter and practical ways to apply the principles through current examples and philosophical ideals. In the class, students are required to engage in their own contemplative practice and create an artistic response to the Earth Charter. As part of a public action project at the culmination of the Fall 2011 course, five students designed a website to showcase the responses of their classmates. Ranging from paintings and poetry to sculpture and multimedia; these interpretations can help future students, staff and the public see what manifests in a typical course as many students attend without prior knowledge of the Earth Charter but leave feeling transformed. The goal is to have the website updated through each semester to encourage sharing images, ideas, and actions that have been inspired by and continue to evolve from the Earth Charter. 

Please take a minute to visit the website developed by the five students which can be accessed below.

http://fgcuearthcharter.webs.com/

Earth Charter Resources

A Guide to Using the Earth Charter in Education

Earth Charter Guidebook for Teachers

Good Practices using the Earth Charter

Earth Charter Fact Sheet

For a downloadable copy of the Earth Charter please click the following link:  English

You may also access a copy of the Earth Charter on the Earth Charter Iniatives website.

Books

To read more about these books please click here.