Monday, October 19, 2009

A call from the Earth Charter

Consider the following from the Earth Charter:
The Challenge Ahead

The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions. (emphasis mine)

We are an institutionalized people. Most of us were born in an institution, formally educated in institutions, have been married in institutions, and rely on institutions for almost everything. Look at it all and you see a matrix of operations. As current students of and current and future employees of schools, we working within a decidedly value-shaping institution. This is part of our vision.

The Earth Charter recognizes this endeavor in section 14:
14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
a. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
b. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
c. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
d. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.
There are contested terms here, like "sustainable development." What are we sustaining and what are we developing? Sustainability might mean just recycling (as it appears to for our friends at the International Bottled Water Association) or it might mean retracting human population to less than 2 billion people worldwide while also greatly reducing consumption as it would to someone like Revenge of Gaia author James Lovelock. But whatever your thoughts are on the term sustainability or sustainable development, business as usual cannot be sustained because our aggregate impact already overstresses our ecosystems and our communities.

So, if you find either solace or an energizing challenge in it, think about your role as a teacher hired by the creators of the Earth Charter.

What would it call you to do? What if the schools' missions were aligned with the mission of the Earth Charter instead of with the competitive rat race of the global economy?

What would they look like? What questions would you ask your students? Better yet, what questions would they ask you?

The transformation could be incredible.

What would you do? What will you do?

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