Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value. -Thomas Berry, “The Ecological Age,” in The Dream of the Earth
Ecological Destruction or Earth Community?
Since the 1980s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, using global resources faster than they can be regenerated and putting carbon into the air faster than it can be reabsorbed. Globally, we now demand the biological capacity of 1.5 planets. Our patterns of consumption in the U.S. require nearly five planets.
Current Path to Destruction
Our patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation; the depletion of natural resources; and an unprecedented extinction of species. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. Communities are being undermined for profit, and the gap between the rich and poor is widening globally. Injustice, poverty, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. The foundations of global security are threatened.
Changing Our Story
Building earth community first acknowledges that we need to change our story. We no longer can think of our planet as a commodity to be used for our own personal gain. Instead, we need to recognize our connections and interdependence with all living things. We can either:
- Destroy the rich, biodiversity of planet and bring about the ultimate destruction of our species; OR
- Create a viable human presence on earth through ecological protection, the eradication of poverty, equitable economic development, respect for human rights, democracy, and peace.
Changing our story means we leave behind the long-held notions of human dominance and, instead. “enter into the larger community of living species” that features balanced relationships between people, people and nature; and between individual and community interests. It means being willing to participate in the most creative work of our time.
Building Earth Community
The term Earth Community comes from the Earth Charter, a declaration of universal responsibility to and for one another and Earth. The process of its drafting began with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and carried forward through a multi-year collaborative process involving hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals of diverse religious faiths, cultures, races, languages, and nationalities. David Korten, author and lecturer explains that the Earth Charter elaborates four overarching principles of Earth Community:
(1) Respect and care for the community of life.
(2) Ecological integrity.
(3) Social and economic justice.
(4) Democracy, nonviolence, and peace.
Earth Community requires us to birth of human cultures and institutions that embrace and nurture material sufficiency for everyone; honor the generative power of life and love; seek a balance of feminine and masculine principles; and nurture a realization of the mature potential of our human nature.
How do we go about building Earth Community? We start by applying principles of mutual cooperation. We remake our economies, taking only what we need to sustain our lives, while simultaneously working to distribute resources fairly and equitably. We learn to reuse and recycle, reclaiming our wastes for feed stock to create energy, food, and goods. We work to heal and restore natural systems, and halt our use of toxins and fossil fuels that threaten our air, water, land and all life forms, including ourselves. We work locally in our communities, creating economies that include growing our food and producing safe, clean energy. We elect state and national leaders who understand what is at stake and are willing to do what it takes to ensure a viable, just and equitable human presence in our world.
And we must engage in movements that are leading the way. Here are just a few:
If you need more inspiration, you can learn about the global movement towards Earth Community that no one saw coming! In this short talk by author Paul Hawken, Hawken highlights the 130,000 MINIMUM organizations that he says are leading that moment, with its roots primarily stemming from indigenous cultures and the environmental and social justice movements.
The Choice is Ours
We are at a crossroads in human history, never experienced before. Knowing our earth community is in crisis, we need to ready ourselves to change from current, destructive systems that demand growth and expansion to those that value all life, fostering regeneration and rebirth.
E.O. Wilson, Professor of Biology at Harvard University tells us:
In the end it will all come down to a decision of ethics, how we value the natural world in which we have evolved and now – increasingly – how we regard our status as individuals.
Let’s do the great work of our time, and build Earth Community together.