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One Earth Community - Preamble

We, representatives of religious communities from around the world, have gathered together to respond to the challenge presented by the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. Representing major religious traditions and diverse cultures and regions, as well as groups working in local situations on issues of environment and development, we have sought to discover how our various concerns bring moral, ethical and spiritual perspectives to the agenda for UNCED. In particular, we have considered various proposals for the Earth Charter from the standpoints of our shared convictions about the unity of the human family and the oneness of the earth and the particular beliefs of our various religious traditions. We offer the following declaration and statement of principles as an expression of our work and commitment.

Life is a gift and elicits our respect, awe and reverence. We are one earth community, one human family, and we share one destiny. We cherish and respect the rich diversity of life, and celebrate the beauty of the earth. For us, as members of one family, love and caring are the basis of our relationship with one another and with nature. The earth community is our greatest gift and sacred trust. We recognize a call to receive this gift gratefully, to draw earth's sustenance carefully, and to share it equitably.

The threat

This vision has been distorted. Now the life of the earth community is threatened with destruction. In the name of human progress and development, there is growing devastation of nature and widespread and increasing poverty. The present world economy makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It has promoted consumerism and greed and a preoccupation of people and nations with money, control and power at the cost of justice and cultural and spiritual enhancement. Rising international debt enslaves some peoples, even as it enriches others.

The streams and seas which give life are used as dumps for our wastes, the forests which give life are destroyed for crass commercial gain, the soil which gives life is squandered for profit to benefit the few. We have become alienated from ourselves, from one another and from nature. The dominant pattern of development has led to the degradation of cultures, the destruction of nature and the death of millions of our brothers and sisters and threatens future generations. It has intensified the exploitation of women and children and has further marginalized indigenous peoples. Although it has given short-term benefits to a substantial minority, for most it has given agony.

The way forward

We are at a major turning point in which we can either continue along the path of self-destruction or turn towards restoration and renewal. The human family, in which the unique quality of all its members is recognized and protected, must bring itself back into harmony with nature and the universe. We need to listen to those communities which have remained close to the earth, and recognize and incorporate the wisdom culled from women's traditional links with nature. We have to realize that there are limits to growth and that the idea of an ever-expanding economy contradicts the capacities of the earth community. We must end the over-consumption of industrialized societies. We must make institutions accountable to the people whose lives they touch. We must restructure economic institutions to make them serve the needs of the poor and function in harmony with ecological reality. We see every member of the family as a full participant, sharing equally in the gifts of nature, the work to be done and the fruits of that work. We need to reaffirm the importance of justice, frugality, humility and reverence for life and nature.

Considerations for an Earth Charter

The Earth Charter should recognize that our unjust exploitation and destruction of the environment, as well as our reverence for it and our conservation of it, have spiritual and ethical dimensions which undergird the following principles.


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