© Seikyo Shimbun

9th January 2023

Earth Charter International Conference Promotes Planetary Well-Being in Costa Rica

  • Sustainability & climate change

On 1–2 December 2022, an Earth Charter International (ECI) conference, “Putting Planetary Well-being at the Core: A call to Turn our Conscience into Action,” was held at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development at the University for Peace (UPEACE) near San José, Costa Rica.

The conference provided opportunities for Earth Charter (EC) Young Leaders, Affiliates and others to connect and exchange ideas and initiatives. Due to SGI’s long-term partnership with the Earth Charter movement, Joan Anderson of the SGI Office of Peace and Global Issues attended the conference and spoke on SGI’s education initiatives related to sustainability. Astrid De La Lastra of SGI-Panama also joined the conference as an EC Young Leader.

ECI Executive Director Mirian Vilela opened the conference, encouraging participants to see the possibilities of changing the dominant narrative and drawing on successful examples of contributing to planetary well-being.

Tiokasin Ghosthorse of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota remarked that in his native language there are no “things;” everything is alive and interconnected. Fritjof Capra, a systems theorist and ECI Council Member, emphasized the importance of the systems view of life and ethics for the common good, and highlighted the value of the Earth Charter. He said, “We must move to a civilization based on regeneration rather than extraction: an ecological civilization… The Earth Charter is really a magnificent summary of the kind of ethics we need for planetary well-being.”

We must move to a civilization based on regeneration rather than extraction: an ecological civilization… The Earth Charter is really a magnificent summary of the kind of ethics we need for planetary well-being.

Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta, former Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, explained ways in which the country has been a pioneer in ensuring free access to health care, the right to potable water and quality education, as well as increasing the country’s forest cover. Ma Shuang, Director of the International Exchanges Department at China’s Liaoning University, reflected on the need to reorient society towards an ecological civilization. Carlos Álvarez Pereira, Vice President of the Club of Rome, shared reflections on the limits to growth.

The second day of the conference also focused on the quest for planetary well-being as well as its implications for education. Speakers included Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability, York University, Canada; Kartikeya Sarabhai, ECI Council Chair and Director, India’s Center for Environment Education and Alexander Leicht, Director of UNESCO in Costa Rica. Leicht summarized UNESCO’s efforts over the past 20 to 30 years in reorienting education towards sustainability.

Grian Cutanda, Executive Director of The Earth Stories Collection, presented on the important role traditional stories play in influencing our worldviews. Mark Hathaway, ECI Education Center Faculty and Lecturer, University of Toronto, stressed that in order to achieve authentic health and well-being for the global community, we need to decolonize systems and mindsets. Joan Anderson then shared key principles related to SGI’s approach to education, such as gratitude and intergenerational dialogue. She also introduced key messages from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s environment proposals. Panels from the “Seeds of Hope” exhibition, jointly created by the SGI and the Earth Charter International, were on display at the venue during the conference.

The conference concluded with EC Young Leaders Melchor Muñoz, Laura Restrepo and Amanda Bennet introducing the Earth Charter Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics course for young people, and Atsufumi Yokoi, Senior Vice President for Global Engagement Strategy and UNESCO Chairholder in Research and Education for Sustainable Development of Okayama University, Japan, highlighted the importance of engaging youth in any process aiming to expand our understanding of planetary well-being.

In addition to speaker sessions, participants also engaged in three breakout sessions dealing with worldviews, education and evaluating contributions to planetary well-being.

SGI participants then attended the Club of Rome Annual Conference at UPEACEon 4–5 December, the Club of Rome Annual Conference. Titled “Shifting From The Limits to Growth to Global Equity for a Healthy Planet: How do we ensure transformational governance?”, this gathering offered an inspiring array of presenters from Central and South America, including many powerful indigenous voices calling for protection of their ways of life rooted in the natural world and recognition of indigenous peoples’ key role in protecting biodiversity.