I listened to a BBC ‘Reunion’ programme with Sue McGregor bringing together a few of those who had been involved in New Orleans at the time with Hurricane Katrina five years ago and pondered the uncertainty, by definition, of ‘the future’. There was no mention on the programme of the 14 or 20 million[1] people (estimates vary) currently affected by the Pakistan floods. In the past two weeks, I have had a break-in at my home (while I was there) and been savaged by two dogs whilst walking across a patch of ground a hundred yards from my front door. Fortunately, neither incident caused any real damage but each has been useful in reinforcing my personal awareness of the fragility of life.

The global challenges we face (finance, resources, food, water, population, climate) are inter-connected as are the global and the local. In the words of www.earthcharter.org 'We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future'. Put starkly, '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'. While the ‘future we deserve’ project provides an increasingly useful and potentially important multi-faceted compendium on such issues, a framework, compass or map might be helpful. Can the http://EarthCharter.org, a UN-inspired Declaration of 16 Principles and 61 sub-principles for a ‘just, sustainable and peaceful global society’ play a part here?

It was formulated in a world-wide collaborative process involving hundreds of organizations and thousands of people following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong, it was published at the Peace Palace in the Hague in June 2000 and subsequently endorsed by UNESCO and many thousands of organizations.

A paragraph in the Preamble spells out the issues: 'The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened.'

The leader of Bournemouth Borough Council commented that on first reading he saw it as ‘idealistic nonsense’ but then decided that though it was idealistic, it was not nonsense and the Council became the first local authority to endorse it in the UK in 2008.

The Principles are grouped under four headings: Respect and Care for the Community of Life; Ecological Integrity; Social and Economic Justice and Democracy, Non-Violence and Peace. The sub-principles are detailed and demand study and practical action.

The trends, as the Charter states, are perilous but not inevitable. 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.

In 'The Way Forward', the Charter states the need for ‘a collaborative search for truth and wisdom’ and suggests that ‘the arts, sciences, religions, educational institutions, media, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and governments are all called to offer creative leadership. The partnership of government, civil society, and business is essential for effective governance’.

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