Giuseppe van der Helm

“To move forward, we must acknowledge that amidst a dazzling diversity of cultures and life forms, we form one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must unite to realize a sustainable global society based on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. To do this, it is a requirement that we, the peoples of Earth, openly express our responsibility to each other, to the larger community of life, and to future generations.”

“The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live in reverence for the mystery of existence, in gratitude for the gift of life, and in humility regarding the place of humans in nature.”

“We urgently need a shared vision of essential values that provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community.”

(From the preamble of the Earth Charter)

The title “Earth Charter” might suggest that it is a charter for the environment or climate. However, the Earth Charter is much more than that. It calls on us to look at ourselves and each other in a different way. Moving from the imposed freedom that prioritizes individual opinions and interests, relentlessly defends one’s own righteousness, almost collapses under the weight of personal responsibility, and reduces the global population to 7 billion individuals, we shift toward a vision where we see our role as part of a larger whole. We are part of a creation that we don’t fully understand, that surprises us with unforeseen and undeserved challenges, and that is not always someone’s fault, a creation that calls on us to strive for a good life for everyone we are connected to, including those in another place and time.

This mindset brings reverence for all life, instills confidence but also humility about our own role, and leads to social and economic justice. If this is true, then caring more for others leads to less concern for ourselves, and we can find happiness in knowing that we live eternally in the world community, much like a drop of water can only survive when it joins the ocean.

Giuseppe van der Helm is the director of the Coöperatie Leren voor Morgen.

Personal motto: My belief in the goodness of humanity motivates me to fight against our inability to look beyond our own group and the horizon of a single year. The conviction is that we are not compartmentalized beings but unique and social individuals who deeply integrate into the world we are a part of.