Ethics for Sustainable Development
There is increasing concern that Tobago is not on a development path that is sustainable in terms of conserving the natural environment, strengthening the economy, or improving social conditions.
It is increasingly clear that information about environmental and societal degradation alone will not lead to action. Only when individuals and society have a belief system that acknowledges the importance of the natural environment to human development will they engage in actions for environmental conservation and sustainable development. This ethical foundation is a fundamental prerequisite to action.
In the same way that there are internationally recognised ethical principles valuing human rights, there can and must be ethical principles avowing the value of the natural environment.
According to Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International: "We need a new system of values, a system of the organic unity between mankind and nature and the ethic of global responsibility."
The task of developing such a set of internationally accepted principles for a sustainable way of life has been going on for over a decade with the development of the Earth Charter.
The four main ideas behind the Earth Charter are:
1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
4. Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
The Charter elaborates these into sixteen main principles, each with various supporting principles offering clarification and elaboration on many issues that have been raised by various groups in the course of the international consultation process.
These principles are drawn from international law, science, philosophy, and religion. They promote the goal of sustainable development as full human development and ecological protection. Interrelationships among humanity's environmental, economic, social, cultural, ethical, and spiritual problems and aspirations are affirmed in the Charter.
Development of an Earth Charter was first attempted for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 but failed. This initiative was rejuvenated by the Earth Council and Green Cross International in 1994. An Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the project and the drafting of the Charter. This involved extensive public consultations between 1997 and 1999 with hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals representing government and non-governmental organizations from around the world. Unfortunately, Trinidad and Tobago was not a part of this initiative as at the time no national Earth Charter Committee existed to promote and coordinate the process.
A National Earth Charter Committee was recently formed, consisting of representatives from civil society representing various social, religious, and environmental perspectives. Environment TOBAGO serves on this committee. The first meeting was held on June 29th 2000, coinciding with the official international launch of the Earth Charter in Holland.
The Committee is launching a national campaign to promote the ethical values expressed in the Charter in Trinidad and Tobago. This two-year campaign will include a series of national consultations, town meetings, workshops with different sectors (e.g. business, labour, academe, and youth), and special outreach programmes (e.g. to primary and secondary schools).
Apart from raising public awareness and support, the national campaign further seeks to help develop specific recommendations for actions to promote sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago (e.g. inclusion in educational curriculum, expression in religious teachings, inclusion in public policy and practices, and implementation in business practice). - Nicole Leotaud - Education Co-ordinator - ET.
It is envisioned that extensive public consultation during the campaign will produce a resolution (which will be taken to Cabinet) expressing the values of the people of Trinidad and Tobago regarding sustainable development. The resolution would urge the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to adopt the Earth Charter as an ethical framework for a sustainable way of life.
This national campaign dovetails with the larger international campaign, which aims to seek endorsement of the Earth Charter by the United Nations General Assembly by the year 2002.
For more information explore the Earth Charter website for more information: http://www.earthcharter.org or contact the National Earth Charter Committee for Trinidad and Tobago at EarthCharter@excite.com to give your input.