The Earth Charter: A Love Story

When I was introduced to the Earth Charter, a Global People’s Declaration of Interdependence, it changed my life. The Earth Charter’s 16 principles for human rights, economic justice, respect for nature and a culture of peace are the ethical framework for the themes for Operation Bon Appétit TV Series and our World Factbook on Conviviality to help folks at home host their own dinner parties to change the world.

Being in the sacred city of Assisi, Italy is where my love story with the Earth Charter begins—it was a magical time.

July, 1999:  Sitting on the wall of the 12th century fortress ruin, I overlook the hills of Assisi, Italy, birthplace of the joyful troubadour known as St. Francis. It was here that he walked barefoot among the poor with a gentle humility and unquestioning devotion to God and all of nature.  It is a peaceful and inspiring place.

I have been invited, by some quirk of fate, to attend this conference on “Spirituality and Sustainability” being co-sponsored by St. Thomas University in Florida and the Center for Respect of Life and the Environment in Washington DC. I have come to learn more about the spiritual/religious voice within the environmental movement and to enjoy Italy. Fifteen of us—from the US. Germany, Russia, South America, Greenland, Denmark, Italy, Austria and Belgium—are now living in a family-owned dwelling, where we are treated to home cooked meals and gently fussed over by “mama” and her daughters.

I relax into the easy pace of leisurely meals together and a laid-back agenda with talks on the “Meaning of the Life of St. Francis” and the “Franciscan Alternative to the Age of Economism”. I take notes on my yellow legal pad so I can share the information with our local alliance on the environment when I return home. I am blissfully unaware of the importance of this gathering.

We take a break to tour the Basilica of St. Francis. It is huge and we each walk about to admire the frescoes and to pause reverently at the tomb of St. Francis. I am drawn back into the main part of the church where a mass is being sung. At the same moment, a young German male in our group has decided to do the same thing. Our paths cross and we have eye contact. As the purity of the nuns’ sweet singing washes over us, our eyes brim with tears from the feeling of closeness we share in this very sacred place. I am profoundly struck by thoughts about the futility and tragedy of war and the Holiness within each of us. I am awakening to the power of Assisi and the meaningfulness of our gathering.

As the week unfolds I learn more and more about the extraordinary people present and the purpose of this meeting. I learn others have been involved for years in the drafting of an international agreement known as the Earth Charter—an international peoples’ treaty for sustain the planet. The meeting is to gain consensus on some sensitive issues from some key international folks present here.

I am in awe to learn that the kind and courtly Russian gentleman so appreciative of my knowing “thank you” in Russian is representing Mikhail Gorbachev who, as-chairman of Green Cross International, helped launch these dialogues in 1994. The folks at the Assisi gathering have a wide range of expertise and have been working with a steadfast determination to get global input for the Earth Charter in order to present it in 2002 for support to the UN General Assembly.

I know it is no quirk of fate that I am here when I hear the Earth Charter is an international people’s treaty described as the “Declaration of Interdependence” based on the major principle of honoring and nourishing the interconnection of all life. It is what I had been striving for as a person and here it is coming to fruition on the international level. I am ecstatic.

The Earth Charter is an earth-shaking document. It is the culmination of many of the UN’s declarations as well as a wide variety of NGOs declarations and people’s treaties. It draws on international law traditions so it has “teeth” for enforcement. Most importantly, it is the first international agreement that views humans not as the center of all life but as part of a universal whole. It addresses humanitarian, environmental, economic, social and political concerns.

The Preamble of the Earth Charter states: “In our diverse and yet increasingly interdependent world, it is imperative that we, the people of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life and to future generations. We are one human family and one Earth community with a shared destiny.” There are sixteen principles that fall under categories like ecological integrity, a just and sustainable economic order, and democracy and peace.

Following my visit to Assisi, I was invited by Mikhail Gorbachev  to the international launch of the Earth Charter at the Hague Peace Palace where my dream for satellite linked community summits held around the country to inspire people with the Earth Charter was recognized as the major effort in the United States.  The summits were launched on September 29, 2001 and I established Earth Charter US, a 501c3, to be the national entity for helping to make the Earth Charter’s principles a reality in communities around the country. Today, my organization, Cultural Innovations Agency uses the Earth Charter as its ethical framework.  


I discovered how much I like olive tapenade while in Assisi. I don’t remember where I found the recipe below but honestly, I still have not found the one that tastes as good as what I had in Italy—guess it won’t taste that good until I return to Italy

Place one cup of pitted black olives, 5 anchovies, 5 garlic cloves, ¾ c olive oil (start with ¼ c until preferred consistently), 1 tbsp rosemary fresh, 1 tsp salt, ¼ pepper in food processor and blend into smooth paste or rough cut.

Click here to learn more about the Earth Charter.

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Operation Bon Appetit is an initiative of the Cultural Innovations Agency, Inc. (CIA), a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, with the mission to engage ordinary people in sustainability and social change that emphasizes conviviality, arts, conversations and actions. The ethical framework for the CIA recognizes the interconnection of economic justice, human rights, respect for nature and a culture of peace.

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