My commitment to something larger than myself first took the form of The Earth Pledge. The words of the Earth Pledge came to me in a flash of inspiration and those moments defined the next several years of my journey serving as the chief evangelist and organizer of the Earth Pledge Campaign. For those unfamiliar with The Earth Pledge, it’s a short statement of environmental awareness designed to be recited by school children as a complement to the Pledge of Allegiance. More broadly it’s an attempt to elicit a commitment from people to protect and preserve our natural environment for the use and enjoyment of future generations. In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Earth Day in 1995, the Earth Pledge was taken by millions of people, though I do not know precisely how many. Today I’m told it’s still recited in some schools around the world. From hindsight, this effort feels somewhat naive to me … and yet the underlying principles and commitment that propelled me on this path are ever more relevant today than in the 1990’s. I was somewhat chagrinned when I was recognized for my efforts with the Earth Pledge being selected as a “Better World Hero” in the company of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and others of great historical stature. I wonder whether any of these people sometimes also felt that their efforts were but small drops in an ocean of skepticism … and yet persevered.
To Make A Commitment
To make a commitment I invite you to join me in taking the Earth Pledge and become an Earth Steward. The Earth Pledge is a simple but powerful statement of environmental awareness and global cooperation. It reads:
The Earth Pledge
I pledge to protect the earth,
and to respect the web of life upon it,
And to honor the dignity of every member of our global family.
One planet, one people, one world, in harmony.
With peace, justice, and freedom, for all.
The Earth Pledge Goals
A. Balancing Nationalistic Allegiances with a Commitment to the Whole Earth
The Pledge of Allegiance has over the years proven to be a very effective instrument of creating a strong sense of allegiance to the United States for children and adults alike. The words of the pledge of allegiance work their way into our subconscious at a very early age, and thus impact upon our behavior for the rest of our lives. But today there is also a strong need to balance these nationalistic feelings with an allegiance to the whole earth as an interdependent unit.
In 1992, “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro drew worldwide attention to the global nature of the environmental crisis. Global environmental problems will require global solutions. Our leaders of tomorrow must bring with them a commitment protect and preserve the earth for the use and enjoyment of future generations. And sustainable development practices will require a personal commitment of a broad spectrum of our population starting at the earliest ages.
B. Mainstreaming the Cause of Environmentalism
Presently there are hundreds of thousands of committed, caring people in the environmental movement working diligently to address some specific aspect of or threat to our environment. However too often the communication about solutions to environmental problems becomes overly technical or jargonistic. The nature and severity of our environmental crisis is well known within the environmental community, but has as yet not been grasped by a sufficiently large constituency outside the environmental movement. Most people are either overwhelmed by the magnitude of the data available, or confused by conflicting arguments. There is a great need to introduce the principles of environmentalism into mainstream culture in a way that invites broader participation. The Earth Pledge is designed as a way to mainstream the cause of environmentalism.
C. Unifying and Empowering the Cause of Environmentalists, Human Rights, Social Justice, and Peace
As yet there has been no one program with the specific purpose of unifying the causes of environmentalism, human rights, and social justice and the peace behind one very simple but powerful statement of principles. Nor has there been a comprehensive attempt to convey such a simple statement of principles to the broadest possible audience especially young people. And there has been no concerted effort to elicit a personal commitment from a broad spectrum of people to honor a simple statement of principles. The Earth Pledge Program is designed to do just that.
The purpose of the Earth Pledge Program is to spread the message of environmental awareness and global cooperation to the widest possible audience with sufficient repetitiveness that it becomes integral to our thinking and way of life. The goal is to increase the level of commitment especially amongst young people to protect and preserve the earth.
The Earth Steward Program: An Earth Steward is simply someone who has taken the Earth Pledge, and resolves to do four things:
a. Incorporate it into their behavior patterns,
b. Adopt a specific project of global CPR (Conservation, Protection, or Restoration)
b. Tell four friends about the Earth Pledge
d. Report their commitment so that we can put their name into a database of individuals who are committed to the cause of environmentalism.
In this way, The Earth Pledge becomes a vehicle for building a grassroots community of people who wish to make known their commitment to help protect and preserve the Earth for future generations.
School children are asked to recite the pledge at the beginning of the school day, as a complement to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Students will also be urged to write their favorite celebrities, world leaders and elected officials seeking endorsements of the Earth Pledge. As celebrity endorsements are obtained, they will be periodically released to the media, as a way of further disseminating the message of the Earth Pledge.
If there has been one clearly emerging reality in the 21st century it is the reality of our global interdependence and environmental awareness. In all corners of the globe and all sectors of society, there is a dawning reality that we are one. We are gradually realizing that our fate as a specie is interconnected with the fate of the whole web of life upon the planet. And yet this consciousness has not yet found its way deeply into our behavior patterns either personally or as a global community. If true change is to occur, it must come from those whose habits and way of viewing the world has not yet become fixed. Change must come from those who do not see the world in terms of boundaries, borders, and prejudices. Change must ultimately come from children. For children are not only leaders of tomorrow. They are also the leaders of today. Children react upon instinct rather than intellect. They relate to others through the heart rather than the mind. The Earth Pledge presents a vision of the world that is both beautiful and powerful in its simplicity. It can be recited by children in schools every day taking only a few moments out of the school day. In this way the principles of environmental awareness and global cooperation can work their way deeply into the consciousness of tomorrow. But for this vision to become a reality, we must begin today to incorporate it into our behavior patterns. This is what the Earth Pledge Program is all about.
Ten Foundational Precepts of the Earth Pledge
John F. Ince
Something very exciting is happening. And at the same time it is also very scary. We are in the midst of the most profound transformation in human history and it is only beginning to reach our consciousness. This transformation began in mid-century when we unleashed the power of the atom. It intensified in the 1960’s with the birth of the modern environmental movement. It further intensified in the late 70’s with the energy shocks and an appreciation of the finite nature of our fossil fuels and other mineral resources. And this dawning awareness abated for many in the 1980’s even though we developed a deeper understanding of the ecological process and balances that have governed the earth of almost 5 billion years. Now, in the 1990’s we have perhaps the most conclusive evidence of the damage the human specie is doing to the earth. We know much more about how our explosive population growth is putting stress upon the earth’s life support systems.
Put simply, “Ecologically speaking, humanity is on a collision course with it’s own destiny.” It is dawning upon us that we now have the power to inflict unknowable damage to our natural environment, either through the unthinkable devastation of a nuclear attack, or through the sum of countless, incremental acts all in the name of economic growth and progress.
I do not pretend to have a complete understanding of the the nature of this transformation for it rooted in the mystery of our evolution as a specie, as a planet and as a universe. I only know that the time has come to face up to the reality of what is happening to the planet earth.
There is excitement and empowerment in the accepting a great challenge. And there will be a great sense of common purpose in developing a step by step plan of attack, and then acting upon it. So I accept this challenge and invite you to join me. I start by attempting to describe the outlines of this transformation by offering what I call ten foundational precepts of the dawning human consciousness. Here goes:
1) The earth has a carrying capacity.
2) The earth is an organic whole. All its parts including plant life, animal life, the rivers, oceans, mountains, deserts, plains and the human specie all interrelate in a magnificently exquisite balance.
3) When the earth’s carrying capacity is reached or exceeded, certain natural balances are upset and stress is created upon the earth’s life support systems.
4) The ultimate consequences of upsetting these natural balances cannot be known precisely, but we can say now with a reasonable degree of certainty, that they carry the potential of profound ecological shifts with catastrophic implications for human civilization as we know it.
5) We are now at the carrying capacity of the earth or close to exceeding it.
6) We are now in the midst of the explosive phase of geometrical population growth predicted by Malthus over 100 years ago. We add 1 billion people to the earth every decade. It took 200,000 years for the earth population of the earth to reach 2 billion. That was 10,000 generations of human history. Within my lifetime the population of the earth has more than doubled to 5.5 billion.
7) This pace of growth cannot be sustained without catastrophic ecological consequences.
8) No solution to this crisis is possible as we continue to engage in escapist behavior through our use of drugs, alcohol, and in the cultural frenzy of spectator sports, consumerist behavior, and other form of personal and societal violence.
9) To solve the crisis, a profound shift must occur. Individuals must be willing to assume greater responsibility for their actions. We must make a personal commitment to protect and preserve the earth for the use of future generations. This commitment, made resolutely and armed with knowledge of the processes of social change, including the technology of mass communications, by a small minority will be sufficient to bring about a large scale shift in behavior patterns of the vast majority of Americans.
10) This commitment must be made now. The sooner we act the greater our chances of making this transformation as benign as possible.
The Most Important Message of Our Time
By spreading the message of the Earth Pledge , you are spreading the most important message of our time: the message of environmental awareness and global cooperation. Through the Earth Pledge our goal is to create a worldwide network of one million people who are genuinely concerned about the fate of the earth … people we are calling “Earth Stewards”
“An Earth Steward” is someone entrusted with the care and smooth functioning of a ship … like a steward on this spaceship earth of ours. It implies that we are all in this boat together … and suggests that must view our fellow human beings as passengers with us … Earth stewards … that is what we invite you to be … stewards with us.
Imagine a network of people all over the world from Cairo, to Baghdad, to Bombay, to Kassala, to Bucharest, to Warsaw, to Rangoon, to Bangkok, to Da Nang, to Seoul, to Tokyo, to Tunis, to Soloto, to Caracas to Des Moines, to Boston to Lubbock to Hartford …. to wherever people are concerned about our future here on earth and want to do something.
Through the Earth Pledge Program, people who are concerned citizens of the planet earth are communicating with other concerned citizens from other regions … by taking the pledge of concern … Earth Pledge
And this Earth Pledge is a hopeful message … because by recognizing that there are serious problems on the planet we can begin to work with others towards their solution. This is what the network of Earth Stewards is all about … people who are willing to take the Earth Pledge and to internalize it into their daily behavior patters. But what does the Earth Pledge really say? The Earth Pledge reads:
I pledge to protect the earth… This implies a personal commitment … and a sense of responsibility to care for the earth … to do what we can … in our daily behavior … in what we say do and think … in the way we conduct our daily lives … recycling … simplification … not taking more than we need … in being consumers with a conscience … in being caring citizens of the earth.
To respect the web of life upon it… The web of life … we are all one … a marvelously, miraculously interdependent unity… where what affect one part of the organic whole affects all the other parts … where we are all in this together … interconnected … people working together … a common humanity.
And honor the dignity … something within us that defines us … and makes us special … something that elevates us … to higher ideals.
Of every member … Of every member … we are all members … like members of the body … each put here on earth with a purpose … relating to the whole … performing a function vital to the smooth functioning of the whole.
Of our global family … the family of man … the human family … all related … by our common interests as inhabitants of our tiny planet … united also by our ideals and our fears … and our desire to protect and preserve this planet for generations to come.
One planet … that is one geographic unit … one earth connected by the great oceans that flow up upon all the varied shores of all nations…. and connected in so many other natural and mysterious ways that we haven’t even begun to fully comprehend.
One people … a web of humanity … brothers and sisters all… sharing a common desire to protect and preserve the earth for the enjoyment of present and future generations… all with a common ancestry … common blood … earth cousins … black, white, yellow, red … young and old …male and female.
One world … a continuum of life … people of different nations … different creeds … different races … different ages … different tribes … different beliefs … learning to cooperate … and work out some equitable way of sharing the resources of our planet … and resolve conflicts peacefully.
In Harmony … The phrase … “peace through music … that is the way the world can be … harmonized in our interests … not all singing the same notes …. or the same melodies … but harmonized … different and unique … but blending together … beautifully … the music of survival … and sustainability. …
With peace … not just a peace as in the absence of war, but a deeper peace that comes from within each person … a peace that transcends place … boundaries, borders … and time … a secure peace … not based upon vast military industrial complex … but a peace through law … and a democratically elected body of officials … not a naive peace … peace through hope in the future.
Justice … a true justice … where everyone is treated equally under law … with equal opportunity … and just enforcement of laws … both domestic and international laws so that … we all can share in the bounty of the earth and it’s resources… not the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
And freedom … freedom is not only political freedom … a freedom of speech … a freedom … from religious persecution … but also a personal freedom … freedom of thought … freedom to grow individually and to realize our human potential … freedom to let our creative juices flow… a full flowering of our capabilities.
For all … that means you … and you … and you … everyone … each of us has a stake … and can make a difference …if we are willing to get involved and take the Earth Pledge … and become Earth Stewards.
The Seven Principles
1. Define objectives specifically. “What exactly do we want to achieve? What will be the net result of all this effort? Quantify objectives wherever possible.
2. Keep it simple. Define the simplest common denominator for involvement of the broadest possible coalition. Remember, the most effective message is but 15 seconds, precisely the time it takes to recite the Earth Pledge.
3. Make it fun. It it is fun people will want to be involved and will work hard just because they want to. If not fun, it will die under it’s own weight.
4. Make it tangible. There must be something definite growing out of it.. something you can hold onto. Maybe a specific commitment is made. Perhaps funds raised are raised for a specific purpose. Perhaps a follow up action plan is developed.
5. Cooperate, Coordinate, Collaborate. To avoid duplication of effort. Keep the 3 C’s in mind. Find out what other people and organizations are doing. Work with them and your cumulative impact will be greatly multiplied.
6. Think big. Big ideas win converts. People want to be involved with something that has major impact. Design it for media appeal, and broadbased involvement.
7. It must be rooted in practicality. Reality check here. Is make practical? Where will the money come from? Do the numbers add up? What are the specific steps necessary to make it a reality?