KEYS-project: Young people get inspired to integrate the Earth Charter goals into daily life

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In March 2024, twelve trainers from three different countries came together in Portugal to follow the KEYS-project ( and learn how they can inspire and motivate young people to integrate the Earth Charter ( goals into their lives. The group of trainers included four members of ASPEA ( from Portugal, four members of the Ökumenische initiative eine Welt ( from Germany, and four members of the Worldconnectors, affiliate Earth Charter ( from the Netherlands.

The Earth Charter is a document with sixteen principles organized under four pillars. It was crafted more than twenty years ago, but it is still very relevant, perhaps more so than ever.

Pillar 1. Respect and Care for the Community of Life.
Principle 1. Interdependence of All Life
Principle 2. Love and Responsibility
Principle 3. Democracy and Freedom
Principle 4. Justice Across Generations

Pillar 2. Ecological Integrity
Principle 5. Protect Earth’s Diversity
Principle 6. Prevent Ecological Harm
Principle 7. Sustainable Lifestyles
Principle 8. Share Knowledge

Pillar 3. Social and Economic Justice
Principle 9. Eradicate Poverty
Principle 10. Equitable Human Development
Principle 11. Gender Equality and Equity
Principle 12. Dignity, Inclusion, and Well-Being

Pillar 4. Democracy, Non-Violence, and Peace
Principle 13. Transparency and Participation
Principle 14. Integrate Values into Education
Principle 15. Respect All Living Beings
Principle 16. Non-Violence and Peace

When you read these values and goals you will think: ‘Who can be against it?’ But there is a big difference between reading the goals of the Earth Charter and living the goals of the Earth Charter. What can you do to live according to the principles of the Earth Charter?

Many people in our Western society have lost their connection with themselves, other people, nature, and the earth. The Earth Charter stimulates you to create this connection again. When we want to reconnect with ourselves again, with each other, with nature, with the earth, with God, or the universe, we can learn a lot from Indigenous people. They carry a lot of wisdom.

Did you know that a lot of indigenous people live under suppression? Many of them are chased away from their lands, are persecuted, live in extreme poverty, and are discriminated against. And a lot of their wisdom and knowledge about nature, the earth, and life gets lost. Indigenous people represent less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but they protect 80 percent of the biodiversity in the world, they are the real earthkeepers. When we protect them, we automatically protect our earth. They have the knowledge and wisdom to protect and preserve the balance in the different ecosystems of which they are a part. We can learn from them how we can protect our earth, how we can reconnect with nature, reconnect with each other and with life.

Do you feel like you are a part of nature or is nature only a small piece of green in the city to you? Do you realize that nature is our home? We are a part of nature. We often think that we, as humans, are the crown of evolution, but we are, like all living beings, a part of the big circle of life. I have felt that the most clearly when I was in the African Bush. Every creature, big or small, has an important role in the ecosystem. We went out hunting with the Bushmen, one of the last hunter-gatherers in the world. Their knowledge and wisdom about nature filled me with respect and humility. I could feel that we were all connected and part of a much bigger system. Humans, animals, trees, plants, rivers, mountains: we are all children of Mother Earth. God gave us as humans the gift of intelligence. Unfortunately, we’ve done a lot of things where we hurt our earth with it. It is now our task that we protect Mother Earth again and all her inhabitants.

This kind of knowledge and experiences are brought together in the beautiful Casa Velha in the Portuguese countryside. Twelve inspiring people shared their stories about the Earth Charter. My story is about the indigenous people. Other stories are about land art, how to make art out of nature, are about the protection of rivers, and about getting to know more about trees. So everyone in Casa Velha had an inspiring story to tell and we learned a lot from each other.

And now it is up to you! What can you do to live according to the principles of the Earth Charter? What can you do to reconnect with nature and each other? It is not necessary to make big, daunting steps, small steps are more than enough. Step by step we make an impact. Think about what you could do today. Every little step is worthwhile.

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