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Rockefeller speaks up for the Earth Charter. (Letters to the Editor).

THE NEW AMERICAN essay on "The New World Religion" by William F. Jasper (September 23rd issue), contains some misunderstandings about the Earth Charter Initiative which I would like to address.

1. The Earth Charter is the product of a worldwide, cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue on common goals and shared values that has been conducted as a civil society initiative. The Earth Charter is not the product of a United Nations intergovernmental negotiation. To date the United Nations has not endorsed the Earth Charter. It is the case that an effort was made during the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit to draft an Earth Charter, but no agreement on an Earth Charter was reached.

2. The Earth Charter Initiative encourages the religions of the world and faith communities to embrace an ethic of respect and care for all people and for the greater community of life in a way consistent with their own traditions. It is not the purpose or interest of the Earth Charter Initiative to create a "new world religion," and the Earth Charter is not being presented as a "mystical revelation."

3. Different traditions and organizations celebrate and promote the ethical vision in the Earth Charter in many diverse ways. The Ark of Hope is one example of the way in which a group of individual artists and educators have responded to the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter Commission welcomes a diversity of responses and does not officially identify the Earth Charter with any one response.

4. The Earth Charter teaches respect for nature, including Earth, our planetary home, but there is nothing in the Earth Charter about the worship of Earth. It does affirm "reverence for the mystery of being," which many people interpret as a reference to the Creator or God.

5. The Earth Charter does encourage sustainable patterns of human reproduction. It does not take a position for or against abortion, and it deliberately does not use the term "population control." It is the position of the Earth Charter that the best way to ensure sustainable patterns of reproduction is to promote gender equality and to provide universal access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity.

6. From the point of view of the ancient Hebrew prophets, such as Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah and the ethical teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the world today is clearly unjust. It is with this concern in mind that the Earth Charter calls for "the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations." Equitable does not mean equal. Equitable means fair and just. The Earth Charter is not designed, as your article asserts, to promote "global socialism in a super-regulated global state." It emphasizes ensuring economic opportunity for all, strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and increasing participatory decision-making.

In an increasingly interdependent world no community or nation can solve the major problems that it faces alone. Cooperation and partnership are essential. Collaboration requires agreement on common goals and shared values. The Earth Charter is an initiative involving millions of people from around the world who are concerned to address this basic human need. It respects the integrity of different religious traditions, the sovereignty of nation states, and the rights of individuals. There are many ways to achieve worldwide cooperation in addressing our shared environmental, economic, and social problems besides building a "super-regulated global state." The Earth Charter is concerned to articulate the ethical principles that should shape whatever institutions of global governance the human community decides to develop (such as the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and WTO), but it is not the purpose of the Earth Charter to make proposals about the actual machinery of global governance.

I hope that you will share this response to William Jasper's essay with your readers.


Middlebury, Vermont

Steven Rockefeller was chairman of the Earth Charter International Drafting Committee. He is also a professor emeritus of religion at Middlebury College in Vermont and chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Mr. Jasper responds in an article beginning on page 15.
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Publication:The New American
Date:Nov 4, 2002
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