Today's No Comment item is the "Ark of Hope" built to house the United Nations document the Earth Charter. We won't comment on the ark, but we want to give a bit of context for the role the Earth Charter is playing in higher education. The Earth Charter is regarded as the consensus statement of principles on sustainability and world peace. Organizations representing millions of people, including several dozen American universities, have endorsed it. Florida Gulf Coast University even built its curriculum around the document. Its director of sustainability said:
...we believe that sustainability is the great moral question of our time, the meta-narrative of the twenty-first century. And we believe it is a moral responsibility of universities to study and teach sustainable living. Infusing the Earth Charter into research and curriculum at
has helped us to assume this sober responsibility. Florida Gulf Coast University
In a 1997 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mikhail Gorbechev said, "My hope is that this charter will be a kind of Ten Commandments, a ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ that provides a guide for human behavior toward the environment in the next century and beyond."
We at NAS knew of the Earth Charter from our research on the campus sustainability movement. What we didn't know was how the Charter gets around. It seems the borrowed Biblical theme (10 Commandments, Sermon on the Mount) continues with a new kind of Ark of the Covenant.
From the Ark of Hope website:
The Ark of Hope, a 49"(124.5cm) x 32" (81.3cm) x 32" (81.3cm) wooden chest was created as a place of refuge for the Earth Charter document, an international peoples treaty for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. Visit - www.earthcharter.org - for complete information on the Earth Charter. The Ark of Hope also provides refuge for the Temenos Books, Images and Words for Global Healing, Peace, and Gratitude. Over 1,000 handcrafted 8" x 8" x 2" books have been made by artists, schoolchildren, and citizens around the world, expressing their individual and collaborative prayers and affirmations for Earth. The Earth Charter's 16 principles are the guiding vision behind the creation of these books.