The Earth Charter is a remarkable document initiated by the United Nations and completed through a global democratic process by March of 2000.   It is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society.  It connects the issues of environmental protection, social justice and human rights with democracy, nonviolence and peace.  It seeks to catalyze cross-cultural dialogue on global ethics and the direction of globalization.  The Charter was created to serve as an educational tool; a reflective device for individuals, institutions and communities on fundamental attitudes and ethical values;  a "call for action and guide to a sustainable way of life;"  and a framework for values and ethics at all levels of society, religion and business.

            Madison, Wisconsin held its first Earth Charter Community Summit on October 11, 2003, as part of an international movement to promote awareness of the Charter. I gave an address on the Preamble to the Earth Charter, reprinted here, as it coincides well with the Jungian ecopsychological approach I have been developing.  You can read the Earth Charter at

Address on the Preamble to the Earth Charter          
 Dennis L. Merritt, Ph.D.

            I am involved in promoting the Earth Charter because it gives me a sense of hope. September 11th and our country's response to it has left me as depressed as I was being 1-A for the draft three times in the late l960's.  I find hope in the Earth Charter because it so clearly, succinctly and comprehensively presents an intuitively sensed interconnection between fundamental issues.  To quote from the preamble of the Earth Charter:  "To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny.  We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace" for now and future generations.

            The Earth Charter presents an opportunity to discover meaning at several levels in one's life.  To have a sense of meaning is to know one's place in the bigger picture.  Indigenous people's believe that accidents happen or one gets ill because the individual has lost their sense of connection to others and to the cosmos.  Healing comes about through re-establishing one's mythic identity with these domains.  The Earth Charter preamble says:  "Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.  To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities."

            There is much we can do consciously in "deciding to live with a sense of universal responsibility," beginning with reading and understanding the Earth Charter.  The Earth Charter wisely calls for the promotion of the arts and humanities in sustainability education. Artists, musicians, writers, dreamers and rituals are needed to move us at those deeper, more powerful emotional and unconscious levels. 

            Our position as Americans with regard to the Earth Charter is particularly important.  We make up less than 5% of the earth's human population but consume over 30% of the total commercial supply.  Our dominance in so many  domains contributes much to the global problems described in the Earth Charter preamble:  "The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species.  Communities are undermined.  The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening.  Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and a cause of great suffering."  Many of these situations exist here in the United States.

            Two modern developments are particularly worrisome.  The power of huge multinational corporations operating in a free trade environment trumps national and state concerns for the environment and social justice.  Rather than considering the effects of their actions on the seventh generation from now, as do many Native American peoples, corporations are driven by the effects of quarterly profit margins on their stock market value.

            A second worrisome development is the Bush administration's National Security Strategy of the United States (  Many elements of this policy are contrary to the principles of the Earth Charter.  It promotes American hegemony in all areas--politically, economically and militarily.  Rather than work within established organizations like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, our policy is to act on our perceived best interests, organizing coalitions particular to each situation, using pre-emptive force if necessary.  Our stated military aim is to "Build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge…[with forces] strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling the power of the United States."

            We are living in a particularly dangerous time in America with fears of an unseen enemy capable of doing apocalyptic damage that may never be eradicated.  These fears can be manipulated to promote huge increases in military spending, unwise wars, loss of privacy, and a patriotic "America first!" stance in the world. (For a reading from the I Ching in July, 2002 on the American position post 9-11, see the last paragraph in "Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited” on this website)

            At times like this I take heart from the Chinese ideogram/picture-word for "crisis."  It contains the elements of "danger" and "opportunity."  I've mentioned several dangers, not the least of which is the very real probability that the planet's ecosystems will collapse within the next 30 or 40 years.  Our oceans and coral reefs, aquifers and surface water supplies, soils and clean air are being destroyed by over-consumption and/or pollution.  That's also the good news in a way, because the effects of our collective karma are easier to see, and the need for radical change is clear.

            Many environmentalists think of humans as being a cancer on the earth and seem to raise environmental concerns over human issues.  Some, including friends of mine, have given up, and resort to black humor.   We have a lot of work to do on ourselves as a species, particularly in our relationship to the environment.  I explore these themes in the four volumes of  The Dairy Farmer's Guide the Universe--Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology.  One of the areas hardly mentioned in the Earth Charter or given much attention in a politically oriented town like Madison is what happens within the individual psyche.  The Earth Charter calls for a change in values, attitudes, and perceptions, and gives a clear statement of goals.  Most people would agree with the statements in the Earth Charter, but we are overlooking at least half of the problem if we don't understand the structure and dynamics of the human psyche.  This is one reason I went from entomology into psychology: I realized that environmentalism as practiced was not going to save the planet.  Jung said we desperately need more psychology; humankind is pitifully unaware of its inner life and the power of the unconscious.  Science has proven that 90 to 95% of our attitudes, perceptions, actions and values are unconsciously determined.  Jung said we are the source of all coming evil.  We have usurped the powers of the gods without having the wisdom of the gods.  Unless we become aware of our own dark side, our envies and neediness, our potential for evil doing, and how cut off we are from nature, the apocalyptic visions of the Book of Revelation will become a reality.

            An example of the ecological dimensions of our relationship to the unconscious can be seen in our dreams.  The problem is that most people identify themselves solely with their conscious ego position.  This is basically represented by our ego in our dreams.  But who are all those other characters in our dreams?  Jung called them "the little people within,” our tribe, and the dynamics and basic patterns of interacting with them is reflected in how we interact with family and friends. These dynamics and patterns are also seen in a culture, society, government, economics, and the relationship with the environment.  Jung called these basic patterns the archetypes of the collective unconscious, the Chinese present them in the form of the hexagrams in the I Ching, and all indigenous peoples see them as the interactions of the gods or spirits with each other and with the world.

            Jung emphasized the necessity of each person discovering their own unique nature and path, of moving towards wholeness, and finding a spiritual depth he called the Self that gives life meaning.  Without this we look for fulfillment through using people or consuming things to make us happy, leaving us victims of the advertisers.  The Earth Charter proclaims, "We must realize that when our basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more."

            The Earth Charter calls for an appreciation and respect for indigenous cultures and for preservation of their sacred sites.  I've had the privilege of participating in many Native American ceremonies and have some sense of their world view.  I feel they best represent this statement in the preamble:  "The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature."

            I've been involved for several years with the Ancient Earthworks Society in Madison, an organization devoted to studying and protecting the abundance of Indian effigy mounds found mostly in Wisconsin ( Some of the most exciting archeological discoveries in America in the past 20 years have been made by Herman Bender around the Fond du Lac area in Wisconsin.  Herman has discovered what may be the long lost Eastern Center of the World for the Cheyenne Indians.  An abundance of data, including arrangement of stones called petroforms, date ancient ceremonial sites over 3500 years old (see "Hanwakan Center" on Facebook).

Now let us look at each of its four major areas at the Earth Charter:
1.    Respect and Care for the Community of Life.
2.    Ecological Integrity.  
3.    Social and Economic Justice.
4.    Democracy, Non-violence and Peace.

For each area we have two presenters, one for the local perspective and one for the global position.


Telephone:  Madison: (608) 255-9330 ext. 5

                     Milwaukee: (414) 332-7400

Fax:             (608) 255-7810



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