UGA Costa Rica Offers Earth Charter Program

While most students headed to the beach this past spring break, 12 students spent their time in Costa Rica documenting sustainability practices for the Earth Charter’s 15th anniversary.

Held at the University of Georgia campus in Costa Rica, the class is structured around the Earth Charter’s principles and aims to illustrate them through photos, creative writing and short videos.  That same course is being held during Maymester 2015.

The Earth Charter began as a United Nations initiative toward sustainable development and became a people charter in 2000, according to its website. The Earth Charter is now endorsed by over 6,000 organizations and is celebrating its 15th year by encouraging its endorsers to send in various types of media that can be used as educational tools.

“From a teaching standpoint, it’s nice because it gives a basic structure for a documentary,” said Spenser Simrill, the professor who will be teaching the course.

Quint Newcomer, the director for UGA Costa Rica, has been involved with the organization since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which was held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Once Newcomer became part of UGA Costa Rica, he felt that the principles should become an integral part of the Costa Rica campus.

“This is the philosophy by which we strive to operate, so it seemed like a no-brainer to endorse the Earth Charter and help promote these values within our staff,” said Newcomer.

During the week long course, the students will visit the Monteverde Reserve, meet local farmers, learn about the carbon offset program and spend a night with a family in the community.

“I think it is going to end up being a poetic illustration of the Earth Charter’s principles,” said Simrill, “You could almost not know about it, capture footage and still illustrate them.”

According to the Institute for National Biodiversity, Costa Rica contains only 0.03 percent of the world’s land mass but contains four percent of the biodiversity, making it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

Through this program, UGA Costa Rica hopes to help the Earth Charter in its goal of creating awareness and education for a sustainable future.

“There’s just something about that place that instills a love of nature and conservation,” said Simrill.

The principles that will guide the class are as follows:

  1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity
  2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love
  3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful
  4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations
  5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life
  6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach
  7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being
  8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired
  9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative
  10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner
  11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity
  12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities
  13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice
  14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life
  15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration
  16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace

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