April 23, 2014

International Mother Earth Day: In Harmony with Nature, April 22, 2014: What Song Will We Sing?

Will it be “We’re In the Money”?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his current report on Harmony with Nature asserts that 'it is critical that the post-2015 development agenda is aimed at sustaining nature rather than reducing it to a resource to feed our economic system.' This is a harsh critique of economic growth as the basis of development rather than, as the Secretary General notes, 'supporting the flourishing and the maintenance of an infinitely diverse natural and social life ... and the well-being of present and future generations.'

Zeroing in on one of the worldwide hot topics of the day, he points to hydraulic fracturing as one source of how 'damage to the intrinsic regenerative capacity of nature is impaired not only directly by overexploitation of a particular element of the natural world but also, indirectly, by damage caused to other related natural elements through ecological processes. For example, hydraulic fracking …'

What can be done?

The Secretary General ‘s report suggests a new paradigm (a new song?): harmony with nature.

Will it be 'Blue Skies'?

A new paradigm would mean a new economic model, where we “reorient our economic system to serve the people and the planet better, as recommended by ecological economics.”

Hallmarks of this new paradigm, harmony with nature, include:

  • a relationship based on both science and ethics where people realize that the limits of nature are inviolable, and that human actions, lifestyles, and economic growth must be restrained accordingly;
  • the essential significance of nature must be understood as the core and the foundation of a new sustainable economic order; and
  • together with the human right to a healthy environment, the rights of nature must be honored and implemented more broadly to ensure our collective well-being—a step that some countries have already taken to nurture nature as it nurtures us.

                         Image: Kenneth Thewissen. Used with permission

It’s our song to sing—in harmony

For the Sisters of Mercy and our partners worldwide who acknowledge profoundly the sacredness and our oneness with all of Creation and seek to address our common global concerns of unsustainable development, violations of Mother Earth, human and ecological mining abuses, and denial of the right to water and sanitation, the Secretary General’s report offers lyrics for our song and strength for our harmony as we approach our national and global advocacy work. In his own words:

  • 'Harmony with nature implies that people do not assume that they have unlimited resources and means. Rather, we must accept that there are certain limits to growth on a finite planet.'
  • 'It is up to the international community, with its growing knowledge and understanding, soul and reason, to seek ways of healing the planet.'
  • 'Many people now acknowledge that nature has its own right to exist and thrive, just as humans do. People have begun to realize that the limits of nature are inviolable, and that human actions need to be restrained accordingly. This relationship is based on both science and ethics.'
  • 'Harmony with nature also calls for a rehabilitation of the human spirit, the concept of holism, and for its relevance as a factor in the pursuit of a lifestyle that respects the rights of nature. Human lifestyles must be respectful of ecological limits, and the limits of nature. Since nature bestows her gifts on humans they, in turn, must show their respect and strive not to do any harm to nature as the source of that generosity.' 
    Read the full report: Harmony with Nature- Report of the Secretary General (A/68/325),

To promote this new paradigm in practical terms:

1. Use the Secretary General’s report to urge your government to place Mother Earth at the core of the sustainable development agenda.
2. Challenge your government to construct a new paradigm—harmony with nature—in discussions and policy-making that can lead to sustainable development goals on energy, poverty eradication, water and sanitation, ecosystems, land and food sovereignty, etc.

Finally, we give the last word to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
'In the discussion leading up to the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda, nature must be placed at the core of sustainable development. We must recover the ancient wisdom that gently cautioned that economic wealth is ontologically not convertible into life, a truth captured graphically in the oft-quoted Native American saying:
Only when the last tree is cut, that last fish is caught and the last river polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize that you can’t eat money.'

                           Image: Ilham Rahmansyah. Used with permission

Resources you might like to follow up on:

In celebration of International Harmony with Nature Day, we invite you to follow the work of the visionary leaders and organizations pursuing harmony with nature and the rights of nature worldwide.
• Navdanya, Vandana Shiva, at http://www.navdanya.org/
• Earth Law Center, Linda Sheehan at http://earthlawcenter.org/
• Council of Canadians, Maude Barlow at http://canadians.org/
• Global Exchange, Shannon Biggs at http://globalexchange.org/events/speaker/shannon-biggs
• The Rights of Nature at http://therightsofnature.org/
• Harmony with Nature, United Nations at http://www.harmonywithnatureun.org/

Messages to:
Áine O’Connor rsm - MGA Co-ordinator at the UN
Denise Boyle fmdm - Assistant Director MGA

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