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Eco-justice Pedagogy Base for Change

American Educational Studies Association Annual Meeting

October 29-November 2, 2003

The Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers in Mexico City, Mexico

Saturday, November 1 at 10:15 AM – Panel on Eco-Justice Pedagogy
Presentation given by Anne Goeke, Co-Director Earth Rights Institute

Eco-justice Pedagogy: Earth Rights Institute integrates an ecologist/social justice perspective as its base for change by establishing worldwide networks and initiating programs for the development of a Global Green Agenda.

On behalf of my Institute, I would like to express my appreciation in being given this opportunity to share with you some of our visions, goals and programs of the Earth Rights Institute.

With the 21st century, comes the fundamental challenge facing every society to create political, economic and social systems that promote peace, human welfare and the sustainability of the environment on which life depends. For decades, the UN and other organizations have been appealing to world leaders to take necessary steps to shift us from the negative trends of development towards the creation of a global green plan of action to bring sustainability.

As the author, I have always known that ecology must include social justice if it is to effectively cause transformation. Eco-Justice Pedagogy is about a new knowledge of our understanding of the earth, of us as human beings and of our plans to create a world based on ecological values. This means building a new society based on intrinsic values of life such as simplicity, harmony, cooperation, conservation, equity, justice and love. This means transforming our perspective of life and think in terms of humans integrating with the grand design of the magnificent nature.

Based on this belief, I co-founded the Earth Rights Institute as a hopeful worldwide partner in pioneering efforts and ideas to spread new development models, systems and educational programs to achieve a culture of peace. The way towards developing peace should not only be focused on the relationships amongst people but should include a global ethical definition of what should be our relationship as a species within the natural world. If we want to reach the goal of a world living in balance, then as human beings we need to embrace and love the planet earth.

Earth Rights Institute is a newly founded 501(c)3 organization. It is dedicated to securing a culture of peace and justice by establishing dynamic worldwide networks of persons of good will and special skill; promoting policy and programs which further democratic rights to common heritage resources; and building ecological communities.

Implementation of any successful ‘green’ program must address all the facets of a society, as if being regarded through the eyes of an eco-justice perspective. To improve the quality of life for people all around the world, we must invest in participatory development that depends on capacity building, creating local and regional solutions, ensuring access to land as well as natural resources. Only Holistic approaches, in this new way of conceptualizing, is how sustainable development can be achieved. This means opening up the process to learning from other cultures what their best practices are in ensuring a sustainable future in their region.

Our planet's resources have been viewed in the western concept throughout history as an inexhaustible resource, both in terms of what they can produce and what they can absorb. But the ecological limits of our resources became apparent in the past decade and with this reality the human species must change their relationship to the earth.

According to WorldWatch:
“The world has lost nearly half its forested area in the past 8,000 years, and the majority of that loss occurred in the 20th century, when cultivated area expanded rapidly and consumption of wood and paper jumped dramatically. Eleven of the world's 15 most important fisheries, and 70 percent of commercial fish species are now fully exploited or overexploited. And pollution of coastal waters often contaminates many remaining marine species. Water scarcity may be the most underappreciated global environmental challenge of our time. Over the next quarter century, the number of people in countries unable to meet their domestic, industrial, and agricultural water needs is expected to balloon substantially. The world lives amid the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs perished 65 million years ago—and most of this loss is caused by human activities. Habitat loss, the introduction of exotic species through trade and travel, and climate change all contribute to biodiversity decline. The world's freshwater ecosystems are rich but greatly imperiled. At least 20 percent of all freshwater species globally are extinct or at risk; the figure is twice as high in North America. Freshwater systems suffered in the 20th century from huge increases in water withdrawals for human use, extensive pollution, a proliferation of dams, and widespread draining of wetlands.”

With this has come the social, economic and political inequities and global insecurity. We, the people of the world, must now direct the wealth of the world towards the building of local-to-global economic democracies in order to meet the needs for food, shelter, healthcare, and education for all. Our programs and activities are designed to provide the necessary tools, resources and promotional support systems to give a hopeful response to the rapid depletion of our natural resource base and to the increase of inequities worldwide.

With partners, the Earth Rights Institute provides the overview and foresight to manifest a plan for implementation for sustainable development by organizing conferences, training programs and workshops, and spreading it at the regional to global level. Much of this work is done under the context of redefining development, economics and policies.

Today’s education is educating the masses on how to think within a corporate mindset that results in the promotion of corporate globalization, consumerism, capitalism and post-neocolonial structures that keeps control over the developing nations for economic purposes. What is needed more than anything to shift us away from the heightened global insecurity and the unsustainable use of the earth’s natural resources is an education based in creating the agents for innovation and change capable of evolving and adjusting to changing circumstances founded on the principles of global equity and respect for the Earth’s regenerative capacity.

Through the Earth Rights Institute, our programs challenge the traditional western way of thinking and its popular trends which permit destructive patterns in the operation of the global economy. The Institute develops in partnership newly conceptualized peace programs with an exciting energizing approach to creating healthy societies based on trust, hope and sustainable systems. Thinking outside the box, our programs lay out a blueprint that includes the educational base, the financial plan and the political foundation to fully support systemic change.

As stated earlier, the notion of sustainable development must be holistic. It must be sustainable economically, ecologically, socially and politically, comprising an ethical dimension and a respect for cultural diversity. With a growing population, the future of many young people across the globe hangs in balance because of systemic social, economic, environmental and cultural dislocations. This has been fueled by demographic, urbanization, and globalization pressures that have acted as solvents on local communities, cultures, and family lives. A clear need exists for students to engage in re-examining their own basic assumptions of what is progress. A reform in education to expand eco-justice pedagogy will affect the lives of future generations in a positive way. One of the principles of the Earth Rights Institute is in the teaching on how there is a missing dimension in the idea of human rights. My partner, Alanna Hartzok, co-founder/director of Earth Rights Institute, explains in her keynote address speech at the 21st Annual E.F. Schumacher Lecture:

“The needs of the people and the needs of the planet are one and the same: protection, care, validation, respect, appreciation, creative expression. Thus, the ethics of the Next Economy will flow out of a profound perception that the rights of human beings and the rights of the planet are one and the same.

Alanna sees the land issue as a key issue to the problems of the world. Her promotion for a green tax reform, local-to-global public financing, a global resource agency and land value taxation are some of the equitable and efficient approaches she presents in combating the mal-distribution of wealth that plagues our world.

Earth Rights Institute has designed, developed and presented a multi-media intensive workshop titled “Peace, War & Natural Resource Rights.” The workshop shows the relationship between neo-liberal economics and militaries; environmental degradation and economic control over natural resources; as well as discussing how green values grow green societies. This is presented in a clear alternative fashion and has assisted local communities in their efforts to build a just, decentralized, sustainable and cooperative economy. This workshop is designed for students and people who are seeking to build a just, decentralized, sustainable and cooperative economy at a local level.

Another example of what the Earth Rights Institute is doing is working with partners in Nigeria, such as our colleague, Gordon Abiama. Together, we are developing a new financial initiative called the Niger Delta Fund Initiative. In recent years, oil production in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region has been characterized by heightened restiveness resulting in loss of many lives and property. The people of the Niger Delta have suffered from environmental degradation of their land and the displacement of their communities and have received no benefits from over 40 years of oil extraction. The objective of the Niger Delta Fund Initiative (NDFI) is to establish the Niger Delta Fund, a win-win institution which will bring economic prosperity to the region along with enhanced security incentives for uninterrupted oil production. A more equitable wealth distribution pattern will promote social stability and stimulate growth of community based sustainable economic development. This is a very important aspect in the program to give the people from the Niger Delta region the support they need to develop their own community within their own cultural context so that they can free themselves from having to rely on extracting oil and using up all their natural resources for the western world.

Similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund (, the NDF will be a transparent legal mechanism whereby a majority portion of the oil royalties will be distributed directly to the people as dividend checks. Another portion of the oil royalty payments will be made available as low interest revolving loan funds for sustainable development. A smaller percentage of the funds shall be earmarked for peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and conservation programs. Incorporated also in the project is the establishment of a Niger Delta Bank, land based public finance and green taxation policy for community based economics in the Niger Delta region.

I hope that from my presentation, you were able to see how the Earth Rights Institute plays a role in bringing Eco-Justice Pedagogy into its work. We have other programs that we are initiating with partners all around the world. In actual fact, we have on our list of goals to help develop and initiate a global curriculum based in ecology. Something, I have personally felt that in order to bring changes for a sustainable future, it is simply necessary for people everywhere to be educated about the basic facts and information concerning ecology, development and what needs to be done. Together, we are making it possible, possible for another world. I thank you for being part of believing in a joyful tomorrow for all.

About Earth Rights Institute

The Earth is the birthright of all people

Earth Rights Institute (ERI) is designed to be an equilateral knowledge platform, where local people collaborate with academics and development professionals, both local and foreign, by exchanging skills, experiences, and knowledge to solve crucial development issues such as widespread poverty, land right disputes and environmental degradation.

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