KEYS-project: Young people get inspired to integrate the Earth Charter goals into daily life

Author Jolanda Schepers
Member of Organization Worldconnectors, affiliate Earth Charter

In March 2024, twelve trainers from three different countries came together in Portugal to follow the KEYS-project ( and learn how they can inspire and motivate young people to integrate the Earth Charter ( goals into their lives. The group of trainers included four members of ASPEA ( from Portugal, four members of the Ökumenische initiative eine Welt ( from Germany, and four members of the Worldconnectors, affiliate Earth Charter ( from the Netherlands.

The Earth Charter is a document with sixteen principles organized under four pillars. It was crafted more than twenty years ago, but it is still very relevant, perhaps more so than ever.

Pillar 1. Respect and Care for the Community of Life.
Principle 1. Interdependence of All Life
Principle 2. Love and Responsibility
Principle 3. Democracy and Freedom
Principle 4. Justice Across Generations

Pillar 2. Ecological Integrity
Principle 5. Protect Earth’s Diversity
Principle 6. Prevent Ecological Harm
Principle 7. Sustainable Lifestyles
Principle 8. Share Knowledge

Pillar 3. Social and Economic Justice
Principle 9. Eradicate Poverty
Principle 10. Equitable Human Development
Principle 11. Gender Equality and Equity
Principle 12. Dignity, Inclusion, and Well-Being

Pillar 4. Democracy, Non-Violence, and Peace
Principle 13. Transparency and Participation
Principle 14. Integrate Values into Education
Principle 15. Respect All Living Beings
Principle 16. Non-Violence and Peace

When you read these values and goals you will think: ‘Who can be against it?’ But there is a big difference between reading the goals of the Earth Charter and living the goals of the Earth Charter. What can you do to live according to the principles of the Earth Charter?

Many people in our Western society have lost their connection with themselves, other people, nature, and the earth. The Earth Charter stimulates you to create this connection again. When we want to reconnect with ourselves again, with each other, with nature, with the earth, with God, or the universe, we can learn a lot from Indigenous people. They carry a lot of wisdom.

Did you know that a lot of indigenous people live under suppression? Many of them are chased away from their lands, are persecuted, live in extreme poverty, and are discriminated against. And a lot of their wisdom and knowledge about nature, the earth, and life gets lost. Indigenous people represent less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but they protect 80 percent of the biodiversity in the world, they are the real earthkeepers. When we protect them, we automatically protect our earth. They have the knowledge and wisdom to protect and preserve the balance in the different ecosystems of which they are a part. We can learn from them how we can protect our earth, how we can reconnect with nature, reconnect with each other and with life.

Do you feel like you are a part of nature or is nature only a small piece of green in the city to you? Do you realize that nature is our home? We are a part of nature. We often think that we, as humans, are the crown of evolution, but we are, like all living beings, a part of the big circle of life. I have felt that the most clearly when I was in the African Bush. Every creature, big or small, has an important role in the ecosystem. We went out hunting with the Bushmen, one of the last hunter-gatherers in the world. Their knowledge and wisdom about nature filled me with respect and humility. I could feel that we were all connected and part of a much bigger system. Humans, animals, trees, plants, rivers, mountains: we are all children of Mother Earth. God gave us as humans the gift of intelligence. Unfortunately, we’ve done a lot of things where we hurt our earth with it. It is now our task that we protect Mother Earth again and all her inhabitants.

This kind of knowledge and experiences are brought together in the beautiful Casa Velha in the Portuguese countryside. Twelve inspiring people shared their stories about the Earth Charter. My story is about the indigenous people. Other stories are about land art, how to make art out of nature, are about the protection of rivers, and about getting to know more about trees. So everyone in Casa Velha had an inspiring story to tell and we learned a lot from each other.

And now it is up to you! What can you do to live according to the principles of the Earth Charter? What can you do to reconnect with nature and each other? It is not necessary to make big, daunting steps, small steps are more than enough. Step by step we make an impact. Think about what you could do today. Every little step is worthwhile.

Photos by Kimo

Experience KEYS training March in Portugal – By Miranda Willems

Earth Charter 🌎💙🌿 KEYS educators training

What examples and effects have inspired education with an eye to the Earth Charter? Together with four Dutch Earth Charters – Worldconnectors and eight International Earth Charters, I find myself just outside Lisbon.

We gather by a crackling fire, on the grounds of a beautiful ecological-spiritual center. We share our story. We gather our perspectives.

“Look with me in my classroom,” one of the environmental teachers told me the next day. She is a teacher in Portugal. As she watches a video of young students, she opens our eyes to how practically she invites young people to gain more sense and perspective, regarding art in relation to nature. Looking with different eyes. One of the fun exercises during our Earth Charter KEYS educators training is to create a short video connecting art to nature.

The next day we are given pen and paper. We started drawing: ‘connect with the representation of various trees’. The photos here give an impression of our meeting. I look forward to further inspiring youth programs in the Future Generations Lab with this. The KEYS educators project took me by surprise.

In three days, my perspective on the Earth Charter has been greatly enriched. Through personal stories and experiences of people in the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. By meeting. By opening the door to each other’s experiences with the Earth Charter. Enriched, with concrete exercises and physical arts to further spread the principles of the Earth Charter.

Now I see how the Earth Charter can further inspire action, in collaboration with young people; for nature and future generations.

Pictures made by: Khemais Barienti

Worldconnectors, affiliate Earth Charter
Earth Charter International

Participant Henkjan Laats on why he will attend the KEYS training in March and what he hopes to get out of it

As Worldconnector and director and coordinator of the youth program of Cross Cultural Bridges, I will participate in the KEYS program organized from March 6 to 9 in Portugal. Cross Cultural Bridges and Worldconnectors share the goal of fostering connections between people and as part of nature. Intergenerational connections and connections between young people are crucial in this regard.

In the past Cross Cultural Bridges had a very successful youth program with twenty indigenous youngsters from eight Andean Amazonian countries. Watch the video here. Until last year we were one of the organizations from 9 European countries that conducted the “Youth Debating the Future of Europe”. Here you can find more information.

Currently, Cross Cultural Bridges has a two-year project for young people on the application of “Good Living” in personal and professional life. We are looking how to apply Good Living in our personal and professional lives.

Good Living or Buen Vivir is a vision of life that originated with indigenous people in South America, but can be applied anywhere. An important aspect is how we interpret and value Nature, because we are all an integral part of Nature. It looks for complementarity and symbiosis, rather than everything being based on competition. In addition, Good Living assumes different truths and non-polarized and spacious thinking. So it can go very well with other visions of life.

We do this in a community, where cooperation is essential. We organize a camping weekend once a year, as well as regional and online meetings, and there is the possibility of sparring between each other or with a buddy. The intention is that participants also benefit practically from the project. Concrete plans are encouraged and guided. During all meetings, there is plenty of time for relaxation in addition to effort.

Through our participation in the KEYS program, we hope to get input for our youth projects and collaborations with other European organizations working with young people.