“I pledge allegiance to the Earth, and to its varied life forms; one world, indivisible, with liberty, justice and dignity for all.”

We need more people to take the pledge, and live their lives as though the Earth and its myriad of creatures mattered.

We all know at some level that the world–this beautiful, unique world we inhabit–is in a precarious state, and not enough is being done to save it. The environment is under attack. The quality of our air and water is deteriorating, the ozone layer is being depleted as are our forests, desertification is expanding, and global warming continues. Too many people are starving and too many are hungry; too many are homeless and without adequate medical care; too many children die of preventable diseases. While some people live in obscene abundance, others barely survive and many don’t survive. Population is on an exponential rise, leading to a doubling of global population in the next 50 years. Throughout the world human rights are routinely abused by governments that torture and murder their own citizens. Wars rage on, and nuclear weapons threaten to spread to nations that seek to flex their technological muscles as the existing nuclear weapons states have done for decades.

What is to be done about all of this? The choices are these: ignore the problems, allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear or despair, or roll up your sleeves and take responsibility for changing the world. The first two choices are akin to giving up–giving up your humanity. The only hope for making a difference is to choose responsibility–global responsibility.

Responsibility is an underrated concept. Without responsibility very little would get done. With responsibility, almost anything is possible.

Global responsibility can become a way of life characterized by awareness, beliefs and commitment–the A-B-C of global change. The starting point is awareness of the serious problems which confront us. Awareness comes from education, in class and out. Beliefs reflect values, for example, the belief that change is possible, that you can make a difference, that all persons are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Commitment is what impels you to action, the willingness to give of yourself, to sacrifice, to make a difference in the world.

Each generation has a responsibility to pass the world on in tact to the next generation. We are stewards of the abundance and beauty of our unique planetary home. Our generation and the one before us haven’t done such a good job–we’ve lost control of too many powerful technologies and been too greedy and power-seeking. I believe that your generation can do better. In fact, your generation must do better, for yourselves and for posterity.

If your commitment to global responsibility should falter because you think the task is too big or you don’t have enough time for it or for a thousand other reasons, remember that you are the link to the future. Without your active involvement, there may not be a future. If each of us does not personally accept global responsibility, we have no right to expect someone else to accept it. Is it fair to ask that others pull our weight for us?

We all believe in human rights, but without human responsibility there cannot be human rights. They are two sides of a coin. In today’s interlinked and interdependent world, human rights demand global responsibility.

John Donne, writing some four centuries ago, reminded us that “no man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; everyman is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine….” In today’s language we should say, “No human is an island….” We are all in this together, all five and a half billion of us. We are all one species, all relatives, all members of the human family–egardless of our race, color, gender or creed. We can join with John Donne in recognizing that “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde….”

We share a common responsibility for safeguarding this unique planet where life flourishes, this small blue dot in a vast universe which is our home. The threats we face demand that we put aside selfishness, and step forward to accept responsibility for creating a peaceful and just world. We can do better than solving our problems by means of technological violence, and we can do more for each other. We can take seriously that “all men [and women] are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights….”

We can live by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes that “the inherent dignity and… the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world….” We can accept personal responsibility for upholding these rights. We can speak out and act in behalf of our unique Earth and its many life forms that cannot give voice to the impending disasters that surround us. We can take responsibility– global responsibility — for creating a better world. Now is the time to begin.