UN Charter For Ecological Justice

Barbara Williams
5 min readFeb 25, 2022


The Concept of the Charter for Ecological Justice

Humanity have showed their ability to unite behind a common noble purpose when they agreed the Declaration of Human Rights. However, that declaration made no allowance for planetary limitations and the fact that humanity depends on healthy eco-systems to survive. Pandemics, food insecurity, resource wars, civil unrest, high extinction rates and monetary inflation/stagflation are all symptoms of the escalating ecological collapse in 2022. This document presents the six scientific insights which underpin the proposed wording for a UN ‘Charter for Ecological Justice’ shown below.

“This ‘Charter for Ecological Justice’ seeks to inspire a new emotional maturity within the human race. This new era will be characterised by increasingly selfless behaviour both individually and collectively in the face of escalating existential threats. To this end it recognises that our environmental impact is a product of our population size and the way that we utilise our affluence and technology. Henceforth we shall collectively and individually aspire to combine our free-choice, affluence and technology to redress the ecological imbalance, which is escalating the sixth mass extinction. All nations will collectively aspire to reducing their ecological footprint to less than half of the biocapacity available within their borders, as determined by the Global Footprint Network data. Globally, education and empowerment goals will prioritise the symbiotic relationships between ecological footprint, ecological balance, and the need to conserve more than half of the planet for sustaining the needs of wildlife and biodiversity. Human intervention in wildlife populations will be discouraged unless an invasive species is deemed to be a serious threat to either local or global eco-systems. The Charter recommends that communities work towards living within the biocapacity of their borders. The average ecological footprint of 2.14 gha per capita is a guide for a fulfilled life within a healthy ecosystem. Local targets for average footprint will need regular reviews to equitably reflect changing global and local circumstances.

This Charter offers quantifiable ecological objectives which would be a much better measure of the health of a Nation than the Gross Domestic Product which is often used today. The wording is underpinned by six scientific insights and there is a separate article explaining the emotional evolution needed to address the cultural causes of climate and ecological injustice.

The Six Scientific Insights which justify the Earth Charter

i) I=PAT

The IPAT equation was established in the 1970s, it identifies the relationship between human activity and our impact on our environment. It concludes that the level of environmental impact increases as a product of Population size, use of Affluence and use of Technology, thus

Environmental Impact = Population * Affluence * Technology

ii) The Jevons Paradox

The Jevons Paradox observed that as we increase the efficiency with which we use our energy supplies, we increase the demand until the benefits of the efficiency are eliminated.

iii) Ecological Footprint and the Global Footprint Network

The ecological footprint is a method promoted by the Global Footprint Network to measure human demand on natural capital, i.e. the quantity of nature it takes to support people or an economy. It is a widely respected measure of our ecological sustainability. Their data is freely available, the screenshot below is an example of the information available about the ecological footprint of the UK. The data is very difficult to compile and maintain so it is never very up-to-date. In this example the UK is shown to be operating at about four times the biocapacity that is available within its borders.

iv) Ecological Overshoot

The Global Footprint Network data informs us that we have been exceeding the Earths biocapacity for over fifty years, this phenomenon is referred to as Global Ecological Overshoot. The data from the Global Footprint Network takes no account of the biocapacity needed for other life-forms to survive, so their figures with regard to global ecological overshoot represent a more optimistic picture than reality, for we need biodiversity for our own survival. Their data is also a few years out-of-date, and the situation is worsening rapidly. Their data shows us that we have been exceeding the biocapacity of Earth for over 50 years.

v) Data Regarding Planetary boundaries

There is scientific data available that informs us about the extent to which we are exceeding planetary boundaries as a consequence of ecological overshoot.

vi) Research into Living within Planetary Boundaries

Lucia Tamburino has published research which speculates that 2.14gha might be an adequate ecological footprint per capita to allow a fulfilled lifestyle. Figure 4 from her research shows which countries will remain in ecological overshoot after a theoretical global adjustment to an average 2.14 gha per capita for us all.

Proposed Charter for Ecological Justice

The proposed wording draws on the scientific insights which are presented above. The petition was raised some time ago, it is intended as a start point for global discussion about the need to turn away from the ecologically damaging pursuit of economic growth which is currently the priority for all Nations and all political parties. Many of the UN SDGs make no allowance for our physical planetary boundaries. It will require a profound culture shift for us to break away from the Growth mindset.

The need for the Degrowth mindset

Unfortunately both men and women have lost their way emotionally in recent decades, wanting bigger and better and seeking unattainable concepts like perfection and excellence. We have lost sight of the simple joys of being in Nature and the importance of ecological balance. We have sought to dominate the natural world rather than living in balance with it. The transitions that required to acquire the Degrowth mindset are explored in an earlier article on medium Cultural Causes of Climate Injustice | by Barbara Williams | Feb, 2022 | Medium

If you are an NGO or a political leader and you wish to endorse this proposed UN Charter for Ecological Justice please contact pfpcontact@btinternet.com.

If you are an individual please sign the petition if you wish to support this proposal for a UN Charter for Ecological Justice.



Barbara Williams

I specialise in lobbying the UK government to consider a paradigm shift to show humility and embrace Degrowth objectives. Website https://PoemsForParliament.uk