Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1997i. The Black Sea Declaration. Prepared as rapporteur for the Religion, Science and the Environment Symposium II: The Black Sea in Crisis, under the auspices of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and His Excellency Mr Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, 20-28 September 1997.

Symposium II: The Black Sea in Crisis

under the auspices of
His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
His Excellency Mr Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission
20-28 SEPTEMBER 1997


A sea in crisis

People have depended on the Black Sea for thousands of years for food, commerce and recreation.  The Sea has also provided channels of communication that join communities historically, culturally and spiritually.  Today the Black Sea is in crisis, threatened by ecological degradation, including pollution, from activities within the region as well as its vast drainage basin, and caught up in global pressures for change.  The sea of plenty risks becoming a sea of poverty.

The Black Sea is a microcosm of our world in crisis.  Unsustainable exploitation of resources, the inequity of overconsumption by a few while so many cannot meet their basic needs, an expanding global population, the stresses of economies in transition, a challenging information gap, the hopelessness and despair engendered by declining opportunities, the erosion of morality in secular society, and the neglect of the spiritual dimension of humanity are leading the dominant civilization to a frightening impasse.  Present economic systems divorced from human values have failed to deliver the promised results.  The peoples and countries of the Black Sea are caught up in these forces largely beyond their control.

Religion and science in partnership

We have come together from the religious, political, scientific and other communities, from the region and around the world, to demonstrate our concern for the peoples and environment of the Black Sea.  We have enriched each other through our diverse perspectives in a search for practical actions to resolve this crisis of environment and development.  We have found strength in our combination of spirit and reason in both science and religion as two wings which must be equally strong if the bird is to fly.

In application of this principle, we support the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan as a significant effort of governments and their scientists to define solutions to the problems of the region.  The Danube Convention and its associated Action Plan are also essential for the Black Sea.  We know the direction in which we must move, but the best plans and laws are worthless without the will and the means to put them into practice.  What is needed today is the commitment of all the peoples and governments of the Black Sea countries, and beyond them of all countries contributing to the problems of the region, to implement the plans, laws and regulations so carefully prepared, with the support of the international community.

In the larger context, we recognize that we must all work to build a very different world in which material and spiritual civilization are in balance.  A sustainable biosphere that is ecologically sound, economically feasible and socially equitable is incomplete and indeed impossible without a recognition of the spiritual realities which are integral to life in all its fullness.  This is the challenging goal before us.

A call to action

We therefore call upon all the religious communities of the Black Sea region and beyond to reassert the ethical and spiritual foundations of development and environment.  We appeal to the scientific community to continue to provide the environmental knowledge necessary to define remedial and preventative action.  These two great forces in society should reinforce the work of governments, joining their efforts in local, national and regional initiatives.  They should work in partnership to inform and inspire people to make the fundamental changes in values and priorities necessary to evolve more sustainable forms of living.  Principles of justice, truth and love, and a sense of caring for the environment, must be applied in daily actions and decisions.  Only an acceptance of the essential unity of the material and spiritual dimensions of life can guide society towards development that is within environmental limits, and thus ensure the well-being of both present and future generations around the Black Sea and in the whole world.

We commit ourselves to the individual and joint efforts necessary to give this Declaration practical application.  We have bridged gaps in communication and understanding imposed by past systems, and established new and constructive relationships and partnerships of historic significance, which we expect to lead to practical results in the weeks and years to come.  The first fruits of this organic reunification of basic forces in society are the specific actions identified in the Black Sea Commitment for Action adopted by the Symposium.

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