If someone asks you who you are, how do you identify yourself? You may tell them your name, job, nationality, race, or religion. You probably realize that this answer does not encompass who you truly are. As we classify ourselves in various categories, we establish divisions between ourselves and others. Often it requires a catalyzing event, such as a natural disaster, for people to realize that we cannot survive if we don’t work together.
Today, due to global warming and other environmental issues, earth faces many such disasters. Ilchi Lee, founder of the “Earth Citizen” movement, first issued a call to action in 2001 in his book “Healing Society.” He wrote that once 100 million people realize they are earth citizens and take action together, they will change the world. Enlightenment, Lee states, is not just knowledge. It is also action. Without action, he claims, knowledge is useless.
The purpose of Lee’s Earth Citizen movement is to get people to declare themselves citizens of earth. Rather than identifying with their nationality, race, or religion, they accept that they are human first, living together on earth. The members believe human beings are all connected, and that realizing our common values will be the first step in recovering our humanity.
The Earth Citizen movement formally began in April 2009 and is growing all over the world. It has members in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Korea, and Japan. So far, over 100,000 people have joined. The movement’s goal is reach to 100 million people.
What is an Earth Citizen?
Earth Citizens are people who are willing to take responsibility for the earth, the foundation of life. The One Dollar Project encourages them to make a donation of one dollar per a month. The dollar is a symbol; each dollar represents a person’s energy. A dollar bill, Earth Citizens remind us, is valuable only because people choose to believe its value. Without that, the bill itself is just a piece of paper. Humanity’s collective agreement is what creates the value, and how we spend our money represents how we spend our energy. Founder Ilchi Lee suggests people meditate on the meaning of a dollar. “What is the true value of money?” he asks. “What does it say about your choices and your way of life?”
Participants in the One Dollar Project believe their donation symbolizes their determination to make positive, widely beneficial choices with their money. By giving one dollar per month, they are declaring that they are committed to creating a better future for the humanity and the earth. They believe their collective energy and action will accomplish more than one person ever could.
Reaching 100 million people
100 million is over one percent of the whole world’s population. How can the Earth Citizen movement hope to reach so many members? The answer, they suggest, is exponential growth. If 1,000 people are each able to persuade just one other person to join the movement every week, within 17 weeks the movement will have grown 100 million strong.
Members intend to mobilize people utilizing communications technology, including the internet and mobile phones, to reach across boundaries like nationality, race, and religion. On the movement’s website, self-declared Earth Citizens share their achievements; individuals write down what they do to make the earth healthier and happier. On a digital map of the earth, members can light up their location and see the world become a bit brighter.
How are the donations used?
In keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, donations support projects in the fields of education, health, and the environment. The first targeted project is combating the global AIDS pandemic, focusing on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Primary prevention, testing, and counseling, and better integration of care, treatment, and support are important to combating MTCT. On the environmental front, the movement supports the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) tree-planting project.
The Philosophy of the Earth Citizen Movement
Ilchi Lee created the Earth Citizen movement in the spirit of Hong-ik. Hong-ik is a Korean word for the desire “to widely benefit all humankind.” Lee believes that his movement can help individuals discover the Hong-ik spirit which all humans are capable of. He states that recovering the Hong-ik spirit is like returning to a time when humanity lived as one family and humbly recognized its dependence on the earth.
Some say that the environmental movement began when the first rocket was launched into space and we saw photos of the earth, the “blue marble” floating in space. That was only about 50 years ago. Since then, we have learned a lot about the earth, and about the human brain. Lee believes there is a relationship between the two: Humans created the industries that pollute in the earth, so it is humanity’s responsibility to solve the problems; Lee believes the necessary solutions already lie within the human brain.
The Earth Citizen movement claims it is devoted to “recovering our humanity and hope for the earth.” They believe the first step is for people to identify themselves as Earth Citizens, and to put that identity above nationality, race, or religion. There is hope for the earth, they state, because humans are able to change.