IEF 4th Annual Conference

Submitted by admin on 25. August 2010 - 16:16
Dates
2000 December 12-14
Place
Orlando, Florida, USA

4th ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM

12-14 December 2000 - Orlando, Florida

Theme:
Applying the Bahá'í Teachings to the
Environmental Challenges Facing the World


REPORT OF THE CONFERENCE


CONFERENCE PROGRAMME AND PAPERS


The Fourth Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF) was held 12-14 December 2000 in Orlando, Florida, USA, on the theme Applying the Bahá'í Teachings to the Environmental Challenges Facing the World. More than 85 participants from over 30 countries on six contents registered for the conference in advance. 63 participated exclusively via the Internet through the electronic conference. Many others who did not pre-register attended at least some of the sessions. All conference papers were distributed in advance by email, and summaries of each session were sent out shortly after the end of the session, giving participants around the world the possibility to follow the discussions and to send in their own email comments and contributions as well, which were shared in the sessions as appropriate. In addition to those registered for the IEF Conference itself, some 200 participants in the Development Seminar of the Bahá’í Conference on Social and Economic Development for the Americas, meeting at the same time in Orlando, were invited to participate in the IEF sessions, which were integrated as concurrent sessions into the Seminar programme.

One exciting dimension of the Orlando meetings that was also added to the IEF programme was the integration of the arts into all presentations. Music, dance and drama appropriate to each topic were provided by supporting artists as listed in the programme. The arts had a huge impact on the sessions. All present agreed that the influence was profound on many levels and heightened the learning environment significantly. The superb work of all the supporting artists clearly demonstrated the essential role of the arts in fostering understanding at the level of heart as well as mind. Unfortunately this dimension could not be communicated to the electronic participants with present technologies.

The Conference was organized on behalf of the IEF governing board by Peter Adriance and a supporting conference committee, with Lloyd Brown coordinating the artistic contributions.

OPENING SESSION - Tuesday 12 December 2000

One prayer of the Bab was read with music in a wonderfully interactive way involving all the participants in a meditative dance lead by the Quinn family.

Peter Adriance as the conference coordinator welcomed everyone warmly on behalf of the International Environment Forum and introduced the programme for the coming days. He thanked Lloyd Brown for preparing the wonderful atmosphere of the meeting room, decorated with nature posters, huge numbers of plants, and sounds from the rainforest, to compensate for the meeting being confined indoors away from nature. Peter also introduced the electronic conference, the many other participants from a large number of countries around the world.

Dr. Arthur Dahl introduced the IEF as a virtual organization, uniting the scattered individuals around the world striving in their professions to apply the Bahá'í teachings relevant to the environment. It is an organization that works when you, the members, are motivated to do things. The organization benefits from networking with the new information technologies which give us the tools to unify the world.

Ms. Winnie Merritt gave an introduction to the Eco/Ag forum that was developed for agriculture on the model of the IEF, but inspired by a number of local initiatives, ISARD etc. They have a website started and most of the activities have been through electronic means this year.

The first keynote presentation by Dr. Arthur Dahl of Switzerland was on the conference theme:
Applying the Bahá'í Teachings to the Environmental Challenges Facing the World. Dr. Dahl began by emphasizing the need to bridge the perspectives of science and religion when we endeavor to apply the Bahá'í teachings to the environmental challenges of the world. He gave some examples of the challenges, such as climate change and the destruction of ecosystems. He pointed out that scientists, engineers, and others know what needs to be done at a technical level. Action is also taken at other levels including institutional, legislative and economic. However, seldom do people ask what role religion can play in meeting these environmental challenges. As Bahá'ís, we respond to these challenges at two levels: (1) the individual level, integrating the spiritual dimension into our activities and our professions; and (2) the collective level as communities, also to bridge the spiritual and the practical. We cannot deal with the environment in isolation from all the other problems in the world, but must find the harmonization of science and religion. Then he referred to some specific environmental problems to which we need to respond, both at individual and collective levels, e.g. the destruction of the ozone layer, climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption, land degradation, water shortage, pollution and waste. Baha'i principles were proposed to guide us towards realistic solutions. All these problems can only be solved through consultation and the application of spiritual principles within the framework of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order. Dr. Dahl encouraged us all to re-examine our activities and our life-styles and see how we can change our own behavior.

The second keynote by John Grayzel (USA) addressed the subject of biological and cultural diversity through his paper:  "Who speaks for wolf" Contemplations on interspecies unity in diversity through enhanced communication in the coming new era. He sought to demonstrate that human cultural diversity is a necessity for the preservation of general species diversity. He took issue with the common perception of many environmentalists that preservation of species more often than not requires protection, separation or limited access from people and that our objective should be to preserve as much as possible a supposedly pristine past. In contrast, he argued that from a Bahá'í perspective we are going to enter a still unimaginable age of diversity and interrelationships and that this will not only be limited to humankind but will include humankind's relation to other species as well. The survival of other species and a sound environment require a new transformation of the relationship between all elements on earth rather than the preservation of past relationships; relationships that in fact are morbid and incapable of resurrection. He demonstrated to those whose priority is environmental management (particularly the preservation of non-human diversity) that they can only attain their aims through incorporating a strategy of increased but united human diversity, each expression of which will carry with it a unique aspect of responsibility for the preservation of some facet of the environment, including some part of other species' continued existence.

The presentation featured actual examples from past cultures, starting with the native american story "Who Speaks for Wolf". This dealt with communication between a wolf and the tribe. Wolf is communicating because wolf is reacting to what is happening in the environment. For humans the communication has a moral dimension: they must decide if they wish to kill only to support their life or will they be killers because they refuse to move a little.

Mr. Grayzel asked how Bahá’ís can rise above the wisest councils now available. What do Bahá’ís have to bring in that is different? How do we stretch ourselves conceptually and mentally?
He cited his recent experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is continuing warfare with a great deal of damage along border with Rwanda. The country has important national parks that are being destroyed. To save the last few rare rhinoceros in one area, one conservation group proposed to have a mercenaries drop hand grenades on the poachers, but this project was not funded. The model of protectionism is really deficient. You cannot have warfare and not expect animals to die. Another conservation group was trying to save a rare group of chimpanzees with outside donations, but this was not a longterm solution either. It was a dependency solution.

What wider understanding do we have?
- unity and diversity
- every living thing is ordained for our training
- we must be kinder to animals than humans

How do we reconcile these three? We need a wider understanding of unity with every living thing. Three examples are:
· Local fishermen in Mauritania living on the Atlantic ocean who have no boats. They go out in the water and beat the water. Dolphins then gather and herd fish towards the shore where humans can harvest the fish.
· Camels ­ there have been many attempts to introduce camels elsewhere. The only success has been in Australia, which imported camel people (Afghans) along with the camels.
· Laplanders, who follow, protect, and cull herds of reindeer as they move along historic migratory routes.

We are at a breakthrough moment ­ in both hardware and software. Where will technology take us? We have not only practical decisions to make, but moral decisions as well. Anyone with a significant amount of money can buy equipment that significantly alters relationship between species, i.e. cloning. This can be done without thinking about the implications for society. We have not seen a meaningful moral and ethical discussion. We as Bahá’ís must look at the writings. If we believe that unity in diversity is not only within humans, but encompasses all species, then all the writings have meaning for species other than ourselves. That is the challenge.

Mr. Grayzel closed by asking where we might go next?

Discussion:

Many participants contributed to the discussion. One was reminded of a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá ­ that which we give to God we receive back a thousand fold. The law of reciprocity applies in human realm, the animal realm and the divine realm. Another said we are challenged to think of this unity in creation as part of one whole rather than making all of these divisions, not thinking of ourselves as discrete but as part of the flow and ebb of creation. People in the Western world see themselves as disconnected from nature. Other areas of world don’t see it this way; their ties with nature are very close. Today there are an increasing number of urban people who only see potted plants and food in packages. We are developing a generation with no sense of connection with nature. The Bahá’í teachings encourage us to go back and recreate those contacts, not to see ourselves as the dominating species but to treat the creation with humility. People who are closer to the natural world retain more awareness.

A concern was expressed that these kinds of things were never talked about in the Bahá'í community. It did not seem to jump out of the writings. What was talked about was the primacy of humanity and that animals did not have souls. Yet the writings encompass many possibilities, creating a big challenge to sort some of this out. Another concern was what we will do with genetic engineering, which really needs to have science and religion brought together
 

SECOND SESSION - Wednesday morning 13 December 2000

The session started with a dance entitled "Confusion" by students of the Nancy Campbell school of Canada. The actor Bill George also performed excerpts from Walden by 19th century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during the session.

Dr. Roxanne Lalonde gave a workshop on Examining the links between your religions beliefs and environmental attitudes. Participants were engaged in an introspective examination of two components of their personal worldview: spirituality and environmental consciousness. The first part of the exercise involved completion of a survey questionnaire with provocative statements designed to identify environmental attitudes and behavior and facets of personal spirituality. The second part of the workshop involved group discussion of some of the themes that emerged when these two aspects of our worldviews were examined in an integrated context. The purpose was to get participants to think, make choices, and understand where they are now in their life so that they can continue investigation and consultation on environmental matters.

DISCUSSION

A very rich discussion followed. Issues raised included the moral implications of consuming products produced by physically hard, degrading, exploitative industries, the alternatives for employment of the poor in developing countries, and the difficulties of being patronizing and making judgements about people in very different situations. It is hard to know what are "good" or "bad" products. Another concern was for over-population, with the implication of saying that babies should not be born, when nothing in the Writings sets an ideal world population. Yet there is an evident trade-off between quality of life and numbers of people. Do humans have the right to modify the environment, or will that right only come when we follow the Writings and implement the teachings properly? What does "dominion" over the earth really mean? What is moderation, and how do you apply it? How do you deal with the choice between driving to work and using more ecological transport, when the former allows more time with the family essential to family unity? Should we travel to conferences like Orlando? How do you balance individual rights and freedoms with collective consultation and responsibility? If we act, we administer a personal justice, but it is the institutions of the Faith that need to administer global justice.  How do you get Bahá’ís to realize how much they are caught up in the old order in which they live? One participant asked how the Master might have answered these questions; the difference between one's own answer and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's would be important to explore.

There were concerns about too much talk, and not enough real action. There is frequently a large gap between thought/feelings and behavior. People may truly value the environment, but in their daily life often seriously damage it. Some people may think they live a frugal lifestyle, but it may still be very close to Western levels of consumption. Poor people may ask why they should care for the environment and make sacrifices when the rich have caused so much of the damage. It takes great insight and deepening to really see that one must care, regardless of one’s particular position on the planet.

The discussion helped the participants to recognize the challenge in spearheading new kinds of behavior, like gender equality and race unity, while learning to separate themselves from their cultural and historical baggage. The IEF needs to help us work through what is distinctively Baha’i about environmental protection and recovery. We should not become confused with the extreme environmentalists. We need to have a different, more unified and unifying perspective. It was proposed to put together compilations of a few well-selected quotes, intended to be at least somewhat provocative ­ dominion, stewardship, humanity ­ to generate discussion among Bahá’ís. As the above summary of the wide-ranging discussion shows, participants left the workshop with a more conscious awareness of the multiple facets of their personal worldviews and how different components of them intersect.
 

THIRD SESSION - Wednesday afternoon 13 December 2000

 "Likewise, the uplifting of women to full equality with men can help the environmental cause by bringing a new spirit of feminine values into decision making about natural resources." ­ Baha’i International Community, Statement on Nature, 1986

The session opened with Melinda Salazar's workshop on Gender and Environment based on her paper Women, Environment and Development. The artistic contribution was a concert of wordplay by Marty Quinn, putting the words of Bahá’u’lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, the Universal House of Justice, and the Bahá'í International Community regarding women and the environment to a computer music medley which "sonified" gender differences as applied to development and the environment.

The workshop goals were to broaden understanding of the context in which women emerged in the environmental development process, to better understand Bahá'í perspectives about women and environment, to engage in a participatory process about women, gender and the environment in rural Andean Bolivia, and to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Ms. Salazar noted that by the close of the UN development decade of the '90s, there was a growing call for the integration of gender perspectives and gender analysis into environmental policy planning. While policy planners have increasingly considered gender analysis important, they have not always agreed on the actual analysis tool, and Northern and Southern feminists have often differed in their views on women's "special" relationship with nature. Her paper "Women, Environment and Development"  reviewed the different approaches or methodologies for dealing with women, each of which differs in connotation, theory and practice. WID ­ Women in Development is a Western economic approach, with women seen as an add-on, who seemed to suffer worse from the practices. Then there was WAD ­ Women and Development as practiced by Oxfam and UNI, followed by GAD ­ Gender and Development looking at what was missing in relations and gender roles. In WED ­ Women, Environment, and Development, exemplified by the Chipko movement in India, the question is raised if women are more suited as peace lovers than men are. Finally there is SED ­ Social / Spiritual Economic Development, based on the spiritual teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

The discussion was founded on a number of assumptions:
1. Development is an organic process in which the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material.
2. The equality of women and men is a criterion for building sustainable communities that will lead to a sustainable civilization.
3. Social and cultural attitudes and behaviors toward gender roles inhibit women’s full participation.

In seeking to understand the Baha'i perspective on gender and environment, participants learned more about these changing views in development, and considered the spiritual indicators for development presented to the World Bank by the BIC as a tool for gender analysis. These indicators were applied to a Baha'i community in rural Andean Bolivia.

The case study of women in Bahá'í structures in Bolivia was based on an evaluation of the UNIFEM/BIC "Traditional Media as Change Agent" project. It was illustrated with a video showing how to construct a community based on Bahá'í principles of the oneness of humanity. The study showed a grassroots community with poverty, discrimination and malnourishment, where the husband is a wife’s owner, and he is permitted to hit or beat her. Illiteracy is 80% in women (girl children quit school around 3rd grade) and 70% in men. In this community, the ethnic and political divisions need a common shared spiritual vision. That vision was illustrated with some of the statements recorded in the video: "I would like in the first place that the children don’t stay in the city and in the second place they return to the community and …. if there were work here they wouldn’t have to go back to the city…. Mechanic, carpentry, seamstress, …. By this way we can be together. We need people that live here and learn here and teach here and we live in the same reality. I want that my children be good and have a profession. Not like me. Don’t want to be abandoned. I want that we’re always together. Close your eyes and envision your community in 10 years: Men: universities. Women: get the children to stay. Women and Men: want technical assistance to help make the vision a reality, helping with farming, pigfarming, harness the sun, etc." Ms. Salazar encouraged pioneers and youth on a year of service to go down to the rural areas of Bolivia and bring some technology to them that they want.

Ms. Salazar also referred to Austin Bowden-Kirby, who was scheduled to give a talk but could not make it. He works with coral reef restoration in Fiji using PLA ­Participatory Learning in Action. She said Bahá'ís should get a stronger sense of what PLA is and include it in our own community development.

 


The workshop by Irma Allen on  Changing Environmental Behavior through Social Mobilization: Four Strategies
addressed the  tremendous opportunity the International Environment Forum has to lead the awakening in changing behavior toward the environment. Her presentation aimed to share experiences of four environmental education strategies which were successful in achieving the objectives of: (1) increasing environmental awareness; (2) changing the participants environmental behavior for the better; and (3) resulting in an increased number of environmental protection/rehabilitation activities. Social Mobilization brings together many allies, which is useful since we are usually short-handed.In includes approaches to political, governmental, community, corporate, and beneficiary mobilization.

This presentation used four short case studies of successful strategies, which have been used in different parts of the world, to raise environmental awareness and change behavior of a broad range of people in a community. The first case study was of an Environment Award Scheme, which is now on its fifth year of implementation in The Gambia. This strategy is being facilitated by the National Environment Agency and implemented voluntarily through District Task Forces.

The second case study illustrated the use of video letters in coastal districts of Tanzania to bring the "voices" and images of various people interacting in their own environment in remote communities to the decision-makers, and thus bring the people into the policy development and implementation process.

The third case study illustrated the use of a public campaign to mobilize a great range of people from various sectors and economic levels in Swaziland, to take action, with a multiplier effect, for a clean and beautiful Swaziland.

The fourth case study demonstrated how involving a broad range of people in Argentina, starting from the provincial level and working up to through the regions and up to the national level, and across many sectors, has resulted in the development and launching of a national environmental education strategy which is being implemented at national, regional, provincial and local levels. The process of consultation, communication, and individual and institutional capacity building which was utilized, has yielded many positive results to date.

These experiences, where large numbers of people and institutions were mobilized towards a common aim, yielding positive results, encouraged the audience to use and/or adapt elements of these strategies to environmental education work being pursued in their various Baha'i communities.

For the Clean and Beautiful Swaziland Campaign, the objectives were to raise environmental awareness, specifically to littering and pollution; to harness private and public sector resources to clean up; to promote recycling and regulation enforcement; to encourage plans for disposal, control and beautification; and to educate the public to cooperate with waste disposal services. The participants included the National Environmental Education Program, NGOs, Government representatives, etc. (about 40 organizations and individuals responded). Campaign sub-committees were established for: Education, Leaders/decision-makers, NGOs, Recycling, Media and Health. The activities of the campaign included school competitions (essays, art); cleanups; adoption of roadsides; brochures, pamphlets, radio programs, and newspaper articles; work with bus owners to stop littering in buses; market activities; recycling activities; advocacy (e.g. workshop for parliamentarians); a network (e.g. Institute of Waste Management, South Africa); a Clean Up the World Day (week); and investigation. Each group (market women, teachers, Boy Scouts, etc.) went back and catalyzed their own organizations. The constraints in the programme were: limited resources, indefinite membership, unplanned events, a lack of cooperation in some cases, learning "on the job", and being totally dependent on volunteers. The achievements included adoption of an anti-litter policy and legislation, creation of landfills in the country, turning the Mbabane river from a rubbish dump to a green area in the city, initiating recycling, bringing recognition to the participants, and getting people to see that waste is everybody’s business. The project was to be one year, and is now ongoing.

Dr. Allen started the project because something had to be done. It just happened. Letters were sent out under the letterhead of the NEEP, but it could have been under the “NGO” letterhead of the National or Local Spiritual Assembly. In between meetings, the activities depended on how much time people had. For example, wives of diplomats stopped sitting around being bored and started lobbying for environmental legislation. If you don’t have a constitution, a budget, etc. you have more flexibility. It is good for Bahá’ís, who are non-political, to participate in this type of activity. As one participant pointed out, there is money in waste. The project started recycling tins, working with the Coca-Cola company, which gave points for bags of tins, which could be redeemed in some stores for school supplies. No money was handled, partly to avoid corruption. Some women’s groups became occupied in gathering tins in peri-urban areas, making a meager living by recycling tins. There is a paper mill now, so some schools are gathering paper. Factors in the success of the project included that it met a real need, had the support of the authorities and of the media, promoted real networking, used existing resources and infrastructure, and cut across different sectors.

The Environmental Awards Scheme took place in The Gambia (the smallest country in Africa ­ Swaziland is the 2nd smallest). They wanted to have a competition, doing a project on the environment, for everyone to compete with each other. Everyone? So, they held simultaneous competitions for different types of people: advocacy, enterprises, business or industry, appropriate technology, women and environment, community sustainable development, enhanced surroundings, etc. The objectives were to increase awareness, to promote public participation, to promote the use of environmentally friendly technologies, and to give recognition to individual / community endeavors in environmental management. The organizational structure went from the National Steering Committee, ministries, and NGOs down through the National Environment Management Council, media, USAID, UNDP, then to sub-committees for areas and thematic divisions. They provided support (checklists, photocopies, etc.) for the Divisions (governmental administrative sub-division). The Bahá’í organizers provided the money for the prizes that were awarded, which were all equipment to help them carry out their activities, such as wheelbarrows. They ended up with a majority of men, so they worked to get more women and women’s organizations involved. The achievements included increased government participation, collaboration between government and NGOs, establishment of sustainable infrastructure, increased interest and use of public media for the environment, a pooling of resources, launching of environmentally friendly gardening projects (women’s groups), forest fire prevention, the spread of fuel-efficient stoves, and school beautification with trees that required little water. Working for the environment brings people together who otherwise would never come together. This was the first time that the traditional and governmental leadership had ever gotten together.

For the Coastal Environmental Award Scheme in Tanzania, the Awards Scheme was modified to elicit support and social mobilization. Its objectives were to increase awareness, to promote public participation, to promote the use of environmentally friendly technologies, to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to coastal resource management, to give recognition to individual / community endeavors in appropriate resource management practices, and to halt dynamite fishing and coral mining (to sell as lime). There was a period of amnesty for dynamite fishermen who would turn in their equipment, not be prosecuted, and receive training for other work (some 290 over a month and a half). One dynamite fisherman has become an environmental advocate. Competitions were organized for schools, groups, individuals, and commerce and industry. People wanted to be paid, but this was their job with the government! They were reticent, but some smaller committees went ahead. They said they would try to find funding for about half the project. By the third year, the shift from resistance to support was complete, and it has continued. Prizes included beehives, wheelbarrows ­ again, all useful for their conservation activities.

Dr. Allen launched the discussion with the question: Do you think that this social mobilization approach, getting others excited and involved, might be useful for your own work? Three discussion groups were formed looking at examples of other types of projects that might lend themselves to social mobilization, the implications for the different institutions of the Faith, and the pitfalls that might harm the Faith or our work. Examples of issues included cleanup, elimination of child prostitution, promoting the use of paper bags instead of plastic ones (that kill cows), and saving watersheds. To the question: What about politicians who want to take over and show off? she replied, try to make them look good, and give them credit, even more than they deserve. One awards ceremony was tied to World Environment Day to keep it away from a local political rally. Making them look good gives them positive attention ­ many problems may be due to the negativity. Support from the Bahá’í institutions might lead to greater awareness. Sometimes, there might not be any "participation" because no one was invited to take part! It will be necessary to avoid adversarial partisan politics. We have to work constructively. It is important not to leave too early, before the effort has been taken over by the community. Sometimes our Bahá’í community doesn’t have the capacity to bear so much energy and diversity. We have to use the Faith’s principles all the time. And we have to incorporate the contrasting points of view from the outset. We can co-sponsor with people who can support these principles.

The session concluded with a musical social mobilization: A set of exotic musical instruments from all over the world was provided by cellist Gwendolyn Watson. Everybody played or danced to get an overall effect all together. Then the piece of music was changed as a metaphor for the placid way we will cope with changes.

FOURTH SESSION - Wednesday evening 13 December 2000

The fourth conference session was the General Assembly of the International Environment Forum, which is reported on separately.

FIFTH SESSION - Thursday morning 14 December 2000

The arts and the environment combined in the performance/workshop session led by Martin Quinn on Research Data As Music: The Climate Symphony. This illustrated the transformation of data into music, opening up a rich perceptual domain for human understanding and interaction. Capitalizing on our ability to selectively listen to one or more sounds (as we do in music), we can map data to sound in a variety of ways creating highly musical sonifications. The sonifications use rhythms, patterns, pitch and musical scales to convey information content.

Several pieces featured in this presentation: The Climate Symphony -- a 7 ½ minute orchestral piece whose musical elements are derived from climatic forces found in 110,000 years of ice cores from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project II; The Seismic Sonata - a musical replay of the 1994 Northridge California earthquake that uses a jeweler's metaphor to view the data through two audio 'lenses', one regular and one zoom, simultaneously; and Solar Songs - representing solar wind interactions with the earth using data from NASA's ACE/SEPICA instruments; ground penetrating radar representations of the Ross Ice Shelf; El Nino data; DNA codes expressed as visual coastlines with a sonic level of detail biological information audio display; Solar Songs that depict 6 parameters of solar wind interactions over 19 days in April-May of 1998, hourly data including levels of iron, oxygen, and their ratio, two levels of electron energies and the hours of the day (commissioned by the Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire).

The methodology was demonstrated using the rhythmic patterns of earthquake, thunder, falling glacier cliffs, tornado, wind, rain, birds, Big Bang origin of the universe, heart beat, and DNA genetic makeup. The Climate Symphony originated in data from Greenland snows containing sea salt and volcanic ash that fell and never melted, creating layers that compressed under the weight of new layers forming an ice mountain 2 miles thick. In 1989, a 2-mile long ice core was extracted and analyzed  mathematically in wavy lines running across graph paper. The lowest value in a graphic file was assigned the lowest note, on up the scale to the highest note being linked to the highest value. Chemical concentration related to audio pitch: lower concentration is linked to lower pitch, higher concentrations to higher pitch. Each chord represents five years of data. The results of the scientific study were captured in music:
Vibraphone = solar intensity (550-year cycle): cooler sun has low melodies, hotter sun has higher melodies.
Bells & drums=ice sheets: advancing (bells) and receding (drums).
Kettle drums=volcanos: high activity (louder) and lower activity (softer).
Organ=planetary wobble
3-note arpeggio (repeated)=planetary tilt
Tempo=planetary elliptical orbit
All tones are played together at 150 years/second at start, then 300 years/second for a total length of 7.5 minutes.

The audience responded enthusiastically in the discussion that followed. It appreciated the discovery of definite patterns in nature, and that the interrelationships are best heard, not seen. The music revealed the beauty and aesthetic of creation, providing a convincing merger of art, spirit, and science. It was as if the living earth was speaking to us.

SIXTH SESSION - Thursday afternoon 14 December 2000

 LETTING DEEDS NOT WORDS BE OUR ADORNING: BUILDING ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITIES

A WORKSHOP FOR BAHÁ’ÍS: TRANSFORMING OURSELVES AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EARTH.
By Lloyd Brown

The session opened with a music/dance performance of part of the Seven Valleys by the Quinn family.

If we are to successfully apply the Bahá'í Teachings to the environmental challenges facing the world, we must begin at home, with our own Bahá'í communities. The primary aim of this workshop was to enlist the help of participants in developing  workshop materials designed for general Bahá'í audiences.  Their aim is to make Bahá'í communities more aware of, and ready to act on, Bahá'í principles concerning our relationship with, and responsibility toward, the natural environment.
First participants were presented with the outline of a workshop already in process. It is deliberately non-technical in nature, using visual displays, slides, video, music, and experiential activities in order to touch the hearts and motivate Bahá'í communities into becoming more aware of our responsibility to protect the natural systems which sustain us, as well as helping us begin to understand the profound spiritual significance of the natural world. I reviews problems associated with air, soil, water, energy, life-support systems, biodiversity and cultural diversity. It relates these to spiritual principles and action. In conclusion, Mr. Brown said that never before has a single species been responsible for such a massive loss of diversity. We are faced with a world crisis in the conservation of nature. Ecosystems are trapped in their present positions, vulnerable to acid rain, pollution accidents, logging and natural disasters. The only way we can meet the needs of a steadily increasing human population is through the renewable resources of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, new technologies, and less consumption. The present trends in agricultural research towards agroforestry, organic farming, reduced tillage, biological controls and integrated pest management are some early steps in the right direction. This requires public education, starting from the family and children in their early years (before school).

In the second part of the workshop, participants were asked to critique the presentation, consulting about ways the workshop could be further developed and improved. The general response was enthusiastic. There were suggestions that the materials be produced as units so that they could be used flexibly, and perhaps with versions adapted to different audiences. Some parts could be made more participatory. Mr. Brown was encouraged to continue developing the materials.
 

CLOSING

The conference closed with a final dramatic presentation by Bill George from Thoreau, thanks to the organizers, and a dance and song involving all the participants, capturing the unity of spirit and purpose built over the three days.


Return to Conferences Page
International Environment Forum - Updated 16 January 2001