7th ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM*
held in association with the
Bahá'í Conference on Social and Economic Development for the Americas
and the pre-Conference Bahá'í Development Seminar for experienced practitioners
(Orlando, Florida, USA, 17-21 December 2003)
To Build the World Anew:
Fostering a Bahá'í Approach to
Education for Sustainable Development
The 7th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA, (USA) 17-21 DECEMBER 2003
For an outline of the conference, see the Conference Programme.
A Compilation on Sustainable Development from the Bahá'í Writings and statements was prepared a background resource for the workshops.
Download this Conference Report as a Word Document
"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in,
and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings, Page 213)
The 7th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF) was held in Orlando, Florida, USA in conjunction with the 2003 Bahá'í Development Seminar and Conference on Social and Economic Development (SED) for the Americas, organized by the Rabbani Trust (www.rabbanitrust.org). Over 1,000 people participated in the SED conference. The IEF component consisted of four breakout sessions and one plenary lecture during the seminar, an Environmental Interest Group networking session, and two breakout sessions during the conference, each repeated twice to permit maximum participation. There were 30-50 participants in most IEF sessions.
The IEF Conference this year focused on education for sustainable development and was intended to provide materials and approaches for community involvement in the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development to begin in 2005. This report includes a synthesis of the results of all these sessions (including a 4-page list of ideas brainstormed for supporting sustainable development at the individual, family, community, and national levels) to facilitate its use in planning activities for the Decade. It summarizes the opening remarks of the session facilitators and the diverse comments of the participants. The aim is to show the richness and diversity of the discussion, not to reflect the views of IEF or any other organization. The conference was preceded by an IEF electronic conference using e-mail involving 38 participants from 16 countries, whose contributions on the same subjects are reported separately.
The Development Seminar opened with a plenary session on Wednesday morning 17 December, where Peter Adriance (USA) of the IEF Governing Board introduced the IEF Conference program and explained its purpose.
Inspired by Bahá'u'lláh's vision for a prosperous and enduring world civilization, and motivated by His call to be anxiously concerned with the needs of this day, Bahá'ís worldwide are striving to apply the Bahá'í teachings to the ills facing humanity, in partnership with like-minded individuals and organizations. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, "sustainable development" has become the term used to describe the process of addressing the world's challenges holistically by integrating environmental, economic and social goals. Toward that end, beginning in 2005, the UN will launch the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the U.S. has set in motion an effort to raise awareness of the connections between the Bahá'í teachings and sustainable development and to inspire actions accordingly. The International Environment Forum is committed to helping with that process and organized this conference to support it, in the hope that this will also inspire other national communities around the world.
Session 1, Wednesday morning 17 December:
"The Big Picture" Looking at the World Conditions and Understanding the Importance of the Call for a UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014
The first IEF workshop was facilitated by Gordon Naylor (Canada), Executive Director of the Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute. It was designed to explore the concept of sustainable development and associated challenges and to show the importance of education for sustainable development in helping to inspire and transform decision making at all levels worldwide. It set the global context for education for sustainable development initiatives underway in Bahá'í communities in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. A video presentation showed the glory and wonder of the planet, and the need for sustainable development. Mr. Naylor then explained the planned UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development and the role that religion could play in this process, as summarized in the following paragraphs.
Religion's role in development is increasingly being recognized. The global Bahá'í governing council, the Universal House of Justice, put the question of how we could conceive a world without religion. In their statements they say that there can be no doubt that the peoples of the world derive their inspiration from one God, and that the two knowledge systems of science and religion must work together. Religion has inspired in millions of people the capacity to love and forgive. It is relevant to all aspects of life and can create consistent patterns of change. How do we apply the revelations and teachings of religion to implement change and achieve sustainable objectives?
The issue is one of motivation - we have all that we need in the world in resources and technology to achieve sustainable development, but we lack the will to do so. The Bahá'í statement "The Century of Light" says the world is stubbornly resisting the true nature of the problem. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) some countries were unwilling to bring up the issue of religion in sustainable development, considering it too emotional, while others such as Brazil said of course it needed to be addressed.
This illustrates the perspective of the dominant culture in our society. We say: "the early bird gets the worm." When you ask someone what that means, you always get the bird's perspective, not the worm's perspective.
This need to address motivation is the reason for the planned UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) being led by UNESCO. The Rio Declaration (1992) states: Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." The WSSD in Johannesburg (2002) recognized that education would be critical to changing things. The problem is that there are 1000 definitions of sustainable development. The Johannesburg Declaration expressed the commitment of world leaders "to build a human, equitable and caring global society cognizant of the need for human dignity for all." Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that sounds abstract, sustainable development, and turn it into a reality for all the peoples of the world.
UNESCO says sustainable development is a dynamic and evolving concept with many dimensions and interpretations and reflects locally relevant and culturally appropriate visions for a world in which development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The UNESCO draft proposal of August 2003 for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development describes sustainable development as essentially an educational enterprise. It summarizes the Four Pillars of Education:
2. Collective responsibility and constructive partnership - learning to live together.
3. Acting with determination - learning to do.
4. The indivisibility of human dignity - learning to be.
UNESCO has defined ten Priority Areas for the UN Decade:
|Poverty alleviation||Human rights|
|Natural resources||International understanding|
|Health promotion||Cultural and linguistic diversity|
|Rural transformation||Potential of information and communications technologies|
The emphasis is on:
|Supporting local initiative|
|Ensuring that structures (national, regional, and international) provide direction and guidance for local initiatives|
|Re-orienting educational policies. It's about the way we live our lives; the way we respect the lives of others; and our attitudes to the world around us|
|Broad based strategies to build peace, hope, stability, tolerance, and mutual understanding|
|Literacy - "literacy for all is at the heart"|
|Education is a central strategy for sustainable development|
We have to be patient in this journey to make progress. We must remember the love of God in this effort, and draw down the Holy Spirit.We want to be involved in the progress and mainstream of development. What religion is about is the transformation of civilization into a different civilization in which spirituality will be more prominent. We want to address the core understanding of the nature of science and religion in sustainable development. In preparing to launch the UN Decade, we need to engage more people in this discussion.
A first question concerned what was meant by rural transformation. Mr. Naylor responded that this is for us to discover, and we can have great impact on it. It was clear at WSSD that it is not a wholesaling of what is in North America. In Africa, the rural societies are in such a state that they feel they must become urban. If you are not in the city, you do not exist. But they do not see any alternative. Literacy is at the heart of the problem. A project was described called "Wings of Words" working in three countries including Guyana.
Another concern was the large number of priority areas. Don't we need to focus? This IEF session is intended to give the big picture. We look at identifying where we are and what we think our focus should be. Sustainability is about the big picture. Scientists have now realized that all the problems are interconnected. They are trying to study the big picture and how all the components work together. This is consistent with Bahá'u'lláh's analogy of the world as being like the human body. The challenge is to avoid focusing only on one thing, and only solving that problem. So, where do we strike the balance between the big picture and specific problems? Some universities require students to give service to the community as a way to integrate the community into the big picture. In presenting the 10 priorities, we should think about how we take these and have something observable that a 5-year old and your grandmother would understand.
One participant saw a reluctance to address problems of power. How can we have sustainable development if power stays the same? Are people not thinking about this at all? If the UN made power an issue for sustainable development, it would have to be addressed. At WSSD, the People's Forum and governmental summit were very different. The People's Forum was very receptive to spirituality and the redistribution of power and wealth. However, to get any agreement among governments to move forward is a huge challenge. It wasn't that governments were not aware of what people were saying. We cannot wait for government leaders to make this move. In the Bahá'í approach, the "Right of God" (a voluntary tax on excess income) is the solution that addresses the heart of over-consumption. Based on a feeling of spiritual obedience from individuals (not enforced externally), we give 19% of income beyond needs as God's share, and this is distributed to help the world.
It was noted by one participant that poverty alleviation is the first priority. At WSSD, the powerful nations talked about democracy, but overlooked the fact that a majority of the world is hungry. They just worried about themselves. If we can put our attention into job creation and changing lifestyles, that represents the need of the majority.
Changing lifestyles requires something beyond formal education. In North America, college freshmen bring with them 15 kinds of electronic gadgets, and they have a car, yet this generation has been exposed to environmental education. What is wrong with this education if their ecological footprint is so large? Interview freshmen and they say the number one problem is the environment of the world. But does that translate into action and behavior change? This is the crux of the issue. Are we planning to address this in this initiative?
We need to talk about the connections between our actions, say when we drink coffee, and the effects on people in other countries. But we get overwhelmed when talk about it all. So, we have to say we can work with one issue, and where we can work at it -- in our family or company -- and then look at how it affects the big picture. We can start with our own circle of influence.
It is important to show changes in our behavior, to show how we walk the talk. This has to occur at local, national, and global levels. It is about organizational change. We have to look at how to own this and grapple with this.
There are some interesting initiatives to draw on. David Suzuki is teaming up with a non-governmental organization Faith and the Common Good under the banner Renewing the Sacred Balance. They are working on practical steps in what is called "The Nature Challenge" (http://www.faith-commongood.net/sacredbalance/index.asp). This is based on the ten actions that will have the most impact. It is very positive, and only asks people to commit to do three this year. They are showing the connection between environment and religion, including through a video. The challenge now is what can we do with this? Do we use this in community meetings?
The question was asked what the Bahá'í communities in North America were going to do with all this. The reply was that the conference ideas will contribute to the process of focusing on education for sustainable development. We will learn, explore, discuss, and see what may be practical actions - so that we "have legs on our thoughts." This is just the beginning. The National Coalition for the Decade is looking at this conference as the first attempt to generate ideas and identify resources that can be shared with the larger community. We hope to develop a web site and share materials. This is a long-term project, a ten-year initiative, to change community behavior. Our challenge is service. We need to work with this process as learners, not as knowers. This is a process of discovery!
Wednesday Afternoon, 17 December 2003
"Connecting The Dots: exploring the relationship between the Bahá'í teachings and principles of sustainable development"
The facilitator for the second workshop was Dr. Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), President of the IEF and a retired Deputy Assistant Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. This session was designed to give participants a good understanding of the relationship between the Bahá'í teachings and sustainable development principles, a knowledge of how these principles are being applied in specific projects, and several thoughts on applying these ideas in their own communities. The afternoon program was organized in four parts: a review of spiritual principles relevant to sustainable development; some case studies of development projects where the application of spiritual principles has been important to their success; breakout groups to discuss the application of spiritual principles and to prepare some sort of artistic presentation of the group's conclusions; and sharing of these presentations with the whole group. The process aimed to help participants to see how to bring forth their vision and to orient people in this rapidly-changing world. Parts of this program were repeated in the sessions at the main development conference, and their results are included in the report below.
Within the Bahá'í teachings you can find the principles that are needed to move the world to a sustainable civilization. There is the long-term vision of an integrated, dynamic world order, with an ever-advancing civilization based on unity in diversity. We know that world unity is the next step in the evolution of human society. We have to lay foundations for that society. We also know how critical it is to achieve the balance of material and spiritual. We have social and spiritual writings to help us change human behaviour and become more sustainable.
A compilation of quotations from the Bahá'í writings was made available to the group. It groups spiritual principles according to the three pillars of sustainable development: Economic, Social, and Environmental. We cannot ignore any of these. Our focus on education is important because education is the process of sustainability in society. No human being is sustainable. We are all going to die. But the human race is sustainable if we pass on our knowledge, culture, and values from one generation to the next.
Principles for economic sustainability
Among the spiritual principles for economic sustainability, we find warnings about the injustice and unsustainability of our present market system, which abandons starving millions while a few have great wealth. It tends to increase the extremes of wealth and poverty, and is even leading to a decline of the middle class. Our materialistic society is lamentably defective, and there is no justifiable reason to crucify humanity for any economic system. The old world order must be rolled up for a new one to be spread out in its place.
The Bahá'í writings emphasize a spiritual solution to our economic problems. We must recognize our interdependence on each other, and that self-sufficiency is no longer possible. We must balance divine and material civilization, and move our civilization in more social and spiritual directions. We must eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty, and recognize how difficult it is to be both rich and spiritual. There are principles in the Bahá'í writings which concern the distribution of wealth, ranging from voluntary sharing to graduated income tax and a tax on capital accumulated beyond one's needs, with the community using these revenues to ensure that everyone has enough to meet basic needs. In contrast to the consumer society, we are taught to observe moderation in all things and to be content with little. Wealth is praiseworthy as long as it is earned through one's own efforts and used for philanthropy. We should strive to create the possibility for everyone to be able to earn a living. Re-thinking the economic system to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty must become a top international priority.
Corporate social responsibility is another important area. The interests of capital and labor both need to be recognized, with corporations sharing their profits with their employees. Work is not just to earn a wage, but an opportunity to be of service to humanity, so its social and spiritual functions need to be recognized. Everyone must be trained in some useful skill, and have the opportunity to use that skill.
The Bahá'í vision of world order includes the global organization and management of all the resources of the planet, and equitable regulation of the distribution of its products. All available sources of energy will be fully utilized.
These principles and many others define a process of necessary change in the economic system, but we cannot do it overnight. Major transformations require evolution, not revolution. For example, if we had world peace tomorrow, it would be an economic disaster for many countries. The military and all the industries that support them would be unemployed. You have to offer them an alternative first to allow a transition.
Principles for social sustainability
The spiritual principles for social sustainability are equally rich. The oneness of human kind is fundamental. Many social ties are making us increasingly interdependent, so that world unity is finally possible and world citizenship a necessity. We must acknowledge that what is fundamentally different about humanity is our spiritual reality, and give that greater priority in our development.
People are more likely to change if that change is based on justice - the effort, costs and benefits must be shared justly. In this sense sustainable development is a fundamentally ethical concept, because it requires justice for both present and future generations. A sustainable society requires many other spiritual values, such as trustworthiness and honesty, the basis for all contracts and agreements. Social sustainability depends on solidarity and a spirit of service. Every human being must be seen as a trust of the whole, and humanity as a single body.
One key issue is governance. People reject world government because they say extending government as it is now to the global level would be a disaster (and they may be right). But we have another model of governance in the Bahá'í administrative order, a system that is coordinated but highly decentralized to build community responsibility. The Bahá'í approach to development is essentially bottom-up, depending on a community to define its own needs and to build its capacity to respond to them. Self-organizing processes like study circles suggest whole new ways to drive community change and development. We even have concepts for urban planning like the House of Worship surrounded by service institutions - people coming together spiritually and materially in response to the needs of their communities.
The importance of science and knowledge is another fundamental social principle. Science and religion are the two great knowledge systems of society that need to be complementary and mutually reinforcing.
Principles for environmental sustainability
There are extensive passages in the Bahá'í writings and statements relevant to environmental sustainability. See for instance the compilation on Conservation of the Earth's Resources. Nature is a reflection of the sacred, to be valued and respected but not worshipped. Its true value cannot be expressed in economic terms. The countryside has a spiritual value not present in the cities. Man is organic with the world. We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment, as our inner life affects the environment and is in turn affected by it. Animals must be treated with kindness, and children taught to care for them.
Evolution has created a diverse and dynamic range of natural environments. We recognize the interdependence of all parts of nature, and the importance of the mutual influences and reciprocity inherent in ecological systems. Maintaining the world'secological balance is of critical importance. While nature should serve humanity's efforts to create an ever-advancing civilization, we should make every effort to preserve as much as possible the Earth's biodiversity and natural order. We are trustees of the planet's vast resources, and must learn to make use of them in ways that ensure sustainability and equity into the distant reaches of time. Renewable resources such as agriculture have great importance.
Communities have a responsibility to protect their local environment and manage it wisely. Sustainable environmental management must come to be seen not as a discretionary commitment to weigh against other competing interests, but rather as a fundamental responsibility that is a prerequisite for spiritual development as well as our physical survival.
In one session, the participants themselves were invited to identify spiritual principles relevant to each of the pillars of sustainable development. Their listing was:
|Economic Pillar||Social Pillar||Environmental Pillar|
|·||Elimination of vast extremes of wealth and poverty||·||Equality of men and women||·||Interdependence of all living things (animals and plants)|
|·||Agriculture will be the basis of the economic system||·||Elimination of all forms of prejudice||·||Natural world is the depository of Divine attributes|
|·||Importance of renewable resources||·||Consultation||·||Beauty of Nature|
|·||Assign value to things that don't have value now||·||Transforming the nature of governance||·||Moderation in harvesting & pollution - respecting limits|
|·||Balance spiritual and material & find ways to measure both||·||Justice||·||Humility - "the earth is the source of all of our wealth"|
|·||Define prosperity||·||Unity||·||Unity in diversity|
|·||Work as worship||·||Interdependence||·||Cleanliness|
|·||Moderation - questions of growth & consumption||·||Right of every child to education||·||Progression / Cycles / Rhythm of nature|
|·||Progress - is spiritual||·||Equity & transparency||·||Kindness to animals|
|·||"Be content with little"||·||Love||·||Reflection / meditation|
|·||Society has responsibility to train everyone in a skill & to give the opportunity to use it||·||Trustworthiness||·||"The city is the world of the body, the country is the world of the soul."|
|·||Major problems are created by greed||·||Honesty|
|·||Voluntary giving - be generous in prosperity||·||Marriage as fortress for well-being|
|·||Taxation - graduated income tax; Right of God (Huquq'u'llah)||·||Peace|
|·||Complimentarity of capital & labor, profit-sharing|
These economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development must be in balance. We cannot just treat one and neglect the others. We must establish a new system of values for sustainable development guided by the spiritual principles above, and given in more detail in the compilation handed out.
These principles are not unique to the Bahá'í Faith, as this is an area where all religions are in fundamental agreement. We meet people from different backgrounds. We can show that we are all following the same principles. We can build bridges to others, and new partnerships, using the Bahá'í teachings to enrich everyone - we learn from others as well so they are two-way partnerships. We need to take the next step in the application of these spiritual principles for the reformation of the world.
CASE STUDIES OF THE APPLICATION OF SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES
Arthur Dahl described the Coral Gardens project in Fiji developed by IEF member Austin Bowden-Kirby. The project has been in gestation for 15 years or more as the scientific approach has been developed to learn how to replant corals and restore coral reefs. It brings together this scientific knowledge with an understanding of human communities based on spiritual principles. It recognizes the dynamics of the importance of reefs in local communities. The project teaches local villagers who fish how to restore their reefs and to regrow the corals. They know that the survival of the reef is their survival. The women take the lead, as they fish in shallow areas. They take coral fragments and regrow them, gradually re-establishing the whole ecosystem. Some corals can also be grown for sale as curios to bring in income. The villagers understand and become responsible for the ecological system, and the reef is safe. The spiritual principles underlying this project include: respect for nature; consultation in the community, with all involved (women, men, elders, youth, etc.) and control of their own community and resources; and, harmony of science and religion, of social and material.
Irma Allen, of Swaziland, described a Bahá'í school complex in her country, and how it was an opportunity to learn to apply principles. They had a community center and wanted to put it to use. There was a lady who wanted to earn some income teaching small children. They looked to the government, but there was no pre-school curriculum. They took the opportunity to develop one, and it now is the curriculum for the whole country. The same thing happened with pre-school teacher education. There was no program, so they developed one. This process applied spiritual principles of cooperation, consultation, and responding with service.
The parents were happy with the pre-school, and said you have to do primary school! So, they did. The people wanted excellence. This gave an opportunity to share the Bahá'í principles with many people, as these principles were the guidelines for the project. They have now established a secondary school as well, and are developing a children's policy. They also had to ask people to be teachers, and some are now running their own schools as well. The important principles developed were the virtues of trustworthiness, helpfulness, diversity, and consultation.
Lloyd Brown (Australia) started his presentation on the consumption issue with a short drama in a doctor's office: Doctor: "Nothing is wrong with you." Patient: "But nothing gives me joy anymore!" Doctor: "There is no pill - you are suffering from affluenza! It's the new epidemic." He referred to the book "Your Money or Your Life" and asked how much is enough? Fulfillment research has asked how happy people are in North America based on income level. There was no difference between people with incomes of $1000/month and more than $5000/month. People were not feeling satisfied or content regardless of income. If you graph fulfillment vs. money spent, there is a rising curve through meeting basic needs, and even adding some luxuries. People feel pretty good, but are not quite there yet. But as they spend more money, fulfillment actually comes down. The idea that material things equal happiness is not true. You work more and spend less time with the family, and go to therapy because the marriage is falling apart, and then get a divorce, etc. All the consumption past the point on the graph where you are most fulfilled is unnecessary extra, and could be eliminated to help the environment. This point is called: "enough." So, work out what is enough. Everyone's "enough" is different. It is what each of us needs to live on and do what we do. This conforms to the spiritual principles of moderation and justice. It is reflected in the Bahá'í concept of the "Right of God": what is necessary is exempted; what is not necessary is voluntarily taxed at 19%.
Alex Kubala (USA) explained the Warehouse Project, a place where you learn and do sustainable building, rooftop gardens, youth projects, martial arts, etc. But this was a big project! How do you build a core group of individuals to do these types of projects? He started some Study Circles with youth - one with all friends of the Bahá'í Faith. This laid the foundation of how to work together and start sometime special. The circles adopted a service project to start a youth center. This is one way to see how to do something big and to bring that spiritual foundation of virtues into your life.
In summary, these case studies are all examples of bringing people together and applying spiritual principles. We need to develop from within as individuals and communities. This is a process over time. Start, and learn from your mistakes, and then move forward. This is the importance of courage.
After a break, the session broke up into working groups according to topics identified by the participants themselves:
- Education: Schools and universities and sustainable development
Applying spiritual principles to select priority areas among the 10 issues in the morning discussion
The role of women as primary educators of young children in creating healthy environments that promote sustainable development
Arts and architecture
Creating jobs and income: How to make sustainable development projects our day job
Local Bahá'í communities that are new at sustainable development - where do we start?
Each group was asked to summarize the points generated in their discussion on a series of sheets giving the issues raised, the spiritual principles that needed to be applied, and action items, and then to share their work with the whole session in an artistic presentation, either through drama or as a poster. These were then presented to the whole group, and are described below.
First Group: Education
Skit. Group of high school students talking to school leaders:
Student: We are tired of being tested and memorizing everything - just to pass tests. We think lots of these facts are not important for working, making friends. If we want to make a better world with sustainable development, we need better education. We are told "don't think, just recite!"
Student: We need to discuss moral issues - we are treated like we are not responsible, not capable. Yet the world will be left to us. We need to talk about these moral issues - you guys messed up these things - we can't keep doing the same stuff. We have to change.
Student: I learned in history that religion was important. Now I'm told it is not.
Student: I know that you have lots of people to please - your board and committees - but we just figured it out. We operate in terms of how much we feel, and like, and we want you to change the rules so we can have the feeling like we are learning something that will make a difference in the world. I'm thinking about dropping out.
Leaders: How do you think this will look if we integrate spirituality into the system, when you all are not meeting expectations now?
Student: We have to have more meaning in what we study and be able to talk about what we believe. But when it is dissected, it's like chopping out the root - we can't connect with what we believe.
Leaders: So if teachers want to teach religion in school, how do we prevent biases?
Student: I talked to my Christian friend, and there are many similarities. Teachers could be trained to see what is common to all.
Student: We're not stupid; we know what's good.
Leader: So you want us to talk about virtues?
Student: Yes, you could say what is Bahá'í, Moslem, etc.
Leaders: So if we do that you'll become more interested?
All Students: Yes!!
The issues the group identified were: relevance of education for sustainable development (SD); spiritual and moral issues in relation to SD; create means to empower youth to take action in SD initiatives; integration of two knowledge systems (science and religion); effect of belief to motivate the SD changes needed; need for global perspective and world citizenship; and, overcoming inertia in public education systems.
Second group: Spiritual principles - priority areas
Poster. This group talked about poverty elimination and the need for balancing of material and spiritual needs; gender equality in the family and larger society; and at the level of human rights, equal access to justice and recognition of areas where progress has been made.
Third group: Role of women as primary educators of young children in creating healthy environments that promote sustainable development
Collage Poster. Nest as role of motherhood, aspects of motherhood, family. Education of children is considered one of the noblest of all tasks, a service to humanity; work offered in a spirit of service is worship - offered in spirit of joy; educating children in their formative years and teaching them consultation will help bring about equality of men and women and a better understanding of the important role of women in bringing about peace.
They discussed: environmental management of a home, mothers primary roles as educator of children, the nobility of the role of educating children, education for non-violence, cultural conditioning (both ways), importance of having someone at home for family stability, access to resources and educational materials, and the lack of present-day recognition of the potential for children's contribution to our society.
Fourth group: Rural transformation
Poster. Caterpiller transforming into butterfly. We need to create a vision of the future. This issue is important to transformation. The relationship between farmers and nature is important - this balance and recognition of diversity. Community building is also important. You depend on the community in rural areas more than in urban areas. Governance at local level is important - how to put the various groups together - local, NGOs, regional, and national. Spiritual principles are important - consultation, unity in diversity in cultural ways, justice, interdependence, and a knowledge-based society. Rural areas have migration away from them, and the knowledge is lost. So we need to create knowledge centers in rural areas to capture information and allow people to stay. The relationship with nature is central. Noble place of humans and nature, with respect for all. Action items include: community supported agriculture, consultation with local people, consultation with government/ developers, links to other communities - transport/communication, and centers of learning in both rural and urban areas.
Fifth group: Arts and architecture
Poster. The group's poster brought attention to the following issues: arts are often disassociated from sustainable development; arts and architecture are not often connected but should be; often a too limited view of "art"; arts bring new language beyond words; beauty is important and often left out, it is an essential virtue; "natural building" attracts young people - how to convey this to all youth?; art as a learning process for the young; how to inspire people to be interested in arts? The group's action items included (1) education through the arts as they consider it easier to show beauty through the arts, and (2) encouraging bridge building between disciplines, ideas, etc.
Sixth group: Creating jobs and income; how to make sustainable development your day job
This group discussed income generation/poverty, macro vs. micro-economic level local projects, and migration/relocation of people (AIDS), among other things. Regarding trying to create jobs and income, this group's action items were: research before acting plan responsibly for local entrepreneurial projects; consult with local community before acting; learn local capacities and needs - match where possible; change job scopes to sustainable jobs; change jobs and retrain if needed; create education/community centers, implement Bahá'í style administration and study circles - all topics for job training; and encourage and enable child workers to attend school.
Spiritual principles to bear in mind for this topic included: everyone should have a trade or skill; participation/consultation; constancy in process - incrementalism; spiritual solution to economic problem; self worth/dignity "noble," not abased, justice/love; excellence in character from volunteerism and a spirit of service in jobs; attitude of teaching/"increasing" capacity, "gems of inestimable value," not empty vessels to be filled; unity in diversity.
Seventh group: Local Bahá'í community - where to start?
Poster. Hillside springtime - more flowers as spring goes on. The point is that the first flowers are not trees, just flowers. Local community may not need to be so smart as to plan the future - just start anywhere. The most important issue is the motivation behind what we are trying to do - purity of motive. What is our purpose in life? Think about human reality, people develop a passion to start and do. Unity of thought -- of resources and needs -- you can start anywhere and you will get there! One place to start is building on "core activities" in 5 year plan (study circles, children & youth activities, devotional meetings).
Wednesday evening 17 December
IEF General Assembly
Presentation of Annual Report; Election of Governing Board; general consultation
(see separate report).
Thursday morning 18 December
On Thursday morning, IEF provided the plenary speaker for the combined audience of both the IEF conference and the Development Seminar:
Keynote address: "Invoking the Spirit: Engaging Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World"
by Gary Gardner, Director of Research, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C., USA, and author of the State of the World 2003 chapter on: "Engaging Religion in the Quest for a Sustainable World." See the separate file with the full text of his talk, which developed the following major points:
People of faith and advocates of sustainability are natural allies because:
·The two communities have important common interests
·They bring together complementary strengths
·Religion adds new value to the effort to build a sustainable world.
In the questions and discussion that followed the talk, a number of points were raised.
One question concerned the manner of engagement, as some environmentalists take an adversarial approach, and Bahá'ís do not. Gary Gardner responded that we need to concentrate on what we have in common and can agree on. For example, an AIDS project in Nigeria was passing out condoms to prostitutes, but a Catholic Church was nearby. So, put the condoms in clinics while the church could work on helping the women find new jobs. Working together is the key. Is the Bahá'ís not wanting to engage in conflict a gift that can be given to the world? Could you not teach the world these methods?
Another questions concerned the use of positive indexes. The Bhutan government is replacing GDP with Gross Domestic Happiness. Could we show how really good things are, instead of how bad things are? Gary Gardner replied that we have greater impact when we stress the positive, not the negative. Worldwatch shows doom and gloom, but also the solutions. There are also a number of indices to evaluate progress - the Well-being of Nations index takes 83 indicators, ranging from infant mortality to deforestation. They are converted to a 100-point scale, and you can get a sense on where a country stands. It divides the overall well-being into 2 subsections: Environmental and Social. Then you can compare the environmental impacts with social well-being. What if you had a competition on who could provide the highest social well-being with the lowest environmental impact?
Another point concerned paradigms and views of reality, and whether "matter" and "spirit" are dualistic or not. Gary Gardner said that he saw them as connected. This is left out of most environmental talks - they are not at the center of how we think about development. Human beings tend not to approach development with an attitude of humility, recognizing that there is something greater than us. If we embrace that, we would approach development in a very different way.
One Bahá'í in the audience contrasted the frequent wars in the last century with the Bahá'í efforts to unify humankind. Bahá'ís have been working on spiritual indicators. Our concern is not an adversarial position, but how we can reach into processes and find a way for the Bahá'í principles to be heard. The process is to offer them, not impose them, and create a harmonious way forward. Gary Gardner responded that humans do have a way of painting the enemy as "the other", and as was indicated the concept of the oneness of humankind flies in the face of war, and that can help us to not go to war.
In reply to a comment on indigenous religions and their rejection by western society, Gary Gardner noted that there is a positive side to a central worldview, but they are so powerful that once you have embraced one, it becomes your reality and is hard to give up. We cannot let go easily because we are threatened by challenges to our worldviews.
A final comment concerned the importance of the role of women, and the equality of men and women. Women are most important in the consumption role of taking care of home and family. This can change the environment and how to use natural resources. Gary Gardner replied that the way women consult can also be an advance in talking about and using the environment. A change can come about because women have stayed in the faiths, even those faiths that may not have been particularly good to women.
Thursday 18 December, morning IEF session
"Building Green: Incorporating sustainable development principles into the development and management of Bahá'í properties"
With increasing numbers of Bahá'í communities purchasing and developing properties, knowledge of green building practices and sustainable land management techniques are critical planning elements. This session, facilitated by architect Tom Kubala (USA), used actual case studies to illustrate green design, building and management considerations and to give participants tools and inspiration for projects in their local areas. The same program was repeated twice in the main development conference on Friday and Saturday.
The session started with each small group designing a Bahá'í Center and its grounds using posterboard and construction paper for building plans, gardens, wetlands, etc. Then Mr. Kubala discussed the principles necessary to make such a property sustainable, illustrated with several examples of buildings he had designed, summarized as follows.
He asked participants to imagine what would happen if your center and property were enclosed in a glass sphere, where nothing could come in or go out. This raises issues of sustainability. You need to feed people, flush toilets, breathe air, etc. How long would it take for the center to be unusable? How big would the center need to be to have all the resources it needs? How much land would be required to sustain and support your project?
This leads to the idea of an "ecological footprint" which is about the impact of humans on the land and environment (see www.myfootprint.org to calculate your own). In the USA, people have a high footprint of about 24 acres (9.6 ha). If everyone lived like Americans, then we would need 6 more planets to live on. The issues have to do with food, shelter, transportation, and goods consumed. He proposed to go through this exercise when designing a center.
Then there are the more spiritual aspects. We are asked to build plans for institutions that will "nurture the emergence of a new kind of community life." Consider how these aspects of community might be paralleled from a green sustainability perspective.
Service - nature is useful at all scales; each part of an ecosystem efficiently utilizes energy to serve the whole.
Love - energy animates creation; the flow of energy powers the natural cycles and comes from the sun.
There is a national standard called the LEED List with many requirements for environmentally certified buildings. This list is daunting to architects who must meet these requirements for certification, but it does provide a useful checklist of green issues. It can help to make a plan that organizes all the green issues, one that does not leave out the spiritual issues. For example, an Audubon leader visiting some buildings found that these buildings lacked spirit. They were assemblages of ideas rather than a whole building with spirit.
A first example is a building Mr. Kubala was working on in Wisconsin at the Aldo Leopold Center. He went to bring a "Transcendent Spiritual Purpose" (TSP) to the building, which will take 5 years to complete. Strategies are most effective when they are understood in the context of a galvanizing spiritual purpose. To quote Aldo Leopold, the famous ecologist for whom the center was named: "Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it does otherwise."
Once you have stated your transcendental spiritual purpose, you need to put it into practice. It helps to use strong rather than weak ideas. Weak versus strong ideas include: conceptual vs. purposeful; single-minded vs. diverse /complex; exclusive vs. inclusive intent; written vs. multi-sensory. Powerful personality and cultural habitat can overpower a weak intent. Purposeful intent can empower.
For each issue, you can develop a layered intent to form an intention statement. For example, this is the layered intent for using local materials:
- First identify the name of the issue = local materials, then number it in sequence.
We describe the pattern as a problem: It is alright to use material from all over the world, but local materials are better.
Then we include LEED information. We would receive credits from LEED for using local materials.
We develop maps of the historical uses and availability of local materials.
Finally we prepare a statement that solidifies the intent of using local materials.
Before we designed the building, this compilation of Intention Statements was used to raise funds. Donors can see the nature of the building before it is designed and see the commitments to green building and sustainability issues. For each pattern, you describe a Problem Statement, and then form a Problem Resolution. Then you build an early computer model to test and refine the solution.
Some of the lessons learned in this project were to discover the compelling transcendental spiritual purpose animating the project, to develop a layered and interwoven fabric of intent, and to include green building as integral to design and construction, not a separate process.
Another example is the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. In this project for a nature education center, volunteers were important and were involved in the design. The patterns become space making, with natural materials like logs in the ceiling providing curved arches. Sustainable waste management was another pattern motivated by "a healthy fear of landfills". Construction waste was sorted into various bins for recycling, and the contractor found that this was so advantageous that he decided to do it on every site he was working on.
The plan was to utilize available energy, including solar energy collected on site. The water on site was also used. Healthy materials were chosen, for instance to use wheat board on all walls within reach of children. All the lumber was from certified forests.
Some lessons were learned in this project. Select a team that can talk to one another and that act as the owner of the project when consulting with you. To do a LEED process can cost clients $75,000. If you don't continuous refer to the intent document, many things get lost on the way.
The final example was a Renovation Project for an old power plant in downtown Cedarburg to be the architectural firm's offices. Mr. Kubala preserved the old windows as part of the building's character, and re-used redwood from a cooling tower as interior finishing and cabinet wood. The windows made it possible to use daylight as lighting, and thus gained less heat load by using daylight as the major lighting, rather than artificial lighting.
Participants were then asked to re-imagine their Bahá'í Center projects with all this in mind. Mr. Kubala distributed a resource list for building green.
Wednesday 18 December, afternoon session
"Bringing It Home: Generating ideas for incorporating sustainable development education into regular Bahá'í meetings (Feasts, holy days, devotional gatherings); educational activities (children's classes, study circles, Bahá'í schools); parenting and family life; and the community at large"
This session facilitated by Melinda Salazar explored several areas where education for sustainable development can take place "in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of the community." Breakout sessions focused on generating creative and practical ideas for raising awareness on sustainable development and inspiring appropriate actions. These will be posted by the Canadian and U.S. North American communities on a website as a resource for Bahá'í communities and others wanting to incorporate education for sustainable development into the fabric of their community life.
The session started with a dance circle based on a native American chant: "I walk a path of beauty, walk a path my ancestors laid out before me. I make a path of beauty, hold my vision, roll my dreaming out before me."
The goals of the session were to:
Set the Bahá'í community in motion
Visualize how a sustainable community would look
Participants were asked to imagine how they would approach a community that has yet to make the connection between Bahá'í values and sustainable development. A community was described that did not see the relationship of the environment and the Bahá'í Faith. How would you inspire a community to have a sustainable development vision and move forward on that path? This could include raising awareness, creating environmental literacy, bringing home the big picture, showing how Bahá'í communities can influence the greater society, stimulating the community to see sustainable development as an issue, etc.
Participants were divided into seven groups that were asked to consider how they would do this for individuals, for families, for a local community, and for activities at the national level, with each group addressing just one level. For instance, a group considering the family level might ask: How is our family going to influence education for sustainable development in our Bahá'í community, and the community at large? Each group prepared posters and listed their suggestions on large sheets that they then presented to the whole session. Since this process was repeated twice on Friday and Saturday during the Development Conference, the group discussions and posters have been combined with the following sessions into one summary in the next section of this report.
The session concluded with some questions and discussion:
Individuals in Bahá'í communities may feel that they have much to study already, so to be asked to study sustainable development in addition will seem too much. It will help to integrate it into the educational curriculum for children's classes, study circles, etc. Perhaps it could become part of the Five Year Plan. The earlier we have common resources (such as the ones used for institutes and study circles), the better. Sustainable development projects can be developed in communities, at whatever level they are able to undertake them.
Human rights, prosperity, and poverty issues - all of these are things we should be doing. Then there is moral education. The environmental question is a moral imperative. One thing we can contribute is the raising of moral consciousness. We can green the study circles! We can work with other organizations and institutions. As momentum builds, then more will get excited about sustainable development.
Friday 19 December and Saturday 20 December afternoons
"Two National Bahá'í Initiatives on Education for Sustainable Development"
In preparation for the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development, the national Bahá'í councils (National Spiritual Assemblies) of Canada and the United States have set in motion an effort in their communities to raise awareness of the connections between the Bahá'í teachings and sustainable development and to inspire actions accordingly. These sessions led by Peter Adriance (USA) incorporated elements of the previous IEF conference sessions relevant to those programs and engaged participants' help in developing them further. As with the final IEF session, small groups considered activities for individuals, families, local communities and at the national level. It was later suggested that a regional level of activities should also be considered in future planning. The summaries are presented below together with those from the previous IEF session. They should provide a wide range of ideas for individual, community and national initiatives, recognizing that they reflect a largely North American perspective.
Become self-informed/educated about connections between sacred writings and environment (bookmark favorite websites, i.e. IEF website, virtuesproject.com, others)
Pray to see and be open to opportunities to contribute to Bahá'í principles and DESD
Bicycle, carpool, selection of your car
Think of what concerns or interests you (i.e. pollution; gardening, tutoring for literacy, local indigenous knowledge) and get involved in some related SD activity
Apply the spiritual principles in your daily life, oneness of humanity, gender equality, etc.
Encourage others to do specific actions to reduce consumption
The three RRR - reduce, reuse, and recycle
Think about how we can support green businesses, energy-efficient houses; eating green - not eating so many packaged foods, more from ground to mouth
Foster sustainable practices at community activities
- Conservation groups
- Science fair at school
- Bird watcher class
- Insect collection, butterflies, etc.
Support Sustainable Development or SED as a Member of a Community
Volunteer for Earth Day children's classes
Take children's class to the zoo and apply the writings
Suggest environmental service project for study circle
Host outdoor devotional
Host community activities about DESD and SD generally
Form team to design environmentally-oriented curriculum
Hold study classes (deepenings) on environment
Approach local institute/cluster on advice for potential activities
Foster grassroots awareness in cluster
Hosting devotional meetings, study circles, children's classes, and youth events with environmental and SD themes, communicating role of family, individual, community
* The group noted that many ideas applied to individuals and families because family and individual are interchangeable to a degree. Likewise, a number of the activities listed at community and national levels could be undertaken at the family level or spearheaded by an individual.
What can a family do?
Consultation: a sustainable family would consult on the process for the family to become sustainable; you would not expect to be there right away, step-by-step, positive approach.
Have family together time with devotions, consultation -- examine the writings on sustainable development; develop games to understand effect of their actions on others.
Education: parents as a role model for sustainable development -- their marriage and sustainability principles. Reduce instant gratification, camping and teaching together; year of service. Principles of sacrifice -- keep wish list and narrow it to what is most important over time.
Outreach - study circle with service project with another family to clean beach or assist the environment; have a yard sale to teach reusing things and to reduce poverty -- proceeds to the Fund.
Communicate with local Bahá'í councils (Local Spiritual Assemblies, LSAs) and children's class teachers, and study circles to provide service projects.
A course in sustainable development - a series of topics with information conveyed. The course provides ongoing support to change family life. Our materials and experience would integrate with the core curriculum from Louhelen Bahá'í School.
Other opportunities for education - lectures at schools in our community. Work with children's classes; create environmental camps, so kids are out in nature.
Family outings to nature and national parks.
Awareness of our behavior and its impact on world.
Aim for model behavior, respect, attitude, and love within the family. Interact and consult with the family and others. Involve extended family and elders.
Host events - feasts, holy days, and use shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee; use cloth napkins, real cups, glasses, and dishes.
Have outdoor events, i.e. camps, devotions, holy days, unity feasts and picnics, for family, adults, and youth.
Consumption Habits - buy in bulk, reduced packaging; use the "enough" principle; ask for eco-friendly products, organic, non-toxic, green cleaning products; water and energy conservation, eco-investments.
Disposal habits - recycling, re-useable products
Household appliances (equipment) - i.e. energy efficient washing machine, clothes line, light bulbs; lower utility bills and give money saved to Fund
Transport options - walk, bike, public transit, car pool, energy efficient cars
Landscaping - think about water conservation, drip system, retain water, native species, drought resistant, a natural habitat for wildlife
2. Service organization, devotionals, equality, study circles, children's classes
3. Recreation, outdoor activities
4. Foster good neighborhood relations
What can a local community do?
Children's classes: we can teach sustainable development and about the future, and developing things in a sustainable way. This influences other children and their parents.
Reach out to the youth by study circles and firesides.
Encourage the community to share in exchanging information/experiences of what has worked and what hasn't. When some see others doing it, they realize it can be done.
Promote education for sustainable development to raise consciousness, combine with spiritual principles, integrate with devotional meetings, study circles, children's classes.
Raise consciousness and integrate elders who have seen change over time.
Get everyone in community to be aware of this and concerned about it.
Have devotions outside and based on Bahá'í writings
Children recitation of Bahá'í quotations relating to social & economic development, SD.
Join forces with other organizations, have interfaith activities about the environment.
Even if community does not have experts, there are local NGOs that can educate. We can invite them to come and educate the Bahá'í community.
Take a hike/nature walk, talk about importance of nature - that everything is connected.
Could have Bahá'í community meeting (Feast) outside or could go outside for devotions, and pray for sustainable development, bring it to everyone's attention.
Conserve with fair trade coffee and chocolate.
Have community organic garden, and children participate in it.
Walk, bike, or carpool to feasts and to work.
Teach by example: show a model of transformation.
The vehicle, and the urgency - the core activities (devotionals, study circles, children's classes). These are how we translate a global crisis into a local priority.
Think globally, act locally; as well, consider working with the Regional Bahá'í councils.
Local Bahá'í council (LSA) prioritizing and explicitly planning the effort. Analyze the needs and resources; develop sense of ownership; keep track of evolving plans (local or cluster); review and evaluate periodically. They can inspire others and support community - firesides, newsletters, devotionals, study circles, and children's classes
Presenting the writings and letters that give guidance on these challenges.
Can start initially with interested individuals to identify various resources, identify people who can lead initiatives, volunteer - this can be developed into education and/or service projects, youth projects; could also support likeminded organizations doing SD.
"Greening Actions" in Bahá'í meetings or transit to meetings (Feasts)
Building or designing Bahá'í centers with sustainability principles, natural light, etc.
Turn to public and like-minded folks as part of our outreach; look at what our writings say (whether environmental interests or other development, virtues, character development, literacy, urban/agricultural exposure, indigenous populations, ...)
What can be done at the national level?
National bodies can disseminate information and inspire people to act now, sustainably
Education programs on sustainable development: partner with conservation NGOs, zoos, museums, universities, State/Provincial Department of Natural Resources, etc.
Engage religious groups on sustainable development - inter-faith education
Bring in the indigenous dimension, its value and sustainability
Develop/transform an educational program to be administered in Bahá'í schools and Bahá'í communities, to all residents
The Bahá'í community share with other communities - not only bettering the country, but you are setting up a multiplier effect for sustainable development
Understand what young people can do and their critical role, create discussion groups in Bahá'í clubs and associations in universities
Reach educational institutions to help raise awareness of social and economic development principles; one participant's research was about values and behavior change, students in these schools have sustainable development and Bahá'í values
Incorporate SD in service projects; set up projects on Bahá'í principles and UN priorities
Develop incentive programs for filmmakers, artists, etc. to define different aspects of sustainability problems and solutions - relating these aspects to the betterment of the world; game makers, too, "sustainability computer games," if you play well and get all the crises under control, the world will not blow up
Consider implementing SAT ("Tutorial Learning System" developed in Colombia) in other countries. It is designed to fill educational gaps in rural areas and to educate local communities on environment. What is this program? Why distinct? One is the SAT is very integrative. Environmental education is related to math and history - not a separate text that focuses on each. For example, students learn about river systems in their community and learn all topics.
Make a program that could be transferred to other countries, on the model of Tourism for Peace; administer curriculum on Peace/Unity: add Bahá'í/peace/morals principles and their application to the environment and sustainable development to: (1) government leaders; (2) tourism personnel: hoteliers, tour operators, and guides; administer "tax" for peace to all tourists at airport, like existing conservation tax at $10/person. This then pays for Education For Peace (EFP) in primary and secondary schools; so, the next generation is raised with peace principles and knowledge of sustainable development; as this works with one nation, it can happen in all! Tourists become ambassadors of peace and sustainable development.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Utilizing the SAT program in other countries
One group explored how a successful educational program in one country could be replicated elsewhere. The SAT ("Tutorial Learning System" developed in Colombia) is designed to fill educational gaps in rural areas and to educate local communities on their environment. SAT is very integrative. Environmental education is related to math and history - not a separate text that focuses on each. For example, students learn about river systems in their community and learn all topics. SAT has already graduated 40,000 students and another 40,000 are currently studying.
What are the requirements to transfer the SAT program to another country?
Get guidance from Bahá'í World Center or national council (NSA), etc.
Is there a need for this model? Are there rural areas? Is there a lack of education in these areas? Do the communities want this? Does it suit their needs?
Is there a core group of people to take this? Is there a group of Bahá'ís to sponsor this?
What government departments, universities, and NGO institutions are interested in collaborating?
Does the country have the capability to research the appropriateness of the program and how it needs to be changed?
Need a few rural communities to be involved, participate in adapting the course process.
What is the political environment of the country that affects education programs?
Critical point = all of this be done with spirit of service.
|Compilation of Baháí writings:http://www.bcca.org/ief/quotes.htm|
|Bahá'í International Community statements: http://www.bcca.org/ief/bicpros.htm, http://www.bcca.org/ief/bicwdcit.htm|
|UNESCO draft implementation plan:
|Agenda 21 chapter: http://www.unesco.org/education/esd/english/chapter/chapter.shtml|
|Kofi Annan speach: http://www.undp.org/equatorinitiative/secondary/sg_speeches_and_statements.htm|
*The International Environment Forum is an international Bahá'í-inspired non-governmental organization that addresses environment and sustainable development. It was accredited to the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, in the category of scientific and technological organizations.
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Last updated 28 February 2005