Resources and Materials on
Climate change is at the top of the international agenda because of the threat that it represents to society and the magnitude of the response required. This page brings together resources and materials, and reports of IEF activities relevant to this topic. The IEF is continuing to prepare supporting materials for the Bahá'í International Community's Plan of Action on Climate Change launched in November 2009.
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE? A brief explanation
Bahá'í International Community's Seven-Year Plan of Action on Climate Change (launched 3 November 2009 at Windsor Castle) See separate report with summaries of the action plans from all the religions.
Bahá'í World News Service story (27 October 2009): http://news.bahai.org/story/735
Bahá'í World News Service story (4 November 2009): http://news.bahai.org/story/736
Baha'i International Community statements:
Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change (2008)
Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change: Appeal to the World's Leaders (2009)
Spiritual principles relevant to climate change - selected quotations from the Bahá'í writings
Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change - An Interfaith Study Course in 9 classes
Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009 - An illustrated report on the involvement of the Baha'i International Community and the International Environment Forum in Copenhagen, as well as a paper by Arthur Dahl on Climate Ethics and the Copenhagen Summit summarizing some of the ideas presented, and reflecting on the process.
Climate change initiatives and action at the national and community levels
AUSTRALIA: The national Bahá'í administrative body of Australia supported the 15th IEF Annual Conference in Hobart, Tasmania, on 10-11 December 2011 on "Ethical Responses to Climate Change: Individual, Community, Institutions". It wrote to all the Bahá'í communities in Australia to encourage them to participate in the conference, as did the Bahá'í community of New Zealand. A Bahá'í film crew from New Zealand came to the conference to make a film for New Zealand television. See the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pU-BWKO8_00&feature=channel.
CANADA: The Bahá'í Community of Canada collaborated with IEF in the organization of its 11th Conference in Ottawa on 12-14 October 2007 on the theme "Responding to Climate Change: Scientific Realities, Spiritual Imperatives." One result was a letter in March 2008 from the Canadian national Bahá'í administrative body to all local communities calling attention to the pressing global challenge of climate change and asking them to demonstrate ever-increasing sensitivity to environmental issues in the design and implementation of community activities. A further letter was sent in July 2009 along with suggestions for greening community activities, and another letter in October 2009 drawing attention to the Bahá'ís joining a global plan for "generational change" on climate change. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada has also designated specific advisers on the environment, sustainable development and climate change. The Canadian Baha'i community has also participated in events on climate change as a moral issue, including a two-day meeting in mid-April 2010 (see http://www.bahainews.ca/en/100525-climatechange). In October 2011, the Bahá’í Community of Canada joined dozens of other faith communities and leaders in calling for new approaches to address the challenge of climate change (see full press release).
UNITED STATES: The national Bahá'í administrative body of the United States wrote a letter (also available as pdf) to all the American Bahá'í community on 25 February 2010 informing them of the Bahá'í International Community Seven Year Plan of Action on Climate Change and encouraging them to study and reflect on the Bahá'í teachings on the environment and to incorporate greater awareness of the environment in their community life and core activities. They included the IEF web site among the resources available. A second message was sent in 2011. In March 2012, a third message on climate change was sent to raise awareness of the moral dimensions of this issue and to call for specific actions during Earth Week (22-29 April 2012). In January 2013, they again wrote to the American Baha'i community about the action plan on climate change, and encouraged continued learning and reflection on the problem through the Wilmette Institute's seven week course on climate change (based on the IEF course) and the National Preach-in on Global Warming sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light (8-10 February 2013) where relevant Baha'i materials are available.
SUPPORT TO ACTION PLANS
With the major religions including the Bahá'í International Community launching action plans on climate change, the IEF offers the following supporting activities in the framework proposed by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC)
APPROACH - PROPERTIES - EDUCATION - TRADITIONS - LIFESTYLES - MEDIA - PARTNERSHIPS - CELEBRATION
Bahá'ís believe that progress in the development field should largely depend on natural stirrings at the grass roots, and should receive its driving force from those sources, increasing the local communities' and individuals' awareness of needs and possibilities and their capacity to respond. Different communities will perceive different approaches and different solutions to similar needs. The process involves learning by doing, sharing experience in the joint enterprise of applying more systematically the principles of the Faith to upraising the quality of human life and protecting the environment. The aim is to encourage innovation and a variety of approaches to environment appropriate to the rhythm of life in the community.
Similarly, each individual should be encouraged to apply their talents and skills, their specialized training, their material resources, their time and energy, and their dedication to spiritual principles, in action for service to human well-being. The aim should be unity in spirit and in action (see Universal House of Justice letter dated 20 October 1983).
The International Environment Forum is creating and assembling materials described below to support these processes, assisting communities and individuals to respond to the challenges of climate change and sustainable environmental management.
Many communities have centres, meeting places, schools and other properties. Addressing climate change requires using energy more efficiently and reducing or eliminating dependence on fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) and electricity generated with fossil fuels. There are many sources of advice on "greening" buildings. We shall try to provide some of the most useful references under this heading.
Transportation is another major consumer of fossil fuels like petrol/gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Many activities can be planned differently to encourage walking, bicycling, using public transport or car-sharing.
A number of IEF members are leaders in environmental and consumer education. The IEF develops courses and educational materials, including some specifically on climate change, and makes them available on its web site (see the e-learning centre). The IEF has also developed a distance-learning course on sustainable development for the Wilmette Institute of the American Baha'i community, and will be expanding its offerings in e-learning. IEF members frequently give lectures and courses on environment and sustainability, including climate change, in Baha'i summer schools, institutes and communities. Materials useful for this purpose are available on the IEF web site. The Bahá'í International Community will be developing educational materials on the relationship of humans to the environment and climate change for its institute process in communities all around the world, including materials for adult study circles, childrens' classes and junior youth activities.
What is climate change? A brief explanation
Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change - An Interfaith Study Course in 9 classes
Traditions of simple living are strongly supported in the Baha'i writings, and these are already compiled on the IEF web site. Educational materials on this theme will be developed further and offered as a resource.
Crisis and adaptation: The Baha'i writings are replete with discussions of crisis and the necessary transition to a united world. This will undoubtedly take on urgency and inspire practical action as climate change becomes more evident. There are prior examples in the Baha'i community of encouraging reforestation and preparing for food emergencies. Members of IEF also contribute Baha'i-inspired perspectives to the international debate on the response to climate change and the other interrelated challenges of a globalizing world.
Quotations and prayers: We have many prayers and writings already which can be compiled into devotional materials. Devotional gatherings are encouraged in all local Baha'i communities, and this can be an easy way to introduce environmental and life-style themes. Both the performing and visual arts can be used to reinforce these.
Stories and practices: There are many stories from the leading figures of the Faith about the love of nature, care for the creation, finding spiritual strength in the wilderness, etc. The IEF will compile these on its web site and encourage their use in educational activities.
Adaptation: Baha'i community experiences with building unity in diversity will be helpful in communities disrupted or displaced by climate impacts and population movements.
Spiritual principles relevant to climate change - selected quotations from the Bahá'í writings
The IEF held a conference on sustainable lifestyles in 2004 and has some materials on its web site including compilations from the Baha'i writings. It plans to disseminate this information more widely through an expanded interactive web site.
Subject matter: The IEF web site has been developed as a resource for the Bahá'í community and others, with compilations, conference reports, papers and educational materials including much on climate change, and this will continue to be developed. There is now a special focus on developing materials in support of the of the Bahá'í International Community's Seven Year Plan of Action for Climate Change. The IEF contributes through its activities to the international dialogue on climate change in both its scientific and spiritual dimensions.
The IEF has assisted national Baha'i communities to raise awareness of climate change and the environment through its conferences and other events. After a conference on responding to climate change in 2007 in Ottawa, Canada, the Canadian Baha'i community wrote to all its local communities and groups asking them to take climate change into account in their activities. An article on climate change in The Baha'i World, official record of the Baha'i International Community, was based on an IEF conference presentation. The BIC newsletter One Country often features environmental events and topics. The children's magazine Brilliant Star regularly publishes special issues on the environment, with one on climate change published in 2009. Some national Baha'i web sites have sections on environment or sustainability. The IEF makes available materials to encourage this type of development.
Influence: The power of new ideas born from the integration of scientific and spiritual perspectives can have an influence well beyond the limited means available. Sharing these ideas in various forums and media is an important part of IEF activity. Baha'i communities in South America have used their local radio stations which broadcast in local languages to pass on environmental ideas and information on a weekly basis.
Guides: The IEF web site already has some materials on living more simply and environmentally, and these will be extended.
Materials: national communities and publishing trusts should consider more environmentally-friendly publishing practices, like using recycled paper. Some national communities offer electronic newsletters to replace paper ones on a voluntary basis.
The IEF was established in 1997 as a Bahá'í-inspired environmental organization that maintains partnerships with many other organizations. Its members include many distinguished professionals from around the world in different environmental fields including climate change, all dedicated to applying their faith to their work and their work to faith activities. It is a virtual organization with no funds or paid staff that operates entirely through volunteers. The IEF works closely with the Bahá'í International Community, and with national Bahá'í communities on request. It also partners with other environmental organizations, international agencies, professional networks and educational institutions. It contributes to the international dialogue on the ethical implications of climate change and the need for better governance and action at all levels.
Festivals: a number of Baha'i Holy Days would be appropriate for environmental activities like tree or garden planting or clean-ups: Naw-Ruz (21 March, first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere); Ayyam-i-Ha (25-February-1 March, days of hospitality and gift giving); Birth of the Bab (20 October), Birth of Baha'u'llah (12 November, Fall for tree planting and harvest in the northern hemisphere, reversed in the southern hemisphere). The Baha'i fast could be a time for contemplation of our relationship with nature, detachment from material things, and simpler lifestyles.
Ethical Responses to Climate Change: Individual, Community, Institutions
IEF 15th Annual Conference, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 10-11 December 2011
The 15th International Environment Forum (IEF) Conference in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, with nearly a hundred participants in person and others following live streaming over the Internet, took a deeper look at the ethics and science needed to cope with adverse climate change, and explored creative responses that individuals, communities and institutions can make to preserve our planet. Experts and scholars presented their views on climate change science and strategies to address this global challenge, and participated in interactive workshops to investigate the science and practical responses to climate change, learning what each one can do now to make a difference. The conference was hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia and the Baha'i community of Tasmania in the beautiful and environmentally-sustainable Bahá'í Centre of Learning for Tasmania in Hobart, and invitations were sent to the Bahá'í communities of Australia and New Zealand. A full report of the conference with video recordings of main sessions, presentations, summaries is on the IEF web site.
Climate change and human rights
Geneva, Switzerland, 4-6 October 2010
The IEF participated in the 2010 Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council on the subject of climate change and human rights. The Social Forum is organized each year to facilitate a dialogue with civil society on an important issue for human rights. The IEF presented its reflections on the human rights challenges of persons permanently displaced by climate change, and the need to prepare receiving communities to respond positively to such immigrants, building unity in diversity while respecting human rights and helping migrants to maintain their cultures, social ties and values (see paper). A separate report on the forum is on the IEF web site.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, 7-18 December 2009 was a major event in the complex process of governmental response to the challenges of climate change. See an illustrated report on the involvement of the Baha'i International Community and the International Environment Forum in Copenhagen, as well as a paper by Arthur Dahl on Climate Ethics and the Copenhagen Summit summarizing some of the ideas presented, and reflecting on the process.
The Windsor Celebration of the Faith Commitments for a Living Planet
On 2-4 November 2009, representatives of nine major faiths gathered at Windsor, United Kingdom, to celebrate their long-term action plans for climate change and the environment (see separate report). The event was organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh received them at Windsor Castle, together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and both presented the Bahá'í International Community (BIC) with certificates of appreciation from the United Nations and from ARC for its action plan. The BIC was represented by Tahirih Naylor and Arthur Lyon Dahl (also President of IEF). The web site of the celebration is http://www.windsor2009.org/index.htm. Bahá'í World News Service stories 27 October 2009: http://news.bahai.org/story/735 and 4 November 2009: http://news.bahai.org/story/736. The United States Bahá'í Community web site reported on the event in an article at http://www.bahai.us/climate-change-course. The Canadian Bahá'í News Service included a report in its article at http://www.bahainews.ca/en/091123-climate.For further documentation, download ARC's compilation of the Windsor Commitments [1mb] and the BIC action plan [40kb].
Multiple Dimensions of Climate Change
The Bahá'í Conference on Social and Economic Development held a session on the Multiple Dimensions of Climate Change, Orlando, Florida, 20 December 2008.
At this 2008 international conference on the theme of sustainable development, the whole Saturday morning was devoted to climate change and its multiple dimensions, chaired by IEF board member Peter Adriance, and including IEF members Arthur Dahl, Halldor Thorgeirsson and Duncan Hanks, and Bahá'í International Community representative Tahireh Naylor-Thimm. Quick links to the presentations and mp3 audio recordings for downloading are given below.
(quick links and mp3 audio recordings)
Arthur Dahl: The Science of Climate Change
quick link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/9415165/Arthur-OrlandoClimate08
(mp3 audio recording 15 mb)
(powerpoint presentation 15 mb)
Halldor Thorgeirsson: International Climate Negotiations – an Overview
quick link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/9415151/Thorgeirsson-Panel-Presentation
(mp3 audio recording 8.5 mb)
Tahirih Naylor, Bahá'í International Community: The Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change
quick link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/9415174/Tahirih-Climate-Change-Presentation
(mp3 audio recording 16 mb)
Duncan Hanks: Learning to Integrate Action on Climate Change with the Activities of the Five Year Plan: A story from Canada
quick link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/9415168/Hanks-Cdn-Envir-Actions-Dec18
(mp3 audio recording 14 mb)
Response to Climate Change from the Bahá'í Community
The IEF reported on its climate change activities to the International Climate Change Science Congress Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Opportunities in Copenhagen, 10-12 March 2009. The congress requested summary outputs of other scientific meetings in order to assemble the latest scientific findings as background for the intergovernmental conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009. The presentation "The Response to Climate Change from the Baha'i Community" was prepared by Arthur Dahl. For pictures, see the news page.
The ethical dimensions of climate change
Commission on Sustainable Development side event, United Nations Building, New York, 30 April 2007.
IEF co-sponsored an official side event at the fifteenth UN Commission on Sustainable Development on Monday 30 April 2007 on "The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change" organized by the Bahá'í International Community with the Permanent Missions of Tuvalu and of the Marshall Islands, and co-sponsored by the UN Office of High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing States and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS); the UNEP Interfaith Partnership for the Environment; Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University; International Environment Forum; and the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development. The event, held in the UN Building on the first day of CSD-15, filled the room with over 90 people, including the Minister and other delegation members from Tuvalu. There were presentations by H.E. Mr. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Tuvalu to the UN, Mr. Om Pradhan of the UN-OHRLLS, Mr. Tony Barnston of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University; Mr. Don Brown of the Collaborate Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, Rock Ethics Institute; Dr. Arthur Dahl of IEF; and Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Fellowship Programme Director of GreenFaith. The event was covered in full page articles in the two CSD newsletters, Outreach Issues for Tuesday, May 1, page 6 (download pdf from http://www.anped.org/index.php?part=112) and ENB on the side ( http://www.iisd.ca/csd/csd15/enbots/pdf/enbots0511e.pdf) and video recordings of all the speakers were posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=martha04032). Information is also available on the BIC web site (http://www.bic.org) and the IISD site has more pictures and captions ( http://www.iisd.ca/csd/csd15/enbots/30apr2007.html). A White Paper on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change prepared by the Rock Ethics Institute ( http://rockethics.psu.edu/gr/cc_whitepaper/whitepaper-intro.shtml) was distributed at the event. There was also coverage on the Bahá'í World News Service (http://news.bahai.org/story/530), and an article appeared in One Country ( http://www.onecountry.org/e191/e19104as_CSD_story.html).
Responding to climate change: scientific realities, spiritual imperatives
IEF 11th Conference, Ottawa, Canada, 12-14 October 2007.
Faced with the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change and its impacts on global society, the conference allowed 120 professionals concerned with the environment and sustainable development, students and the public to explore the human response to global environmental change, including the likely physical, emotional, mental, social and economic stresses on individuals and communities. Specifically, the conference explored moral capacities and better governance mechanisms that help people to build sustainable and resilient communities, and that draw on the experience of pluralist societies like Canada that have welcomed immigrants and 'environmental refugees' from all corners of the globe. Questions of lifestyle, choice and the very nature of 'community' were examined.
The conference was co-organized by the Baha'i Community of Canada, and video clips of the main presentations were immediately posted on the web for those following the conference from a distance. One result of the conference was a letter from the Canadian national Baha'i administrative body to all local communities calling attention to the pressing global challenge of climate change and asking them to demonstrate ever-increasing sensitivity to environmental issues in the design and implementation of community activities. A further letter was sent in July 2009 along with suggestions for greening community activities. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada has also designated specific advisers on the environment, sustainable development and climate change.
Science, faith and global warming: arising to the challenge
IEF 10th Conference, Oxford University, 15-17 September 2006.
The world is struggling to come to grips with the problem of climate change driven by human consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation. Bahá'í communities around the world are engaged in collective learning processes on how to serve their societies better. The conference sought the meeting points between these two processes through exploring:
A full report with audio recordings and presentations is available on the IEF web site.
Bahá'í International Community's Seven-Year Plan of Action on Climate Change (launched 3 November 2009)
This action plan commits the Bahá'í community to develop a course to explore the relationship of humans to the environment as articulated in the Bahá'í Sacred Writings as part of the institute process, in order to raise the consciousness of the worldwide Bahá'í community on the subject of climate change and to engage them in acts of service related to environmental sustainability. Materials on climate change will also be added to programmes for children and junior youth. This will be an important step in integrating the spiritual and the practical in a community already committed to the betterment of the planet.
Baha'i International Community, 2008. Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change.
Bahá'í International Community, 2009. Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change: Appeal to the World's Leaders.
Official Web Site of the Bahá'ís of the United States (2010). Why act on climate change now?
Arthur Dahl, 2007. CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS ETHICAL CHALLENGES, The Baha'i World 2005-2006, p. 157-172.
Arthur Dahl, 2006. CLIMATE CHANGE: SCIENTIFIC AND FAITH PERSPECTIVES, [full paper] [instructions for audio file] [audio file 5.2mb, missing first 20 minutes] [powerpoint file 6.3mb] [pdf file of powerpoint 3.2mb]
Arthur Dahl, 2009. THE RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE FROM THE BAHA'I COMMUNITY, Presentation at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change, Copenhagen, March 2009.
Arthur Dahl, 2009. HUMAN SECURITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: THE ETHICAL CHALLENGE. Paper for the Balkans presented at the 5th ECPD International Conference, Brioni Islands, Croatia, October 2009.
Arthur Dahl, 2010. CLIMATE ETHICS AND THE COPENHAGEN SUMMIT . A summary of some presentations at the NGO activities during the conference, and reflections on the outcomes.
Arthur Dahl, 2010. THE CONSTRAINTS OF UNEP AND INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW TO RESPOND EFFECTIVELY TO THE VICTIMS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. Paper for a seminar in preparation for the UN Human Rights Council Social Forum on Climate Change and Human Rights.
see also the short articles relevant to climate change in the IEF sustapedia
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON RELIGIONS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Bloomquist, Karen L. (ed.), 2009. God, Creation and Climate Change: Spiritual and Ethical Perspectives. Lutheran World Federation, LWF Studies, July 2009. Lutheran University Press, Minneapolis. 176 p.
Ethical Challenges of Climate Change
(A. Dahl, presented at the 11th IEF Conference, Ottawa, Canada, 12 October 2007, 2.5 mb)
Energie et changement climatique
Les défis conjoints du changement climatique et de la pénurie d'énergie
(A. Dahl, 2009, 17.3 mb, in French)
Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change
(A. Dahl, presented in the Baha'i International Community panel at Klimaforum09, Copenhagen, 12 December 2009, 3.1 mb)
UN/ARC: The Seven Year Plan for generational change on climate change and the natural environment. Alliance of Religions and Conservation http://www.arcworld.org/projects.asp?projectId=358
This project led by ARC with UNDP commited the major religions to long-term plans for action on climate change and the natural environment, launched at an event at Windsor Castle (UK) on 2-4 November 2009 prior to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009. The Baha'i International Community contributed its action plan, and the IEF is preparing supporting information and activities to assist individuals and communities to implement climate change activities.
UN Climate Change Conference 2009 http://en.cop15.dk/
Web site created by the Danish Government to encourage debate on the issues discussed at COP15 in Copenhagen, 7-18 December 2009 (in 7 languages)
International Scientific Congress on Climate Change http://climatecongress.ku.dk/
Organized by the University of Copenhagen and the International Alliance of Research Universities in Copenhagen on 1-12 March 2009 to assemble the latest science as an input to the December Conference. Two IEF members made presentations at the congress.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change http://unfccc.int/
Official web site of the Convention Secretariat
World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, and World Bank. 2011. World Resources 2010–2011: Decision Making in a Changing Climate—Adaptation Challenges and Choices. Washington, DC: WRI. http://www.worldresourcesreport.org/wrr-2010-2011
Some general links to climate change information, and some educational materials for school use, can be accessed through http://www.insurancecompared.com.au/articles/climate-change.cfm.
Last updated 22 February 2013