Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 13, Number 7 --- August 2011
15 August 2011
Article submission: email@example.com Deadline next issue 13 September 2011
Secretariat Email: firstname.lastname@example.org General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
From the Editor
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates. Please encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
Request for information for upcoming newsletters
Please share your experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on climate change action. Please send information to be included in upcoming newsletters to email@example.com.
United Nations Civil Society Conference in Bonn
A number of IEF members will be participating in a series of United Nations meetings in Bonn, Germany, on 1-5 September. These include a UNEP Global Consultation with Civil Society, a UNEP regional meeting for Europe, and the UN Department of Public Information annual Non-governmental Organizations Conference on the theme "Sustainable Societies, Responsible Citizens". All of the meeting are being held in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro June 2012. The Baha'i International Community is organizing an event during the DPI conference, and a quorum of the IEF board will be able to meet to discuss our own preparations for Rio 2012. We shall report on the results in the next newsletter.
IEF member access to IEF web site
The webmaster has been steadily opening user profiles for IEF members on the IEF web site and transferring the profile information from the members' directory (he has now reached “S” in the alphabet). When your profile is created, you will receive a temporary password to log into the website and create your own password. At the same time, you can update your address, experience and interests (some are very out-of-date), and even upload a picture.
With your member access, you can create your own blog, create or participate in forums, post announcements of or reports on activities, and make documents available to other members. Please ensure that your contributions are relevant to the purposes of IEF, and thus focus on environment, sustainability and the relevant spiritual principles. We hope that this will allow members to participate more actively in the life of the IEF.
A number of members have not kept their email addresses up-to-date, and so cannot yet have a user profile opened. Please send any updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wilmette Institute - An on-line Baha'i Learning Centre
Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind
Course: 15 September - 15 December 2011
Faculty: Arthur Lyon Dahl, Carole Flood, Karryn Olson-Ramanujan, Melinda Salazar
Fees: $150; 20% discount for seniors, pioneers, students; $300 for groups of up to six
Explore the moral and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development
• What does sustainable development mean, and how is it related to climate change?
• What are the economic and social issues facing humanity?
• How does it relate to environmental degradation?
• What are the spiritual principles for sustainable development?
• How can we educate others?
• What can we do as individuals and Baha'i communities.
Hindu Project launches green temple initiative at White House
The Hindu Bhumi Project Green Temple campaign was launched this weekend at the White House, Washington DC. It was part of a full day Hindu event at the White House organised by Hindu American Seva Charities, celebrating a number of exciting Hindu initiatives, including greening temples all over the United States. Joshua Dubois, President Obama's Pastor-in Chief attended, along with Hindu leaders from North America, members of the US government, ARC's communications director Victoria Finlay and Jose Dallo from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Bhumi Project has emerged from the nine year plan that ARC helped the international Hindu community create in 2009, ready for the Windsor celebration. It includes: introducing a Hindu benchmark for a range of products and services including energy; endorsing ethically sourced food and ahimsa milk; advocating sustainable lifestyles. The Green Temples programme, which is an international initiative to encourage Hindu temples around the world to more ecological, stems from the Hindu Nine Year Plan on the Environment.
Ten Hindu temples have been identified in America, which will act as pilot projects. The temples will look at issues concerning greening of puja (worship), energy sourcing, and the development of temple gardens. In twelve months time, the target is for one hundred temples from across the world to join the programme. HASC will be an important strategic partner in order to bring on board many temples from America. “We are very happy to partner with the Bhumi Project for this important initiative.” said Anju Bhargava, Founder of HASC. “Our briefing at the White House was to encourage young Hindus to establish Seva [service] Centers across America where they can contribute to society through community action and with other faith groups. Our work with the Bhumi Project will be a significant step towards that.”
“Hindu temples were traditionally the standard-bearers for good practice in the community. By making our places of worship earth-friendly, we can send a clear message that care for the environment is central to Hindu life,” said Gopal Patel, Project Manager for the Bhumi Project, who was leading the launch at the White House.
“The Preamble of the UN Charter talks about „We the Peoples of the United Nations” said Jose Dallo, of the United Nations Development Programme. “Sometimes the United Nations has been concentrating on the Governments of the World. We recognised that achieving the international agreed goals will require development partnerships which reflect that civil society has an important role to play. Initiatives like the Hindu Green Temple Initiative are very much about the people, and what the people want to achieve.”
“This is part of a worldwide initiative by faiths to ask the question: “If our place of worship were a green place of worship what would it be like?” We are excited that the Hindu community is helping lead this movement,” said Victoria Finlay, communication director of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) which is supporting the Hindu Plan and Bhumi Project.
“This is truly a historic moment; the first time this has happened in the White House,” President Obama‟s Pastor-in-Chief and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua Dubois said of the Hindu White House briefing.
The Hindu Nine-Year-Plan and Bhumi Project were created by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, in conjunction with ARC, and they were both launched in November 2009 at Windsor Castle, UK, in the presence of Prince Philip and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Hindu scriptures contain many references to Mother Earth, Bhumi, and how she should be cared for and respected. By using these teachings in modern-day contexts, we can help Hindu culture become more accessible.” said Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.
5-day academy ignites Jr. Youth on environment & justice
An important part of the “Sustainable Development Academy” for junior youth held at Green Acre Baha‟i School in July 2011 was the study of Baha‟i Writings on the environment and social justice. The interactive lessons helped the 52 young people in their pre- and early teens to make a connection between the spiritual and material dimensions of life, beginning with Bahá‟u'lláh‟s statement that, through nature, mankind can learn about God‟s attributes and qualities.
“Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator,” Baha‟u‟llah said. “Nature is God‟s will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.”
The theme of the five-day Academy set in the lush Baha‟i property in Eliot, Maine, was “Environmental Stewards: Champions of Justice.” As part of Baha‟i participation in the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, the program drew youth from 15 U.S. states, four countries and three continents, and was led by 10 counselors and 4 facilitators – including two expert outdoor educators.
Like similar programs carried out in Michigan and California in fall 2010, the Academy addressed pressing environmental and social justice issues such as the impacts from modern day consumption patterns, climate change, hunger and poverty. It also sought to establish a deeper connection with the natural world through a range of outdoor learning activities designed to awaken the senses, arouse curiosity, and inspire reflection. Literally half the learning activities were held outdoors in the surrounding woods, fields and along the Piscataqua river shoreline.
Note to self… You can change the world!
At the end of the five days, the youth wrote letters to themselves that will be mailed to their homes at a future date as a reminder of the session. In the letters, they penned fresh learning and insights, ideas they hoped to apply when they got home, and commitment to social action in their communities.
Many were inspired by the film, “Young Voices on Climate Change” which highlights ways that young people of the same age had taken a range of concrete actions in response to climate change. They began to imagine how they might undertake similar actions in their own communities upon returning home.
Expressing optimism for taking action, one student wrote: “Don‟t think you can‟t change the world because it is too big. You can! Just by doing small things like changing light bulbs to CFLs, cleaning up trash, and even painting the roof of your school white [to reduce heat absorption]. You have the power to make a change, and if everyone works hard, and works together we can change the world.”
Another: “I learned about climate change and how human [activities] are [affecting] our planet. But we also learned that a lot of young people are trying to save the planet by doing things like getting their school to go green or planting a million trees. After watching the video [Young Voices on Climate Change] I thought if they could do it why couldn‟t I? I decided I wanted to plant trees because trees are getting cut down and trees help process all the CO2 that‟s getting pumped into the atmosphere.” Another: “I want to remember how you can make a difference with your junior youth group. … You can help out in soup kitchens and start a fund raiser with a bake sale. For climate change you should talk to city council to get permission to give speeches and plant trees and organize food with friends at other people‟s houses… You should place three different bins at different places in town.”
Drawing closer to nature
Many of the youth were deeply moved by the activities held, feeling the transforming power of nature for the first time. They were surprised at how calm and happy spending time in nature made them feel.
One youth wrote, “The program this week helped me to appreciate nature. This week I learned about the importance of nature and how it is a reflection of God. I also learned that humans are greatly contributing to many of the environmental problems, but we can make a difference. I hope I can remember these things in the future so that I can do my part to help save the environment.”
Another: “I also took from this camp the nature that God created and how it can help you feel better just being here.”
Another wrote: “I have never felt so close to nature. I loved the way that this camp changed the way I think about everything in nature.”
Jr. Youth chose personal "magic spots" along the river's edge to meditate and write letters to themselves reflecting on their time at Green Acre.
Another, speaking of the reflection time spent in the natural surroundings of Green Acre shared feelings of newfound comfort and peacefulness inspired by the setting, “…All the wind, trees, water make Green Acre a heaven on earth. Right now I hear the waves laughing and having fun. I have an oak tree above me to keep me cool. It feels like the perfect time to write this now because words cannot describe the beauty of this place. I love it here. I can feel God around me and it is the most amazing feeling in the world. Peace, love, kindness, relief – all said in this one place. Right here is like being surrounded by God!”
Positive peer groups
One wrote about the personal connections and learning that took place: “This camp has been life changing. I met so many wonderful people who I hope to stay in touch with. I learned things that everyone my age should know.”
Similar programs in support of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development are
planned for the fall at Bahá‟í conference centers in Michigan and California. Geared toward youth
aged 11-14, they will be held on two weekends in October. More information will be available
through the schools' websites:
Bosch Bahá‟í School, (California) October 14-16, 2011
Louhelen Bahá‟í School, (Michigan) October 21-23, 2011
Interfaith Power and Light - A religious response to global warming
USA National Preach-in on Global Warming
February 10 – 12, 2012
In six months, hundreds of faith leaders of different religious traditions from around the country will use the weekend closest to Valentine's Day as a time to express their love of Creation and their concern about climate change. Faith leaders are invited to give a sermon or lead a reflection. Some congregations will host film screenings and discussions. Others will run Bible study or youth activities around the topic of global warming. Different faiths celebrate their holy day on different days of the weekend, and we've designed Preach-In for Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday to provide you with flexibility. Congregations can choose the day that's best for them. Sign up now, and we'll be sure to send you a variety of resources as soon as they become available: Denomination-specific liturgical and thematic notes, Ready-to-go sample sermons on global warming, Global warming fact sheet and bulletin insert, Selected DVDs on request with companion discussion guides.
lnterfaith Power & Light is a national campaign of The Regeneration Project with affiliates in 38 states. 220 Montgomery Street, Suite 450, San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 561-4891.
Check out these websites and share the information
United Nations Division for Sustainable Development: http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Sustainable Development: http://www.fao.org/sd/
Updated 16 August 2011