Baha'i Conference on Social and
Economic Development for the Americas
Orlando, Florida - December 1999
NOTES ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL INTEREST
24 people attended the session organized by Peter Adriance. We opened with prayers and a group reflection exercise facilitated by artists Rob and Jennifer Head combining a relevant passage from the Writings with music and self-initiated movements depicting chosen environmental features. A short set of selected passages on the environment was also distributed with the agenda.
The purpose of the session was threefold 1) to deepen our awareness of Baha'i views on the environment; 2) to expand our awareness of individuals, projects and resources on the environment; and 3) to inspire further individual or joint action.
We spent some time introducing ourselves and describing our interests in attending the networking session. A diverse list of interests and concerns emerged.
Conflict resolution, environmental
Consultation, role of in resolving environmental issues
Earth Charter, The
Ecology, inner and outer
Education, environmental (of the Baha'i community)
Education, environmental (using the arts)
Education, environmental (Youth Wilderness Camp)
Education, environmental (general)
Exploitation of resources by foreign forces
Forests and deforestation
Greeting cards, environmental
Health and the environment
Land use rights
Marine environments, coral destruction
Membership in local sustainable development commission
Membership in New River Earth Institute
Men of the Trees
Neighborhood 'green-up' projects
Pollution prevention (industrial/ international)
Spiritual dimension/ spiritual impact of the environment
Sustainable Baha'i communities
Sustainable Development/ sustainability
Urbanization and the pressures of city life
Watershed management, flood control (CD available)
The group then heard brief descriptions of three projects that had been proposed for breakout discussions:
• The Earth Charter -- an international document evolving since 1990 with the goal of articulating and promoting an ethic for living sustainably on Earth into the future. (Peter Adriance)
• The International Environment Forum -- a three year old and growing international virtual network of people with an interest in the Faith and the environment. (Arthur Dahl)
• A post-strip-mining reclamation project being planned by Temple Conservation of the Baha'i House of Worship (Juliet Martinez)
The first two subjects were selected for breakouts and a third group was set up to have open consultation on topics of their choosing. Brief notes from each breakout follow.
I. EARTH CHARTER
Originally expected as a major product of the 1992 Earth Summit, the Earth Charter was to have been a succinct document expressing the principles for living sustainably on Earth into the future. With that goal still in mind, it has evolved into one of the most extensive participatory drafting projects ever undertaken by civil society. Expected to culminate in a final draft in early 2000, the Earth Charter will be promoted widely on Earth Day and for the next two years. The final version will be brought to the United Nations for endorsement in 2002, the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit. To learn more and participate in the project see the following web links, or contact Peter Adriance.
• International Earth Charter web site www.earthcharter.org
• Earth Charter USA Network web site www.earthcharterusa.org
• "Earth Charter process offers a model for global consensus building", a story on the Earth Charter in One Country, newsletter of the Baha'i International Community, Fall 1999 www.onecountry.org/e112/e11207as.htm
• "An Earth Charter Update", by Peter Adriance for the International Environment Forum 1999 conference
• "The Earth Charter: Personal reflections on the Baha'i role in its development", by Peter Adriance for the International Environment Forum 1998 conference
• "'Benchmark' draft of Earth Charter emerges at Rio + 5", a story on the Earth Charter in One Country, March '97 www.onecountry.org/oc84/oc8407as.html
• "Earth Charter", a statement by the Baha'i International Community, 1991 www.bic-un.bahai.org/91-0405.HTM
II. INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM (IEF)
The discussion reviewed the purposes and activities of the Forum, and the opportunities that environmental issues present for the application of Baha'i principles to practical problems. A Baha'i-inspired non-governmental organization, the IEF provides a forum for consultation and the exchange of ideas and experience among Baha'is, and those who support Baha'i principles, who are active or interested in the fields of environment and sustainable development. Still evolving, the IEF currently has around 50 members and links with many other people in over 30 countries on 5 continents. Taking advantage of the Internet, it has held three annual conferences with both actual and virtual attendance. For more information see the following web link or contact the IEF secretary, Sylvia Karlsson, at ief @ iefworld.org.
• For a brief description of the IEF; copies of its newsletter; conference reports and papers; and links to other resources, see the IEF web site https://iefworld.org
III. BAHA'I PERSPECTIVES ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
- This breakout group (facilitated by Juliet Martinez) consulted on various issues of interest as outlined below:
A. GENERAL CONSULTATION
1. What can Bahá'ís do at the local level?
• Live an "Eco-friendly" lifestyle
• Recycle, compost, reduce consumption
• Get involved with municipal environmental commissions
2. Teaching -- "For it is only through such divine precepts that the
world can obtain peace and tranquility, and become an environment within
which man can spiritually progress and attain his noble destiny." Shoghi
Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance, vol. 1, p. 46
• Creates a spiritual change in the world that is reflected in the environment
• College Bahá'í clubs can collaborate with environmental groups
• Get involved in elementary-level environmental education
• LSA's can offer service of Bahá'í communities for local environmental activities
3. Completion of the Ark - "This process... must be accelerated...
attaining consummation through the emergence of the institutions of the
world administrative center of the Faith in the vicinity of its world
spiritual Center, signalizing the sailing of the Divine Ark on God's
Mountain, prophesied in the Tablet of Carmel. " Shoghi Effendi, Messages
to the Bahá'í World 1950-57, p.6
• Will effect a change in the earth's environment
• Establishment of the lesser peace will make resources available for environmental efforts, as well as lay the foundation for binding international environmental accords.
4. What are the Bahá'ís doing?
• Implementing Bahá'í principles - moderation, elimination of prejudice, sustainable development projects.
• Voting in local, state elections
• Sending letters to representatives and legislators
B. HOW DO THE BAHÁ'Í PRINCIPLES RELATE TO THESE ISSUES?
• Individual/corporate accountability for impact on the environment
• Stewardship of natural world
• People need to work and make a living-in this case by logging
• The demand for wood products is exaggerated by rampant consumption (especially disposable products)
• Moderation in all things
• Use scientific means to find low-impact ways to harvest renewable resources
• Find alternate approaches and sources
3. Environmental racism
• Oneness of humanity
• Interconnection of all human activities
• U.S. has high spiritual destiny, needs to become the example for the rest of the world, not the biggest polluter.
4. Exaggerated emphasis on convenience
• Moderation in all things
• Harmonize lifestyle with natural cycles
• Support local agriculture
5. Unequal distribution of resources (economic, socio-political)
• Bahá'í administrative order gives each person a voice
• Voluntary, collective elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
International Environment Forum - Updated 10 January 2000