International Environment Forum - A Bahá'í inspired organization for environment and sustainability en Leaves - April IEF newsletter is available <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Leaves - April IEF newsletter is available</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">12. April 2018 - 22:40</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Read on line: <a href="/newslt106"><strong><em>Leaves</em></strong> 20(4) April 2018</a> light text version with fewer illustrations.<br /> Download as a <a href="/fl/IEF_Leaves180415.pdf">pdf version</a> [0.8 mb].</p> <table background="/gr/BLEAF1.JPG" style="background-color: rgb(0, 153, 0); width: 100%; height: 55px; text-align: left; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:40:52 +0000 admin 255 at Information: private property or public good? <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Information: private property or public good?</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/3" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Arthur Dahl</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">12. April 2018 - 13:07</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Information: private property or public good?</h2> </div> <p>On 15 February, I gave a TEDx talk at the Institut National Polytechnique: École Nationale Supérieure d’Électrotechnique, d’Électronique, d’Informatique, d’Hydraulique et des Télécommunications (INP ENSEEIHT), Université de Toulouse, France, on the topic "Information: private property or public good?". The full series of TEDx talks that day in French can be seen on YouTube at TEDxINPENSEEIHT. My talk is at <a href=""></a>. This article is the English translation of what I shared with the students in Toulouse with a few added quotes from the Bahá'í writings.</p> <hr /> <p>We are living in an information age, and corporations built on information technologies have become the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. But behind this is a fundamental problem that has not been properly debated. Should information be considered private property to be bought and sold, or a public good accessible to everyone like the air we breathe?</p> <p>In 18th century England, the aristocrats decided to fence the pastures and make them their property, leaving peasants who formerly grazed their flocks there without resources. This was the privatization of the commons. Today we are experiencing a new privatization of the commons as knowledge and information that used to be freely available becomes the property of multinational corporations intent on managing it for maximum profit. With the medium of the new information technologies and social networks, we are all exploited to extract our information, which is assembled in "big data" without any benefit to us in return. On the contrary, our information is used to target us with the advertisements we will be most susceptible to, and the news that will reinforce our prejudices and confirmation biases.</p> <p>This presents us all, and society in general, with an ethical challenge: where is the common good in all this? Two questions will illustrate the problem.</p> <p>Is there a human right to access information, or is it normal that we have to pay for it? Perhaps we should distinguish between information to which we should have a right, such as news of the world, and other content, such as for entertainment, that we should expect to pay for. And for those who cannot afford to pay for information, is it damaging for society that they do not have access? Inequality in access to information is as unjust as extremes of poverty and wealth.</p> <blockquote>"Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to man's life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone." (Baha'u'llah)</blockquote> <p>Second, how should we reward the creators of information? Is profit the only motive for creation and innovation? What about scientific curiosity, the desire to help others or to advance civilization? Are we inherently selfish, or can altruistic motivations be more important? How do we encourage creation for the common good, for everyone's benefit? For individuals, an ethical education and spiritual motivation will be determinant. For corporations, which today are driven only by profit, we need to add a social motivation and responsibility to be of service to society. Profit should be one measure of efficiency among others, but not an end in itself.</p> <p>A few cases will illustrate the problem. We have built a system for intellectual property rights, including patents, trade marks, and copyright, enshrined in national law and managed globally by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization. Patents are the foundation of modern industries, and are intended to make new discoveries public in exchange for a limited period (usually 20 years) of exclusive rights. There has always been a debate about whether intellectual discoveries should be considered property, and the WIPO tries to balance public and private interests. The system is legally cumbersome, with constant lawsuits that often benefit the biggest and richest, but it has serious drawbacks. For example, a poor sick person could be cured by a patented medicine, but he will die because it is priced to maximize dividends to the shareholders. For a new discovery that could improve the welfare of everyone, should we have to wait 20 years before all can benefit, while the rich enjoy it first?</p> <p>Agriculture is an interesting case, because two parallel systems of innovation have existed since the mid-twentieth century. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) coordinates research centers around the world that maintain seed banks for important crops and share seeds freely as they make crosses adapted to each local situation. They were behind the green revolution of the 1970s that allowed India to go from a country of famines to a food exporter. Alongside this, the multinational agroindustries produce patented seeds, some with genetic engineering, adapted to their herbicides and other agricultural chemicals that they sell around the world for large-scale intensive agriculture, all designed to maximize their profits. In Canada, they so control prices that farmers are always close to bankruptcy, while all the profits of the agricultural sector are captured by corporate interests. Are monopoly monocultures or sustainable ecological diversity more in the common interest?</p> <p>Even worse, with the new information technologies of remote sensing, drones and other instruments, the same multinationals can offer information services on the state of crops and the localized treatments needed. These help farmers to increase productivity, but all that information is captured by the corporations in big data that allows them to see the larger picture and to manipulate the whole agricultural system to maximize their profits, while farmers simply become passive consumers.</p> <p>Another case is that of genetic information increasingly privatized by multinationals. For example the company that discovered certain mutations favouring breast cancer patented them, so that anyone wanting to know if they were carriers had to go to them for expensive testing. One woman whose results were inconclusive wanted a second opinion, but the company refused to give her the analyses, and only a long court case finally ruled that genes should not be patented.</p> <p>Even access to scientific discoveries has largely been privatized, as the major journals have increasingly been bought up by multinational scientific publishers who protect everything by copyright and require payment to read each paper. Everything is available on line, but if you do not have access to an academic library that pays high subscription fees, you have to pay. I cannot even read my own publications, or those of my grandfather from a century ago, except for a high fee, up to $50. Scientist in poor countries are thus excluded from access to much scientific information, except the too few open access journals.</p> <p>Private property makes some sense for a scarce resource. If I eat a sandwich, you cannot eat it too. But information is not like that. It can be printed in a book (requiring payment for paper and printing but readable by many people ever after), but also broadcast over radio waves or sent to a screen, at no cost increase for the number of users. In fact, information becomes more valuable the more it is shared, benefiting thousands or millions of people without diminishing the original information. With the internet, free access is universally possible as a public utility, although some companies would like to privatize it.</p> <blockquote>"A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity." (Shoghi Effendi, 1936)</blockquote> <p>There are many benefits from the free access to information, from political transparency to health information and environmental warnings. It facilitates democracy and elections, and encourages public participation. It can also shed light on attempts to manipulate people, to incite hatred (as during the genocide in Ruanda), or even to wage cyberwarfare. It seems odd that the essential public service that journalism provides to keep us informed should largely be financed by advertising for things we do not need. The Guardian newspaper decided to make its articles freely available on line without ads, asking for contributions instead, and now receives more than it did from advertising.</p> <blockquote>" the sight of God knowledge is the greatest human virtue and the noblest human perfection. To oppose knowledge is pure ignorance, and he who abhors knowledge and learning is not a human being but a mindless animal. For knowledge is light, life, felicity, perfection, and beauty, and causes the soul to draw nigh to the divine threshold. It is the honour and glory of the human realm and the greatest of God’s bounties. Knowledge is identical to guidance, and ignorance is the essence of error." ('Abdu'l-Baha)</blockquote> <p>What are some other options for rewarding innovation and the creation of information and knowledge? There are public subsidies and research grants, employment as researchers in universities or institutes, prizes for innovation, and crowd-sourcing. Even the present system of intellectual property could be modified to guarantee the free access to information and discoveries, with a requirement that any profits from the use of those discoveries be shared with the original creator.</p> <p>From the perspective of system science, it is the exchange of information between the different components that allows the system to organize and function. The more highly evolved and productive a system is, the more developed and diversified are its networks of communication and coordination. Limiting the circulation of information by privatizing it deprives the poor and slows the advance of our civilization.</p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 12 April 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-blog-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Thu, 12 Apr 2018 10:07:17 +0000 Arthur Dahl 921 at IEF participation in the Justice Conference 2018 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">IEF participation in the Justice Conference 2018</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">8. April 2018 - 18:01</span> <div class="field field--name-subjects field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/9" hreflang="en">Climate change</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/242" hreflang="en">Justice</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">IEF participation in the Justice Conference 2018</h2> </div> <p>The 23rd annual Justice Conference was held at the de Poort Conference Centre in the Netherlands on 30 March-2 April 2018. The International Environment Forum (IEF) previously partnered with the Justice Conference as its annual conference in 2017 (<a href=""></a>), so a number of IEF members were present again this year, including Iko Congo, Arthur Dahl, Maja Groff (conference organizer), Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Wendi Momen, Halldor Thorgeirsson, and David Willis. A side discussion on IEF over dinner allowed us to recruit some new members.</p> <!--break--> <p>The theme of this year’s conference was “Shining a Light of Illumination in Turbulent and Divided Times”, with both plenary presentations and parallel workshops over the three days. The opening plenary was by Michael Karlberg on “Power and the Baha’i Community”, and our turbulent and divided times were well illustrated by a presentation on the war in Yugoslavia, first-hand experiences of former Baha’i prisoners in Iran and Yemen, and the films “Mercy’s Blessing” and “The Cost of Discrimination”. This report focuses on the parts of the conference with direct IEF involvement.</p> <p>IEF members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Wageningen University, and Halldor Thorgeirsson of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, together with Sjoerd Luteyn of, presented a plenary panel on “The Talanoa Dialogue under the Paris Agreement - Reflections on the illuminating Power of the Reflection-Action-Consultation Cycle”, as well as a follow-up workshop.</p> <p><img alt="Justice Conference" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_12.jpg" /> . <img alt="Sjoerd Luteyn, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Halldor Thorgeirsson" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_panel2.jpg" /><br /> <small>Justice Conference; Sjoerd Luteyn, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Halldor Thorgeirsson</small></p> <p>Halldor introduced the concept of the Talanoa Dialogue in implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He has been responsible for organising the intergovernmental negotiations on climate change, and in particular the science-policy dialogue. The Paris negotiations revolved around a moral issue: how much global risk were governments willing to take to limit global warming to 1.5° or 2°C. These are indicators of different levels of global risk, with 2°C an existential risk for the most vulnerable countries. Do you give priority to the scientific necessity to minimize human impacts, especially on the poor, which is based on values and calls for justice, represented by the aspirational 1.5°C target, or do you favour economic and political feasibility, as an engineer would determine what is possible from empirical evidence, with an upper limit of 2°C? Reaching 1.5°C will require unprecedented rates of decarbonisation of the economy. The basis is the scientific assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the science-policy interface. Uniting on the necessity to limit warming to a responsible level should change feasibility and make the impossible possible, as the recent rapid expansion of the renewable energy sector is demonstrating. The big question is the legitimacy and efficacy of global arrangements based on national sovereignty. The Paris Agreement represented the beginning of a new governance paradigm, with clear objectives and national stocktaking, national leadership coupled with action at all levels, and international transparency through binding requirement for reporting. An inclusive global, regional and domestic conversation, keeping justice at the centre as a moral compass, will ensure cohesion between global and the local action through multi-level governance. The Talanoa Dialogue, inspired by a Fijian concept of story-telling to build trust, calls for governments and other stakeholders to share positive stories that can encourage further ambition. It forms a bridge between the global and the national, considering three questions: where we are, where we want to be, and how we get there. The Talanoa Dialogue is the precursor to the first comprehensive global stocktake under the Paris Agreement in 2023. Halldor concluded by saying that climate change is testing the moral fabric of the global community and the strength of its commitment to the principle of the unity of mankind.</p> <p>The Talanoa process is about the ambition of governments to reach the global warming target through a global process of reflection on past actions and what they have led to, future goals to reach and the steps to get there. Sylvia, in her presentation, explored the role of reflection to increase ambition, drawing on experiences from the Bahá’í community. The purpose of the Talanoa Dialogue is to share stories, and build empathy and trust, in order to advance knowledge through common understanding, encourage better decision-making for the collective good, and inform decision-making and increase ambition. It includes inputs to an online platform, and a face-to-face dialogue between government officials and non-state representatives in May, both reporting to the December Conference of the Parties. The method of learning in the Baha’i community includes cycles of reflection, consultation and action. The reflection meeting maintains unity of vision, sharpens clarity of thought and heightens enthusiasm, using a review of vital statistics to suggest the next set of goals to be adopted. The technique is used at multiple levels, enabling learning across the world. It is a process based on equality, containing careful analysis of experience through participatory discussions, providing an earnest and uplifting deliberation on all efforts of a community in an environment imbued with love, where shortcomings are overlooked with forbearance, obstacles are overcome with patience, and tested approaches are embraced with enthusiasm. She left it to the workshop to discuss how these criteria work in the Talanoa Dialogue.</p> <p>Sjoerd Luteyn spoke on “From despair to hope or unlocking the will to act” in which he shared what has learned from applying Action, Reflection and Consultation in a corporate environment. Their aim is to transform companies into communities, creating a new mind. Too often a company tries to control its workers, so that less action is possible and there is less trust, with hope diminishing over time. If there is less effort to control the outcome, then it is possible to see more possibilities, increasing hope and then action, followed by reflection to identify progress, increasing hope even further. With less control, there is more trust. With a process of action, reflection and consultation identifying progress and seeing possibilities, there is growing trust, turning despair into hope and unlocking the will to act.</p> <p><img alt="audience" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_3.jpg" /> . <img alt="panel and Iko Congo" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_26.jpg" /><br /> <small>audience; panel with Iko Congo</small></p> <p>The panel was followed by a workshop moderated by IEF President Arthur Dahl, which started with participants sharing their own experiences with reflection. Reflection builds trust, and having a voice is empowering. Vision is a capacity to see what is happening, with a broad systemic approach, which makes it possible to decide on next steps in unity. It is an inclusive process requiring a change in mindset, and learning to be detached from failures, which are opportunities to learn. It should be non-confrontational and positive, building a collective vision from the differences within the group. Reflection must be coupled with action, including the next steps to be taken, and should be framed by a moral purpose such as achieving justice.</p> <p><img alt="Workshop" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_panel.jpg" /> . <img alt="David Willis" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/gr/Justice180331_31.jpg" /><br /> <small>Workshop with panel; David Willis</small></p> <p>Another workshop was led by longtime IEF member David Willis on “The Unity of Religions: ‘prefer all religionists before yourselves’” based on a statement from ‘Abdu’l-Baha as He was leaving America. David had seen in India how religion was something for everyday use, and the many schools devoted to moral education. He drew on different religions’ approaches to the importance of setting an example, and the common purpose of all the Messengers of God. He also linked prophecies of the native American peoples and their fulfilment in the Baha’i Faith. Consultation and compassion were two gifts that the Baha’is had to offer. The workshop explored what unity in religion meant, and the extent to which religious disunity was one of the causes of the breakdown of society.</p> <p>Another keynote was by IEF President Arthur Dahl on “The Great Dichotomy: from Egoism to Altruism - from Love of Power to Love of Justice”. He noted that the media drown us in stories of turbulence and division. To find hope we need a wider perspective. A universal theme, the struggle between good and evil, can help us to make sense of our world. Good and evil are not equal forces pulling in opposite directions, but the negative as the absence of the positive, as darkness is the absence of light. We are born with self-love, but our higher human purpose is to grow out of this and bring light. Our individual dichotomy is self versus others, egoism versus altruism, with the ultimate love the love of God. Knowledge faces the same dichotomy, for selfish purposes or to serve others. In the collective dimension of social organization, the dichotomy is between power and justice. Politics reflects the selfish side of human nature, where power corrupts individually and collectively. Justice is for the collective good, ensuring equity for everyone, and collective security for the world. Individual and collective transformation must go together with constant effort, changing ourselves and helping others to change. Our individual and collective problems come from the lack of love and justice, the wrong end of the dichotomy, showing us the direction of travel. The full paper is available at <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>The 2018 Justice Conference was another opportunity for IEF members to explore how ethical and spiritual principles combined with science can help us to make sense of the chaotic world we live in today.</p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 12 April 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Sun, 08 Apr 2018 15:01:47 +0000 admin 920 at Story of Stuff: A Baha'i-inspired Program for Youth <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Story of Stuff: A Baha&#039;i-inspired Program for Youth</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string-long field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Muller, Christine</div> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/user/1386" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Christine Muller</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">23. March 2018 - 21:14</span> Fri, 23 Mar 2018 19:14:35 +0000 Christine Muller 919 at Motivating the transition at the grassroots <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Motivating the transition at the grassroots</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">19. March 2018 - 12:55</span> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-hidden comment-wrapper"> </section> <div class="field field--name-subjects field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/9" hreflang="en">Climate change</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Motivating the transition at the grassroots</h2> <p>International Environment Forum Contribution to the Talanoa Dialogue<br /> United Nations Climate Change input for COP24<br /> 19 March 2018<br /> Topic: How do we get there?<br /> Objective: Wider partnerships in public education about climate change<br /> <a href=""></a> or<br /> <a href="">…</a></p> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <p style="margin-left: 1cm; margin-right: 1cm;">SUMMARY: It is easier for government to increase ambition if they have public support. Public education about climate change should combine scientific and ethical perspectives to motivate action, as demonstrated by a decade of experience with interfaith climate change courses available on line. In Vanuatu, a climate change course was prepared for use in rural training centres around the archipelago. Governments should partner with a wide range of stakeholders to spread values-based education about the science and ethics of climate change and to encourage practical actions everyone can take to build community resilience.</p> <!--break--> <hr /> <p>The climate crisis demands large scale fundamental change at all levels, and increasing ambition from governments. Yet political leaders are often afraid to get too far ahead of their electorates and public opinion. One answer to the question “How do we get there?” is to build public understanding of, and support for, strong action at all levels.</p> <p>Present incremental progress only slightly mitigates global warming without preventing catastrophic climate change. Courageous leadership is required to accelerate the massive changes needed in economic activities and energy systems, and to sustain the momentum for fundamental transformation. Yet around the world, most people are still not properly informed about the real threat of climate change, with some even confused by deliberate misinformation. The poor have more immediate priorities, while those better off are steeped in materialism and consumerism and in the expectation of continual economic growth.</p> <p>The negative messages communicated by science do not motivate change in individual behaviour. What is needed is positive messages of a better world that can result from learning to live within planetary boundaries. This calls for a new kind of education that combines the science of global warming and the social, cultural and spiritual visions of a more just, equitable and humane world with no one left behind, as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. The best way to leave no one behind is to involve them in the process in ways they understand.</p> <p>Only education of both mind and heart has the potential to bring about profound and widespread change in public attitudes. The International Environment Forum (IEF) has worked for more than 20 years to bring science, ethics and spirituality together. In 2009, alongside the faith-based action plans on climate change launched at Windsor Castle, and in preparation for its participation in COP15, IEF developed an Interfaith Study Course “Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change” freely available online (<a href=""></a>). The course has since been used by grassroots study classes around the world including the US, the UK, and Australia, and for COP21 it was translated into French and Spanish. The IEF also created more comprehensive online courses on climate change and on Sustainable Development offered annually by the Wilmette Institute. These online courses have included participants from many countries including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Laos, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Singapore. Such initiatives would be easy to scale up with other partners.</p> <p>One important objective of these courses is to impart basic knowledge about climate change and how it exacerbates many other environmental and social problems. But, as recent social science confirms, knowledge is only an essential prerequisite, not the decisive factor in motivation for action. People often despair when they are confronted with the immensity of the climate crisis and the seemingly insurmountable efforts needed to mitigate it. Despair results in a paralysis of will, if not denial. From the beginning therefore, these courses have included a spiritual dimension from an interfaith perspective and discussed the ethical imperative for climate action and sustainable development. The faith perspective connects climate action with people's hearts, with their values and world view. It touches people's core, so that the motivation for action becomes strong and enduring. It also opens up a vision of a just, sustainable, and peaceful world, a goal worthy of effort and sacrifice.</p> <p>Participants in the courses have taken many actions in a wide range of areas, starting with changes in their lifestyles. For example, they reported that they would reduce or eliminate meat from their diets, use their bicycles and walk more, help with community gardens, change to public transportation, install solar power, start to compost, reduce water and energy use, switch to green energy, divest from fossil fuel companies, and generally reduce their consumption.</p> <p>Some participants became actively involved in environmental organizations such as Interfaith Power&amp;Light and Citizens Climate Lobby or began to help their town become more environmentally sustainable. One student wrote letters to members of the US congress about taking action on climate change and letters to the editor of the local paper, another one talked with the mayor. Some were able to use the inspiration from the courses in their professional lives, such as one participant in the US who was planning environmentally and socially sustainable housing developments. The Bahá'í Centre in Auckland, New Zealand, provided land for a community garden and now hosts bi-monthly sustainability meetings. A participant in Cameroon planted 40 trees and started a small business that up-cycles tires and used clothing and trains young women to sew.</p> <p>Probably the most effective outcome of the courses has been the participants' initiatives to pass on their insights and encourage others to learn more and take action. Many participants reported hosting interfaith devotional gatherings with themes like climate justice and sustainable development. Many created talks, art projects, and presentations on climate change and presented them in a large variety of settings. Some facilitated the IEF interfaith study course in their local community. Especially significant are the efforts of participants to incorporate aspects of sustainability in teaching children's and youth classes. One group of participants created a special course for youth that helps them to free themselves from consumerism and lead a more meaningful life. The ripple effect of these educational efforts has the potential to reach many more people.</p> <p>An IEF event at COP21 reported on Bahá’í-inspired grassroots education helping to build community resilience in Vanuatu (<a href=""></a>). In 2014, the non-governmental organization Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centres Association (VRDTCA) produced a climate change course for use in rural training centres around the archipelago. Topics covered by the course include causes and impacts of climate change, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, hazard risks in Vanuatu, the importance of traditional knowledge in building community resilience, and the promotion of community action to prepare for climate change and disaster risk reduction. The basic aim of the course is to empower the participants to become agents of change in their communities, able to conduct awareness programmes and demonstrate practical techniques of mitigation and adaptation. Students learn how to present key concepts to village communities, do research to produce hazard risk maps, discover traditional techniques of weather prediction, food preservation and fishing, analyze the adaptive and coping capacities of communities, establish their own agro-forestry plot, practice how to do coral planting to replace degraded reefs (using methods developed by an IEF member in Fiji), prepare action plans for building resilience to disasters, and take a two-day course in First Aid so as to be able to handle emergencies during hazard events (<a href=""></a>).</p> <p>While not directly covering spiritual topics, the course emphasizes participatory learning and promotes reflection and learning through experience. Interactions between students and communities are conducted with humility, with a focus on consultation between the parties concerned. Emphasis on fostering unity and coherence is paramount, since these attributes are key factors in strengthening community resilience to hazards and climate change.</p> <p>All these courses aim to elevate the level of knowledge, capacity, and motivation to take effective climate action among increasing numbers of people and to empower them to become strong protagonists of sustainable development. Governments should reach out to the many partners in faith-based organizations, indigenous communities and civil society who can help to spread values-based education about the science and ethics of climate change. This can inspire positive action in communities to begin the transformation to a carbon-neutral sustainable society from the bottom up, while encouraging ambitious climate leadership from their governments.</p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 12 April 2018</small></p> </div> </div> Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:55:11 +0000 admin 918 at 2018 Faith Climate Action Week in USA <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">2018 Faith Climate Action Week in USA</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">15. March 2018 - 11:32</span> <div class="field field--name-subjects field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/9" hreflang="en">Climate change</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">2018 Faith Climate Action Week in USA</h2> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <p>On 14 March 2018, the United States national Bahá'í council wrote to all the members of the American Bahá'í community, as they have every year since 2011, encouraging their participation in <b>Faith Climate Action Week</b>, sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light.</p> <!--break--> <p>They note that, in the nearly a decade that has passed since then, enormous strides have been made both globally and nationally, though there have also been some setbacks. As evidenced in Volume I of the <a href="">U.S. National Climate Assessment</a>, released on November 3 last year, the impact of carbon pollution is steadily increasing as average global temperatures, extreme weather events, and global sea levels continue to rise. Public acceptance of scientific findings strongly suggesting the human origins of the problem has increased significantly. Much consensus building remains to be achieved, however, and it is here that faith communities - with their emphasis on justice and on spiritual qualities as the means to bring it about - can play a critical role.</p> <p>Both the Universal House of Justice's letter to the Bahá'ís of the world on March 1 last year regarding economic inequality (see excerpts at <a href=""></a>) and its November 29 letter to three individuals on climate change (see excerpts at <a href=""></a>) underscore applicable spiritual principles and help us to recognize the agency to bring about change we can exercise as Bahá'ís. In connection with our efforts to participate in public discourse on pressing issues of our time, the Supreme Body notes in its November 29 letter that "[w]henever Bahá'ís do participate in activities associated with [climate change] in the wider society, they can help to contribute to a constructive process by elevating the discourse above partisan concerns and self-interest to strive to achieve unity of thought and action."</p> <p>The letter encourages all the American Bahá'ís to participate in Interfaith Power and Light's Faith Climate Action week on April 14-22. Suggested activities - together with a kit to facilitate their implementation - can be found on the <a href="">Faith Climate Action Week</a> website. It invites those interested in learning more about climate change in the context of the Bahá'í teachings to consider participation in the <a href="">climate change course</a> being offered by the Wilmette Institute, which is scheduled to run from 1 April to 26 May (see separate articles in this and last month's IEF newsletter <i>Leaves</i>).</p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 15 March 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Thu, 15 Mar 2018 09:32:16 +0000 admin 916 at UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">11. March 2018 - 13:19</span> <div class="field field--name-subjects field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/62" hreflang="en">Sustainable Development</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"> <div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);"> UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development</h2> <p> </p> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;"> <p>On 1-2 March, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) held a <b>Regional Forum on Sustainable Development</b> in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) next July in New York. This was the first of similar forums planned for each of the UN Regional Commissions. Almost all the governments of the region sent high-level delegations, many headed by government Ministers. The day before, representatives of civil society organizations and other stakeholders, including the International Environment Forum, held a pre-meeting to agree on key points to be raised with governments.</p> <p><img src="/gr/ECECivilSociety.jpg" alt="Civil society group pre-meeting"><br> <small>Civil Society pre-meeting</small></p> <p>The Forum was opened by the President of the UN Economic and Social Council, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Executive Secretary of UNECE, and the Chair of the UN Development Group Team for the region, all women, as the UN has achieved gender balance in its high-level positions. </p> <p><img src="/gr/ECERegForum3.jpg" alt="ECE Regional Forum">&nbsp;<img src="/gr/ECERegForum_poster.jpg" alt="poster"><br> <small>UNECE Regional Forum</small></p> <p>In a High-level Policy Segment, Professor Peter Messerli of the University of Bern, Co-Chair of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report, presented a review of progress and challenges in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. He highlighted some of the major challenges, including this critical decade to abandon fossil fuels and avoid a climate catastrophe, growing inequality with 1% of the world population owning half the world's wealth and half the population having 2.4%, and political efforts to reverse globalization and end multilateral engagement. On the other hand, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement provide a positive narrative for globalization, but not a users guide for transformation. Instead of the earlier linear vision of sustainable development along three pillars, we now know that the challenges are indivisible and will require hard choices, requiring intentional policies, universal effort and time-bound actions. He cited a recent paper (O'Neill et al. 2018) on a good life for all within planetary boundaries, combining biophysical boundaries and social thresholds, that showed that no country today is both environmentally and socially sustainable. High consumption improves social indicators but is bad for the environment, while some poor countries use only their share of natural resources but fail to meet the needs of their population, and many do poorly on both counts, being both environmental and social failures. All countries must move, but in different directions, and all are linked in a single global system faced with a very real danger of collapse. The Sustainable Development Goals indicate the way forward, but there are synergies and conflicts between goals that must be addressed together across silos and at multiple levels. To move ahead, we need both the factual certainty of science and high societal agreement. The Global Sustainable Development Report (UN 2016, next due in 2019) tries to support this. This requires contextualized and balanced perspectives and knowledge for policy transformation, but in the present world, knowledge is highly unequally distributed. Agenda 2030 gives us a vision for humanity in the Anthropocene, but we need transformations capable of embracing emergent phenomena. Professor Messerli ended by asking what knowledge and what science can support this?</p> <p><img src="/gr/ECERegForum2.jpg" alt="Messerli presentation"><br> <small>Presentation by Prof. Messerli</small></p> <p>There were then a series of 10 parallel peer learning roundtables where governments could share their experience in implementing the different SDGs on the agenda for the HLPF. For SDG6 on clean water and sanitation, they discussed making universal access to water and sanitation a reality, and sharing water by balancing competing needs in a context of a declining resource. For SDG7 on affordable and clean energy, the focus was on improving the efficiency of the energy system and on transforming energy sources. On SDG11 sustainable cities and communities, reflections were shared on financing the transition to sustainable cities and promoting resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. For SDG12 on responsible production and consumption, the two round tables addressed successful approaches to delivering on sustainable consumption and production by 2030, and towards a circular economy including innovation for sustainable value chains. Finally, on SDG15 life on land, the discussions addressed sustainable forest management, and biodiversity at the heart of sustainable development.</p> <p><img src="/gr/ECErtSDG15.jpg" alt="Round table on SDG15"><br> <small>Peer learning round tables</small><br> <img src="/gr/ECE180301_7.jpg" alt="Round table on SDG12"></p> <p>As with all UN meetings, there were a variety of side events on adolescents and youth, rural women, gender equality and citizen engagement, among others.</p> <p>In closing, the Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva noted that implementing the 2030 Agenda is off to a slow start. We need urgent action and a fundamental shift in the dominant development model in all countries.</p> <hr> <p><small>REFERENCES<br> Daniel W. O’Neill, Andrew L. Fanning, William F. Lamb, Julia K. Steinberger. A good life for all within planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 2018, <a href=""></a><br> UN. 2016. Global Sustainable Development Report. <a href=""></a></small></p> <small> </small> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;"> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" height="66"></p> <p><small>Last updated 11 March 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Sun, 11 Mar 2018 11:19:00 +0000 admin 914 at Global Pact for the Environment <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Global Pact for the Environment</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">11. March 2018 - 11:25</span> <div class="field field--name-subjects field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/280" hreflang="en">International Law</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/57" hreflang="en">Environment</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Global Pact for the Environment</h2> <p><a href=""></a></p> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <p>The number of multilateral environmental agreements has multiplied over several decades, creating a fragmented assemblage of hard and soft law that is often difficult to apply, particularly at the national level. A group of 80 experts from 40 countries has prepared a draft <b>Global Pact for the Environment</b> that assembles and codifies the main principles of international environmental law, supplemented based on current challenges. It consolidates the principles already agreed in the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, the Rio Declarations of 1992 and 2012, the environmental Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015. They propose this as the basis for negotiating a legally-binding international treaty that would supplement the existing conventions, filling gaps and making them easier to implement.</p> <p>United Nations has already adopted two Global Pacts, in 1966, one dedicated to civil and political rights, the other to economic, cultural and social rights, so there are precedents for this initiative. France organized a Summit for the Global Pact on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2017 with some 40 Heads of State and Government and ministers who called for support to the project. A resolution is being prepared at the UN to establish an intergovernmental working group to negotiate a final text.</p> <p>Even in its draft form, the Global Pact is a useful summary of international environmental law. It has a preamble and 26 articles, each devoted to one aspect of international law and development – most of which enjoy consensus. In particular, it includes the right to an ecologically sound environment; the duty to take care of the environment, to exercise prevention and precaution; to remediate environmental damages; to enforce “polluters pay”; to establish inter-generational equity; to ensure public information and participation, access to environmental justice, education and training in environmental protection. The Pact also provides for the vital role of non-governmental stakeholders; the effectiveness of environmental standards; resilience; non-regression of standards and shared but differentiated responsibilities. It suggests mechanisms for implementation and follow-up. The text of the draft is provided below.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Global Pact for the Environment</h3> <p>Draft presented by the group of experts at La Sorbonne in Paris on 24 June 2017</p> <p><b>Article 1</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Right to an ecologically sound environment</span><br /> Every person has the right to live in an ecologically sound environment adequate for their health, well-being, dignity, culture and fulfilment.</p> <p><b>Article 2</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Duty to take care of the environment</span><br /> Every State or international institution, every person, natural or legal, public or private, has the duty to take care of the environment. To this end, everyone contributes at their own levels to the conservation, protection and restoration of the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem.</p> <p><b>Article 3</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Integration and sustainable development</span><br /> Parties shall integrate the requirements of environmental protection into the planning and implementation of their policies and national and international activities, especially in order to promote the fight against climate change, the protection of oceans and the maintenance of biodiversity.<br /> They shall pursue sustainable development. To this end, they shall ensure the promotion of public support policies, patterns of production and consumption both sustainable and respectful of the environment.</p> <p><b>Article 4</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Intergenerational Equity</span><br /> Intergenerational equity shall guide decisions that may have an impact on the environment.<br /> Present generations shall ensure that their decisions and actions do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.</p> <p><b>Article 5</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Prevention</span><br /> The necessary measures shall be taken to prevent environmental harm.<br /> The Parties have the duty to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environments of other Parties or in areas beyond the limits of their national jurisdiction.<br /> They shall take the necessary measures to ensure that an environmental impact assessment is conducted prior to any decision made to authorise or engage in a project, an activity, a plan, or a program that is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment.<br /> In particular, States shall keep under surveillance the effect of an above-mentioned project, activity, plan, or program which they authorise or engage in, in view of their obligation of due diligence.</p> <p><b>Article 6</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Precaution</span><br /> Where there is a risk of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing the adoption of effective and proportionate measures to prevent environmental degradation.</p> <p><b>Article 7</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Environmental Damages</span><br /> The necessary measures shall be taken to ensure an adequate remediation of environmental damages.<br /> Parties shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Parties shall promptly cooperate to help concerned States.</p> <p><b>Article 8</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Polluter-Pays</span><br /> Parties shall ensure that prevention, mitigation and remediation costs for pollution, and other environmental disruptions and degradation are, to the greatest possible extent, borne by their originator.</p> <p><b>Article 9</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Access to information</span><br /> Every person, without being required to state an interest, has a right of access to environmental information held by public authorities.<br /> Public authorities shall, within the framework of their national legislations, collect and make available to the public relevant environmental information.</p> <p><b>Article 10</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Public participation</span><br /> Every person has the right to participate, at an appropriate stage and while options are still open, to the preparation of decisions, measures, plans, programmes, activities, policies and normative instruments of public authorities that may have a significant effect on the environment.</p> <p><b>Article 11</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Access to environmental justice</span><br /> Parties shall ensure the right of effective and affordable access to administrative and judicial procedures, including redress and remedies, to challenge acts or omissions of public authorities or private persons which contravene environmental law, taking into consideration the provisions of the present Pact.</p> <p><b>Article 12</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Education and training</span><br /> The Parties shall ensure that environmental education, to the greatest possible extent, is taught to members of the younger generation as well as to adults, in order to inspire in everyone a responsible conduct in protecting and improving the environment.<br /> The Parties shall ensure the protection of freedom of expression and information in environmental matters. They support the dissemination by mass media of information of an educational nature on ecosystems and on the need to protect and preserve the environment.</p> <p><b>Article 13</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Research and innovation</span><br /> The Parties shall promote, to the best of their ability, the improvement of scientific knowledge of ecosystems and the impact of human activities. They shall cooperate through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge and by enhancing the development, adaptation, dissemination and transfer of technologies respectful of the environment, including innovative technologies.</p> <p><b>Article 14</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Role of non-State actors and subnational entities</span><br /> The Parties shall take the necessary measures to encourage the implementation of this Pact by non-State actors and subnational entities, including civil society, economic actors, cities and regions taking into account their vital role in the protection of the environment.</p> <p><b>Article 15</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Effectiveness of environmental norms</span><br /> The Parties have the duty to adopt effective environmental laws, and to ensure their effective and fair implementation and enforcement.</p> <p><b>Article 16</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Resilience</span><br /> The Parties shall take necessary measures to maintain and restore the diversity and capacity of ecosystems and human communities to withstand environmental disruptions and degradation and to recover and adapt.</p> <p><b>Article 17</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Non-regression</span><br /> The Parties and their sub-national entities refrain from allowing activities or adopting norms that have the effect of reducing the global level of environmental protection guaranteed by current law.</p> <p><b>Article 18</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Cooperation</span><br /> In order to conserve, protect and restore the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem and community of life, Parties shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of global partnership for the implementation of the provisions of the present Pact.</p> <p><b>Article 19</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Armed conflicts</span><br /> States shall take pursuant to their obligations under international law all feasible measures to protect the environment in relation to armed conflicts.</p> <p><b>Article 20</b><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Diversity of national situations</span><br /> The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special attention.<br /> Account shall be taken, where appropriate, of the Parties’ common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.</p> <p>[Articles 21-26 concern implementation]</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 11 March 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Sun, 11 Mar 2018 09:25:09 +0000 admin 913 at Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/3" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Arthur Dahl</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">12. February 2018 - 15:10</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere</h2> <p>Blog by Arthur Dahl</p> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <p>More than 50 years ago, one of my professors at Stanford University was Paul Ehrlich, who introduced me to the science of ecology. He has since become a leading thinker in population studies and conservation biology. A few years ago, he admitted that science alone was not going to save the world, and that something like a religion was needed to motivate action. As a dedicated humanist, he founded the <b>Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere</b> (MAHB) (<a href=""></a>) to try to fill the gap.</p> <p>The MAHB’s humanists collaborate to:<br /> 1. Understand and communicate foresight intelligence; and<br /> 2. Create a vision of a plausible and compelling world in 2050 which is moving towards sustainability and social equity.</p> <p>The MAHB is an Alliance of individuals and organizations concerned about the existential threats to civilization. It is working to create a vision of a world moving rapidly towards sustainability in 2050. MAHB teams are defining what a future smart world in 2050 might look like—a compelling world of some 9 billion people. Building on a growing scholarly effort, the MAHB is in the process of describing economic systems that depend on agility and equity without depending on growth, social systems that recognize the limits of our ecosystems, energy and resource infrastructure, and governance for a world where most people can meet their basic needs while enjoying a high quality of life.</p> <p>The MAHB includes scholars working across disciplines to build the knowledge that is necessary for civil society and governments to act in ways that will have the highest positive impact quickly; it is assembling resources on the MAHB website to become the “go to” place for the best literature, multi-media materials, analysis, movies, and editorials on the interconnected issues threatening humanity and it’s life support systems. The MAHB website catalogs and makes available ideas of activities for high impact action. All of this is done with a sense of urgency. If we are to reverse the degradation of the systems that support civilization, we need to act now. The MAHB aspires to make available the tools necessary for fostering a contagion, a passion for action.</p> <p>One MAHB member, Jeremy Lent, published a blog on 2 January on “<b>What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?</b>” (<a href=""></a>). A few excerpts from his blog follow:</p> <p>“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.” [see the article in the December IEF <i>Leaves</i> <a href=""></a>]</p> <p>“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing ‘widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.’ They warned that time is running out: ‘Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.’</p> <p>“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that ‘we all have but one lifeboat’.</p> <p>“Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity’s trajectory around. These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren’t we already doing these things? What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?</p> <p>“Which leads us to some of the underlying structural changes that need to occur if human civilization is to avoid collapse. The fundamental problem is brutally simple: our world system is based on the premise of perpetual growth in consumption, which puts it on a collision course with the natural world. Either the global system has to be restructured, or we are headed for a catastrophe of immense proportions that has never been experienced in human history. However, the transnational corporations largely responsible for driving this trajectory are structurally designed to prevent the global changes that need to take place.</p> <p>“Like any Ponzi scheme, this global growth frenzy is based on maintaining the illusion for as long as possible. Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. We saw in the 2008 financial meltdown a relatively tame dress rehearsal for what a full-scale financial collapse would look like.</p> <p>“However, the only thing that will truly avert collapse will be a radical restructuring of the economic system that is driving us ever more rapidly to that precipice. This will only come about when enough of us are ready to jettison the consumer values that pervasive mainstream culture foists on us. In their place, we need to find other sources for meaning in our lives: growing the quality of our experiences rather than our consumption, building our communities together, and reconnecting with the natural world.</p> <p>“There are radically different ways for a society to function effectively that could apply to nations around the world if given half a chance. A flourishing future might involve more cooperative ventures, protection and expansion of the commons, and enhanced global governance with strict penalties for those who destroy ecological wellbeing. Collapse isn’t the only future in store for humanity—it’s merely the one we’re headed for unless and until we change course. Since the mainstream media isn’t going to get the word out, it has to be up to each of us who cares about the future of the human race. So, let’s get to it.”</p> <p>To read the whole blog, go to <a href=""></a></p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 12 February 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-blog-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Mon, 12 Feb 2018 13:10:59 +0000 Arthur Dahl 910 at The end of Western civilization? <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The end of Western civilization?</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/3" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Arthur Dahl</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">12. February 2018 - 14:39</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div style="text-align: center;"> <h2 style="text-align: center; color: rgb(0, 153, 0);">The end of Western civilization?</h2> <p>Blog by Arthur Dahl</p> </div> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <p>There have been warnings of the collapse of civilization from the scientific community for decades, from “<em>The Limits to Growth</em>" in 1972 (see my reflections at <a href=""></a>) and Jared Diamond's "<em>Collapse</em>" to the more recent work of Peter Turchin (see my&nbsp; reviews of <em>War and Peace and War</em> (<a href=""></a>), instability (<a href=""></a>) and <em>Ultrasociety</em> (<a href=""></a>). When both my local supermarket chain's weekly magazine and "<em>New Scientist</em>" had cover stories on the subject the same week, it was clear that the threat is now being taken seriously. The evidence can be summarized as follows.</p> <p>The "<em>New Scientist</em>" cover on 20 January headlined "The Writing on the Wall: The worrying signs the civilisation has started to collapse". It referred to Laura Spinney's article (pp. 29-31) "There are disturbing hints that Western civilisation is starting to crumble". She notes that " scientists, historians and politicians alike have begun to warn that Western culture is reaching a critical juncture. Cycles of inequality and resource use are heading for a tipping point that in many past civilisations precipitated political unrest, war and finally collapse." She explains the difficulty of defining both collapse and Western civilization, but describes the work of a number of researchers looking for patterns in the rise and fall of ancient civilizations that might suggest what is coming for us.</p> <p>She starts with Peter Turchin, whose work I have been following for a number of years, whose mathematical equations find patterns that link social factors such as wealth and health inequality to political instability, with a two century cycle of inequality and a fifty year cycle of peaceful and turbulent generations, with the most turbulent parts both cycles coinciding in around 2020. Another prediction by historians from 1997 also identified a crisis in America in the 2020s.</p> <p>Other researchers have explored what causes turbulence to lead to collapse. A mathematical modeller of predator-prey relationships found that, when both extreme inequality and resource depletion coincide, collapse can become irreversible. The rich can avoid the effects of resource depletion for longer, and resist change until it is too late. When this extension is based on non-renewable resources, as today with fossil fuels, the collapse is much deeper. At the minimum, there could be a rapid loss of complexity, with simpler, smaller scale societies surviving. One researcher, on the contrary, predicts a shift up in complexity, with national governments being replaced by less centralized networks of control as the world becomes an integrated whole. Borders would disappear and cultural identity would be split between local communities and a global system of regulation.</p> <p>None of these researchers are optimistic about the future for the West. Analytical long-term thinking that finds solutions to problems leads to the dominance of short-term automatic inflexible thinking using technology without foresight, as with climate change and antibiotic resistance. People keep up self-destructive behaviour despite warnings from more analytical thinkers, and technology innovation cannot find solutions. The researchers propose solutions, ranging from education in analytical thinking to more progressive taxes on the rich to reduce debt and controlling population growth, but there is little will to apply them. The article concludes that the survival of the West will depend on the speed at which we can adapt, reducing fossil fuel use and inequality, and stopping quarrelling among elites.</p> <p>The article in <em>Migros Magazine</em> (Léderrey 2018) also says it is urgent to prepare for the end of our civilization, which could happen within a decade or two, and says now is time to prepare for what will come after. Experts in different fields all see a collapse coming, but do not coordinate their perspectives. We are going faster and faster into the wall, and see it coming, but still accelerate. Individualism is a luxury of the rich, while scarcity requires solidarity. If we enter a period of scarcity with a culture of egoism, we shall see social catastrophes. The article concludes that we need to balance competition with cooperation.</p> <p>From a scientific systems perspective, it is difficult to argue with the views expressed. Western material civilization is rapidly reaching and overshooting planetary limits, with climate change as one obvious example. From a Bahá'í perspective also, we are going through simultaneous processes of disintegration and integration, as the old order is rolled up to clear the way for a new one. Rather than responding with fear or denial, we need to see the opportunities that these crises will bring to enable the needed transformation in society and the economy, and put our energies into experimenting with alternatives for the future. The more we advance in creating new communities with justice and solidarity, the more resilient we shall be to face whatever may be coming.</p> <p><br /> REFERENCES<br /> Laura Spinney. 2018. "There are disturbing hints that Western civilisation is starting to crumble". <em>New Scientist</em>, no. 3161, pp. 29-31. 20 January 2018.</p> <p>Léderrey, Pierre. 2018. Créer du lien pour la civilisation post-industrielle. <em>Migros Magazine</em>, 22 January 2018, pp. 18-23. Interview based on Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens. 2015. <em>Comment tout peut s'effondrer. Petit manuel de collapsologie à l'usage de générations présentes</em>. Editions Seuil.</p> <hr style="width: 100%; height: 2px;" /> <div style="text-align: center;"> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="66" src="/gr/IEFlogo5.gif" width="142" /></p> <p><small>Last updated 12 February 2018</small></p> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-field-blog-comments field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> </section> Mon, 12 Feb 2018 12:39:33 +0000 Arthur Dahl 909 at