Bahá'í Faith and Biodiversity
United Nations Environment Programme
Faith and Biodiversity
Contributed by Bahá'í International Community
The Baha’i writings are replete with statements on the importance of the harmony between human life and the natural world. Bahá’u’lláh’s writings are imbued with a deep respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, seeing especially in nature a reflection of the divine1:
Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity, there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.
Nature is also a reflection of humanity’s inherent beauty, in all its diversity, as described in the Baha’i writings2:
Consider the world of created beings, how varied and diverse they are in species, yet with one sole origin….
So it is with humanity…
… Let us look … at the beauty in diversity, the beauty of harmony, and learn a lesson from the vegetable creation. If you beheld a garden in which all the plants were the same as to form, color and perfume, it would not seem beautiful to you at all, but, rather, monotonous and dull. The garden which is pleasing to the eye and which makes the heart glad, is the garden in which are growing side by side flowers of every hue, form and perfume, and the joyous contrast of color is what makes for charm and beauty. So is it with trees. An orchard full of fruit trees is a delight; so is a plantation planted with many species of shrubs. It is just the diversity and variety that constitutes its charm; each flower, each tree, each fruit, beside being beautiful in itself, brings out by contrast the qualities of the others, and shows to advantage the special loveliness of each and all.
Central to the teachings of Bahá’ulláh is the principle of the oneness of humanity—affirming that our interconnectedness is the foundation upon which human civilization must now be built. The relationships in the environment are used in the Baha’i writings to illustrate our oneness, affirming that we are the “leaves of one tree, flowers of one garden, waves of one ocean.”3 This also extends to our relationship with the environment4:
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.
From an expression of our interconnectedness emerge attributes such as dignity and nobility in treating one another and our environment with respect and compassion. Bahá’u’lláh enjoins His followers to practice stewardship of the earth as an expression of world citizenship. As trustees of the planet’s vast resources and biological diversity, humanity must seek to protect the heritage of future generations.
Trusteeship is required to safeguard our earth’s precious diversity. It calls for a full consideration of the potential environmental consequences of all human endeavors. It compels humanity to temper its actions with moderation and humility, affirming that nature should not be exploited for self-interest. It also requires a deep understanding of the natural world and its role in humanity's collective development—both material and spiritual. Therefore, measures to safeguard biodiversity must come to be seen not as a discretionary commitment, but rather as a fundamental responsibility. Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life therefore requires a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world and a commitment to applying these principles to our endeavors. In a recent message, the governing body of the Baha’i Faith said5,
“every choice Baha’i makes … leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands … that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims.”
As there is much to learn about how noble ideals become expressed in committed, sustained action, Baha’i, alongside others around the world, are setting in motion processes of capacity building that enable people of all backgrounds to participate in the transformation of society and to make conscious decisions about, for example, patterns of production and consumption. These communities are coming to recognize that a sustainable pattern of life is dependent on the extent to which all of humanity is willing to adopt such a principled approach. An example of one such community can be found in Mwinilunga—a district in the northwestern province of Zambia.6
For instance, Mwinilunga have engaged the community in tree planting activities in order to further rehabilitate the natural environment. The various conversations and actions arising from the group’s endeavors have also contributed to improving certain aspects of the local culture as diverse members of the community are now working shoulder-to-shoulder. The efforts of the group have shown how an appreciation for our natural heritage can lead to concerted action to protect it and, in turn, can strengthen the patterns of community life.
Engaging in sustainable agricultural techniques, one of the many activities of the group of individuals in Mwinilunga contributing to the well-being of their community.
5 Message from the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of the world. 2017.
6 For the Betterment of the World. p 53.
This article is contributed by Bahá'í International Community.
Last updated 28 September 2020