Baha'i Faith and Environment

Submitted by admin on 15. December 2017 - 15:10


This page assembles resources documenting the involvement of the founders of the Bahá'í Faith, its institutions, and significant individual Bahá'ís in the environment and sustainability.


Selected Bahá'í-Associated Events and Activities

Selected External Events

EARLY PERIOD (the roots of the tree, 1800s to 1970)

Late 1800s

  • Bahá'u'lláh withdraws for two years in the wilderness of Sulimanieh where "the birds of the air were My companions and the beasts of the field My associates."

  • Bahá'u'lláh spurs restoration of aqueduct for water supply to Acre.

  • Bahá'u'lláh agrees to leave prison city of Acre: "The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies."

  • Abdu’l-Bahá creates Ridvan Garden for Bahá'u'lláh’s enjoyment with help of plants brought by pilgrims

Early 1900s

  • Ábdu'l-Bahá averts famine in Palestine by encouraging agriculture and storage of grain. Receives knighthood (KBE).

Early to mid 1900s

  • Shoghi Effendi, after assuming position of Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, retreats to mountains of Switzerland for physical and spiritual renewal.

  • Shoghi Effendi designs gardens around shrines in Holy land.

  • 1924 Richard St. Barbe Baker (RBB) forms ‘Men of the Trees’ (later: International Tree Foundation).

  • 1929 Shoghi Effendi becomes first lifetime member of Men of the Trees.

  • 1930s RBB launches Save the Redwoods campaign in California (12,000 acre reserve established in perpetuity); he inspires Roosevelt to create Civilian Conservation Corps.

  • 1933 Letter written on behalf of Guardian describes relationship between inner and outer environments. 1

Mid 1900s

  • 1945-1970s RBB organizes annual World Forestry Charter Gatherings; for years they are opened with short message from Shoghi Effendi

  • 1950s after 25,000 mile expedition around Sahara, RBB leads expedition to reclaim the Sahara Desert by strategic planting of trees.

  • 1960s RBB works to divert highway saving more California redwoods; (at urging of Universal House of Justice (UHJ), US National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) writes letter of support to government officials).

MIDDLE PERIOD (the trunk of the tree 1970-2009)


  • 1972 Baha'i International Community (BIC) sends 2 representatives to UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. BIC circulates statement: The Environment and Human Values: a Bahá'í View

  • 1974 BIC begins formal affiliation with UNEP; appoints representative in Nairobi


  • 1984 Union Carbide gas leak, Bhopal, India; 10,000 killed, many more injured

  • 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion exposes 100s of thousands to high levels radiation

  • 1986 five major religions meet on environment in Assisi, form Network on Religion and Conservation (NRC)

  • 1987 Brundtland Commission defines sustainable development in Our Common Future

  • 1988 Sikhs and Jains join NRC



  • 2000 World population = 6 billion

  • 2000 Earth Charter launched (the Hague)

CONTEMPORARY PERIOD (leaves and branches of the tree, 2010+)


  • 2011 World population = 7 billion

  • 2011 Arctic summer sea ice hits an all-time low

  • 2011 climate talks resume at COP-17, Durban, South Africa

  • 2014 COP-20 in Lima, Peru, prepares for summit in Paris next year

  • 2015 UN General Assembly Summit adopts 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals

  • 2015 Legally-binding Paris Agreement adopted at Climate Change Conference

  • 2016 Warmest year on record

  • 2017 Reports of collapsing bird and insect populations

1 "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 moulds 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." (Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1933)

2 Journal of Bahá'í Studies, Vol. 7, number 2, 1988. This document was reprinted in different forms and distributed widely by the BIC throughout the ‘90s.

3 “...assisting in endeavours to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must assume more importance in Bahá'í activities.” (UHJ, Ridvan 1989)

4 “Through the newly established Office of the Environment, the Bahá'í International Community, on its own initiative and in collaboration with other environmental organizations, re-instituted the annual World Forestry Charter Gathering founded in 1945 by the renowned Richard St. Barbe Baker; since then the Office of the Environment has been invited to participate in important events sponsored by international organizations concerned with environmental questions.” (UHJ, Ridvan 1990)

5 No longer in print. Used copies may be available. Link is review of book.

6 A full list of IEF conferences and seminars can be found here. Only key selected conferences are listed in this chart. A general brochure describing IEF can be found here

7 The Bahá'í position on the Charter, determined later that year, is captured in this sentence: "While not officially endorsing the Earth Charter, the Baha'i International Community considers the effort toward drafting it and activities in support of its essential objectives to be highly commendable, and it will continue to participate in related activities, such as conferences, forums and the like." (From Wikipedia entry on the Earth Charter.)

8 Baha’I delegation to the WSSD is comprised of 21 individuals from six sister organizations: BIC; NSAs of Canada, Brazil, S. Africa; IEF and the European Baha'i Business Forum (EBBF). They participate in events in three areas: the official negotiating sessions; the civil society forum; and Ubuntu Village (a meeting ground between the two). They manage two exhibits and a press liaison office. More than 70 Baha’i’s from surrounding communities provide hospitality and logistical support.

9 The Canadian NSA letter notes, “Far from distracting from the processes of growth underway in Canada, attention to environmental practices that respect the earth and the oneness of its inhabitants must support and sustain them. Thus, small initiatives should be undertaken to gradually increase consciousness of our “ecological footprint” and develop capacity for responsible action that responds to the challenges of global climate change.”

10 At the 2008 Baha'i Conference on Social and Economic Development in Orlando, Florida, on 19-21 December 2008, the theme was sustainable development. The whole Saturday morning was devoted to climate change and its multiple dimensions, chaired by IEF board member Peter Adriance, and including IEF members Arthur Dahl, Halldor Thorgeirsson and Duncan Hanks, and Baha'i International Community representative Tahirih Naylor-Thimm.

11 The letter encourages Bahá'ís to “incorporate greater awareness of the environment in your community life and core activities.” It notes, “Materials will be developed to facilitate this study, but many resources, both Bahá'í-inspired and others, are already available.” Bahá'í resources include IEF and the NSA websites.

12 The statement became a focus of study at the NGO orientation for CSD-18 and was used to shape collective NGO oral statement in opening plenary.

13 “At the level of the cluster, involvement in public discourse can range from an act as simple as introducing Bahá’í ideas into everyday conversation to more formal activities such as the preparation of articles and attendance at gatherings, dedicated to themes of social concern—climate change and the environment, governance and human rights, to mention a few.” (UHJ, para. 30, Ridvan 2010)

14 The facilitated dinner discussion is a first attempt to find alternate ways of advancing a key discourse than through a traditional side event. It is deemed very successful by all participants (8 Bahá'ís and 8 guests), and will be tried again in different venues.

La Foi bahá'íe et l'Environnement

Based on a table by Peter Adriance, with updates

Last updated 14 December 2017