Bahá'í Learning Resources - Environmental Stewardship and Justice
prepared under the direction of the
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
for the Preach-in on Global Warming, February 2011
Optional Supplement For Junior Youth Groups
To the Junior Youth Animators: The budding consciousness of junior youth (pre-teens aged 12 to 15) awakens in them a desire to discover and understand the natural world. Through interactions with these eager and sincere young souls, some animators (facilitators of junior youth groups) have noticed that groups often take an exceptional interest in discussions and activities centered on environmental stewardship and justice in their communities. This document is offered as a resource for facilitating the exploration of concepts related to the earth's resources, environmental justice and climate change. When possible, animators may wish to accompany the lesson with a field trip to a nearby park, wooded area, botanical garden or other beautiful outdoor location to contemplate the natural world.
To the Cluster Institute Coordinators for Junior Youth: In communities and clusters where the interest and capacity exists to further explore environmental themes, regional coordinators of the junior youth program may wish to consider the following ideas for deepening local animators’ experience.
• Make education on environmental stewardship the theme of an upcoming animator reflection gathering.
• Organize or encourage junior youth retreats on the environment to be held in your community.
• Encourage junior youth animators to incorporate environmentally-focused service projects or outdoor activities into their groups’ weekly meetings.
Optional Supplement Objective: To integrate environmental consciousness, particularly raising awareness of climate change, into the activities carried out by groups in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment program; and to spark ideas for service projects at home, in the neighborhood and in the wider community.
Included below are:
• Lesson highlights from the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program that address nature, cultivation of the land, biodiversity, conservation, and environmental science and service.
• Additional passages on the spiritual and material dimensions of environmental stewardship, including group discussion questions that explore the application of the concepts in the passages.
• A list of suggested activities and web-based resources for groups interested in a deeper study of environmental sciences and in engaging in acts of environmental service.
Lesson highlights from books currently in use:
These materials are lesson highlights drawn from books often used by groups participating in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program — a series of Baha’i-inspired study resources for young people at a critical stage in their development, ages 12-15. Based on the belief that all children and youths are potentially the light of the world, this program seeks to enhance their spiritual and intellectual capacities and prepare them to participate effectively in the affairs of their communities by engaging in prayer; service; group study and discussion; art, science and physical activities. In this peer-driven environment, youths are encouraged together to test their powers of spiritual perception, public expression and moral leadership.
Breezes of Confirmation*
Lesson 9, p. 43 – Learning from nature
Glimmerings of Hope**
Lesson 10, p. 23 – Community agriculture; global food crisis
Spirit of Faith***
Lesson 4, p. 23 – Observing the laws of nature
Lesson 5, p. 31 – Unity at work in the animal kingdom
Lesson 6, p. 39 – Evolution
Lesson 7, p. 43 – Differences among the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms
Walking the Straight Path****
III, p. 9 – Environmental stewardship
Drawing on the Power of the Word*****
II-III p. 5,-9 – Material and spiritual progress
VI, p. 23 – Tree-planting service project
XVIII, p. 93 – Relationship between advertising, human consumption and environmental degradation
Additional passages for study and reflection:
1. “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. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 142, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988
- What are some signs of God in nature? How do these signs embody God’s Names: the Maker, the Creator? How do these signs express God’s will? (Discuss—the following multiple choice questions may assist you.)
- In springtime, trees and flowers bloom, grass begins to grow, animals come out of hibernation or migrate home and frozen rivers turn into fresh rushing water. What names of God are described here? Check all that apply.
- a._____ Maker
- b._____ Creator
- c._____ Destroyer
- Plants, animals and humans thrive when they live together in a mutually beneficial environment. Such ecosystems reflect which name of God?
- a._____ Ordainer
- b._____ All-Wise
- c._____ Protector
2. “Whatever I behold I readily discover that it maketh Thee known unto me, and it remindeth me of Thy signs, and of Thy tokens, and of Thy testimonies. By Thy glory! Every time I lift up mine eyes unto Thy heaven, I call to mind Thy highness and Thy loftiness, and Thine incomparable glory and greatness; and every time I turn my gaze to Thine earth, I am made to recognize the evidences of Thy power and the tokens of Thy bounty. And when I behold the sea, I find that it speaketh to me of Thy majesty, and of the potency of Thy might, and of Thy sovereignty and Thy grandeur. And at whatever time I contemplate the mountains, I am led to discover the ensigns of Thy victory and the standards of Thine Omnipotence.”
- Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, p. 272, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987
- What other names of God come to mind when you reflect on nature’s beauty?
3. “Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. There can be no doubt that whoever is cognizant of this truth, is cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory....”
- Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44, U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988
- How does thinking about nature make us feel humble? Grateful? Reverent? (Discuss—the following multiple choice questions may assist you. Check all that apply.)
- When I throw a plastic bottle in the trashcan instead of the recycling bin, I am showing:
- a._____ Reverence
- b._____ Wastefulness
- c._____ Gratitude
- If a community uses a renewable clean energy source like wind power to provide electricity to its buildings, it is demonstrating:
- a._____ Stewardship
- b._____ Selfishness
- c._____ Generosity
- A company is purposefully dumping harmful chemicals into a river downstream from its plant. The company is being:
- a._____ Honest
- b._____ Just
- c._____ Immoral
4. “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.”
- Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, 101, Bahá’í Publications Australia, 1991
- What does it mean for man to be organic with the world? How does our inner life mould the environment and, in turn, how does the environment mould us? (Discuss—the following questions may assist you.)
-- Outside, when we hear birds chirping and watch squirrels chase each other through the trees, how does our soul respond to nature’s beauty?
-- If our favorite park is littered and the trees and grass there are dying, what happens to our mood?
-- How does our attitude about recycling affect the park’s environment when, for example, we need to dispose of a plastic bottle and discover the park only has trash cans?
-- When we volunteer together to clean up the park, how does the environment at the park change? How are we changed?
5. “As preordained by the Fountain-head of Creation, the temple of the world hath been fashioned after the image and likeness of the human body. In fact each mirroreth forth the image of the other, wert thou but to observe with discerning eyes. By this is meant that even as the human body in this world, which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together.”
- Ḥuqúqu’lláh—The Right of God, Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í World Centre, April 2007, Pages: 37
- How is the natural world like the human body? How does this help us understand our relationship to the natural world and how we should behave in relation to it? (Discuss—the following multiple choice questions may assist you. Check all that apply.)
-- Which qualities are evident in the functioning of the human body?
- a._____ Unity
- b._____ Competition
- c._____ Resourcefulness
-- Which qualities are evident in the functioning of the natural world?
- a._____ Greed
- b._____ Competition
- c._____ Cooperation
-- Human beings contribute to a sustainable environment by practicing:
- a._____ Excessive consumerism
- b._____ Responsible stewardship
- c._____ Apathy
Activities for further exploration:
1.Encourage junior youth to interview long-time neighborhood residents and to walk the neighborhood with them to learn how the physical environment in their community has changed in recent years, and what effects these changes have had on them, their families and their neighbors.
2.If time or weather doesn’t allow for outdoor excursions, ask each participant to find and bring in an object that represents nature. They can study and share their objects and use them to silently reflect on the environment. Sample items could include nests, shells, fossils, and jars of insects or worms.
3.Search through the Hidden Words, or other spiritual writings, for examples of how imagery of nature is used for spiritual instruction. Pay close attention to how descriptions of nature are vivid metaphors for spiritual growth or decay.
4.The following two activities are based on the quote from Bahá'u'lláh: "Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 212)
a.Ask the group to brainstorm on current environmental issues. Choose one to study in depth and create a presentation about this issue as a service project for the local community.
b.Write the environmental issue above, or a new one, of the group’s choosing, in the center of a large sheet of paper. Together, map the causes of the issue, noting for each cause factor whether it is social/cultural, economic, natural, etc. Be sure to include in the map the values, or lack thereof, that play a role in causing the issues.
5.The Fish Game: http://www.cloudinstitute.org/fish-game is a great activity to illustrate that if each person looks after his or her own economic interest, resources quickly run out. Junior youth will learn that through cooperation and mutual aid, the community can ensure everyone has enough to meet their needs, while safeguarding resources for the future.
Young Voices on Climate Change: an inspiring film series featuring young people who are making a difference! http://www.youngvoicesonclimatechange.com/
Interfaith Power & Light: A religious response to global warming: http://interfaithpowerandlight.org/
U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development: http://uspartnership.org/
Greening Sacred Spaces: Faith & the Common Good: http://www.greeningsacredspaces.net/
Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change: http://www.interfaithdeclaration.org/index.html
Biological Diversity for Kids from the United Nations Environment Programme: http://kids.cbd.int/
The World Wildlife Fund's Biodiversity 911: http://www.biodiversity911.org/
The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education: "Inspiring young people to think about the world, their relationship to it, and their ability to influence it in an entirely new way." http://www.cloudinstitute.org/curriculum-units-courses
RENEWAL Documentary: Across the nation, people of faith are standing up for the environment. http://renewalproject.net/
The International Environmental Forum: a Bahá'í-inspired organization for environment and sustainability. The website includes resources and Bahá'í compilations on environmental themes. https://iefworld.org/
References: (Email BahaisUS@usbnc.org for more information about the following resources)
* Breezes of Confirmation (Level 1)
Prepared by the William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation in Zambia, this book tells the story of Musonda, a young girl who has just turned 13, and her older cousin Rose, who has come to visit for the school holidays. In its fourteen lessons, the book explores the concept of spiritual confirmation and encourages youth to develop the tools necessary for moral decision-making, which will guide their actions as they mature into young adults and active members of society.
** Glimmerings of Hope (Level 1)
This book emerged out of the experience of working with young people in Africa, many of whom are faced with difficult choices in societies torn by war and civil strife. Over twelve lessons, it tells the story of Kibomi, who embarks on a journey in search of his sister after the shooting of his parents in their small village.
*** Spirit of Faith (Level 1)
As part of a formal education for junior youth, this book aims to help them learn more about the purpose of their existence as spiritual beings in conjunction with the natural world around them, and encourages them to think about the purpose of physical reality in a spiritual and scientific way.
**** Walking the Straight Path (Level 2)
Prepared by The Badi Foundation in Macau, this book brings together twenty stories from different cultures to demonstrate moral principles and follows them with exercises designed to further comprehension, build vocabulary, and enhance moral reasoning. Short quotations for memorization are also provided.
***** Drawing on the Power of the Word (Level 3)
Prepared by the Ruhi Foundation in Colombia, this book seeks to enhance the power of expression and explore the moral implications of speech and action. It consists of twenty readings, each of which is complemented by exercises in language skills. The readings begin simply, but gain in complexity both in terms of thought and language. The first reading introduces Diego and his youth group, who live in the small town of Alegrías. With the help of a tutor from the nearby institute named Elisa, the group thinks about the power of enlightened words and pure deeds to bring about social change.
Prepared by the United States Bahá'í Community for the Preach-in on Global Warming, 2011.
Last updated 16 June 2011