26th IEF International Conference

Submitted by admin on 3. May 2022 - 18:31
Dates
2022 June 1-5
Place
Stockholm, Sweden and virtual

IEF 26th Annual Conference

26th CONFERENCE OF THE
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM

In association with the Stockholm+50 International Meeting
1-5 June 2022

A healthy planet for the prosperity of all - our responsibility, our opportunity

Stockholm+50 Logo

CONFERENCE PROGRAM OVERVIEW

For a brief report on each event, scroll down.
For detailed reports, speaker information and pictures, click on the relevant links below.


The 26th Conference of the IEF was a contribution to the UN Stockholm+50 International Meeting, with virtual and local events in Stockholm, Sweden, 1-5 June 2022 in collaboration with the Wilmette Institute, the Baha'i International Community, the Swedish Interfaith Council, the Baha'i Community of Sweden, ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future, and other partners.


Global Environmental Governance: Ethical Foundations & Practical Proposals
Wednesday 1 June 2022
in person event at the Swedish Parliament
The recording is available at https://www.bahai.se/stockholm50
For a report with pictures go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26_BIC

Bahá'í International Community associated event with the International Environment Forum as one partner

Humanity's shared destiny as a species is coming into ever greater focus through compounding crises and tremendous societal advances, yet our current institutional structures are struggling to meet the demands of this moment. This dialogue will, in honor of the Stockholm+50 conference, explore both the ethical foundations and practical proposals necessary for our governing systems to ensure a flourishing relationship between humanity and the natural world.

It also launched the new Bahá'í International Community statement One Planet, One Habitation - A Bahá’í Perspective on Recasting Humanity's Relationship with the Natural World.


Interfaith Prayers for the success of Stockholm+50
Wednesday afternoon 1 June 2022, outdoor event at Mynttorget close to the Parliament building in Stockholm.
Photo album
Visit the Facebook Event page of this Stockholm+50 associated event.
Organized by the Swedish Interfaith Council, the Baha'is of Sweden and others, with IEF collaboration.


Global Systems Accounting Beyond Economics
Friday 3 June 2022 virtual IEF event
Watch video recording.

For a summary report, scroll down.
For a more detailed webinar report with speaker biographies and pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-1

The panelists presented a new approach to non-financial global systems accounting covering the environment (carbon, biodiversity, pollution), human well-being (minimum living standard, food, health) and social accounting (work and service, knowledge and education, and spiritual capital)

Panelists:

- Arthur Dahl (Switzerland)
- Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
- Sara DeHoff (USA)
- Nan Chen (Germany)

Moderator: Laurent Mesbah (Bosnia-Herzegovina)


Empowering Local Sustainable Communities
Saturday 4 June 2022 virtual IEF event
Watch video recording.
For a summary report, scroll down.
For a more detailed webinar report with speaker bios and pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-2

The panelists discussed how local sustainable communities can be empowered with a culture of learning, adapting science for everyone, reading the local reality, and consulting to achieve resilience, regeneration, climate mitigation and adaptation, with panelists presenting case studies from around the world.

Panelists:

- Kim Naqvi (Canada) Teaching the Cultural and Political Dimensions of Sustainable Consumption
- Judith Bakirya (Uganda) Agroecology enterprises are key catalysts to empowering local sustainable communities in Africa
-
Gary Reusche (Ukraine)
- Neil Whatley (Canada) Empowering Farmers Leads to Sustainable Agriculture

Moderator: Wandra Harmsen (USA)


Intergenerational Perspectives on Visions for the Future
Sunday 5 June 2022 virtual IEF event
Watch video recording.

For a summary report, scroll down.
For a more detailed webinar report with pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-3

This event brought together a participant from the original 1972 Conference reflecting on his aspirations at that time and what we have learned since, alongside youth expressing their hopes and vision for the future and articulating their ongoing efforts to lay a foundation for that future locally and globally.

Panelists:

- Arthur Dahl (Switzerland)
- Desta Mesbah (Bosnia/The Netherlands)
- Kiara Ehsani (Kenya/Israel)
- Matteen Kashef (USA)
- Sayali Dubash (India)
- Elsa Deshmuk (Puerto Rico)

Moderators:

- Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (The Netherlands)
- Cedric Åkermark (Sweden)


BRIEF CONFERENCE REPORT

Global Environmental Governance: Ethical Foundations & Practical Proposals

Wednesday 1 June 2022
in person event at the Swedish Parliament

Bahá'í International Community associated event with the International Environment Forum as one partner

For a report with pictures go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26_BIC
For the recording, go here: https://www.bahai.se/stockholm50
Image BIC side event Stockholm

Humanity's shared destiny as a species is coming into ever greater focus through compounding crises and tremendous societal advances, yet our current institutional structures are struggling to meet the demands of this moment. This dialogue will, in honor of the Stockholm+50 conference, explore both the ethical foundations and practical proposals necessary for our governing systems to ensure a flourishing relationship between humanity and the natural world.

BIC June 1 event pictures of panelists
Daniel Perell, Augusto Lopez-Claros, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Peter Aburi, Anders Österberg, Mattias Vepsä

MODERATORS
Anders Österberg, Swedish Member of Parliament
Mattias Vepsä, Swedish Member of Parliament

SPEAKERS
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Global Women Leaders: Voices for Change and Inclusion (by video)
Daniel Perell, Baháʼí International Community, New York
Augusto Lopez Claros, Global Governance Forum
Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, International Environment Forum
Maja Groff, Climate Governance Commission (by video)
Peter Aburi, Baháʼí International Community, Nairobi

This event also launched a new Bahá'í International Community statement on One Planet - One Habitation - A Bahá’í Perspective on Recasting Humanity's Relationship with the Natural World.


 

Global Systems Accounting beyond Economics, pictures of speakers

Global Systems Accounting Beyond Economics

3 June 2022

The panelists presented a new approach to non-financial global systems accounting covering the environment (carbon, biodiversity, pollution), human well-being (minimum living standard, food, health) and social accounting (work and service, knowledge and education, and spiritual capital)

Watch video recording.

For a detailed webinar report with speaker biographies and pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-1

This panel introduced a new system of global accounts for the common good relevant to human and natural well-being using science-based non-financial units of accounting.

Arthur Dahl pointed out that the root cause of our problems is our economic paradigm that calculates everything in terms of monetary profit and loss, capital and interest, return on investment and the theoretical efficiency of the market. Dimensions of society that cannot be monetized, bought and sold are ignored. Modern neoliberal economic thinking is founded on the assumption that people are fundamentally selfish and aggressive, so we accept as normal that markets and politics are powered by ego, greed, apathy and violence, and that our society values wealth, power and fame.

The ultimate indicator in this system is the flow of money measured as GDP, and its endless growth is seen as the solution to all our problems. Yet these factors and measures have no inherent relationship to human or planetary well-being. Many corporations consider only profit and return on investment while ignoring the decline in environmental and social capital and related costs treated as externalities and borne by the whole of society.

The solution would be to develop an alternative set of accounts more organically related in a systems perspective to the functioning of the biosphere, the desirable direction of human society, and the right of everyone to a life of dignity and fulfilment leaving no-one behind, the real aim and purpose of development.

The three following panelists then reported on some of the thoughts from nine different working groups that have explored three major areas of such a new accounting system: environment, human well-being, and social accounting.

Environmental Accounting

Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah explained that currently, wealth accounting does not consider the costs to the natural world from environmental destruction, disturbance of natural cycles such as the carbon cycle, and pollution. Therefore, we need a system that accounts for the real costs of what we consume, but also for the services provided by ecosystems that are lost through deforestation, industrial activities, or extensive agriculture. This accounting system also needs positive indicators which measure efforts such as environmental cleanup and ecosystem restoration.

Carbon
Carbon can be seen as an alternative currency related to energy flow where the carbon in the soil and vegetation is capital and carbon in the air is debt.

Biodiversity
Biodiversity has intrinsic value. In addition, we depend on species diversity for future food security. The diversity of living species ensures the capacity of ecosystems to be resilient and adaptable to change which also makes them more capable of capturing carbon. Therefore, biodiversity loss is creating debt.

Pollution
Pollution is a burden to ecosystems and tremendously affects human health. Pollution accounts would make polluters pay and would help us rethink our modes of consumption.

Human Well-Being Accounts

Sara DeHoff stated that human well-being needs to be accounted for in the areas of food, health, and meeting basic needs.

Food Accounts
Food can be described as a currency flowing through a system of production, distribution, consumption and disposal. The ideal state is that every human being on the planet is properly nourished. A system of food accounts would provide a clear picture of the food wealth we are creating as well as the food debt and other debts we are incurring.

Minimum Living Standard Accounts
The ideal state is that every human being has adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation, a source of energy and basic security. These accounts would provide a much more complete picture of how well we are meeting basic needs than our current measure of the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day.

Health Accounts
Health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of complete physical, mental and social (and now spiritual) well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, so accounts should measure the optimal good health for everyone. As the public health field has pointed out, very little of our health is determined by individual biology or behavior. Health is really a nexus of all the other accounts: biodiversity, clean environment, carbon, basic needs, food, education, work, and spiritual capital.

Social Accounting

Nan Chen reminded us that every human being has a capacity to contribute to the wealth and well-being of society. Therefore, we need accounts to measure how we use this capacity for work and service. Then there are the intangible dimensions of society, including all forms of knowledge from science, art to culture, and their transmission through education, that need to be accounted for. Finally, there are the spiritual principles and values by which social systems are organized, in what might be termed Spiritual Capital, which determine the functioning of all social institutions.

Knowledge and Education
Accounts need to measure the intangible dimensions of society, including all forms of knowledge from science, art to culture, that increase their value the more they are shared. A knowledge accounting system based on spiritual principles aims for ideal stages of knowledge for individuals, communities, and governments. The operational impact of knowledge comes from its acquisition and use by people, its incorporation in objects or institutions, and its transmission through education.

Work and Service
The foundation of wealth creation in all its forms is human work. Every human being has some capacity to contribute productively to society and should receive the education necessary to develop that capacity as well as the opportunity to use that capacity through some form of meaningful work or employment. The work/employment accounting system would value all these contributions, and apply them to all genders, ages, capacities and situations as full employment. The ideal state of this account emphasizes that work is not just to earn money but has a social function for human dignity and to be of service to others.

Spiritual and Values Accounts
System science shows that the most basic level of organisation in any system is the rules by which it operates. It is through their operation that higher levels of organisation emerge. To change a system fundamentally, you need to change its rules and objectives. In human systems, those rules are defined by the values and ethical principles at the heart of the society and underlying those is the very purpose of human life.
Accounting is needed to measure the presence of values and their effective impact on individual behaviour and institutional functioning. Spiritual and value accounts would reflect an understanding of our higher purpose and virtues such as integrity, honesty, humility, selflessness, and courage. Positive indicators on a societal level would account for the state of justice, equality, and dignity among others.


 

Pictures of speakers for panel on Empowering Local Sustainable Communities

Empowering Local Sustainable Communities

4 June 2022

The panelists discussed how local sustainable communities can be empowered with a culture of learning, adapting science for everyone, reading the local reality, and consulting to achieve resilience, regeneration, climate mitigation and adaptation, with panelists presenting case studies from around the world.

Watch video recording.

For a more detailed webinar report with speaker bios and pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-2

In her opening remarks, moderator Wandra Harmsen (USA) announced the launching of the statement by the Baha’i International Community One Planet, One Habitation - A Bahá’í Perspective on Recasting Humanity's Relationship with the Natural World. She then encouraged the audience to reflect during the webinar on how we can have a constructive and collaborative relationship between people and the environment.

Picture of all speakers in panel Empowering Communities


Kim Naqvi (Canada) Teaching the Cultural and Political Dimensions of Sustainable Consumption

Kim Naqvi explained that consumption is really a relationship between people and things. She said that one of the multiple forces we are up against is that lessening our consumption is deemed bad. Humans in the West express themselves through consuming which drives consumerism and the growth economy. Kim wants to change the narrative on consumption by reframing it as the human spirit in action. The notion behind consumption should change from things to relationships.

The most popular approach to addressing consumption is with the idea of a circular economy. She questioned though whether a circular economy would not be hijacked by capitalism by merely shifting investment targets. It seems to favor business, not local political action. She said that while a circular economy has potential it is still part of a profit-driven economy. We need change at a more fundamental level that addresses cultural and behavioral issues.

Answering a question from the chat, Kim said that social media don’t sell things, they sell identity, community, and stories. In the absence of other goals, our search for belonging gets grabbed by the advertising industry that promotes certain behavior and practices. Consumption has taken the place of community, but when you recognize that this is a loss, it will give you strength so you can take the community back.

Kim ended her talk with the practical example of composting. While municipal pick-up of garden waste and kitchen scraps is a step in the right direction, it still requires transportation and is not accessible to all. Community composting empowers communities through active participation and by benefiting from the collaborative process and the product. We need to broaden the current focus on technology with the social dimension.

Judith Bakirya (Uganda) Agroecology enterprises are key catalysts to empowering local sustainable communities in Africa

Judith started her talk by saying that over 80% of East African farmers are smallholder farmers. Agroecology includes indigenous practices that speak to nature and environmental protection. At her farm, Busaino Fruits and Herbs (BUFRUIT), they are not only farmers but also business-people and social entrepreneurs working with local communities, and connecting with policy-makers, banks, potential financers and the rest of the world. They aggregate to find nature-friendly markets, for example, AgroFruit connects the Netherlands with Uganda through the trade of Jackfruit.

During the discussion, Judith elaborated more on their Agroecological principles such as diversification and maintaining soil health. Having a large diversity of crops also helps them economically as they have something to sell in all seasons including animals and trees. Judith emphasized that an ecological farm must have a strategy that considers what brings in money in the short, medium, and long term.

At their farm, they also sell knowledge to school children and visitors from the city that come to the farm, and they encourage others to plant trees. During her speech, Judith referred to the recording of a webinar she gave with Patrick Kiirya for the Association of Baha’i Studies Agriculture group in which they elaborated more about their work: https://vimeo.com/496999345 (~24minutes).

Willy Missack (Vanuatu) was unfortunately not able to join us. You may like to watch a 6 min. segment from last year’s conference in which he explained how Vanuatu villages are responding to the challenges of current issues with local ownership and commitment and without creating a dependency on external resources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAy59GcfSeY Start at 1:12:42

Gary Reusche (Ukraine)

Gary kindly filled in for Willy Missack. His opening question was “What is the future to look like in the coming decades?” Speaking from Ukraine, he pointed out the many existential threats to humanity and the uncertainty about the near future which has become a daily experience for them in the Ukraine. He said that today’s environmental challenges that are global, technical, and economic in nature require new behaviors and new institutions; they need to be reoriented for the future. Structurally, we want to move away from growth-based economies.

Gary argues that high consumption living is not sustainable and not necessary for human well-being. We do not need to be materially rich to live a rich life. By mindfully reducing our living standards we can even improve the quality of our life. We need to unlearn today's consumer culture and explore alternative ways of living that are more sustainable and more fulfilling. We need to work for the well-being of everyone and not just of one country.

Neil Whatley (Canada) Empowering Farmers Leads to Sustainable Agriculture

Neil Whatley explained that, as an agricultural specialist, he has always been drawn to the methodology of Participatory Action Research as proposed in Paulo Freire’s empowerment-based adult learning methodology that values both the knowledge generated by conventional research scientists and traditional knowledge such as generated within rural communities by farmers. This approach aligns perfectly with the Baha’i conceptual framework for engaging in social action.

In his work, Neil aims to create a safe social space for Indigenous farmers in an environment where the farmer and specialist can learn together in an equal conversation, free of power. He encourages farmers by asking them many questions and by letting them speak more than he does. Many farmers believe that their own knowledge is inferior even though they have been practicing sustainable farming for generations and have gained valuable knowledge, but they seem to be ashamed of it. However, with this empowering approach, the farmers know that Neil genuinely wants to learn more about their practices. Neil made the important point that “their local Indigenous identity is intertwined within the traditional farming system, so by using Indigenous knowledge, we were also retaining important aspects of their unique culture which helped ensure that these people are empowered to walk their own path to development.”

You can read the transcript of the entire talk by Neil Whatley here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26_4

Wandra Harmsen summarized the discussion by saying that the key issues highlighted by every panelist in different ways are the empowerment of Indigenous people, of institutions and communities to work for the common good.


 

Intergenerational Perspectives on Visions for the Future, June 5, 14:00 CEST

Intergenerational Perspectives on Visions for the Future

5 June 2022

This panel brought together a participant from the original 1972 Conference reflecting on his aspirations at that time and what we have learned since, alongside youth expressing their hopes and vision for the future and articulating their ongoing efforts to lay a foundation for that future locally and globally.

Watch video recording.

For a more detailed webinar report with speaker bios and pictures, go here: https://www.iefworld.org/conf26-3

Moderators Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (The Netherlands) and Cedric Åkermark (Sweden) opened the event with an inspiring montage of images depicting the panelists’ artistic presentations of their visions for the future, and shared opening remarks about the significance of this event.

Title page of art slide show with collage of art work

Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), President of International Environmental Forum, who participated in the 1972 Stockholm Conference, shared the vision of an elder, past, present and still to the future. He reminded the audience of the early warnings published by the Club of Rome in “Limits to Growth” and of early telltale ecological disasters portending an unsustainable future. Arthur Dahl provided an inspirational chronology of his life’s work and his efforts to achieve coherence between his spiritual values and his purposeful service to both the scientific and the United Nations communities. His dedicated efforts to define and achieve sustainable development in a more just world showed that spiritual values could provide the courage to work toward solutions. His message to young people was, “While you cannot predict where the future will lead you, if you strive to be of service and let your values guide you, amazing things can happen.”
Toward the end of the event, Arthur Dahl reminded the panelists of the earth’s resilience when allowed to recover from natural or man-made catastrophes. He warned of monetary indicators such as GDP as institutionalizing greed and urged the panelists to seek other indicators for human progress and to seek a better environment and more justice with their lives.

Sayali Dubash (India), Program and Curriculum Development Coordinator at the Baha’i Academy in Panchgani, India, reviewed the grim state of environmental conditions across India to begin her talk entitled “Together, Stronger and Sustainable:” Air pollution, poor management of waste, growing water scarcity, falling groundwater tables, water pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, land/soil degradation, and poverty which greatly exacerbates pollution. She encouraged everyone to look at sustainability from an angle of spirituality, to feel strong emotion for change and development, to assume the role of responsibility, to take initiative and to engage in community action without ulterior motives. Whatever field students may select, community engagement for environmental, social, and economic sustainability should be an integral part of their undergraduate and graduate study. By selflessly spreading and practicing universal human values such as love, affection, and empathy, and being in harmony with nature, all of us together only can create a sustainable future for our environment.
During the discussion, Sayali Dubash stated that the mindset of materialism and addiction to growth creates a fundamental obstacle for human progress, setting spiritual purpose and material objectives at odds in people’s minds. She emphasized the importance of education in conjoining these two purposes and offered a vision of hope of progress through perseverance.

Matteen Kashef (USA) explored the link between healthcare and the environment. His interest in climate change informed his realization that the healthcare industry’s dependence on single-use plastics needs reform without compromising the health and safety of patients. Addressing the issue from the broader perspective of our materialistic culture, Matteen said that if, instead of accumulating materials, we become conscious of the waste we produce and reflect on our purchases and uses, our communities will naturally become a more wonderful place. Recent research on alternatives to plastic and Styrofoam in the dental and medical settings has led to eco-friendly dental products and “green dentistry.” If we consider the effects of humans on the environment, this perspective will affect the practical application of dentistry, and we can become protagonists of change.
During the discussion, Matteen Kashef stressed the importance of grassroots activities that can expand from local to global scales.

Kiara Ehsani (Kenya/Israel) provided a beautiful vision of the future by contrasting the colors of her childhood, green and brown, with the new colors of a suffocated wonderland of trash heaps, sprinkles of greys, translucent whites, and faded reds and blues. The lush vegetation and thick forests of Nairobi, Kenya, yielded to the garbage that grew into little hills at the sides of the roads and clogging waterways. Her beautiful mosaics and collages brilliantly contrasted the insatiable production of plastics, disposable products and other materials fueled by the perverse priorities of society that result in environmental chaos and social injustice by widening the gap between the rich and poor. Thinking about her vision for the future, Kiara would like to see a society based on simplicity, moderation, and trustworthiness, in which the values that inform every decision are coherent with humanity’s true spiritual nature. To reach that goal, Kiara suggests a new economic model that mimics the regenerative, sustainable, and interconnected systems found in the natural world. The complexity of implementing a circular economy requires the participation and collaboration at all levels of society, from individuals to governments.

Desta Mesbah (Bosnia/The Netherlands) addressed the question of what can be learned from nature. Growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, surrounded by forest, she spent time outdoors almost daily no matter the weather conditions. Physical work, learning to use garden and construction tools, cultivating a vegetable garden, building a shed for the tools, and constructing a greenhouse, a treehouse or a pond were normal activities in her school. She has since explored the strategy of using green areas as a teaching tool for children to learn basic life skills that help them prepare for challenges later in life such as responsibility, self-confidence, communication, the skills of observation, cooperation and more. After spending time connecting with nature, children feel relaxed and more focused to learn as they study. Working on different outdoor projects strengthens bonds of friendship and teaches cooperation, working in unity and consultation.

Desta hopes that an increasing number of schools around the world would incorporate green outdoor activities in their curriculum, so that children around the world could experience what she experienced, and grow a sense of care, love and responsibility for the environment.

Elsa Deshmuk (Puerto Rico) told a heart-rending tale of how her community garden helped to sustain her community. She moved to Puerto Rico ten days before hurricane Maria hit and watched as the hurricane knocked over trees, stripped bushes of their leaves, and flooded the ground cover with torrents of rain. Without power, large quantities of food stored in refrigerators went bad, and many were left with the little canned food they had been able to store. But her uncle and aunt, as well as a few neighbors, were able to harvest squash and root vegetables from their community garden. This garden, originally an empty lot in the neighborhood, has served many purposes such as a source of nutrition, a green space, a social center where children, youth, and adults gather. The community garden is a place to learn and practice renewable agriculture techniques such as no till farming and crop rotation, and they have also used the indigenous technique of combining the cultivation of squash, beans, and corn to benefit from their symbiosis, connecting people to their cultural identity and increasing their knowledge and respect for agriculture. The garden is a source of unity, happiness, learning, and resilience over the years. Community spirit fosters the garden, and the garden fosters community spirit. Based on her experiences, Elsa Deshmuk’s vision is that many more urban and suburban communities should have community gardens to build communities characterized by unity, sustainability, and welfare.

World Environment Day


Last updated 13 June 2022