Letting Deeds, Not Words, Be Our Adorning: Creating Sustainable, Environmentally Conscious Baha'i Communities

Submitted by admin on 7. February 2011 - 19:57
Brown, LLoyd


Letting Deeds, Not Words, Be Our Adorning:
Creating Sustainable, Environmentally Conscious Baha'i Communities

Lloyd Brown

Paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum
organized jointly with the Social and Economic Development Seminar for the Americas
12-14 December 2000, Orlando, Florida, USA
[This paper is as presented at the Conference, and has not been subject to editorial review by the IEF]

Presenters note

This is not intended to be an academic paper. It is notes and background information for a 4 day workshop (without a lot of the activity details included).

There is so much information out there, and more added everyday that it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest ideas theories etc. It is one of the purposes of this workshop then, to try to synthesize and simplify some of this information, from both Baha'i and Non-Baha'i sources, into a form that is easily digestible yet still sufficiently deep, for the average Baha'i to follow.

I am attempting to bring information to the audience in a way that flows and builds upon itself. It is only meant to introduce certain ideas and not to be a complete treatment of the subject in itself. We start with the basic elements needed to sustain life, explaining how we operate in a closed system with balanced thermodynamic and biological systems interacting harmoniously together. After demonstrating our interconnectedness with these systems, I then show how we have cut ourselves off, protected ourselves and then tried to dominate nature with our technological marvels. This in turn has led to dysfunctional behaviours, which are causing social turmoil and more environmental destruction.

However, this is all good news...., as it is part of the process of going from adolescence to maturity as outlined by Shoghi Effendi in "The Promised Day is Come".

The question is, what constitutes a "Mature Society", what would that look like... what tools, skills, habits, knowledge, attitudes do we need to foster and bring about this "mature" civilization?

As I read and write each of these sections I find more to add, and I gain more insightful thoughts and ideas. At this point It is impossible to put an end to this workshop.

Therefore, I will not attempt to do so. The last parts are deliberately annotated, and incomplete, remaining open to insights gained by the participants and guidance from our administrative bodies.

I appreciate any feedback for ideas, depth of subject, experiential activities, or collaboration on any aspects of this workshop.

I am starting to think that this could be used at summer schools for the Youth. What do you think?

I am sorry that on the electronic version you cannot experience the activities, demonstrations, videos or music that goes with the presentation. Maybe you can imagine your own activities that you would use as you read through. Looking forward to receiving your thoughts at the conference.

Yours in His Service,
Lloyd Brown.

The Embodiment of My Name

Developed by Lloyd and Lisa Brown.


Overview of Workshop
1. The Oneness of Life
 A. Our Life support
 B. Unity in Diversity: A look at ecosystems
 C. Violating Natures Design
2. Spiritual Connections
 A. Reconnecting with Nature
 B. Nature as a reflection of the Divine
 C. Native Americans
 D. Ecopsychology
 E. Biophilia
3. An Ever Advancing Civilization
 A. Adolescence to Maturity
 B. Sustainable Development
 C. What Does It All Mean? A New Definition of Prosperity
 D. Oneness: The essence of it all
4. First Steps: What Can I Do Right Now?
 A. No Shame, No Blame
 B. It's the Process that Counts
 C. Let Deeds, Not Words, be our Adorning
Questions for you
Appendix A: Some practical tips
Appendix B: References
Appendix C: Home Environmental Audit

Overview of Workshop

The Embodiment of My Name

Developed by Lloyd and Lisa Brown.

"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." -Baha'u'llah,

Workshop Rational and Aim

If we are to successfully apply the Baha'i Teachings to the environmental challenges facing the world, then we must begin at home, with our own Baha'i communities. The purpose of this workshop is to make Baha'is, as individuals and communities, more aware of, and ready to act on, Baha'i principles concerning our relationship with, and responsibility toward, the natural environment.

This workshop is still in the beginning stage of its development. At this point, it has been roughly designed to suit the needs of a hypothetical audience and learning situation. It is imagined that the participants are a group of North American Baha'is attending a 4 day course at a Baha'i school such as Green Acre, Bosch or Louhellen.

1. The Oneness of Life

This section of the workshop is inspired by the fundamental principle of "unity in diversity". It aims to give participants a basic understanding of fundamental ecological concepts. In particular, it focuses on the concept of "interdependence" by showing how dependent we are on a planet whose life-support systems are in harmony. It also tries to vividly portray the present-day ill effects caused by violating Nature's (God's) design. An important outcome of this section is to motivate Baha'is to want to take care of the planet, and prepare them for the next steps of the workshop which are reconnecting with nature, then analyzing the actions and choices they make in their lives that have an environmental impact.

A. Our Life support systems

Looking at the physical, biological and cultural systems that operate in the Earth's closed system.

"Reflect upon the inner realities of the universe, the secret wisdom's involved, the enigmas, the inter-relationships, the rules that govern all. For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening whatever..."
-Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

"Man is organic with the World. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself 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 on behalf of Shoghi Effendi

Quite often we think we understand how the Earth's life support systems work, and this is probably true for some of us. However, I feel that until these systems are put together into one big interacting picture, we do not fully grasp the significance of how fundamental these systems are to our survival. This first section aims to do just that. With the use of video, slides, displays and activities, which of course cannot be conveyed on this electronic version, the participants will hopefully come to this deeper understanding

This section makes use of a display of a human figure; which has the various cycles and links added to it as they are discussed, i.e. the water cycle passes through the body as we absorb water in various ways and it passes out into the environment again.

We start off by seeing ourselves from space as "Sunship Earth" using slides and video. A comparison is made between the needs of a Rocket ship and the Earth.

Physical needs:

Radiation from the sun is blocked or reflected by the atmosphere, the rest of the earth and some is absorbed by plants and stored. The rest is reflected as light or heat. Energy is coming and going. When it is in balance, the temperature of the earth remains stable.

-Energy is released by Oceans and radiated by continents - causing high and low pressure systems - effecting wind, rain and temp. Because continents have always shifted, there have always been slow changes in the earth's climate.

-The driving force for the life support systems of the biosphere, and indeed for almost all life, comes from solar energy. (move, breath, grow, make light, warm ourselves, drive a car, run a machine)

-When the absorption and reflection of radiation is in balance, the temperature of the earth remains stable. (7°C variation over the last 3 million years.)

-We have an absolute need for a balanced energy system to support life on Earth. Our relationship to the Sun is inseparable. We are connected.

-30km above the ground is a (very) thin layer of atmosphere called the Ozone layer. (a form of oxygen). This layer has the ability to trap the UV light and hence filter out much of the UV before it hits the earth. Nearly all life exists in this region.

-We can only tolerate a small % variation in the air of oxygen ~21%. 25% could ignite the atmosphere, 15% lethal to life.

(If you live long enough, you will at some point in time breath in atoms that were once a part of a dinosaur, Neanderthal, Bhudda, Baha'u'llah, your grandmother, son and grand-daughter. Why?)

-Air has no boarders or owners; it is shared by all life on earth. Air currents continually mix the air from different parts of the globe.

-Each one of us, past present and future needs air every minute of every day in THE PROPORTIONS AND PURITY our bodies are adapted to.

Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and the rightful inheritance of generations yet to come.

We are dependent on the air and the earth's unique atmosphere for life. Our relationship to the air is inseparable. We are connected.

(Discussion of Water Cycle + diagram.)

-The average human being is roughly 60% water, ~40L. (varies with age).

-Every day 3% of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. These molecules have come from the oceans of the world, evaporated from grasslands, and canopies of the world's great rain forests.

-Water physically links us to earth and all other life forms of life.

- 97% of the planets water is salty. Only about 0.0001 % of fresh water is readily available to us. This is demonstrated by a little activity.

We have an absolute need for fresh pure water. Water physically links us to the earth and all other life forms. Our relationship to water is inseparable. We are connected.

(the water and air systems really bring home the fact that we live in a closed system, and this is emphasized as a key point)

-The amount of useable soil on the surface of the earth limited and very thin (like the skin of an Apple)

-The constant renewal of life on earth occurs in that thin layer, and we, like all other terrestrial life forms, depend on it, directly or indirectly for our food.

-A third of the land on the planet is unsuitable for agriculture, forest or pasture. (a demonstration that really brings this home is done here).

We have an absolute need for fertile soil:

Our connection to the soil is inseparable. We are connected.


We cannot disconnect ourselves from the physical environment. We are connected through air, water, soil and energy from the sun.

B. Unity in Diversity

A look at ecosystems: How ecosystems teach us this fundamental principle.

"...And these realities of things, though in the utmost diversity, are yet intimately connected one with the other.... Liken the world of existence to the temple of man. All the organs of the human body assist one another, therefore life continues... likewise among the parts of existence there is a wonderful connection and interchange of forces which is the cause of life of the world and the continuation of these countless phenomena."

Just as we are interconnected to the physical environment, we are also interconnected to other life forms. Any form of life cannot exist alone, independent of other forms of life. Life can only exist as a part of an ecosystem.

"...And these realities of things, though in the utmost diversity, are yet intimately connected one with the other....Liken the world of existence to the temple of man. All the organs of the human body assist one another, therefore life continues... likewise among the parts of existence there is a wonderful connection and interchange of forces which is the cause of life of the world and the continuation of these countless phenomena." ­Baha'u'llah

Ecosystems: = the organisms, processes and cycles that exist together in a complex web of interrelationships in a particular space and time.

-The important point to get across here, is that every single species has some role to play in the ecosystems of which it is a part.

(a web activity is done here including the elements; sun, air, water, insect, snake, frog, eagle, worm)

-The more we learn about the web of life the more we realize how much more there is to learn.

The Rain forest as an example:
(I am sure that this whole section could be expanded upon by people with more knowledge in the subject of Rainforests than me. My idea is to just highlight some of the main issues to get people thinking, and to use this to lead into other ideas further on in the workshop. Your input in making this section more succinct is welcome).

In this section we take a look at the Tropical Rainforest as one of the most important ecosystems on the earth, not only from its impact on the rest of the earth's climate, its huge, mostly unknown biodiversity, but also as a good example of the principal of Unity in Diversity.

(some basic points about the Rainforest are discussed here, such as their location, structure. Various activities are done to demonstrate how Foodwebs and foodchains are used to show the importance and significance of every lifeform no matter how tiny it is. )
(The mystery animal activity may be done here also, or excerpts from the "Living Planet" Video).

Life is sustained by a beautiful, interconnected web of different relationships, demonstrating the law of Unity in Diversity.

(parts of the body of man) "...In the same way, the parts of this infinite universe have their members and elements connected with one another, and influence one another spiritually and materially.... Of this there is no doubt; and the universe is like a living person. Moreover, the connection which exists between the members of beings, must necessarily have an effect and impression, whether it be material or spiritual."
(Abdu'l-Baha: Some Answered Questions pp. 245-246)

"Even the holy, divine Manifestations have had a nature in the utmost equilibrium, the health and wholesomeness of their bodies most perfect, their constitutions endowed with physical vigor, their powers functioning in perfect order, and the outward sensations linked with the inward perceptions, working together with extraordinary momentum and coordination."
(`Abdu'l-Baha: Tablets of the Divine Plan, Pages: 69-70)

This principle of "Unity in Diversity""is a critical part of the design of nature that protects our survival and the survival of all living things. It is also interesting because it seems to contain two contradictory ideas. "Unity" stands for the fact that, in reality, the planet itself is a single living entity. But the earth as a very complex living entity only exists due to the complex relationships among many diverse elements.

"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... and that co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly of indirectly."
Tablet of Abdu'l-Baha ­ Conservation of the Earth's Resources

Diversity then, is another critical part of the design of nature that is essential for survival. Just as we have an absolute need for energy, pure air, pure water, and fertile soil, Humanity has an absolute need to protect diversity.

Let's look at two kinds of diversity i.e. Biological and cultural.


There could be an estimate of 30 million species of life today all over the world, most of which are too small for us to notice. Most of these are found in the tropics . (Fantasia video)

-The potential benefits of these species include biological controls for serious pests and diseases, medicinally important compounds, important traits for resistant crops.

To understand the importance of biodiversity, we must know something about Genetic Variability.

Genetic variability:

Genetic differences are crucial to a species survival, as it enables individual species to survive changes in their ecosystem.

(examples given of a virus destroying barley in California and a disease destroying sugar cane in Louisiana, and the southern corn blight in the 70's, as well as the Panda and Siberian Tiger)

This brings us to the second level of needs, our social needs:

Cultural diversity:

Culture evolves with lightening speed- and for this reason we have come a long way in a relatively short time.

Although people are wonderfully diverse in their skin colour and facial and other physical features, the most significant difference between different groups of human beings, is not biological, but cultural and linguistic.

As individuals we carry out many activities; we cannot escape being part of families, communities or nations, which have their own characteristics and behaviour. Each piece contributing to the functioning of the whole Human family. We are like one large ecosystem, operating within and with the other ecosystems that make up this planet Earth.

Nature is in constant flux. Diversity is the key to survival. If change is inevitable, but unpredictable, then the best tactic for survival is to act in ways that retain the most diversity. Then when circumstances do change, there will be a chance that a set of genes, a species or a society, will be able to continue under new conditions. Diversity confers stability, resilience, adaptability and capacity for regeneration.

"...Thus when that unifying force, the penetrating influence of the Word of God, taketh effect, the difference of customs, manners, habits, ideas, opinions and dispositions embellisheth the world of humanity. This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole...."
(Selections from writings of Abdu'l-Baha)


We are connected through air, water, soil, and energy from the sun. We are connected biologically and culturally...

But we are also more than this, we are connected by a conscience, an intelligence, a responsibility, and love in other words a spirit, to every element of this planet.

C. Violating Natures Design: Major Environmental Problems Threatening the Planet

How our actions are upsetting the Earth's equilibrium.

"The time for the destruction of the world and its people," Baha'u'llah's prophetic pen has proclaimed, "hath arrived." "The hour is approaching," He specifically affirms, "when the most great convulsion will have appeared."

"The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: `Taste ye what your hands have wrought!'" "Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you." And again: "And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake."
(Shoghi Effendi: The Promised Day is Come, Page: 3)

All human activity has an impact on the system as a whole. We have 2 basic choices. This impact can be either negative or positive. If we understand and respect the way nature is designed, our actions can have a beneficial impact on our own well-being as well as the planet as a whole. If we violate nature's principals then our impact will be harmful, even life threatening, to ourselves and the planet as a whole.

In this section we will look at what kinds of choices we have been making up to this point:

We start with a look at the Michael Jackson music video Earth Song, a very powerful filmclip, which surely enlists an emotional response in the viewer.

We start by looking at the most basic level, meeting our physical needs for purely physical survival.

As a direct result of human activity, and our failure to either understand or respect the design of nature, we are now experiencing the following environmental problems....

(The participants are given black cardboard dots, with one of the following problems written on it. As that problem is mentioned the participant brings up their black dot and pins it to the display of the person with the physical cycles going through them. What happens is a very visual picture of how we are choking up our life support systems.)

Air Pollution:
Many forms, automobile exhausts, industry, burning of wood and coal etc.

a) Carbon Dioxide:
Carbon, buried beneath the earth, is being released into the air as carbon dioxide:
Carbon is also being released by the cutting and burning of forests, (releasing of CO2 but not taking it in again, and also reducing O2), burning of coal for heat and electricity, motor vehicles etc (5.5 billion tons of CO2 added to atmosphere each year), causing the Greenhouse effect, in turn leading to a rise in Temperature of the earth, and all the climatic changes that that entails... diagram of greenhouse effect.

History shows us that forests are susceptible to relatively small temperature changes.
Such climate changes could have enormous social and economic effects on agriculture and other human activities.
By 2020 China could become the number one producer of CO2, ~1/5 of global CO2

b) ozone:
Destruction of the Ozone layer by CFC's and other chemicals
Holes are being reported over the Polar Regions.
-Causes skin cancers, damage to vegetation etc.

c) Acid rain:
Caused by the combustion of fuels, including oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. Particularly evident in coal in China, and from automobile exhausts-;
Acid rain is having devastating effects on the forests and rivers in the Appalachian Mountains, Eastern US.

d) Water:
-In 1992, about 1.2 billion people (equiv. China's pop), did not have safe drinking water.
-Currently about 63 different countries or regions face a water shortage at some time during the year.
-When we cut a forest, we reduce the amount of water vapour returned locally to the atmosphere, and this can change the climate over a considerable area.
-Because we live in a closed system; Water also accumulates and transports pollution on a global scale.
-Natural systems cannot deal with the pollution or are in turn harmed by them.

e) Toxic materials:
-An estimated 10,000 new man-made chemical substances are invented every year. Most of these have never existed in nature, so nature has never evolved rapid biological means of breaking them down and recycling them in the natural processes. They then accumulate in the environment.
-Many of these chemicals can cause cancers, genetic mutations or birth defects, and sometimes even when present in small quantities.
-Today poisons are seeping into ground water supplies or rising to the surface, being sprayed on our crops and accumulating in our food, putting people at risk.

f) Soil/Land:
Larger and larger areas of land, which were once covered by productive biological communities, have been sterilized by human developments.
-Global loss is estimated at 23 billion tons a year (~10 million hectares/yr.). At this rate in a couple of years more than 30% of the world's current supplies of topsoil will be gone, but humankind's numbers will have doubled.
(show the apple skin from earlier and remove 30% of it)
-80% of the deforestation in the world is occurring to grow food, because there are less fertile lands available.
-Agricultural practices which expose the soil also leave it vulnerable to erosion by wind and water.
-Many sustainable agricultural practices which were used by indigenous peoples have been replaced by modern agriculture whose main goal, to maximize immediate output and short-term profitability, are the only criteria for success.

g) Consumerism/global economy practices/development ­

"Through the warnings He sounded, an unheeding humanity, steeped in materialism and forgetful of its God, had been apprized of the perils threatening to disrupt its ordered life, and made, in consequence of its persistent perversity, to sustain the initial shocks of that world upheaval which continues, until the present day, to rock the foundations of human society."
(Shoghi Effendi: God Passes By, Page: 315)

A three year global survey by the United Nations Environment and Development committee, found that the North American patterns of excess consumption is one of the primary engines driving (main reasons behind...) global environmental problems...
-When we realize that those in countries who do not have the same standard of living wish to acquire the same luxuries, this is a recipe for disaster. 1 (average) American uses as much as 50 (average) Chinese.
-It has been estimated that if everyone on the planet used the same amount of resources as the "Western/developed" world, we would need 4 more planets!
-A lot of problems could be solved or reduced just by eliminating the amount that we waste!

Consumerism is closely linked to social ills
....(in the USA), the last 30 years have been a time of unprecedented materialism and disconnection from natural processes, marked by the prevalence of stress, alienation, drug abuse, and many other social ills. (see section on ecopsychology)
-We continue to spend and accumulate more stuff in the false idea that more will make us happy. Research has shown that in whatever wage-bracket you survey, people never feel they have enough and state that if they just had that little bit more they could be happy and comfortable.
-We are obviously trying to fill a void that cannot be filled by material possessions.
-Most of us do not make the connection between the car, strawberries or the coffee that we are buying and the impact that has on the environment, i.e. their ecological footprint.

2. Spiritual Connections

This section of the workshop is inspired by Baha'u'llah's words; "Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Creator." Using a number of experiential, hands ­on activities directly with nature, as well as reading and meditating on the Creative Word, it is designed to help us reconnect spiritually with the earth, and to understand more deeply how the condition of the Earth is a mirror of the condition of our spiritual maturity as individuals and as a society. It is intentionally designed to lead participants more toward the realm of spirituality and feelings, including love, respect, reverence, wonder, peace, oneness etc.

A. Reconnecting with Nature

Experiential activities designed to give us hands on experiences with Nature:

"Every created thing in the whole universe is but a door leading into His knowledge, a sign of His sovereignty, a revelation of His names, a symbol of His majesty, a token of His power, a means of admittance into His straight Path." Baha'u'llah.

B. Nature as a reflection of the Divine

Looking at what nature has to teach us in metaphor.

"...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."
Prayers and Meditations of Baha'u'llah, sec CLXXVI

C. Native Americans

A look at the wisdom given to us from the Native Americans.

"Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth 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 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."
Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p44.

D. Ecopsychology

A closer look at how the condition of the earth is causing us pain and grief and how this is being manifested in dysfunctional behaviours.

"We cannot separate the human heart from the world 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."
-on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, from a letter to an individual believer, Feb 17, 1933.

E. Biophilia

Looking at how a rootedness in a (natural) place can help heal us, and what this means in our education systems, especially with regard to young children.

"Our Children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause..... Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere."
-Ridvan 2000 letter, Universal House of Justice.

3. An Ever Advancing Civilization

This section of the workshop is inspired by the spiritual challenge of free will and our ability to make conscious choices, as a key to the spiritual transformation of ourselves and our planet. The aim of this section of the workshop is to give Baha'is, as individuals and as communities, practical, concrete tools to help them start analyzing their daily actions and habits that have an environmental impact. Tools are also provided to help Baha'is change their behaviour where needed by applying a number of relevant Baha'i principles and teachings.

(There is a lot yet to do in this section, and I do not have time to go into every item in detail, in order to get this electronic version out to the participants in time. Hopefully, by the time we get to Orlando, some of these ideas will have been flushed out a little. However, this is a section, which I think needs a lot of input from the friends... how deep to go? What order of ideas brings the best flow? How to demonstrate the ideas with exercises instead of just talking about them? etc etc.)


I think that by pondering this question we can start to see much deeper into the environmental question that just the physical destruction of our life-support system.

Obviously it is to do with "Choices" and "Free-Will". The choices that we make regarding the condition of the Earth, will ultimately effect our "spiritual condition".

Let us look at some of the choices that are before us today.

A. Adolescence to Maturity

This section looks at the transition we are going through as a civilization.

"Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moralities, new capacities. New bounties, bestowals and perfection's are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and graces of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of the world of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity. The playthings of childhood and infancy no longer satisfy or interest the adult mind."
- 'Abdu'l-Baha; Promulgation of Universal Peace.

The sheer scale of the problems involving the daily actions of billions of people are all pushing the planet towards environmental destruction.

It is sometimes hard to think what will help us solve these overwhelming problems. Yet when the environmental problems are seen within the larger context of human social evolution, the forces which seem to be pushing our society to catastrophe may just in fact be symptoms of those forces of transition which are breaking down the inadequate systems and structures of a fragmented world, so they can be replaced by new types of social organizations adapted to a united world.

B. Sustainable Development

A model we can use to start this transitional process. A look at the Earth Charter as a tool in this process.

"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." -From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy.

C. What Does It All Mean? A New Definition of Prosperity

A closer look at what Prosperity means.- moderation and the principle of "Enough".

"The assumptions directing most of current development planning are essentially materialistic. That is to say, the purpose of development is defined in terms of the successful cultivation in all societies of those means for the achievement of material prosperity that have, through trial and error, already come to characterize certain regions of the world. Modifications in development discourse do occur... Yet the underlying materialistic assumptions remain essentially unchallenged... It is no longer possible to maintain the belief that the approach to social and economic development to which the materialistic conception of life has given rise is capable of meeting humanity's needs."
- The Prosperity of Humankind, Universal House of Justice.

D. Oneness: The essence of it all

In light of everything we have studied what does Oneness really mean?

" The bedrock of a strategy that can engage the world's population in assuming responsibility for its collective destiny must be the consciousness of the oneness of humankind. Deceptively simple in popular discourse, the concept that humanity constitutes a single people presents fundamental challenges to the way that most of the institutions of contemporary society carry our their functions.."
- Prosperity of Humankind, Universal House of Justice.

4. First Steps: What Can I Do Right Now?

"Little by Little, Day by Day." 'Abdu'l-Baha.

("The longest journey begins with the first step" Lao Tze.(? Does anyone know the exact quote for me?)

A. No Shame, No Blame

It's important to understand that we cannot be judgmental of others in this process of transforming our lives. What's needed is encouragement. Some case studies of people learning to live more sustainably will be shared.

People need to know how much you care, before they want to know how much you know. - Stephen Covey.

B. It's the Process that Counts

As Baha'is we know that consultation, as described by Baha'u'llah, is one of the fundamental tools for individuals, families and society to use for their advancement. Consultation, action research and the concept of "circle of influence" will be discussed as tools to help us begin the journey to living sustainably.

"...consultation is the operating expression of justice in human affairs. So vital is it to the success of collective endeavor that it must constitute a basic feature of a viable strategy of social and economic development...."
- Prosperity of Humankind, Universal House of Justice.

C. Let Deeds, Not Words, be our Adorning

Using the above tools, and an environmental assessment questionnaire, individuals, families and communities break into groups to start to look at where they are now in this process, and an action plan that they can implement immediately after leaving the workshop.

"Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past, for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning!"
- 'Abdu'l-Baha: Memorials of the Faithful, Page: 201.

Appendix A: Some practical tips:

Appendix B: References:

Appendix C: Home Environmental Audit:

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Last updated 26 December 2000