Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 3, Number 2 --- June 2001
FROM THE EDITORS
This issue of leaves contains several urgent and exciting announcements. They regard the 5th IEF conference, for the first time held in Eastern Europe, and the call for proposals for the IEF seminar at the Orlando conference on socio-economic development. But we also have lots of other bits and pieces, and as premier a story that can be read by adults and children. As a step to strengthen our collaboration with the European Baha'i Business Forum, you can find information on their 12th Annual conference. And there is lots more...
The editors have started to get in touch with several IEF
members who have indicated an interest in writing for the
newsletter, asking for specific submissions, and we will
continue to do so. However, everyone is welcome to send in items
of information, short articles, book reviews etc.
5TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE IEF -- ANNOUNCEMENT
"Knowledge, Values and Education for Sustainable
Governments and NGOs around the world are galvanising their energies in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), to be held in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. While much progress has been made to implement the Rio agreements and Agenda 21, at least in some regions, it is clear that the governments and peoples of the world have not shown sufficient commitment to take firm steps on the path to sustainability. This situation calls for serious reflection on the reasons for this lack of commitment, going beneath the standard answers regarding lack of resources, of faulty incentive structures, etc., to explore the fundamentals of human society.
Commitment requires action in both mind and heart. This conference will take an in-depth and comparative view of the roles of knowledge, values and education in achieving the commitment and action necessary for implementation of the sustainable development agenda at local, national and global levels. It will explore how science and religion, culture and spirituality, and their transmission through education, can lay better foundations for sustainable development and global prosperity. Issues to be addressed include:
- Should equal importance be assigned to knowledge, values and
The program will include keynote speakers (for introductory presentations), panel discussions with researchers and practitioners in a variety of fields, and smaller working group sessions. The goal of the conference consultations is to generate ideas that can both provide innovative input to the WSSD process and contribute to emerging research agendas.
Researchers, teachers, students, professionals from a wide range of disciplines, and practitioners in the field of environment and sustainable development are most welcome to the first IEF conference to be held in Eastern Europe. The working language of the conference will be English, but Czech will be accommodated to the extent possible. The conference begins on Friday with lunch and ends on Sunday with lunch. The General Assembly of the International Environment Forum will be held directly after the closure of the conference on Sunday afternoon.
An electronic version of the conference will be offered for those who cannot come to Townshend school. Participants in this version will receive, by e-mail, advance versions of the papers presented and summaries of the discussions, and will be able to send in comments and questions to speakers.
Registration forms for participation in the conference, with detailed prices, can be obtained from the conference planning committee c/o:
To register for the electronic version of the conference (no fee) please send your full name, email and mail address directly to the conference email: ief-conf-registration @ bcca.org. Registration deadline: 1 October 2001.
2001 ORLANDO CONFERENCE
Written by Rich and Mary Chamberlin
Once on a small planet called Earth, a random act of kindness toward an animal saved the world.
It was a warm July morning outside San Jose; the sun was beating down hard and strong, as it often did in these parts. Peter had just taken himself for a little walk in his favourite park when he happened upon a lost kitten. He couldn't help but notice such a little one, and that it was alone out in the open with no collar. The poor kitten shied away despite an outstretched hand, so Peter coaxed it with a bit of food from his pocket. Soon he was close enough to see that it was a little female kitten - and seconds later she was eating the food from one hand, and being petted by the other. As she devoured the bits, she couldn't help but begin to purr loudly.
Peter stroked the matted fur, upset that one barely old enough to walk had been abandoned. After finishing the offering, the kitten allowed him to pick her up. Cooing to his new friend, Peter tucked her to his chest protectively. He slowly started to walk, through the park, over to the shady path that led toward the place where he lived. Peter felt his heart open to this living being, so tiny that she'd drawn no notice from anyone else. Many people had probably walked right by her this very morning, in a rush to get on with their lives.
Peter realised his new friend must have a name, so he decided it should be "Grace", after his favourite niece. And so the little kitten came to live in Peter's big brownstone apartment on an old city block. The kitten, soon called "Gracie" by the neighbourhood kids, must've decided she liked it at Peter's after all. For one so small, she became a very good mouser, and soon Peter's building was free of rodents. This was no small feat for the city and took constant effort, but it seemed Gracie had found her place in the world.
Peter had a friend Jessie who was his next door neighbour, and a young circus high-wire performer. Jessie had often complained he wasn't getting enough sleep, which is a very bad thing when you earn your living by maintaining strict concentration while high up in the air. He always seemed to have mice in his apartment, especially at night. One day while practising, Jessie almost fell doing a particularly dangerous act without a net or ropes! Only his newly sharpened concentration saved him from certain death, which he attributed to sleeping well again. That, and the mysterious absence of night pests.
Anyway Jessie improved and so did his troupe. People flocked to see them, and they became well known all over. By October Jessie and his company took to the road, on a grand tour that would include stops in a country far away. How he looked forward to that; the people of this country were known to love circus acts like no other, as the huge crowds in even the smallest towns attested to. Days of touring stretched into weeks, and the audiences of their dozens of shows helped sustain them through the tiring but exciting travels.
As the tour was drawing near its end, the caravan of performers came to a remote village. The troupe was gladdened to see all the villagers drop what they were doing and approach the site where they'd set up the tent. All village activity had stopped, and didn't look like it would resume until the caravan had departed. That night, Jessie awed the crowd with his death defying manoeuvres. His bravery and skill impressed a Military General in the audience who sought out Jessie after the show.
When they talked, the General sensed this talented performer's calmness and serenity under pressure. The General appreciated this, as his own nerves had been stretched taut by stress and lack of rest. Running hard tests of his country's nuclear weapon arsenal was gruelling work in the best of times. This was, after all, the first day off he and his men had in a month, which helped make circus day so wonderful!
So the General was beginning to realize how tense he himself had become. Seeing his men's happy faces, and hearing their laughter, made the General happy and relaxed, which cleared his mind and made him aware mistakes often came from fatigue, even when one is very careful.
The next day, the crew at the nuclear site was still talking about how much fun the circus had been. But happiness fled, and fear took its place when a warning alarm went off in the nuclear silo. Confusion spread quickly - perhaps the enemy had discovered a secret new technology? The rule book, which the General himself helped write, specified they must respond with an immediate counter-attack. The loud alarm going off made it difficult to think clearly. Each man and woman was afraid their leader was about to fire the powerful missiles, and the entire world would be befouled if not destroyed.
But the General didn't immediately react; instead he took precious seconds to recheck the reading. It wasn't anything he'd normally take the time to notice, but the blip on the screen seemed to be moving more quickly than any warhead should be able. Finally, when his Major confirmed aloud it was a software glitch, not an invading foe, the men erupted in applause. Had the General not been as skilful as the circus performer he admired, he would've started a dangerous chain of events that couldn't have been stopped. All the men in the silo thanked the General for his calmness during the tense situation. They were among the few in the world that realized how close to disaster everyone had come.
Meanwhile, back at Peter's apartment, he sat with Gracie on his lap by the fireplace. The cat had been agitated all day, but now she sat purring and relaxed. Sitting here all warm and comfortable gave Peter time to think about the stone he had skipped across the pond of life. How lucky he was to have found Gracie. Perhaps you should try skipping a stone yourself; you never know what will, or won't, happen.
Erin O'Connor, Haifa
The next issue of LEAVES is planned for August.
Updated 21 June 2001