Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind

Arthur Lyon Dahl


Distance learning course
co-sponsored by the IEF



The Wilmette Institute organizes a three-month e-learning course on "Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind" offered exclusively over the internet and worldwide web. It provides a general introduction to sustainable development and its goal, the prosperity of humankind, from a Bahá'í perspective. In its first year 2005-2006, the course attracted 77 students at various levels. It was offered again in 2006-07, 2007-08, 2009-10, 2011, and most subsequent years.

After summarizing the origins and definition of the concept of sustainable development as endorsed by world leaders (Unit 1), the course reviews the economic, social, and environmental issues humanity faces in achieving sustainability (Units 2, 3 and 4), and discusses the spiritual principles that can help us to find solutions. It then reviews the perspectives for the future, both those that show the unsustainability of the present system, including the constraints that have limited women's contribution, and the need for fundamental change, as contrasted with the Bahá'í vision of a new world order leading to the prosperity of humankind (Unit 5). The final unit looks at the importance of education for sustainable development, reinforced with spiritual values, as the basis for helping each of us to detach ourselves from Western materialistic civilization, to re-examine our present lifestyles, and to begin to live more sustainably in accordance with the Bahá'í teachings (Unit 6).

The course aims to help participants:
Explore the profound implications of sustainable development
Gain a better understanding, from a Bahá'í perspective, of sustainable development and its goal, the prosperity of humankind
Learn how to think about sustainability by integrating both the material and spiritual dimensions of life into a long-term systems perspective
Begin to apply that thinking to questions of everyday life and lifestyle

The Faculty is composed entirely of IEF members, and has included Peter Adriance, Arthur Dahl, Carole Flood, Christine Muller, Karryn Olson-Ramanujan and Melinda Salazar.

The course is under the responsibility of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, with the International Environment Forum contributing content. It was initiated as a contribution to the U. N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). A moderate tuition is charged for the course. For more information on the Wilmette Institute, go to its website:

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Last updated 25 November 2010