International Environment Forum 25th Annual Report
September 2020 – October 2021
The 25th Annual Report of the International Environment Forum summarizes the events and activities from September 2020 to October 2021 between two annual General Assemblies. The 2021 General Assembly is being held online on 30 October 2021.
24th IEF GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The 24th General Assembly of the International Environment Forum was held over the Internet on the Zoom platform on 22 August 2020 with 23 members attending: : Phil Breuser (USA), Rama Krushna Chary (Kuwait), Daniel Zonneveld Coltro (Germany), Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Cynthia Diessner (USA), Carole Jorgensen (USA), Khondker Mustafiz Imran (Bangladesh), Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands), Winnona Merritt (USA), Laurent Mesbah (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Keith Metzner (Malawi), Wendi Momen (UK), Christine Muller (USA), Ben Mutukwa Musole (Zambia), Gary Reusche (Ukraine), Michael Richards (UK), Mojgan Sami (USA), Sabine Schlenkermann (Germany), Chandan Sharma (India), Rafael Amaral Shayani (Brazil), Halldor Thorgeirsson (Iceland), Stephen Vickers (UK), and Raihan Zobayer (Bangladesh).
Please, see the full report of the General Assembly here: https://www.iefworld.org/genass24
The video recording of the General Assembly is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVyTuyRzdds
Report on the election of the Governing Board
Members voted by email on 8-21 August. The teller, Michael Richards (UK), reported that 36 members had voted and all the ballots were valid. The Governing Board for the coming year consisted of Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Christine Muller (USA), Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands), Laurent Mesbah (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Victoria Thoresen (Norway), Halldor Thorgeirsson (Iceland), and Wendi Momen (UK).
IEF GOVERNING BOARD
The IEF Governing Board elected Arthur Dahl as President and Christine Muller as General Secretary. The Board held seven meetings during the 13 months covered by this report. Board meetings consisted in online consultations over two to three weeks and a Zoom consultation.
In November 2020, the IEF Board met with IEF members Mojgan Sami in California and Willy Missack in Vanuatu to consult on the IEF's mission and strategic plan. Both were invited to join the board as co-opted members, and Mojgan Sami agreed but was then prevented by poor health.
In addition, the IEF Board met with the Baha'i International Development Organization (BIDO) requesting guidance for our mission considering the changing global conditions. The BIDO confirmed that IEF should continue to focus on “two complementary objectives of the activities: participation in the discourse on the environment with the aim of offering perspectives arising from the Bahá’í teachings and the experience of the community; and collaborating with organizations and individuals involved in this area of endeavour who are like-minded and open to such perspectives.”
An article in the October 2021 LEAVES and on the website about the IEF board's approach to Social Action reflects this guidance.
The Board has approved 27 new member and 42 associate applications during this year:
|New Members||New Associates|
IEF NEWSLETTER LEAVES
The IEF newsletter was published every month online thanks to the good collaboration between Todd Chirko (editor), Cynthia Diessner (layout), Christine Muller (IEF General Secretary) and Michael Richards (email list and mailing).
The following IEF members have contributed articles to the newsletter during the time this report covers:
Arthur Dahl, Daniel Gilliéron, Mark Griffin, David Menham, Laurent Mesbah, Joachim Monkelbaan, Christine Muller, Gary Reusche, Rafael Amaral Shayani, and Stephen Vickers. The recommendations of news and resources for the newsletter by Paul Hanley and Gary Colliver were also appreciated. Kiara Ehsani of Nairobi, Kenya, served IEF as an intern for one month and made helpful contributions to the June issue of LEAVES.
In August 2021, we discovered a major problem with the mailings of the newsletter announcement. After examining the problem, Michael Richards changed the mailing to Mailchimp which seems to be working now. Members are encouraged to write to the IEF Secretariat if they do not receive the newsletter announcement each month around the 15th: firstname.lastname@example.org
IEF member Khela Baskett initiated and organized monthly webinars for the IEF community and the public. Her efforts are much appreciated!
1st IEF Webinar Lecture: 6 December, 2020
Global Governance and Sustainability with IEF President Arthur Dahl
2nd IEF Webinar Lecture: 23 January 2021
Exploring Barriers to Justice and Sustainability in Economic Systems: Discussion on Root Causes and Potential Remedies with IEF Member Joachim Monkelbaan
3rd IEF Lecture: 20 February 2021
Building Capacity in Undergraduate Engineering Students to Deal with Climate Change with IEF Member Rafael Amaral Shayani
4th IEF Lecture: 27 March 2021
Discourse: A Baha’i Perspective with Stephen Friberg
5th IEF Lecture: 24 April 2021
Deforestation – interconnected Causes and Solutions with Michael Richards
6th IEF Lecture: 22 May 2021
An Overview of the United Nations World Food Programme Activities in the Lake Chad Region with Ndeley Agbaw
7th IEF Lecture: 27 June 2021
Start Living Now to Embrace the Next Economy with IEF Member John Krochmalny
8th IEF Webinar Discussion: 24 July 2021
Carbon Footprint – Do Our Individual Actions Matter?
9th IEF Webinar Discussion: 28 August 2021
The Recent IPCC Report – What Are Its Practical and Spiritual Implications?
The recordings of most webinar lectures are available here: https://tinyurl.com/7p09o73q.
The webinar discussions (workshops without lectures) were not recorded.
IEF FACEBOOK PAGE
IEF Member Mojgan Sami is faithfully managing the IEF Facebook page providing excellent resources to the public: https://www.facebook.com/IEFWORLD
Most IEF Board Meeting contain some consultation about strategic planning. The IEF Board appreciated feedback from Austin Bowden-Kerby, Cynthia Diessner, and Karryn Olson. Currently, the IEF continues to focus on climate change and biodiversity as high priority issues, but will add a focus on pollution (chemicals, plastic, air and water pollution) as our resources permit. The IEF board will keep all ideas in mind when delving more deeply into designing a strategic plan after the release of the 9-year Plan by the Universal House of Justice in early 2022.
IEF MEMBERSHIP DATA-BASE
The IEF Membership Data Base is very complicated and requires tedious manual work. IEF member Roger Neyman connected us with a wonderful Drupal expert who discovered some technical problems with the website that would be difficult and very time consuming to fix. The IEF board decided to eventually move our membership database off the website. It needs serious assistance by a tech-savvy member or associate. Volunteers would be appreciated.
On the bright side, Alex Dahl, who hosts the IEF website, was able to stop forum spammers, which is a huge help for the secretary because deleting up to 31 spam user folders per day was very time consuming.
IEF STATEMENT on the “Ethical Commitment to Protect Nature and its Biodiversity.”
In 2021, world leaders are focusing on the biodiversity crisis. Throughout the year, many conferences have been held in all parts of the world culminating in the 15th Conference of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, also known as COP 15. The IEF has now been officially accredited as an observer organization to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
As a contribution to the public discourse about biodiversity, the International Environment Forum has prepared a statement on the “Ethical Commitment to Protect Nature and its Biodiversity.” The IEF Board worked collaboratively on this statement for many months. The input of some members was appreciated. The statement highlights the vital importance of biodiversity, and calls for an ethical commitment to protect it. This statement is available on the IEF website here.
The board thanks IEF member Gary Reusche for producing an introductory video that communicates the major topics of the statement in an artistic way.
IEF ENDORSEMENTS AND SIGN-ONS
Faith Call to Action
The IEF has signed up to the Faith Call to Action in advance of the UN Biodiversity Summit on 30 September 2020. It has been drafted by a number of faith groups working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Beliefs and Values Program, and the WWF New Deal for Nature and People campaign. The drafting team consisted of representatives from the Bahá’í International Community, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Bhumi Global, The Parliament of the World’s Religions, and World Evangelical Alliance. For the text of the 2020 Faith Call to Action for UN Biodiversity Summit, visit the September 2020 issue of LEAVES
Leaders’ Pledge for Nature: “United to Reverse Biodiversity Loss by 2030 for Sustainable Development”
Political leaders participating in the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in September 2020, representing 81 countries from all regions and the European Union, have committed to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. By doing so, these leaders are sending a united signal to step up global ambition and encourage others to match their collective ambition for nature, climate and people with the scale of the crisis at hand. The International Environment Forum endorsed their Pledge for Nature as did many other civil society organizations.
IEF COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
ebbf – Ethical Business Building the Future
IEF is continuing its relationship with ebbf, from minor matters such as exchanging information about event registrations to major collaboration with planning the IEF 25th Annual Conference.
Following a 30 July 202 invitation from Together First, IEF President Arthur Dahl submitted a submission for The United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK) upcoming magazine.
International Partner Network of the UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Lifestyles
The IEF renewed its institutional membership with the International Partner Network of the UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Lifestyles. Through this partnership and its predecessor activities, we participated (in the past) in a number of meetings developing innovative educational approaches, and led a working group that prepared and published three toolkits on values-based indicators for secondary schools.
IEF MEMBER INVOLVEMENT IN COURSES
Several IEF members are faculty for on-line courses at the Wilmette Institute:
Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind, 10 September - 25 November 2020 with faculty Arthur Dahl, Christine Muller and Laurent Mesbah.
Bahá’í Perspectives on Agriculture and Food, 14 January 2020 - 3 March 2021, with faculty Paul Hanley, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Neil Whatley, Gary Reusche, and Kimberley Naqvi.
Climate Change, 8 April – 30 May 2021 with faculty Christine Muller, Arthur Dahl, and Laurent Mesbah
Social Change: Baha'i Approaches, 8 April - 9 June 2021 with faculty Wendi Momen, includes Unit 9, which is "The Environment, Agriculture, Sustainability and Sudden Natural Events " and features a tour of the IEF website and the video: The Spirituality of Climate Change: A Baha'i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson in conversation with Christine Muller, Afsaneh Angelina Rafii and Dr Arthur Dahl.
Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind just started again on 16 September 2021 with faculty Laurent Mesbah, Arthur Dahl, Christine Muller, and Rebecca Teclemariam-Mesbah.
IEF members continue to support the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in Iran.
In the spring 2021 semester, IEF member Laurent Mesbah taught two courses online, one on principles of environmental science to the master students on applied environmental science, and the other one on botany and plant physiology for undergraduates for the department of biology.
Nizar Mohammed taught a course on environment and sustainable development, for which IEF President Arthur Dahl gave an introductory lecture on 7 April and a closing lecture on 16 July.
On 24 February, IEF member Christine Muller gave a webinar for the Environmental Science Department on the importance of a holistic environmental education.
Christine Muller is also teaching a course on climate change to the master students on applied environmental science
IEF MEMBER PARTICIPATION IN OTHER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
The United Nations at 75 Years - Prospects and Potentials: The Future We Want
Global online event on Thursday, 3 September 2020
In connection with the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations Charter, there was a forward-looking global discussion on the future of the United Nations hosted by the Bahá'í International Community and featuring three IEF members: Daniel Perell, Representative to the UN, Bahá’í International Community, New York; Arthur Dahl, IEF President; and Maja Groff, International Lawyer.
Faith for Nature 5-8 October 2020
A wonderful International multi-faith action conference on Faith for Nature was hosted in Iceland on 5-8 October 2020, and used the historic Skálholt Cathedral in the South of Iceland as its global anchor from where high-level sessions were live-streamed. Major organisers were the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its Faith for Earth programme, and the Government of Iceland, represented by its President and former President, and the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. Among the other organizers were the Bahá'ís of Iceland. IEF Governing Board Member Halldor Thorgeirsson was an active participant and chaired the Declaration Coordination Team, presenting the Declaration at the final session. Among the many distinguished speakers were the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, head of the Orthodox Church, Grand Ayatollah Al-Modaressi, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Chief Rabbi David Rosen, and Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Bahá'í International Community. For more information, see http://www.faithfornature.org
The Global Sustainability Challenge: A Systems View of Agriculture
27 September 2020
A presentation to the Agriculture Working Group of the Association for Bahá'í Studies by IEF President Arthur Lyon Dahl Watch the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_k6gnvoMKRs&feature=youtu.be
Education for Social Cohesion, 13-14 February 2021
Online International Webinar organized by the Bahá'í Academy, Panchgani, India
The Bahá'í Academy in Panchgani, India, with which the International Environment Forum partnered for its annual conference in 2020, followed up that conference with an Online International Webinar on Education for Social Cohesion with a number of distinguished keynote speakers and presented paper sessions. The webinar was organized by IEF member Lesan Azadi, Director of the Bahá'í Academy. IEF board member Prof. Victoria Thoresen of Norway was one of the keynote speakers. She spoke on "Education for Social Cohesion" with a very clear presentation on learning - within the school, community and family - what it means to be a content and responsible citizen. IEF member Prof. Rafael Shayani of the University of Brasilia in Brazil also presented a paper. IEF was one of the co-sponsoring organizations along with a number of universities.
The Spirituality of Climate Change
On 3 December 2020, the Baha'i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson released a video Episode 59: The Spirituality of Climate Change, featuring IEF members Arthur Dahl, Christine Muller, and Afsaneh Angelina Rafii, as well as an audio blog (1h 8 min).
The Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker
IEF member Paul Hanley presented a webinar on St. Barbe Baker for the Wilmette Institute on 21 February. The recording is available here.
Bahai.chat on Global Governance
On 12 June, IEF members Maja Groff and Arthur Dahl, together with Augusto Lopez-Claros, were interviewed on bahai.chat about global governance. This is the link to the recording.
G20 Interfaith Forum
The G20 Interfaith Forum, established to provide inputs from a faith perspective to meetings of the G20, has set up a Religion and Environment Working Group that is exploring how faith perspectives might improve the indicators used to measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Two IEF board members, Victoria Thoresen and Arthur Dahl, are members of this Working Group that is preparing a policy paper on the topic. Arthur was asked to prepare a blog on the issue: "For Nature's Sake: A Moral Compass for the SDGs" that was published on the G20 Interfaith Forum website on 19 March. You can read his blog here. A second blog on “Interfaith Indicators to Respond to COP26” was published on 21 July and can be read here.
Interfaith Initiatives to Achieve the Agenda 2030 Environmental Goals
On Wednesday, July 14th, the G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20), together with eleven partner organizations, held the fifth installment of its “Ahead of the 2021 Italy G20 Summit” webinar series: “Interfaith Initiatives to Achieve the Agenda 2030 Environmental Goals.” Panelists included Mr. Arthur Dahl, President of the International Environment Forum; Ms. Karenna Gore, Executive Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City; and Ms. Astrid Shomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development and Directorate General for Environment at the European Commission. Dr. Pasquale Annicchino of the Bruno Kessler Foundation moderated the discussion. The recording of this webinar is available on the “Ahead of the 2021 Italy G20 Summit” Facebook page here.
Climate Change, Faith & Science
The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in collaboration with the Baha'i International Community (BIC) and United Religions Initiative (URI) hosted a webinar on 16 September 2021. IEF President Arthur Dahl was among the speakers. See the report of the Bahá’í World News Service.
Last updated 9 October 2021