SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL DIMENSIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
A STUDY COURSE
Spiritual and Practical Dimensions –
The Role of Society
Einstein said, "You cannot solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created it." (1) What better tool do we have to raise our minds and hearts to higher levels than divinely revealed spiritual principles? They deepen our understanding of spiritual reality and provide us with ethical standards on which we can build a just and environmentally sustainable society.
In this class we will study spiritual and ethical principles that are directly applicable to the climate crisis. Many of these principles are taught by all major religions in different words. In these cases you will find quotations from various Holy Writings. Some of these principles are new or more elaborated on in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and you will find more references to the Bahá'í Faith.
Section 1: Various Aspects of Justice
Climate change raises many issues of fairness or justice:
1. Vulnerable Populations
Some areas in the world are much more severely affected by climate change than others. One such area is Africa: It is not only the poorest, but also one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change. There is a decrease in rainfall over large regions where it is already dry. Water scarcity is worsening. Most of Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture. 70% of the population lives by farming. The consequences are more famines, death and human suffering. In some central areas of Africa, climate change results in an increase in rainfall. This causes mosquitoes to thrive and results in the further spread of malaria.
Other vulnerable people are the millions who live on small islands and low-lying coastal lands who will be displaced by sea-level rise, and the indigenous people in the Arctic who are losing their way of life.
All these populations emit very little greenhouse gases. The parts of the world that are rich and industrialized are responsible for the huge greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. (2) The poorest people are affected the worst, as they have no means of adapting to the changing conditions.
2. Inequitable Emissions
"In one year, the average American produces the same amount of greenhouse-gas emissions as four and a half Mexicans, or eighteen Indians or 99 Bangladeshis. ... Why should anyone have the right to emit more than others? ... Democratic ethos demands equal per capita rights to global environmental resources." (3)
Effective global action on climate change requires very low per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, humanity is emitting about 7 billion tons of carbon and is headed to increase that amount to about 20 billion tons in this century. However, emissions need to be reduced to 2 ½ billions in the next 30 years. How do we allocate who gets to use those 2 ½ billion tons? Does the US get to use more per capita than China or India? (4) "If the world took climate change as a moral issue, each country will have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to their fair share of global emissions." (5)
3. Economic Injustice
"Those who produce greenhouse gas emissions are bringing about climate change, thereby imposing costs on the world and future generations, but they do not face directly, neither via markets nor in other ways, the full consequences of the costs of their actions." (6) Who will pay for the damages of climate change?
Another aspect of economic justice is the following: Greenhouse gas emissions in China, India, and other countries with growing economies have been increasing steeply over the past years, giving cause to much criticism by developed countries. However, we must bear in mind that a large quantity of products bought in developed countries are being produced in these emerging economies since the world economy has become more and more globalized. Therefore, every consumer in the developed world buying a product from these countries with rising carbon emissions is also responsible for their emissions, not just the country itself.
4. Intergenerational Injustice
Future generations will have to live on an impoverished planet, plundered of its resources, polluted with chemicals and radioactivity, on an earth with less species of plants and animals, with degraded soil, polluted and scarce water supplies and a changing climate! For the short-term economic benefits of a few, the long-term well-being of everyone is sacrificed.
"Climate change will have serious impacts within the lifetime of most of us alive today. Future generations will be even more strongly affected, yet they lack representation in present-day discussions". (7) Who is in charge of advocating for future generations? People of faith are particularly called to speak out for future generations.
Justice as Taught by Religion
Religion calls on us to uphold justice.
"Far from encouraging the punitive spirit that has often masqueraded under its name in past ages, justice is the practical expression of awareness that, in the achievement of human progress, the interests of the individual and those of society are inextricably linked." (8)
"What does the Lord require of you? To do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God." (9) The Bible
"O ye who believe! Stand fast to justice, when ye bear witness before God, though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kindred, whether the party be rich or poor. God is nearer than you to both. Therefore follow not passion, lest ye swerve from truth. And if ye wrest your testimony or stand aloof, God verily is well aware of what ye do." (10) The Qur'an
"No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it." (11)
"The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men." (12) Baha'u'llah
(In this and similar quotations, the word "men" signifies human beings in general; no gender bias is intended.)
"We ask God to endow human souls with justice so that they may be fair, and may strive to provide for the comfort of all, that each member of humanity may pass his life in the utmost comfort and welfare. Then this material world will become the very paradise of the Kingdom, this elemental earth will be in a heavenly state and all the servants of God will live in the utmost joy, happiness and gladness. We must all strive and concentrate all our thoughts in order that such happiness may accrue to the world of humanity." (13) Abdu'l-Baha
Another area of social justice is rewarding environmentally responsible actions and discouraging harmful behavior with good environmental laws. We find this standard in religious teachings:
"The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment". (14) Baha'u'llah
Discussion: What strikes you most about justice in relation to climate change?
Section 2: Poverty and Climate Change
“From Ghana to Germany, South Africa to Spain, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing, and economic inequality has reached extreme levels. In South Africa, inequality is greater today than at the end of Apartheid. Seven out of 10 people live in countries where the gap between rich and poor is greater than it was 30 years ago. Worldwide, inequality of individual wealth is even more extreme. At the start of 2014, Oxfam calculated that the richest 85 people on the planet owned as much as the poorest half of humanity.” (15)
The first victims of climate change are the poor all over the world. Many people who are threatened by sea-level rise are poor, for example many millions of Bangladeshi citizens. All international efforts to relieve poverty and to promote sustainable development in developing nations could be nullified by climate change.(16)
Even in the developed countries are the poor first at risk from the impacts of climate change. They will be most affected by rising food prices or by dislocation because of severe storms. In general, one can say that those most vulnerable to climate change are often least able to afford adaptation measures such as dikes, irrigation to compensate for droughts, or moving away from flood or storm prone areas. (17) >
"Climate change is the central poverty issue of our times," said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. "Climate change is happening today and the world's poorest people, who already face a daily struggle to survive, are being hit hardest. The evidence is right in front of our eyes. (18)
Poverty also exacerbates climate change. Poor people are often forced to exploit their environment unsustainably, for example by cutting down forests. This contributes to climate change, and the degraded environment in turn exacerbates poverty - a vicious circle. It is necessary to address the root causes of poverty and to provide basic education in order to make progress in sustainable development. Poor societies have the largest population growth. Family size among the very poor of the world tends to be large because of a high infant mortality rate and because there is no social safety net, so parents need to rely on a male offspring to support them in old age. Population growth in turn increases poverty because more people will have to share the scarce land and resources. In addition, larger populations emit more greenhouse gases and therefore exacerbate climate change.
Poverty alleviation plays a vital role within the complex issue of climate change. It is also a central issue of religion:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (19) The Bible
"It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah* and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due." (20) The Qur'an
(*Allah means God in Arabic.)
"Give up extravagance and be sparing and moderate in your expenditure. Do not let the pleasures of today make you forget the tomorrow, the Day of Reckoning and Judgement. Keep money with you strictly according to your real requirements and give away the rest to the poor so that it may act as a provision for you in the next world." (21) Islamic Scriptures
"Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend his eye upon a longer pathway.
Riches come now to one, now to another, and like the wheels of cars are ever rolling." (22) Vedas
"O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!
The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease." (23)
"O CHILDREN OF DUST!
Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues." (24) Baha'u'llah
In the Baha'i Writings humankind is compared to a family. "Because of lack of harmonious relations some members are comfortable and some in direst misery, some members are satisfied and some are hungry, some members are clothed in most costly garments and some families are in need of food and shelter. Why? Because this family lacks the necessary reciprocity and symmetry. This household is not well arranged. This household is not living under a perfect law. All the laws which are legislated do not ensure happiness. They do not provide comfort. Therefore a law must be given to this family by means of which all the members of this family will enjoy equal well-being and happiness." (25)
"Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty. The greatest means for prevention is that whereby the laws of the community will be so framed and enacted that it will not be possible for a few to be millionaires and many destitute." (26)
Discussion: How can we apply the spiritual teachings of compassion and empathy to relieve poverty and to mitigate climate change?
Section 3: The Empowerment of Women
Women are disproportionately more affected by the impacts of climate change. They generally have less access to resources such as land, credit, decision-making bodies, agricultural inputs, technology and educational services that could help them to cope with or adapt to the changing climate. Their lives are also severely impacted by increasing water scarcity and diseases like malaria that are spreading to new areas because of climate change. “Women are ... more likely to die in disasters, and more likely to experience harassment as they flee, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation.” (26A)
The empowerment of women is not only a human rights issue, but also a key element to fight poverty and climate change. Experience has shown already that the participation of women in climate change mitigation efforts is vital. Women have always been leaders in working for the health and well being of their families and communities.
"In Honduras, for example, the village of La Masica was the only community to register no death in the wake of 1998's Hurricane Mitch. Six months earlier, a disaster agency had provided gender-sensitive community education on early warning systems and hazard management. Women took over the abandoned task of continuously monitoring the warning system. As a result, the municipality was able to evacuate the area promptly when the hurricane struck." (27)
And in Kenya, women's groups are planting thousands of trees to reforest two mountain areas as part of the Green Belt Movement. This activity provides "poor rural women with a small income and some economic independence as well as capture some 350'000 tons of CO2, restore eroded soils, and support regular rainfall essential to Kenya's farmers and hydroelectric plants." (28)
The United Nations noticed that development projects work better where women are fully involved in decision-making. Here is just one example in the area of water security: "In most societies, women have primary responsibility for water supply, sanitation and health at the household level. Women have considerable knowledge about water resources, including location, quality and storage methods, and they are often the most motivated to ensure that water supply and sanitation work." (29)
The status of women has a direct impact on population growth. Greenhouse gas emissions have only reached such a dangerously high level because of the large numbers of people living on our planet. Today, there are about 7.2 billion people. In 2050 it is estimated that there may be 8 to 10.5 billion of us. (30)
UNFPA, an international development agency of the United Nations states: "The ability of women to control their own fertility is absolutely fundamental to women's empowerment and equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life. When she is healthy, she can be more productive. And when her reproductive rights—including the right to plan her family in terms of birth timing and spacing, and to make decisions regarding reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence—are promoted and protected, she has freedom to participate more fully and equally in society.
Where women's status is low, family size tends to be large, which makes it more difficult for families to thrive. Population and development and reproductive health programmes are more effective when they address the educational opportunities, status and empowerment of women. When women are empowered, whole families benefit, and these benefits often have ripple effects to future generations." (31)
"Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor, including environment and development, will the moral and psychological climate be created in which a peaceful, harmonious, and sustainable civilization can emerge and flourish." (32)
The Baha'i teachings say:
"The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced." (33) Abdu'l-Baha
The United Nations have recognized the importance of gender equality in climate change mitigation. In Bonn, Germany, in November 2017 at the annual Conference of the Parties (COP23), member states adopted a first-ever Gender Action Plan (33A) to incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change discourse and actions.
Section 4: The Oneness of Humankind
"Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood ... We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools." Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King said these words in a context unrelated to climate change. Yet, embracing the concept of the oneness of humankind is vital for its mitigation.
The Earth Charter clearly spells out the need for the unification of humankind: "The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.
To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature." (34)
Baha'u'llah said: "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." (35)
"The central spiritual issue facing all people, whatever their nation, religion, or ethnic origin, is that of laying the foundations of a global society that can reflect the oneness of human nature. The unification of the earth's inhabitants is neither a remote utopian vision nor, ultimately, a matter of choice. It constitutes the next, inescapable stage in the process of social evolution, a stage toward which all the experience of past and present is impelling us. Until this issue is acknowledged and addressed, none of the ills afflicting our planet will find solutions, because all the essential challenges of the age we have entered are global and universal, not particular or regional." (36)
"Only through the dawning consciousness that they constitute a single people will the inhabitants of the planet be enabled to turn away from the patterns of conflict that have dominated social organization in the past and begin to learn the ways of collaboration and conciliation." (37)
"What we are witnessing is the beginning of the history of humankind, the history of a human race conscious of its own oneness." (38)
"So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth." (39)
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." (40) Baha'u'llah
"Recognizing the world as an ecosystem makes us all global citizens." (41) Lester Brown
"He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body." (42) Baha'u'llah
Embracing the concept of the oneness of humanity will change our perspective of climate mitigation efforts in many ways. For example, some people and governments in rich countries have argued that the costs for mitigating global warming are too high for their economy. They ignore the fact that the first severely harmful effects of climate change are happening primarily in other countries. Such reasoning will change when we regard the world as just one country and humankind as one family. With such a consciousness we equally value the lives of people in other countries who may often be poor or of a different race.
Meditation and Discussion: Take a few moments to ponder the oneness of humanity in your heart. Visualize the Earth as one country and humankind as one big family. Then discuss the implications of this concept for mitigating climate change.
Section 5: The Need for a World Federal System
The environmental crisis demands that all of humanity works together to implement solutions. "The solution to climate change exceeds the capacities and resources of any one nation and requires the full cooperation of all nations, each according to their means." (43)
Strong and enforceable laws need to be created to limit greenhouse gas emissions, not only on the local and national level, but also on the international level. There is a desperate need for global environmental governance. Pollution has no boundaries: The high levels of arsenic found in Nevada come from Mongolia. The cars driven in Nevada contribute to global warming which affects the climate in Mongolia. (44)
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change asserts, "The global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions." (45)
History shows that such global cooperation is possible, but not easy. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 was probably the first successful international environmental agreement. As a result the chlorofluorocarbons that have been depleting the ozone layer were substantially reduced. Other attempts of international cooperation have been less successful: The Kyoto Protocol was established to reduce greenhouse gases. However, the US didn't join it, although it was by far the greatest emitter of CO2. So the laws of an international order must have binding authority and they must be enforced throughout the world.
The economist Jeffrey D. Sachs says about climate change, "The main problem is not the absence of reasonable and low-cost solutions, but the difficulty of implementing global cooperation to put these solutions in place." (46)
Maria Ivanova explains how the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was created: "With a growing recognition that global problems demand global solutions, governments have created an increasingly complex network of international environmental treaties and organizations to deal with environmental challenges. Yet, international environmental problems persist unabated and are even increasing in scale and scope, attesting that our first attempt at global environmental governance has been ‘an experiment that has largely failed.' Short-term economic considerations and sovereignty concerns have often overridden the political will to effectively combat environmental problems. The institutions created have been weak and ‘woefully inadequate to meet global environmental challenges.'... The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was not purposefully established as a ‘weak, underfunded, overloaded, and remote organization.' Rather, it was created as the ‘anchor institution' for the global environment to serve as the world's ecological conscience, to provide impartial monitoring and assessment, to serve as a global source of information on the environment, to ‘speed up international action on urgent environmental problems,' and to ‘stimulate further international agreements of a regulatory character.' Most importantly, the mission of the new environment Programme was to ensure coherent collective environmental efforts by providing central leadership, assuring a comprehensive and integrated overview of environmental problems and developing stronger linkages among environmental institutions and the constituencies they serve." (47)
Maria Ivanova and many others in the field advocate for a strong international environmental institution, which has the authority to enforce environmental law on the global level.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was created to "stabilize greenhouse gas emissions… at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human caused) interference with the climate system." (48) However, at present the agencies of the United Nations are limited in their effectiveness because of an outdated system of sovereign nation states.
Shoghi Effendi wrote already in 1936, "The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life." (49)
Organizing and coordinating the affairs of humanity on a global level requires a new way of thinking, one that transcends the limits of nations. The Baha'i teachings explain, "The principle of the Oneness of Mankind … is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. ... It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced. ... It calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world – a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units. It represents the consummation of human evolution – an evolution that has had its earliest beginnings in the birth of family life, its subsequent development in the achievement of tribal solidarity, leading in turn to the constitution of the city-state, and expanding later into the institution of independent and sovereign nations." (50)
"It will ensure the creation of binding legislation that will protect both the environment and the development needs of all peoples. Ultimately, the restructuring or transformation of the United Nations system that this movement is already bringing about will no doubt lead to the establishment of a world federation of nations with its own legislative, judicial, and executive bodies." (51) Such a world order is not only new in that it encompasses all of humankind, but also new in the underlying philosophy: The first priority is the well being of everyone on the planet. National, regional and local interests are respected, but are considered in the light of humankind being one family. The representatives of people on the local, national and international level must be trustworthy and "regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth." (52)
"O ye the elected representatives of the people in every land! Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind and bettereth the condition thereof." (53) Baha'u'llah
A world order whose goal is to ensure the rights and well-being of all individuals and countries of the world must include global institutions and laws to mitigate global warming and effective measures to help poor people and countries adapt to the already unavoidable impacts of present and future climate changes.
Discussion: How do you envision a global institution that effectively mitigates climate change?
Section 6: Decentralization and Consultation
Decentralization is an environmental necessity. Fertile lands need to be preserved for agriculture. As much as possible, food should be produced where it will be eaten.
"The globalization of the world food economy will be reversed, as the higher price of oil raises the cost of transporting food internationally. In response, food production and consumption will become much more localized, leading to diets based more on locally produced food and seasonal availability." (54) (see also class 6, section 4)
Decentralization is also the way to go for much of our energy production. Wind, solar and geothermal energy is used best in the area where it is produced."Whereas fossil fuels helped globalize the energy economy, shifting to renewable sources will localize it." (55) Decentralization will make local communities more resilient to increasing climate change impacts.
The Baha’i concept of a global order "repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity..."(56)
"Development must be decentralized in order to involve communities in formulating and implementing the decisions and programs that affect their lives. Such a decentralization need not conflict with a global system and strategy, but would in fact ensure that developmental processes are adapted to the planet's rich cultural, geographic, and ecological diversity." (57)
Consultation must replace confrontation and domination in order to gain the cooperation of the family of nations in devising and implementing measures that will preserve the earth's ecological balance. (58)
People at the grass roots need to have a voice in the decisions that will affect their lives. Minorities and indigenous people must be especially empowered to take part in all plans for sustainable development. In fact, development projects have proven to be much more beneficial if the knowledge and experience of the local population are incorporated.
"Top-down models of community development can no longer adequately respond to modern day needs and aspirations. The world community must move toward more participatory, knowledge-based and values-driven systems of governance in which people can assume responsibility for the processes and institutions that affect their lives. These systems need to be democratic in spirit and method, and must emerge on all levels of world society, including the global level. Consultation -- the operating expression of justice in human affairs -- should become their primary mode of decision-making." (59)
In such a consultative process, "individual participants strive to transcend their respective points of view, in order to function as members of a body with its own interests and goals. In such an atmosphere, characterized by both candor and courtesy, ideas belong not to the individual to whom they occur during the discussion but to the group as a whole, to take up, discard, or revise as seems to best serve the goal pursued. Consultation succeeds to the extent that all participants support the decisions arrived at, regardless of the individual opinions with which they entered the discussion. Viewed in such a light, 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." (60)
"The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding." (61)
"Consultation ... is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation." (62) Baha'u'llah
Policies to mitigate climate change or adaptation projects will be beneficial and effective when everyone affected can participate directly or with representation in such a consultative process. If the above principles are applied, consultation and decentralization can prevent human rights abuses, conflicts and violence, and ensure the well-being of everyone. People at the grassroots will be empowered and the actions taken will have a much greater chance of success because the knowledge and support from a wide diversity of people went into the planning of these projects.
Section 7: Trustworthiness – an Antidote for Corruption
Corruption is a major cause of both poverty and environmental degradation throughout the world.
"Anti-corruption measures are integral to fighting both poverty and climate change. Weak institutions, poor governance practices and the excessive influence of private interests will continue to undermine the best efforts to promote equitable and sustainable human development, for which we need a vigorous, honest exchange of expertise and development cooperation between rich and poor countries.
Hunger, child mortality and illiteracy cannot be eradicated as long as corruption continues to sap resources from the world's poorest countries. One key lesson from the last 30 years of development efforts is that the progress in poverty alleviation in the world's poorer countries with high level of corruption and weak institutions has not been substantial or sustained.
Similarly, environmental regulation, including CO2 controls, forest and biodiversity protection will not be effective as long as law enforcement and other decision-makers can be bought.
The possibility of a world where all countries and all people can share in the wealth of the global economy hinges on fighting corruption, strengthening public institutions and improving governance and standards of accountability and transparency across the world." (63)
Corruption needs to be eliminated not only in government and business, but also on the individual level. This is just one example: "Residents in Paris can rent a sturdy bicycle from hundreds of public stations and pedal to their destinations, an inexpensive, healthy and low-carbon alternative to hopping in a car or bus. Unfortunately, many of the specially designed expensive bikes are showing up on black markets in Eastern Europe and northern Africa. Many others are being spirited away for urban joy rides, then ditched by roadsides, their wheels bent and tires stripped." (64)
All religions call for a life of integrity, which means that our actions are in harmony with our spiritual and moral values.
"In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world, for the fear of God impelleth man to hold fast to that which is good, and shun all evil. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine." (65) Baha'u'llah
One particular moral value is trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is the antidote to corruption.
"Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light." (66) Baha'u'llah
Discussion: Discuss the importance of trustworthiness in the efforts to mitigate climate change.
Section 8: Education
Universal education is a prerequisite to combating climate change. Children and youth comprise a large part of the human population. Their consumer choices will have the strongest impact on the climate. Also, young people can more easily change their habits. Moreover, their generation will have to shoulder the responsibility of mitigating and adapting to climate change in the near future.
However, as immediate strong actions to mitigate climate change are required, education about climate change needs to extend to people of all ages. An informed public is a prerequisite for responsible policy decisions in a democracy.
The following three aspects of education are especially relevant in the context of climate change:
- Environmental education should be considered as part of basic education, equally important as literacy. In industrialized nations, emphasis should be on teaching the causes and impacts of climate change, and what each individual can do to mitigate it. In developing countries, it would be more meaningful to teach sustainable development (based on low or carbon free energy and sustainable agricultural practices), adaptation strategies, for example, agricultural methods (water saving irrigation techniques, different crops or seeds), malaria prevention, and the value of preserving forests and of planting trees.
- Education to world citizenship should be at the heart of the curriculum everywhere. Only when we view humanity as one human family will we have the motivation to take the strong and far reaching actions needed to mitigate climate change.
- Moral education is important throughout all grade levels. An ethical framework is a prerequisite for environmentally and socially responsible actions.
Discussion: Are the three concepts above an important part in the schools of your area? If not, would you have ideas how to incorporate or enhance them?
The media could play a meaningful role in education, but at present they are often a source of misinformation and of degradation of the human spirit. Imagine if the media served to educate people about climate change and the reality of the state of our planet, if they promoted a sense of world citizenship and discouraged extravagant consumption! They could spread scientific knowledge and practical know how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The media have the potential to be a major tool in the transformation of society towards a sustainable way of life.
Community Service Project:
Decide on your community service project. (See last paragraph of Class 5 for more information.) Apply the principles for consultation and decision-making, which you discussed today in section 6. Consider the special circumstances of your group such as time constraints, special interests, and talents, as well as the needs of your community. Keep the project small and simple enough so that you can carry it out with joy. Plan to finish the project by the end of this course or shortly afterwards.
The assignment is to take some action in preparation of your service project until you will meet again.
2. info from Paul V. Desanker, Center for African Development Solutions, Johannesburg, South Africa, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA
3. Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert p. 155/156
4. Info from White Paper on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, Donald Brown, Nancy Tuana, Marilyn Averill, Paul Baer, Rubens Born http://rockethics.psu.edu/documents/whitepapers/edccwhitepaper.pdf/view
5. Info: Don Brown, Feb. 1, 2008
6. Stern Review, The Economics of Climate Change Part 1, p. 24
7. Stern Review, The Economics of Climate Change Part 1 1, p. 23
8. Baha'i International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind
9. Micah 6:8, The Bible
10. The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 4 - Women
11. Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 28-29
12. Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 66/67
13. Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 42
14. Baha'u'llah, Tabernacle of Unity, p. 40
15. Even It Up – Time to End Extreme Inequality, Report by Oxfam, 2014 https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/cr-even-it-up-extreme-inequality-291014-summ-en.pdf
16. IPCC WGII Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, p. 10
17. Edcc-whitepaper p. 16
18. Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director, http://www.ecology.com/2009/10/06/millions-face-climate-related-hunger-as-seasons-shift-and-change/
19. Matthew 25:31-25:40, King James Bible
20. The Qur'an (Pickthall tr), Sura 2 - The Cow
21. Islamic Scriptures (Ali b. Abi Taalib, Letters from Nahjul Balaagh)
22. Vedas, Rig Veda - Book 10
23. Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words
24. Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words, No. 49
25. Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 38
26. Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36
26A. Climate change disproportionately impacts women. Here are 6 stories from the front lines: https://thinkprogress.org/women-on-climate-change-front-lines-b553f2d4642e/ Environmental Justice Foundation: https://ejfoundation.org/
27. Women and Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacities, by Lorena Aguilar, published in State of the World 2009 "Into a Warming World" by the Worldwatch Institute
29. UN-Water, September 2005
30. Source: United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database, electronic database, at esa.un.org/unpp, updated 11 March 2009. http://www.earth-policy.org/books/wote/wote_data#4
31. UNFPA, http://www.unfpa.org/gender/empowerment.htm
32. Baha'i International Community, 1992 June 06, Earth Charter
33. Abdu'l-Baha (J. E. Esslemont, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 5th rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1987), p. 149)
33A. First-ever Gender Action Plan to support gender-responsive climate action adopted http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/11/announcement-first-ever-gender-action-plan-on-climate-action-adopted
35. Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p. 286
36. Baha'i International Community, Who is Writing the Future?
37. Baha'i International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind
38. Baha'i International Community, Who is Writing the Future?
39. Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 14
40. Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 167
41. Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institue (Horizons Winter 2001 - 2002)
42. Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 81
43. Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the challenge of climate change. Initial Considerations of the Bahá'í International Community, December 2008
44. Thomas D. Cahill, atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 13, 2001, p.2
45. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), preamble, quoted in UN Chronicle No. 2, 2007
46. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Common Wealth, p. 12
47. MOVING FORWARD BY LOOKING BACK – UNEP'S HISTORY Maria Ivanova Global Environmental Governance: Perspectives on the Current Debate http://www.academia.edu/1876626/Moving_Forward_by_Looking_Back_Learning_from_UNEPs_History
48. Global Warming 20 Years Later: Tipping Points Near, Jim Hansen, 23 June 2008, National Press Club, and House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming, Washington, DC
49. Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 202
50. Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p.42)
51. Baha'i International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind
52. Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 61
53. Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 90/93
54. R. Brown, Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006), From Chapter 1. Entering a New World
55. Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Earth Policy Institute, 2008) From Chapter 12. Turning to Renewable Energy, THE WORLD ENERGY ECONOMY OF 2020
56. The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Nov 26, Second Message to World Congress, p. 4
57. Baha'i International Community, 1992 June 06, Earth Charter
58. Baha'i International Community, 1992 June 06, Earth Charter
59. Baha'i International Community, 1996 Jun 07, Sustainable Communities in an Integrating World
60  Baha'i International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind
61. Baha'u'llah, The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 91
62.  Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 93
63. Better governance and anti-corruption as pillars of the fight against poverty and climate change, Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International, Civil G8 Dialogue, Kyoto, 24 April 2008,
64. Reality Deals Setback to Paris Bike Program, by STEVEN ERLANGER and MAÏA DE LA BAUME, The New York Times, Published: October 30, 2009
65. Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 125
66. Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 37
© Christine Muller and International Environment Forum