Transforming Environments from the Inside Out

Arthur Lyon Dahl Ph.D.
International Environment Forum (IEF) 13 August 2009

Exploring the relationship between our outer and inner environments
the planet and our soul science and spirituality

The State of the World
• the apex of human progress? • wealth undreamed of by our forebears? • the successful result of economic development? • technological solutions to every problem? • the greatest civilization the world has ever known? • economic success proved that the system was right

OR the State of the World - 2
• Half the world population lives on less than $2/day • Extremes of wealth and poverty widening • Asian economic expansion has reduced poverty at great environmental cost • Energy challenge / climate change threats • Growing water shortages • Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services • Food production capacity at risk • Financial system has imploded • We are living beyond our means

Ecological footprint
• Surface needed to supply the needs and absorb the wastes of an individual, community, or country • Global average 2.7 ha/person • USA 9.4 ha/p; Canada 7.1 ha/p.; Mexico 3.4 ha/p. • EU 4.7 ha/p; Russia 3.7 ha/p.; China 2.1 ha/p. • Resources available 1.9 ha/person • We overshot the earth's capacity in 1975

Human Population Growth

• The world population has tripled in one lifetime, and is expected by the UN to rise to 9.2 billion by 2050 before stabilizing • By some estimates, world resources can only sustainably support 500 million people • We seem to be following a classic ecological pattern of overshoot and collapse • The planetary carrying capacity depends on numbers versus standard of living; increasing one reduces the other • Science may find ways to increase carrying capacity, but only at longer time scales

Human Population

Human Impact on the Carbon Cycle
Extracting and burning fossil fuels is returning to the atmosphere in two centuries the carbon dioxide sequestered by hundreds of millions of years of primitive biological activity

Climate Change will be stronger and sooner
• Global carbon dioxide levels due to emissions from fossil fuels have accelerated since 2000 • Rise in 1990s 0.7%/yr; 2.9% since 2000 • Three causes: growth in world economy, rise of coal use in China, weakening of natural carbon sinks (forests, seas, soils) • Growth in atmospheric CO2 about 35% higher than expected a few years ago

Polar areas are changing fastest

Half of the permafrost in the Arctic is expected to melt by 2050 and 90% before 2100, releasing methane 14% of the permanent ice in the Arctic Ocean melted in 2005; 23% more in 2007 (worst melting ever); nearly as much in 2008, opening the North-West Passage; permanent ice in the Arctic Ocean may be gone by 2015-2030 Greenland glaciers have doubled their rate of flow in the last few years (6km/y 1997, 9km/y 2000, 13km/y 2003), now raising sea level 0.83 mm per year Similar melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is adding another 0.55 mm per year, and accelerating

There is little time left to act

Global temperatures have already risen 0.6°C and will probably rise a further 3°, or even up to 4.5-5° by 2100 Ocean temperatures have risen at least 3 km deep Glaciers and snow cover have decreased; cold days, nights and frost have become rarer; hot days, nights and heat waves more frequent Sea level rise has doubled in 150 years to 2 mm/year, and recent polar melting is adding another 2 mm/year Recent surge in CO2 levels from less uptake by plants

We may soon be approaching a tipping point where runaway climate change would be catastrophic

The most vulnerable areas risking catastrophic collapse this century
• • • • Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet Amazon rain forest Northern boreal forests El Nino affecting weather in North America, South-East Asia and Africa (3°C rise). • Collapse of West African monsoon • Erratic Indian summer monsoon

Climate change effect on the economy

The Stern Report estimated the annual cost of uncontrolled climate change at more than $660 billion (5 to 20% of global GDP, as compared to 1% for control measures for greenhouse gases). Climate change represents the greatest market failure in human history

The energy challenge
• Industrial economy, agriculture, transportation, communications, trade, urbanization, consumer lifestyle all depend on cheap and abundant energy • Energy demand will grow 50% by 2030, but oil production is peaking and will decline 75% in 30 years; coal may also peak by then • Climate change requires a rapid halt to fossil fuel use • Adaptation will be extremely expensive and the struggle for diminishing resources globally destabilizing • A fossil-fuel-based civilization is unsustainable

Food Production
• The Green Revolution of the 1970s postponed food supply as a limit to growth • Crop production has improved in the last 20 years from 1.8 to 2.5 t/ha. but such intensive agriculture requires high energy, fertilizer and petrochemical inputs • World cereal production per person peaked in the 1980s and has decreased slowly since • Feeding the growing world population and reducing hunger by half will require doubling world food production by 2050 • Land, water, phosphate, energy are all limiting

Soil degradation

The coming soil crisis
• Many past civilizations collapsed because they degraded their soil • Average global soil loss today is 10 to 100 times the rate of soil formation • In Indiana, USA, for each ton of grain harvested, a ton of soil is lost • Since 1945, erosion has degraded 1.2 billion hectares, equal to China plus India, 38% of global crop land • Annual soil loss is 75 billion tonnes, with 12 million ha abandoned, 1% of total

Start of a Global Food Crisis
• In 2007, the price of wheat rose 100%, maize 50%, rice 20%, increasing staple food prices for the poor over 10%. By mid-2008 food prices up 78%, soybeans and rice up 130% • Global food reserves are lowest for 20 years, with only 57 day grain reserve • Climate change, drought, floods, soil erosion, overfishing are reducing food production • With grain being diverted for biofuel, 800 m motorists are competing with 2 bn poor • There are 960 m hungry people, 40 m more in 2008 due to higher food prices • Food is being priced out of reach for the poor

Resource Depletion
Many key materials are being exhausted rapidly
(estimated years left: predicted/today's rate)_

• • • • • • • • •

Phosphorus (fertilizer) 142-345 Antimony (drugs) 15-30 Copper (wire, coins, pipes) 40-60 Hafnium, Indium (chips, LCDs) 5-15 Platinum (catalysts, fuel cells) 15-360 Silver (jewelry, catalysts) 15-30 Tantalum (cellphones, cameras) 20-115 Uranium (weapons, power stations) 30-60 Zinc (galvanizing) 20-46

The failure of social and economic development to eliminate poverty
- Development has been our largest collective undertaking, with humanitarian aims and enormous material and technological investment - While it brought impressive benefits, it failed to narrow the gap between rich and poor - The gap has widen into an abyss
(based on Baha'i International Community, 2005).

Accumulating economic, social and environmental debt
• Financial crisis debt transferred to governments • UK Chief Scientist (19 March 2009): the world faces a 'perfect storm' of problems in 2030 as food, energy and water shortages interact with climate change to produce public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migrations

Scenarios plausible futures
• Business as usual in a materialistic society ignoring the future • Retreating to a fortress world of old values • Making a transition to sustainability

Scenarios from World 3
(Meadows et al. (1992) Beyond the Limits)_

Business as usual

Transition 1995

Transition 2015

(image IKONOS – Lang, ESRI 1998)_

End of the growth paradigm
• Is endless growth realistic? • Everything in nature follows cycles with optimal sizes • Economic growth has depended on population growth, fossil fuel energy subsidy, resource discoveries and technological innovation • The first three all end in this century • All that is left is our brains and heart

Collapse of the financial system
• The 2007-2008 collapse of the financial system was due to greed, herd behaviour, and overconfidence in scientific approaches to risk management • Complex statistical models do not work for extreme events • Each vulnerability was evaluated independently • Future projections were based on past experience • There was no evaluation of overall systems behaviour
Jamison 2008

Where is the Economy going?
• Origins in American consumer society living beyond its means, accumulating debt • UK minister: "worst recession in 100 years" • The challenge to economic assumptions • Head of European Central Bank: "We live in non-linear
times: the classic economic models and theories cannot be applied, and future development cannot be foreseen."

• Derivatives over $500 trillion by 2008 (x4 5y). • European countries on brink of insolvency • Warnings of hyperinflation

How did we get ourselves into such a situation? What is preventing us from solving it?

Compartmentalized view of the world The environment is outside of us

(Mark Tobey, Head of Boy, 1955).

Economic Thinking: Disjunction with Reality
• The planet's resources are free for the taking • Short term perspective: the quarterly balance sheet; the next election • Herd mentality of investors and speculators • Expectation that things will always get better (growth). • In nature, cycles and optimal sizes; uncontrolled growth is like a cancer

Disjunction with reality
- Economic thinking is challenged by the environmental crisis - It can no longer insist that there is no limit to nature's capacity to fulfil any demand made on it - Attaching absolute value to growth, to acquisition, and to the satisfaction of people's wants is no longer a realistic guide to policy - Economic decision-making tools cannot deal with the fact that most of the major challenges are global
(based on The Prosperity of Humankind, Bahá'í International Community, Office of Public Information, Haifa, 1995)

A self-centred materialism
• The early twentieth century materialistic interpretation of reality has become the dominant world faith in the direction of society • Rational experimentation and discussion are expected to solve all the issues of human governance and development • Dogmatic materialism has captured all significant centres of power and information at the global level, ensuring that no competing voices can challenge projects of world wide economic exploitation
(based on Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, 2005).

The wealthy live unsustainable lifestyles

The unsustainable consumer culture
- Materialism's vision of human progress produced today's consumer culture with its ephemeral goals - For the small minority of people who can afford them, the benefits it offers are immediate - The breakdown of traditional morality has led to the triumph of animal impulses and hedonism - Selfishness has become a prized commercial resource; falsehood reinvents itself as public information; greed, lust, indolence, pride, violence are broadly accepted and have social and economic value - Yet it is a culture without meaning
(based on Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, 2005, p. 10).

Barriers to change
• No politician will sacrifice short-term economic welfare, even while agreeing that sustainability is essential in the long term • Deep social divisions within societies and between countries prevent united action in the common interest • Primacy of self interest over solidarity

Business as usual is not an option but how will we respond to:
• • • • Climate change? Changes in energy systems and use? Food shortages and price rises? Forced migrations of environmental refugees? • Reform of the economic system?

Global land grab
• Wealthy governments and large companies are buying/leasing large areas of land in poor countries for food export to ensure their own food security • 10 m ha were bought in 2008, 20m in first half of 2009 (= half all arable land in Europe). • South Korea 690,000ha and UAE and Egypt 400,000ha each in Sudan; Saudi Arabia 500,000ha in Tanzania; Daewoo 1.3m ha in Madagascar; Libya 100,000ha in Mali; South African businesses 8m ha in DR Congo; China 2.8m ha in Congo and 2m ha in Zambia, with 1 m Chinese farm labourers in Africa in 2009

The main danger
"The main danger we face is... that by late 2009 the global economy will be perking up again (because the housing sectors will have bottomed and the unwinding of commodity prices will boost consumption among oil importers) and governments will go back to business as usual, missing a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to address the serious vulnerabilities in the world’s financial system which the current crisis has revealed. In that scenario, the next crisis would find us with little ammunition left. That is the real danger."
Augusto Lopez Claros, letter to the Financial Times, 4 December 2008

Denial, Depression or Action? Do we have a choice?

Can we go and hide on a remote island?

The Transformation of Human Society
(Mark Tobey, The New Day, 1945).

How do we achieve a transformation in values?
• Science has no particular competence • Scientific information does not change behavior • Chaos is an opportunity for spiritual and intellectual leadership • Evolution with punctuated equilibrium • Opportunities are opening before us

Vision in Bahá'í writings and statements
Integrated environmental social economic sustainability

Sustainability is fundamentally an Ethical Challenge egotism versus altruism me first versus all together

Oneness of Humankind
Acceptance of the oneness of mankind is the first fundamental prerequisite for the reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind.
(Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, p. 1314)

This requires a profound reconsideration of every dimension of our lives and society, including the environment.

Transformation must start at the individual level
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds 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.
(Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 17 February 1933, Compilation on Social and Economic Development, p. 4)

We must give a higher priority to the environment in our community, economy and society
...sustainable environmental management must come to be seen... as a fundamental responsibility that must be shouldered - a pre-requisite for spiritual development as well as the individual's physical survival.
(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)_

Both quotations imply an intimate link between environment and spirituality

The Inside

(Mark Tobey, Meditative Series No.VIII, 1954).

Connection between spirituality and nature

Environmental crisis the result of a spiritual crisis. We cut ourselves off from our spiritual nature and from God, and from our roots in the natural world

No separation of natural environment and spiritual reality
Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 142)

Contact with nature

The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.

(Bahá'u'lláh, in J. E. Esslemont, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. Chpt. 3, p. 35)

Study of nature scientific and spiritual
When... thou dost contemplate the innermost essence of all things, and the individuality of each, thou wilt behold the signs of thy Lord's mercy in every created thing, and see the spreading rays of His Names and Attributes throughout all the realm of being.... Then wilt thou observe that the universe is a scroll that discloseth His hidden secrets, which are preserved in the well-guarded Tablet. And not an atom of all the atoms in existence, not a creature from amongst the creatures but speaketh His praise and telleth of His attributes and names, revealeth the glory of His might and guideth to His oneness and His mercy.... Look thou upon the trees, upon the blossoms and fruits, even upon the stones. Here too wilt thou behold the Sun's rays shed upon them, clearly visible within them, and manifested by them.
('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 41-42)

Individual spiritual effort to detach ourselves from the consumer lifestyle We must avoid "the temptation to sacrifice the well-being of most people -- and even of the planet itself -- to the advantages which technological breakthroughs can make available to privileged minorities."
(based on Baha'i International Community, Prosperity of Humankind)

Detachment from material things [The true seeker] should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqán, p. 193-194)

Voluntary Simplicity

Take from this world only to the measure of your needs, and forego that which exceedeth them.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 193).

Moderation in lifestyle
It is unjust to allow people "to lay up riches for themselves, to deck their persons, to embellish their homes, to acquire the things that are of no benefit to them, and to be numbered with the extravagant." None should be allowed to "either suffer want, or be pampered with luxuries."

(Bahá'u'lláh [to the Sultan of Turkey], Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXIV, pp. 235-236)

Shoghi Effendi called for: "the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations" and "the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures."
(Shoghi Effendi. The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30).

The spiritual danger of intellectual pride
• The desire to know everything • The pride to think we can know everything through science • "I think, therefore I am" • Rationalist/individualist approach • Individual is final arbiter of right or wrong • We decide what is true • Expression of egotism and self-centeredness • Places us above nature, to exploit and destroy it

"Opposing our passions"
Desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes uncounted lifetime harvests of the learned
('Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 59).

Transforming the inner environment
humility to acknowledge there is an unknowable essence we must love and worship, though our minds cannot grasp it nor our hearts contain it
(Mark Tobey, Aerial Centers, 1967).

Humility and Environment
Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed 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, as 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.... Bahá'u'lláh

Science for Everyone
The expansion of scientific and technological activity... must cease to be the patrimony of advantaged segments of society, and must be so organised as to permit people everywhere to participate in such activity on the basis of capacity. Apart from the creation of programmes that make the required education available to all who are able to benefit from it, such reorganisation will require the establishment of viable centres of learning throughout the world, institutions that will enhance the capability of the world's peoples to participate in the generation and application of knowledge.
(Baha'i International Community, Prosperity of Humankind).

Transforming Communities
(Mark Tobey, Coliseum, 1942).

The Community The basic unit of social organization
• • • • • Material needs Economic and educational activities Social and spiritual life Relationship with local environment Balance of local autonomy and larger integration

The challenges for communities
• ...assisting in endeavours to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community...
Universal House of Justice

• responding to the increasing mixing of the peoples of the world by rebuilding human communities in all their diversity

Building unity in communities
This is exactly what Baha'i communities are developing through the institute process and the core activities of devotional meetings, group study, children's classes and pre-adolescent activities. "The ultimate testimony that the Bahá’í community can summon in vindication of His mission is the example of unity that His teachings have produced."
(Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, p. 43).

Convincing leaders of thought of the power of spiritual change
A fair-minded observer is compelled to entertain at least the possibility that the phenomenon may represent the operation of influences entirely different in nature from the familiar ones—influences that can properly be described only as spiritual—capable of eliciting extraordinary feats of sacrifice and understanding from ordinary people of every background.
(Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, p. 44).

Self-organizing transformation based on contact with the creative Word
The culture of systematic growth taking root in the Bahá’í community would seem... by far the most effective response the friends can make to the challenge discussed in these pages. The experience of an intense and ongoing immersion in the Creative Word progressively frees one from the grip of the materialistic assumptions... that pervade society and paralyze impulses for change. It develops in one a capacity to assist the yearning for unity on the part of friends and acquaintances to find mature and intelligent expression.
(Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, p. 51).

Responding to the world's environmental problems
...the parallel efforts of promoting the betterment of society and of teaching the Bahá'í Faith are not activities competing for attention. Rather, are they reciprocal features of one coherent global programme.... The obligation of the Bahá'í community is to do everything in its power to assist all stages of humanity's universal movement towards reunion with God.
(Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, p. 51-52).

Extending the process of systematic learning
As you continue to labour in your clusters, you will be drawn further and further into the life of the society around you and will be challenged to extend the process of systematic learning in which you are engaged to encompass a growing range of human endeavours. In the approaches you take, the methods you adopt, and the instruments you employ, you will need to achieve the same degree of coherence that characterizes the pattern of growth presently under way.
Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2008

This is transformation from the inside out coherence between words and actions
(Mark Tobey, New Genesis, 1958)

Addressing the challenges of the outer environment

(Mark Tobey, Urban Renewal, 1964)

Environmental impacts must be reduced
at the global level in each country in every community by each individual through a balance of material and spiritual approaches

Preservation of Nature
Bahá'í Scriptures describe nature as a reflection of the sacred. They teach that nature should be valued and respected, but not worshipped; rather, it should serve humanity's efforts to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. However, in light of the interdependence of all parts of nature, and the importance of evolution and diversity "to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole," every effort should be made to preserve as much as possible the earth's bio-diversity and natural order.
(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)

The spiritual principle: environmental sustainability is a fundamental responsibility
As trustees, or stewards, of the planet's vast resources and biological diversity, humanity must learn to make use of the earth's natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in a manner that ensures sustainability and equity into the distant reaches of time. This attitude of stewardship will require full consideration of the potential environmental consequences of all development activities. It will compel humanity to temper its actions with moderation and humility, realizing that the true value of nature cannot be expressed in economic terms. It will also require a deep understanding of the natural world and its role in humanity's collective development both material and spiritual. Therefore, sustainable environmental management must come to be seen not as a discretionary commitment mankind can weigh against other competing interests, but rather as a fundamental responsibility that must be shouldered a pre-requisite for spiritual development as well as the individual's physical survival.

(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)

A new vision of economics
The ultimate function of economic systems should be to equip the peoples and institutions of the world with the means to achieve the real purpose of development: that is, the cultivation of the limitless potentialities latent in human consciousness.
(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998).

New economic models
... furthering a dynamic, just and thriving social order. Such economic systems will be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature; they will provide meaningful employment and will help to eradicate poverty in the world.
(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)

Rehabilitating the Reputation of Religion
A global intelligensia, its prescription largely shaped by materialistic misconceptions of reality, clings tenaciously to the hope that imaginative social engineering, supported by political compromise, may indefinitely postpone the potential disasters that few deny loom over humanity's future.... As unity is the remedy for the world's ills, its one certain source lies in the restoration of religion's influence in human affairs.
(Bahá'í International Community, One Common Faith, p. 42-43 )

Global Governance
framework of laws environmental and social standards replacement of national sovereignty addressing climate change global management of resources equitable distribution

Action in Civil Society
Academic and Research Institutions

UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development: UNESCOcat International Expert Meeting of Faith-based organizations, March 2007

US Partnership for DESD

European Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN) and its successor, the Partnership for Education and Research for Responsible Living (PERL)

Values-based Indicators of Education for Sustainable Development

Something fundmental is missing
the pace and scale of change possible only with spiritual transformation in an accelerating process of organic change
(Mark Tobey, Lovers of Light, 1960)

The only solution... the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
Until such time as the nations of the world understand and follow the admonitions of Bahá'u'lláh to whole-heartedly work together in looking after the best interests of all humankind, and unite in the search for ways and means to meet the many environmental problems besetting our planet, ...little progress will be made towards their solution....
Universal House of Justice

• • • • • • • • We must overcome: - narrow perspectives - materialism We must encourage: - spirituality - balance - moderation - consultation

We need generalists Whole systems specialists
'Abdu'l-Baha described how in the future the Learned required "knowledge of the sacred Scriptures and the entire field of divine and natural science, of religious jurisprudence and the arts of government and the varied learning of the time and the great events of history" in order to meet "the necessary qualification of comprehensive knowledge."
('Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 35-36)

The challenge to us all
• Become leaders in the transformation of society and its relationship to the environment • Use spiritual principles to guide us • Lay new intellectual foundations for social change from the inside out • Pioneer in building new economic and social systems and institutions • Bring us back into balance with a sustainable environment • Lay a solid foundation for an ever-advancing civilization

Transforming environments is only possible from the inside out

The years ahead will be difficult, but there is reason for hope

Thank you

The planet will thank you too

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