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Learning to integrate action on

climate change with the activities

of the Five Year Plan: A story
from Canada

Duncan Hanks
The Opportunity

 The International Environment Forum (IEF) is a Bahá'í-

inspired non-governmental professional organization whose
members from the Bahá'í Faith and the wider community
promote the application of spiritual and ethical principles to
the challenges of the environment and sustainable
development. Founded in 1997, and now with over 150
members in 50 countries on five continents, the IEF
maintains links with many more individuals and groups. The
Forum was accredited by the United Nations to the World
Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg 2002)
as a scientific and technological organization.
Shameless plug

For more information,

and/or to apply for
membership, visit the IEF
website. Membership is
free and open to all with
an interest.*
The invitation

Bahá'í Community of Canada

 Canadian Bahá'í International
Development Agency
 Office of Governmental Relations
 John Stone, Adjunct Research Professor, Geography and Environmental Studies,
Carleton University - The science of climate change, with a specific focus on the Arctic
 John Crump, UNEP/GRID-Arendal, Polar Issues Coordinator - From the Arctic to the
Small Island Developing States: Ethics and Adaptation
 Robin Anawak, Environmental Researcher, Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami (ITK), the National
Inuit Organization - The impact of climate change on northern culture, people, and
 Arthur Dahl, Coordinator of the UNEP / University of Geneva Environmental Diplomacy
Programme, Switzerland; President, International Environment Forum - Ethical
Challenges of Climate Change
 Heather Eaton, Associate Professor, Feminist Theology; Ecology; Contemporary
Theology and Spirituality, St. Paul University, Canada. - The Spirit of Climate Change
 Michael Gerbis, CEO, The Delphi Group - An Inconvenient Truth: A multimedia
presentation on climate change
 Ted Reeve, Secretary, Leadership and Theological Education, for the General Council
of The United Church of Canada and Executive Director of Faith & the Common Good
Network. - Faith-based NGOs and the Common Good
 Sylvia Karlsson, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, Finland.
Associate member of the Club of Rome, Secretary-General of the International
Environment Forum - Governance of Energy from the Local to the Global – A Necessity for
Climate Change Mitigation
 Tahirih Naylor, Representative to the United Nations, Bahá’í International Community -
The Bahá’í International Community at the United Nations: Global Focus on Climate
Change and Sustainable Development
 Clive Doucet, Poet, Author, City Councillor, Ottawa, Canada
 Peter Adriance, NGO Liaison, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the U.S.
 Diana Cartwright, Environment Canada, Bahá’í Community of Canada
 Jessica Lax, Director, The Otesha Project
 Duncan Hanks, Canadian Bahá’í International Development Agency
 Gordon Naylor, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, President and CEO
of Hatt’s Off Specialized Services, President of Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute and
Breakwell Learning
 Marty Quinn - The Climate Symphony
 David Chernushenko, Producer, the Living Lightly Project and member of the National
Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) - Living Lightly and Loving It:
People Taking Action Because It Feels Good
 Victoria Thoresen, Associate Professor, Education, Hedmark University College, Norway;
Project Manager, Consumer Citizenship Network - Learning to Make Responsible Choices:
The Consumer Citizenship Network.
 Audio and video
recordings –
 Copies of each
(photo gallery)
 International e-

Dr. John Stone, IPCC


 Collaboration of presenters with BIC and other

 Public space for exploring issues, mainly the
moral imperative – welcomed by scientists
 Different perspectives – people of Faith, no
Faith, science – religion, politicians, civil society
 Learning-centred -> realization of integrating
action into our core activities seemed natural
 Personal action plans (unanticipated)
National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of Canada

 24 March 2008 letter to all regional Bahá'í

councils, local spiritual assemblies and
registered groups
…The resulting conference report and
recommendations stimulated the National
Spiritual Assembly’s consideration of ways in
which the day to day life of the Bahá'í
community can better reflect the Bahá'í
teachings on humanity’s sacred responsibility
to safeguard the environment. As long ago as
Ridván, 1989, the Universal House of Justice
said that “Assisting in endeavours to
conserve the environment in ways which
blend with the rhythm of life of our
community must assume more importance in
Bahá'í activities.*

* The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, p. 64

Far from distracting from the processes of
growth underway in Canada, attention to
environmental practices that respect the
earth and the oneness of its inhabitants
must support and sustain them. Thus, small
initiatives should be undertaken to gradually
increase consciousness of our “ecological
footprint” and develop capacity for
responsible action that responds to the
challenges of global climate change.

The National Spiritual Assembly therefore

now raises a call for action, asking all
Councils, Local Spiritual Assemblies and
Groups to consider ways to demonstrate
ever-increasing sensitivity to environmental
issues in the design and implementation of
community activities. Larger communities
with Bahá'í centres should give additional
consideration to ways of managing and
developing these properties in
environmentally sound ways.

As Bahá'í communities take conscious steps

to introduce simple, ecologically healthy
measures into a vibrant and dynamic
community life, they will increasingly
demonstrate the truth of these words of the

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 reaction.
Some initial responses

Bahá'í Ottawa, Might 165

9 Ways to Green Our Core Activities,

Feasts and Firesides
The Universal House of Justice has stated that “endeavours to conserve the
environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must
assume more importance in Bahá’í activities. With an ever increasing
understanding of man’s organic relationship with the earth, seekers are
searching for answers and for those adorned by action rather than talk. Here are
just a few places where we can start to make a difference in our community life.

1) Work locally. The International teaching Centre has found that

decentralized core activities and teaching efforts that focus on our
neighbourhood have been more successful and sustainable. This can also
contribute to healthier, stronger communities that rely less on cars.

2) Encourage sustainable transport. In promoting events, make sure you

indicate the bus routes and bike paths that come to your venue.
Encouraging car-pooling by connecting people from the same

3) Study it. Prepare a children’s class lesson, fireside or talk on creation or

environmental topics. Share a story about how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was “content
with little”.
5. Serve the community. Acts of service to the community are an integral part of
the junior youth program. Possible endeavours are collecting trash in the local
park, planting trees or a community garden, or speaking to environmental
issues in your community.
6. Show you care by using reusables. Do away with the plastic, paper and
Styrofoam! Bring out the real dishes and cloth napkins, and build friendships
while washing dishes. Did you know that our new Bahá’í Centre actually has a
policy against using disposables?
7. Serve local, organic and fair trade refreshments. Locally grown food
supports local farmers and reduces green house gas emissions. Fairly traded
goods such as coffee, tea and soccer balls ensure no exploitive child labour is
used, farmers receive just wages and use environmentally sustainable
8. Pray about it. Provide a devotional program at your next Feast or devotional
gathering using environmental quotations and images of nature as the
embodiments of the names of God.
9. Decorate right. Create an uplifting atmosphere with flowers and candles, but
go for locally grown flowers (maybe from your own garden!) instead of
imported flowers that are grown with very toxic pesticides and flown in.
Beeswax candles are a more natural alternative to paraffin or scented candles,
especially for those with environmental sensitivities.
10. Go outside! A spiritual atmosphere is instantly created by reconnecting
people with nature and fresh air. This is also an opportunity to give
temperature controls and lights a break.
Letting action, not words…

1. Adopted roadside / highway for clean-up

2. Discontinued use of paper dishes, plastic cutlery,
styrofoam cups
3. Participation in inter-Faith / Multi-Faith activities,
like “Stewardship of Creation and Planting of
Seeds”, Faith in the Common Good (national)
4. Community volunteers wash dishes at community
Fall Fair so don’t use non-reusables.
5. Car pooling to community activities
6. Using cloth napkins at community events
More deeds…

7. Participation of local junior youth groups in

community environmental projects on a regular
basis (Aurora, ON) – planting 10,000 trees,
planting community gardens
8. LSA appoints task force struck to educate
community on environmental issues at every
9. Support gardening project for local food bank
10. LSA sponsored draw – anyone who cycles or
comes to Feast on mass transit will have name
entered to win one of ten $10 gift certificates at
local Bahá'í bookstore
And a few more…

11. LSA asking that proposals submitted for consideration

include an environmental impact section.
12. Paperless administration and meetings (i.e., Post
Convention conference)
13. Consultation at community activities that
specifically invites and includes children and
junior youth on themes related to the environment
14. Hosting environmental related activities –
Roundtable on environment, UN Days, “Nature
15. Devotional meetings with environmental themes
Eco Camp for children teaches
respect for the environment, High
River, Alberta
Television documentary featuring Canadian
architect Fariborz Sahba, architect and designer of
the Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, Israel.
“Aesthetically and symbolically, these spaces are
designed for celebration and worship, bringing
people closer to the divine.”

Recreating Eden will air on the following channels

in 2008/2009.
Please check the websites listed below for more
information about airdates and times. Canada:
VisionTV ( and Knowledge Network

“When the Universal House of Justice

called on the Bahá'ís at the beginning of
the Five Year Plan to open their study
circles, children’s classes, and devotional
meetings “to all the inhabitants of the
locality,” that phrase signalized a change
in the culture of Bahá'í communities, a
change that is intimately linked with the
efforts of the Faith to grow and to
embrace humankind….
Building Momentum, p. 19

Having an “outward-looking orientation” also

suggests that it is important for Bahá'ís to
understand more deeply the forces operating on
the world stage and the solutions offered by the
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Our task is to convey
to seekers that we are all living in the same
world, facing common trials, and striving to fulfill
similar, long-held aspirations for the human race.
Our expressions of solidarity with our fellow
human beings must be sincerely voiced and
genuinely felt.”
“Central to the capacity of a Baha'i community to
lead a process of transformation is the ability of its
members and institutions to apply the Revelation of
Baha’u’llah to various aspects of life and thereby
establish consistent patterns of change. In fact,
learning to apply the Teachings to achieve progress
could be taken as the very definition of Baha’i social
and economic development. Such learning has to
occur locally, regionally, nationally and
internationally and become the axis around which
our development efforts are organized at all levels.”

(Prospects for the Future, a message approved by the Universal House of

Justice, September 1993)

“Be anxiously concerned with the

needs of the age ye live in, and centre
your deliberations on its exigencies
and requirements.”
- Baha’u’llah
Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation launches
national campaign
The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, Canada’s late-night talk
show, and Cisco are partnering to spearhead a massive, nationwide
environmental movement. This fall, CBC and The Hour will mobilize
Canadians to commit One Million Acts of Green. In partnership with
Cisco, and the power of their ‘Human Network Effect’ the collective
goal is to change how we live and how we treat the planet, one act at
a time.
It’s not about overhauling your life; it’s about one act from each
individual amassing to a million. Maybe it’s switching to compact
fluorescent light bulbs, making the decision to walk or bike to work,
or to buy locally grown organic food. It can be as simple as recycling
your cell phone or as ambitious as building a green roof space. One
small thing can have a huge impact. Young and old, parents and kids,
small towns and big cities, The Hour wants Canadians to take action
for the sake of the environment.
The campaign will officially kick off on Tuesday October 21, 2008 and
will run to summer 2009.

“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. (Ridván

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