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February 5, 2012

Question: What is your faith’s position on the environment?

 Love of nature, the environment, and sustainable development are linked and grounded in the principles and sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith.  I mention the religion’s key teaching: oneness in all its forms. Humans are contiguous and interdependent with the environment in a global “web of life.” The earth is a sacred trust, the marvellous handiwork of the Creator, requiring careful, responsible stewardship, not mad, self-destructive exploitation.

The Bahá’í world community, with approximately 6 million members, has a respectable record on environmental projects. Back in 1992, our office at the UN, the Bahá’í International Community,  which has consultative status, prepared a statement for the proposed UN “Earth Charter” for its Conference on Environment and Development. In that document, the Bahá’ís outlined the process for achieving universally acceptable standards:

“It is our conviction that any call to global action for environment and development must be rooted in universally accepted values and principles. Similarly, the search for solutions to the world’s grave environmental and developmental problems must go beyond technical-utilitarian proposals and address the underlying causes of the crisis. Genuine solutions, in the Bahá’í view, will require a globally accepted vision for the future, based on unity and willing cooperation among the nations, races, creeds, and classes of the human family.”

The work is ongoing. Here are just a few of many small-scale, global environmental projects: The Bahá’í Vocational Institute for Rural Women, located in India and the Clean and Beautiful Swaziland campaign founded by Dr.Irma Allen. Both received Global 500 Awards from the United Nations Environment Program; an organic farming project by the Bahá’í community of Japan teaches how to grow food without artificial fertilizers or pesticides; in rural Kenya, a Bahá’í-sponsored development project encourages and empowers village women to develop their own entrepreneurial weaving businesses.

In Winnipeg (24 June 2010), Bahá’ís were part of an international interfaith delegation that challenged world leaders to take action on the environment through a statement issued just before the G8 and G20 summits held in Toronto. Suzanne Tamas, representative of the Canadian Bahá’í Office of External Affairs, urged politicians to make reflective decisions for the long-term, and the common good, rather than for short-term national interests. 
-  Jack McLean

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