A Fireside and Presentations to a Youth Group: Two (of Many) Results of Learnings in Climate Change Course

Robert (Bob) Lilly, from Elk Grove, California, USA, new to Wilmette Institute courses, found the Climate Change course (faculty Christine Muller, Gary Colliver, Arthur Lyon Dahl, and Carole Flood) so thought-provoking that he said he was “sad to see it come to a close.” Bob, an engineer and a planner of sustainable communities, took the course with his wife, Debra, a two-week-old Bahá’í who found herself “excited” by the course, even though she has been an environmental consultant for twenty years and is relatively familiar with the science behind climate change. Bob and Debra immediately began to put what they had learned to use in their community—first together in a fireside and then Bob alone in presentations to a youth group in Elk Grove. Here is Bob’s summary of his learnings in the course.

“There have been many aha moments in the course on Climate Change. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the course and am sad to see it come to a close. I thought there was a treasure trove of thought-provoking material presented. My wife (who was also taking the course) and I gave a well-attended fireside on the subject.  I also presented the material to the local youth group, breaking up the material up into three sessions. The first was a problem statement discussing the science behind climate change and other planet-wide difficulties. This was followed by an iterative session using various examples of the “tragedy of the commons” (putting one’s interests before the interests of society) and how the Bahá’í Faith provides spiritual solutions to each of the tragedies. This second session also included a discussion of sustainable communities’ designs (mine is now with the City of Elk Grove for a planning check). The final session, to be completed in the fall, is a service project in which the youth will plant native oak trees that are part of the sustainable design.

“The course included many applications that can be incorporated into community design. I am working on the approvals for a sustainable subdivision community comprised of thirty-three two-acre lots. The subdivision will have a four-lot sustainable core that will consist of students and business people/mentors where sustainable research and practice will be integrated into the lifestyles of the residents.

“The course changed my understandings and insights in a number of ways. For example:

  • I greatly appreciated the news from Bahá’ís from all over the world (particularly Africa) on the global nature of the problem and on their spirit and ambition to actively provide solutions.
  • I thought the insights on how changes to one facet (wolves in Yellowstone and the beneficial effects of reforestation on downstream aquifers) of an ecosystem could cause a beneficial cascade. This was a great source of hope, for great rewards from small efforts.
  • All throughout the course were a number references in the Bahá’í writings that detailed how we can solve the current problems. I had no idea of how good the road map was to solve the problems facing society.

“As for the skills I acquired, I have improved my listening skills. I have been somewhat considered as a know-it-all. There were so many well-informed students and faculty that I felt humbled and focused my attention on trying to absorb the information and perspective of the various class participants.

“I have also acquired a patient anticipation of the implementation of God’s plan on Earth. I have come to understand what has invoked in me sadness and desperation and the depth of disparity between what is coming. However bad the time in which we live looks, seeing the tiny sprouts of a New World Order grow, gain in strength, and start the change makes this a very exciting time to be alive.

“Changes to my values and beliefs were profound. The course focused a lot on justice—how we are reaping the just rewards for bad stewardship and justice as the guiding principle that will show us the way to a new earth. I had thought the solutions would be a matter of instilling a sense of love for the peoples of the world and had not considered the importance of justice.

“Applying what we learned in the course was an ongoing theme. There were many bits of information that the course provided. I am particularly grateful to one of my fellow learners for his up-to-date assessment of appropriate technology. Moreover, the sense that there is a worldwide community focused on solving the problems caused by climate change is gratifying. I had often felt somewhat alone in this regard. The direction of the new Five Year Plan I find especially inspirational. The people in the world can sense the gathering storm as the old world order shows the signs of cracks before it crumbles away into oblivion. In my professional life as an engineer, owner of a recycling company, and planner of sustainable communities, this course has given me the knowledge that designs that enrich the soil by incorporating carbon, rely on sustainable energy sources, return nutrients to the earth to maintain soil fertility, and provide the structure for a rich community life that are part and parcel of God’s plan for an ever-advancing civilization. With knowledge comes confidence. With confidence comes the courage and will needed for implementation.”

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