A Rochester Bahá’í Coordinates Sustainable Learnings with Core Activities
Sustainable Development and Prosperity of Humankind 2017
Faculty: Arthur Lyon Dahl, Christine Muller, and Peter Adriance
Margaret Tash, a Bahá’í who lives in Rochester, New York, USA, has had an interest for many years in healthy nutrition and ending world hunger. She describes her search for solutions this way:
I am a registered dietitian with long-standing interest in the impact food choices have on our health. In my early thirties, I went to college to study nutrition and ways to end world hunger. I soon discovered that hunger is not due to food scarcity but to its distribution (or lack thereof), often from political conflicts or power struggles. While I had a traditional career in hospitals and nursing homes, I never lost interest in world hunger and possible solutions.
About eight years ago, I presented a talk on nutrition from a Bahá’í perspective. The research for that talk—merging spiritual principles with scientific knowledge—led me to explore how our food choices impact climate in other parts of the world, often with devastating consequences. When the United States backed out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, I felt moved to consider how I could contribute to meaningful conversations about this topic that affects everyone on the planet. I am grateful to Peter Adriance for suggesting that I take Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind, my first course with the Wilmette Institute.
What Margaret learned in the course on Sustainable Development and what she plans to do with her new learnings—in Core Activities, including study circles, devotionals, and junior youth empowerment groups as well as in social action and public discourses—she shared in the form of an essay format at the end of the course:
My main interest has been studying the natural integration of the core activities with public discourse and social action. Arthur Lyon Dahl’s 2015 Wilmette Institute’s Web Talk “Navigating the Storm: The Transition to Sustainability,” in which he addresses this in the Q&A section, encouraged me greatly. This is only my personal opinion, but I feel Bahá’ís in the United States have been challenged to think of “academics” and “scientists” the way we think of children’s class teachers or study circle tutors—that is, perhaps we didn’t understand the value of the core activities because we couldn’t see how they shape community life and naturally interact with public discourse and social action. I am eager to explore these connections more fully.
It is especially helpful that a study circle and junior-youth course, following the format of Ruhi courses, have already been designed. One of my goals is to explore interest in having a study circle here in Rochester, as well as provide information on the junior- youth course to our junior-youth coordinator and animators. [The final version of The Story of Stuff is now being reviewed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States.]
In addition, I hope to use my background in nutrition to explain how our food choices can negatively impact the lives of people on the planet. With Peter’s encouragement to take this course, I would like to review and expand materials I used in an earlier presentation, focusing on the oneness of humanity, scientific evidence, and practical application. This will take several months (or longer), but it remains a priority goal.
Hosting one or two devotional gatherings on the topic of sustainability, using the wonderful resources at this site, might be a good first step to determine interest in a study circle.
I have also watched the Wilmette Institute’s 2017 Web Talk given by Paul Hanley about the challenge of sustaining 11 billion people on our planet by the end of this century. I found this very interesting and informative. Again, recognizing the key role the core activities play in transforming society, in creating a new culture, was intriguing and encouraging.
Since first signing up for this course, I’ve shared my enthusiastic—though very limited—understanding of sustainability with several friends. I would like to broaden and deepen those conversations as I continue to study and discover ways to implement actions.
While Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind will not be offered again until September 1, 2018, you can choose from a number of other courses that will help you understand other topics that will help ensure the prosperity of humankind; all three courses are open for registration: