New Zealand: Sustainable Development and Climate Change Courses Inspire Action Involving Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís

Sylvia Aston, a Bahá’í from New Zealand, sends her greetings and the following report about how the Wilmette Institute courses on Sustainable Development and Climate Change have changed her views on environmental issues and have inspired her and Bahá’í and six non-Bahá’í friends to take actions. She even has her grandchildren involved in keeping their park clean.

I studied the Sustainable Development course in 2011 with six Bahá’í friends, and I attended the International Environment Forum Conference in Hobart later that year. I had been a climate skeptic, as one of our Auckland radio stations aired a lot of anti-climate-change material, which had influenced my views.

After taking the sustainability course, I started to take much more interest in environmental issues, especially when Dr. Arthur Dahl gave two lectures on climate change when he visited New Zealand in 2012.  He was very inspiring.

Hearing Dr. Dahl talk stimulated me to take the course on Climate Change this year, which I studied with six of my non-Bahá’í friends. They really enjoyed the course except for the religious parts. However, they have become great co-workers in environmental issues, and we have ongoing projects, which I will list.

  1. We have made submissions on three areas of interest to us to our local city council, which is drawing up plans for the next thirty years. Our suggestions include cycle ways, a car-free city center, and the use of pod cars [electric overhead cars] for the city.
  2.  Eleven of us are studying perennial food forest gardens for our own gardens, for use in low socio-economic housing, and on a Bahá’í property.  This is an ongoing pursuit.
  3. I have given three deepenings on climate change, using the course materials from the Climate Change course.
  4. I had hoped to do some seminars on climate change through the New Zealand National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of External Affairs, but that is not going forward at the moment, and the food forest is my interest at the moment.
  5. I have started a street get-together to have our street designated a sustainable street and to secure permission to plant fruit trees in the street. So far we have had two meetings.
  6. On a personal level, I am supporting my friends in their projects; composting, using a Bokachi composting system; and helping out with a local community garden and with local planting in a nature reserve.
  7. My grandchildren love going to my local park to fish plastic bags out of the pond with sticks and to pick up litter.  Helping keep our park clean is a very fun thing for them to do.

In short, the Wilmette courses on Sustainable Development and Climate Change have turned around my attitudes about the environment in a big way and have made me see that the Bahá’í Faith offers that new paradigm needed for a sustainable future. That is why I have started the new Wilmette Institute Course on World Federation: From Vision to Reality.

I have just retired and am very glad to be focused on a service that I can do in my future and for the future of the world. This new interest has me networking with like-minded people, enlisting their interest and action in the future of the planet and, I hope, in the Bahá’í teachings as well. I find myself starting to do one thing, and then another, and I am amazed at how much I have done nine months down the track.