The Wilmette Institute Community’s Participation in Global Climate Change Week 2019

The theme was How to Provide Hope
to the World’s Youth Facing Climate Disaster.

The Purpose of this Page

This brief message and information is the Wilmette Institute’s contribution to Global Climate Change Week 2019.

Global Climate Change Week seeks to encourage whole academic communities – including academics, students, and professional staff at universities and colleges – to engage with each other, their communities, and policy makers on climate change action.

This message was sent to the whole Wilmette Institute community and provided a special Forum to discuss climate change on the Institute’s Moodle Learning Center Home Page. The Wilmette Institute is one of 160 educational institutions around the world who have registered an activity with Global Climate Change Week.

How to Provide Hope to the World’s Youth Facing Climate Disaster

“Let every one who is awake to the condition of the world, and to the persistent evils that warp the lives of its inhabitants, heed Bahá’u’lláh’s call to selfless and steadfast service—heroism for the present age.”

These are the inspiring words of the Universal House of Justice in its October 2019 message on the occasion of the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb.

There are many “persistent evils” in the world, but we can certainly regard climate change as the defining problem of our age. The youth of the world are helping us wake up to this “condition of the world.” They know that their well-being and even survival is at stake because of global warming. Just three weeks ago, 7.6 million people around the world, the majority of them youth, called for strong climate action.

Video: Students around the world go on climate strike (Guardian News)

How can we respond to them in the spirit of the letter of the Universal House of Justice? And how can we give the youth confidence for their future despite the seemingly hopeless condition of the world, especially considering climate change? And how can we arise to heroic “selfless and steadfast service?”

The urgent call for climate justice by the youth of the world

The following words by Greta Thunberg addressed to the United Nations on 23 September 2019 show how young people think and feel about the unjust condition of the world. You can read the transcript and watch her 4 minute speech at the end of this article.

This wake up call for climate justice is factual and desperate. How can we respond meaningfully?

Bahá’í Responses

Daniel Perell from the Bahá’í International Community shares his perspective in his statement of 20 September 2019:

As thousands gather for the Climate Summit at the United Nations, we are confronted with the basic question of what is needed to make lasting progress on climate change. Views on this may vary, but one thing seems clear: coherence between principles and action is necessary to advance climate justice and environmental protection. Rhetoric articulating appreciation for the environment, concern for future generations, and well-being for all, rings hollow when unmatched by ethical behavior and policy. Achieving such coherence requires more than science and logic—it requires courage and sacrifice.

If steps in this directions are not taken, it is too easy to fall back into the well trodden paths that have brought us to this point. Compromises allow an unjust and unsustainable system to endure, expediency becomes valued over the needs of the most vulnerable, and the inertia of the status quo drives humanity to the limits of the earth’s resources. Given the degree of transformation required, we must not wait for more tragedy before taking the courageous steps necessary.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that setting humanity on a sustainable path would require “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” This includes transformations to technological, industrial, agricultural, and scientific systems, which in turn require unprecedented change in values, assumptions, standards, and patterns of thought and behavior.

The current economic order has promoted unsustainable patterns of consumption in pursuit of financial return. Its messaging has equated the status and value of the human being with the accumulation of wealth and luxury. And its logic of unlimited individual gain has enriched a privileged few while degrading the natural world and impoverishing masses of humanity. To varying degrees, far from advancing our highest values, the system before us rewards dishonesty, encourages corruption, and treats truth as a negotiable commodity.

You can read the whole Perspective by Daniel Perell here: https://www.bic.org/perspectives/perspective-address-climate-change-ensure-coherence-between-principle-and-action

How can we as Bahá’ís become examples of living a life of coherence between principles and actions, the remedy humankind so sorely needs today?

Some Bahá’í communities are already on that path and can provide us with ideas and inspiration:

·         “Since the property for the local House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia, was acquired in December 2013, the community has been undertaking a reforestation project on an 11-hectare piece of land adjacent to the Temple site. The environmental initiative has helped to reintroduce native vegetation to the area, decimated by years of monoculture plantations of sugarcane. The team committed to the project has already successfully raised 43 species of plants on the land, which is designated as a Bosque Nativo, or native forest.”[i]

·         In honor of the Bicentenary Birthday of Bahá’u’lláh, the Bahá’í community of Chile donated 2,000 trees to the city of Santiago. The native trees were planted in parks, in medians on city roads, and next to streams in areas of the city without much vegetation.

·         The House of Worship in India is now partly solar powered. Excess power generated during day is being fed back to the grid system which is supported by a net meter. Shaheed Javid, the general manager of the House of Worship explained the reason for the solar project: “By employing the solar energy route, we want to set an example and encourage our followers as well as visitors to the Lotus Temple to take on a sustainable way of living.”[ii]

·         The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette installed an innovative and environmentally friendly heating and air conditioning system and its new Welcome Center is a LEED silver facility.[iii]

·         At the Portuguese Bahá’í Summer School, junior youth spent four to five days studying and exploring The Story of Stuff: A Baha’i-inspired Program for Youth. The adults also viewed the 20 minute video The Story of Stuff so that they could have meaningful conversations about consumer culture in their families and in the general Bahá’í community.

·         Local communities around the world hold devotional meetings on stewardship of the environment, study classes and firesides on climate change, conduct trash clean ups, and plant trees, etc.

These wonderful activities are mostly still at the fringes of Bahá’í community life. We can all help to bring coherence between the lofty principles of our Faith and our actions. Seeing a diverse and united global community exemplifying the teachings of the Faith in environmentally and socially responsible actions can bring real hope to young people and inspire them to participate in the building of a new world order.

The Wilmette Institute Forum for Global Climate Change Week:

We invite you to participate in the discussions in the special forum for Global Climate Change Week on the Home Page of the Wilmette Institute.

You may discuss any topic in relation to climate change. This year we especially encourage you to share and discuss community action.

Instructions to Access the Forum for Global Climate Change Week: If you log into the Wilmette Institute’s main page with the list of courses—the Learning Center Home page—you will see the Forum to Discuss Global Climate Change Week right below our links to our Facebook, Twitter, and Google + pages.  Click on it. Then click on “Forums” in the “Activities” block on the up right part of the page, then click on the “no” in “subscribed” to change it to “yes.” If you don’t have access to the Wilmette Institute’s Learning Center Home Page, please contact WI@usbnc.org.

We look forward to learning about your actions,

the Faculty of the Wilmette Institute courses Climate Change and
Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind

______________________________

Transcript of the talk by Greta Thunberg to the United Nations on 23 September 2019

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Maybe 50% is acceptable to you. But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity. They also rely on my and my children’s generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5C global temperature rise – the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world had 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit back on 1 January 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes. How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”[iv]

REFERENCES

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