United States: Social Action and Public Discourse and Climate Change Courses Prompt Changes in Personal Habits and a Series of Educational Presentations

Josette Bevirt, a Bahá’í from Chula Vista, California, who is taking her second Wilmette Institute course, summarized what she had learned in the course on Climate Change this way:

Curiosity about climate change and a desire to be involved in current environmental issues grounded in the Bahá’í teachings were the impetus to first take the very useful Wilmette Institute course on Social Action and Public Discourse and then this course on the relatively new topic of Climate Change. I knew very little about climate change, much like everyone around me. It is now apparent that climate change is THE issue of our time. We are already experiencing it, and there will be much more to come that will affect everyone on the planet, but most especially those who can do the least about it. I suspect that it might be a plan on God’s part to see if humanity will pull together as one race to resolve the many issues it will create. He gives us what we need, and we are still evolving toward the unity of humanity. This might just get us there faster.

There is much scientific information to retain, and thus it will serve a double purpose to put together a power-point presentation on climate change and share it at the San Diego Bahá’í Center. I already suggested to the coordinator that it might be ready by September. Already involved in promoting the upcoming Youth Conferences, I bring up climate change around the youth whenever possible. And there is always one bright young face with wide eyes who approaches and expresses personal interest in the topic. This gives me hope.

As for emotional issues to work through, there were many. Shock was the first. Deep sadness was another. Avoidance a third. But after Googling a wonderful list of Bahá’í writings on trusting in God from Ruhi Book 3, Children’s Lesson 15, and spending time meditating on them, it became apparent that God will see us through the evils humankind has created and lead us to create His Paradise on earth. We just need to do our part. And now my challenge is how to present this material on climate change in a way that does not cause avoidance in others, but instead imbues a willingness to be a part of the positive changes so necessary for a positive future.

As for practical lifestyle changes, I see how I can fine tune my already environmentally conscious lifestyle more. I plan to do more air drying of clothes and be more aware of my driving. As much as I hate giving up bubbly water, I suspect the process of creating it releases more CO2 than I want to be responsible for. Buying reusable plates and metal forks and spoons for Bahá’í events will be a great role model for my community. My new commitment for vacations is to consider how they can be more about service and less just an escape. I suspect the more involved I become in teaching about climate change, the more evident the changes I need to enact will become.

As for service, educating the friends, as well as others, appears to be the most available and important action that I can undertake. Even my environmentally conscious friends do not really know much about it. The presentation at the Bahá’í Center will be a start. I will see about presentations at my local nature centers. A college student has already asked me to give a presentation at her college, and I suspect word will spread, if I can make the presentation entertaining as well as informative and inspiring. I need to educate Bahá’ís about the issue, and also educate non-Bahá’ís about how essential spiritual solutions will be to solving the many problems behind climate change, as well as in creating functional solutions. Also, I am supporting the upcoming Youth Conference in San Diego by volunteering at it and plan to support the youth in this region in any way that I can with their endeavors. Aside from doing as the House is currently requesting, this will give me a chance to build relationships with those who have the energy and time to make this world a better place.

As for why faith communities should take action on climate change: The perspective of faith communities on climate change will be essential for finding workable solutions. Political solutions will only be in favor of those in power, not in favor of all people together. Without the perspective of the oneness of humanity, any actions will never resolve the problem, only create more conflict. This is a planetary problem, and we need planetary solutions. Given the scope of the problem, we need God’s guidance and inspirations to resolve the many issues. Maybe this is the thing the world has needed to cause everyone to pull together, creating world peace.