Category Archives: Environment

Imagine a world without fish

It’s a frightening premise, and it’s happening right now. A Sea Change follows the journey of retired history teacher Sven Huseby on his quest to discover what is happening to the world’s oceans. After reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Darkening Sea,” Sven becomes obsessed with the rising acidity of the oceans and what this “sea change” bodes for mankind. His quest takes him to Alaska, California, Washington, and Norway as he uncovers a worldwide crisis that most people are unaware of.  [See Movie Trailer for “A Sea Change” and read more…]

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Conference: Religion joins with science to address environment issues

(Baha’i World News Service Story – September 17, 2009)

WASHINGTON — People’s spiritual beliefs affect their attitude toward climate change, with religious groups increasingly helping to frame humanity’s response to environmental issues.

That was one of the messages from a session at the 33rd annual conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies, held in mid-August in Washington, D.C. The gathering drew nearly 1,000 participants from some 20 countries.

The theme of the conference was “Environments,” and one of the plenary speakers was Peter G. Brown, a geography professor at McGill University in Montreal who has participated in the Moral Economy Project of the Quaker Institute for the Future.

(Read more…)

HOME: The story of the human impact of life on Earth

The 90 minute video, HOME, is a powerful narrative of life on Earth and the impact of humans on Earth’s life systems.  It begs the question – what are we to do given this information?  It’s worth a watch and a discussion.

Greening the Flock: How Should Religious Institutions Foster Sustainability?

The August 2009 issue of Sustainability: the Journal of Record featured a roundtable discussion entitled, “Greening the Flock: How Should Religious Institutions Foster Sustainability?”PeterAdriance, NGO Liaison for the Baha’is of the U.S., moderated the discussion with nine other leaders in the field: William Aiken (Sokka Gakkai International-USA Buddhist Association); Peter G. Brown (Moral Economy Project – Quaker); Cassandra Carmichael (National Council of Churches); Nicola Coddington (NY Interfaith Power and Light); Rabbi Fred Dobb (Reform Judaism); Rachel Novick (Office of Sustainability, Notre Dame University); Fr. John Rausch (Catholic Committee of Appalachia); Rabbi Daniel Swartz (Reform Judaism); and John Wood (Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies).

The discussion touched on the role of religion in fostering sustainability, the level of guidance provided by religious texts, the dynamic balance between practical and spiritual elements, the relationship between science and religion, and how religions can contribute to sustainability efforts on college campuses.

Click here for a PDF of the article

(Reproduced by permission from Sustainability:  The Journal of Record, August 2009, http://www.liebertpub.com/sus)

Arthur Dahl’s PowerPoint “Transforming Environments” now uploaded

Apologies for the delays due to technical problems in posting Arthur Dahl’s PowerPoint from his Thursday evening keynote address.  “Transforming Environments from the Inside Out” is now available in the Media section as well as with the sesssion abstract, both in PDF format. Click here for a shortcut directly to it.

It may also be downloaded as a PowerPoint directly from the IEF site by clicking here

Religion rejuvenates environmentalism – story on new “Powering a Nation” website

Religion rejuvenates environmentalism

Leaders of the secular environmental movement say that the participation of faith communities is critical. At the same time, these partnerships could change the demographic makeup of religious groups and grow membership. To learn more, watch the video and read the story, reported by writers and photo journalists at the University of North Carolina. It’s part of a new website called “Powering a Nation – the Quest for Energy in a Changing USA”.

Faith and Hope in Environmentalism in the Face of Climate Change

Coverage of the session “Faith and Hope in Environmentalism in the Face of Climate Change,” presented by Sam Benoit. Click here to access the presentation abstract.

By Sara Velde

A parallel can be drawn between the global changes made in response to CFC Products, causing a hole in ozone layer to form, to the challenges faced and changes that must be made in response to global warming.

But, global warming is much more complex. Smog is to global warming as gang violence is to nuclear war-fare.

Facing such a calamitous situation, what is the role of faith and hope in environmentalism in the face of climate change?

The Reality of Climate Change
Previous presentations have made a clear case and shown that debate over whether climate change is occurring is over. Where there is a lack of consensus in the scientific community, it is in what exactly will happen and what should be done. Just a few degrees of change will result in an effect on humanity from water shortages to increasing infectious disease.

There are a number of examples of civilizations that have collapsed as a result of their relationship with the environment. Easter Island is just one example.

But, what is the point of discussing these calamitous situations if they are inevitable? Is there room for faith and hope?

The Faculty of Reason
Reason has been described as “a gun for hire” – it is a facilitator rather than an initiator. It can provide us w/ facts and tools, but does not explain how to use them. Without more, reason has as much potential for good as evil (Minj Kamf is a good example).

Faith
Faith is a difficult concept to describe. St. Thomas Aquinas says faith “.. signifies the assent of intellect to that which is believed.” There are many ways to use the word faith, but in this context, we are using is as it relates to God.

Hope
Hope is more specific. It refers to the future- to expectation- something to look forward to. Remember the story of Pandora’s box. As well as all the evil in the world, Hope was in Pandora’s box. Why was it in there? Greeks understood hope as a double-edged sword. Nietzche says that hope is the most evil of evils b/c it prolongs man’s torment. It enables him to keep expecting improvement and being disappointed.

Faith and Hope in Religion
These are concepts that have been explored in Religions. “…faith the size of a mustard seed…” is one example from the Bible. In the Baha’i Faith, we see a discussion of faith as well.

How did the Faith and Hope Get there?
Faith and Hope are everywhere in society. They are found in popular movies, literature, dance and art. In religion, faith and hope are promoted through stories. Think of the Hanukkah story. The Baha’i story of Fort Tabarsi.

Hope Sells
Look at Obama! Politically, hope sells. Books use “hope” in the titles. These books are full of people doing good things. They provide an example of good, and therefore a reason to hopeful. At the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore gives a laundry list of things the American people have achieved to inspire hope in viewers.

Hope is powerful and organizations use hope as motivation and inspiration.

Conclusions
In the face of climate change, reason is not enough- it only inspires denial + despair which will result in inaction.
Hope and faith are not enough. Alone, they result in reliance on the supernatural and denial, and again, result in inaction.
But, in the face of the calamity that is climate change, reason + faith/hope = meaningful action. Reason, as a descendant of science, and Faith, as an ancestor of religion, exemplify the Baha’i analogy of science and religion as two wings of a bird – both must be strong and balanced for the bird of humanity to fly.
Both wings of science and religion are necessary.