As another hot summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere, people around the planet observe World Environment Day (June 5th) and World Oceans Day (June 8th) this week. Both of these United Nations-sponsored international observances raise awareness and promote action on behalf of our deteriorating planetary environment.
On Earth Day in April and these two Days in June, many people resolve to make their lives more environmentally responsible. They commit to more recycling, to less consumption, to ridding the world of the plastics and pollutants that befoul our air and water. All good things – but environmental agencies agree that even collectively these individual actions will not save the planet from the potential of a widespread environmental disaster:
Increasingly, scientists and others are recognizing that our world’s ocean faces dire threats: from climate change and ocean acidification, to massive overfishing and habitat destruction from poor fishing practices, to pollution, including plastics, nutrients, and much more. One chilling report predicts the possible collapse of the global ocean food web by 2050 if present unsustainable impacts continue. – World Oceans Day official statement, 2013.
Everyone with a commitment to the Earth’s environment wants to know – what more can I do? Beyond commendable personal behaviors like using less water or eating a more sustainable diet, Baha’is believe strongly that all human beings can and must take part in the one, single movement designed to actually stop environmental degradation and disaster – the unification of the planet.
World unity, the consciousness of world citizenship and the awareness of our common human heritage all converge in a single realization – that responsibility for the preservation of nature and the careful use of our natural resources rests with all of us. We cannot afford to leave the future of our entire planet up to restricted, limited national governments. Piecemeal, fragmented or geographically-limited approaches will no longer work. Instead, Baha’is urge everyone toward a new consciousness that recognizes the essential oneness of humanity, and then fully translates it into action.
Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, outlined this Baha’i approach to the environment almost 150 years ago:
The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. – Gleanings, pp. 249, 286.
All of the major issues facing the environmental movement today pivot around this powerful point. Pollution and degradation of our oceans, the heating of the atmosphere caused by climate change, the rapid extinction of endangered species, desertification and deforestation, each driven by massive population growth and increasing use of fossil fuels – these problems have no borders. Their causes — and their solutions — extend far beyond any one nation, and can only come from a more unified world.
When one country or a dozen countries implement tough environmental standards, humanity’s well-being may increase a little in those countries – but pollution and the breakdown of habitat go on everywhere else. When one country or a dozen countries try to stop others from detrimental environmental practices, they have no clout, and those practices remain. When one country or a dozen countries resolve to reduce greenhouse gases, the rest of the world simply doesn’t, and climate change continues. Treaties, pacts and conventions have failed, because sovereign nations ignore them. Meanwhile the problems get worse and the solutions become more and more difficult to implement.
No national or regional solution to these worldwide environmental crises exists. The human race has gone beyond the ability of the prevailing system of national sovereignty to deal with the massive environmental issues we’ve created. Simply, the restoration of the environmental security of the planet requires a united world:
A century ago, Baha’u’llah proclaimed that humanity has entered a new age. Promised by all the religious Messengers of the past, this new epoch will ultimately bring peace and enlightenment for humanity. To reach that point, however, humankind must first recognize its fundamental unity – as well as the unity of God and of religion. Until there is a general recognition of this wholeness and interdependence, humanity’s problems will only worsen.
For Baha’is, the goal is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Such a civilization can only be built on an earth that can sustain itself. – Baha’i International Community, The Baha’i Statement on Nature.
If you care about the planet, if you consider yourself an environmentalist, if you want your children and grandchildren to experience the beauty and spiritual solace you’ve experienced in nature, then the very best and most effective action you can take involves committing yourself to the development of a more unified world.