Ultimately, Baha’is understand that preserving the planet’s environment and mitigating the effects of climate change cannot rely on any single treaty or agreement.
Instead, we need to build awareness among all people, and generate a groundswell of individual support for our fragile environment from everyone. As valuable and necessary as they are, no single treaty, pact or environmental agreement can ever fully solve the Earth’s ecological problems.
For example: after the proposed U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, several states in the United States proclaimed their adherence to it, and now many cities and towns have followed suit. Even many businesses have spoken out in favor of the Agreement. The reality is that everyone must become involved in reducing carbon emissions, whether the Paris Agreement survives or not.
So how can that happen—and what can Baha’is and their extended group of friends, families and supporters do in the face of such a massive threat to the livability of our shared planet?
Baha’is can certainly applaud the rising awareness and the actions taken by governments, the private sector, and individuals—and ask all of the world’s people to join us in protecting our one Earth.
Baha’is can also support reasonable climate actions “with all lawful means” as the Universal House of Justice, through its Department of the Secretariat, explains in its April 27, 2017, letter (paragraph 5):
The principles of non-involvement in politics and obedience to government, far from being obstacles to social change, are aspects of an approach set forth in the Baha’i writings to implement effective remedies for and address the root causes of the ills afflicting society. This approach includes active involvement in the life of society as well as the possibility of influencing and contributing to the social policies of government by all lawful means.
Therefore, Baha’is and their friends can contact local, state, and national representatives, write letters, sign petitions, and participate in peaceful, nonpartisan demonstrations.
Baha’is—and anyone else, of any Faith or no Faith—can especially become more involved in interfaith efforts to mitigate climate change. People of all faiths realize that climate change is a threat to human civilization, which is unprecedented in its scope. They are not only concerned about climate change as an environmental crisis, but as a deeply moral issue.
The Office of Sustainability at the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs has collaborated on the national level with GreenFaith (an interfaith coalition for the environment), Interfaith Power & Light (a religious response to global warming), and the Parliament of the World’s Religion (one of the purposes of which is cherishing, protecting, healing, and restoring the Earth and all life). A number of Baha’is have also collaborated with such organizations on the national, state, and local levels. Baha’i participation in the annual Faith Climate Action Week held by Interfaith Power & Light has been very committed and enthusiastic, as well.
Baha’is can also choose from many other areas in which to serve. The Universal House of Justice, through its Department of the Secretariat, writes in its April 27, 2017, letter, paragraph 13, that:
The [Baha’is] are called to three simultaneous, overlapping, and coherent areas of action: community-building efforts in clusters; projects and activities for social action; and involvement in the discourses of society …
For Baha’is and others who do not believe in climate science, there are other services one can render, as the Universal House of Justice advised an individual in this situation:
If you feel your personal views on environmental issues do not accord with the plans and activities being pursued by Bahá’í institutions related to these matters, it would be entirely acceptable for you not to participate in those activities and to, instead, turn your attention to the many other avenues of service open for promoting the interests of the Faith and the well-being of society. – The Universal House of Justice, Department of the Secretariat, letter to individual, December 25, 2014, par. 3)
But whatever area of service a Baha’i chooses, it is important that they support each other’s efforts and strive for unity. Baha’is all work to build strong and vibrant communities, and to unify the world. As individuals, each Baha’i decides how best to serve humanity, considering his or her special circumstances and capacities, the needs of the local community, the opportunities for public discourse, and the most pressing requirements in the area for social action. The level of engagement in public discourse and social action may vary for each Baha’i.
Of course, Baha’is should all distinguish themselves with environmentally responsible everyday actions and by expressing Baha’i values both in their relationships with other people as well as in how they treat the Earth. Every Baha’i’s commitment to reducing climate change accords perfectly with the admonishment of the Universal House of Justice in its March 1, 2017, letter (paragraphs 7–8) that they turn away from materialism and consumerism:
At all times, contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the Almighty are qualities that befit the God-fearing soul. The forces of materialism promote a quite contrary line of thinking: that happiness comes from constant acquisition, that the more one has the better, that worry for the environment is for another day.
Leading a simpler and more environmentally responsible life does a great deal of good for everyone’s soul, as well as for the planet. Baha’is have the great challenge and blessing to be a testimony to this truth in word and deed.