The time has come when those who preach the dogmas of materialism, whether of the east or the west, whether of capitalism or socialism, must give account of the moral stewardship they have presumed to exercise. Where is the “new world” promised by these ideologies? Where is the international peace to whose ideals they proclaim their devotion? Where are the breakthroughs into new realms of cultural achievement produced by the aggrandizement of this race, of that nation or of a particular class? Why is the vast majority of the world’s peoples sinking ever deeper into hunger and wretchedness when wealth on a scale undreamed of by the Pharaohs, the Caesars, or even the imperialist powers of the nineteenth century is at the disposal of the present arbiters of human affairs?
Most particularly, it is in the glorification of material pursuits, at once the progenitor and common feature of all such ideologies, that we find the roots which nourish the falsehood that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive. It is here that the ground must be cleared for the building of a new world fit for our descendants.
That materialistic ideals have, in the light of experience, failed to satisfy the needs of mankind calls for an honest acknowledgement that a fresh effort must now be made to find the solutions to the agonizing problems of the planet. The intolerable conditions pervading society bespeak a common failure of all, a circumstance which tends to incite rather than relieve the entrenchment on every side. Clearly, a common remedial effort is urgently required. It is primarily a matter of attitude. Will humanity continue in its waywardness, holding to outworn concepts and unworkable assumptions? Or will its leaders, regardless of ideology, step forth and, with a resolute will, consult together in a united search for appropriate solutions? – The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, October 1985, pp. 2-3.
Will our leaders consult together? Can you even imagine that happening?
Some, but not all, of the world’s leaders recently came together at the United Nations in New York for the annual session of the UN General Assembly, which begins every year in September. Mostly those leaders made speeches, but a few held so-called “sideline” meetings with other leaders before they went back home.
What if it worked differently? What if, instead of speeches and a few individual or small group meetings, the leaders of the world met this way:
Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to include within its orbit an international executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 40-41.
Nations have democratically-elected parliaments—so why shouldn’t the world?
That’s the Baha’i vision—a world parliament, empowered to fairly institute global laws and enforce them. With that planetary model in place, the world’s people would be able to control, legislate and regulate the human impact on the living environment. Today, though, no individual effort, no social movement, no nationally-based lobbying group or single existing government has the power to do what we so desperately need: to protect humanity from its own pollution, and effectively find ways to reduce it and limit its dire future impacts.
The only conceivable way to deal effectively with the planetary environmental challenges humanity now faces is a system of global governance. Our existing patchwork quilt of national governments, many of them controlled by commercial interests or the firmly-entrenched orthodoxy of materialism, do not have the power or the ability or the will to halt the damage we’re doing to our beautiful Earth.
If you want to work to reduce pollution, to combat climate change, to stop the extermination of species, then you cannot ignore that simple fact.
So what’s the best single thing you can do for the world of creation? What’s the most effective solution? Baha’is believe that:
… truly transforming individual and collective patterns of life will require a much deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of the planetary biosphere. People and the environment are inter-connected aspects of one organically integrated system. At this point in history, neither can be accurately understood in isolation from the other.
Implicit in this understanding is the organic oneness of the human race itself. – The Baha’i International Community, Statement to the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Change Conference.
So the absolute best and most effective thing you can individually do is to expend your efforts, along with others, advocating for and actively working towards the “oneness of the human race itself.” Yes, we can all replace our light bulbs and use fewer resources and recycle and join local environmental groups—those things all make a difference—but working together to establish the unity of humankind and one global system of governance is ultimately the single most effective solution to our planet-wide problems.
So join forces with other like-minded people, and work toward a united world. That’s what the Baha’is are doing, in a global movement to build a new civilization amidst the chaos and corruption of the old one. We live in a time of great turmoil and controversy. The forces of rampant materialism, the Baha’i teachings say, have the power to destroy us. We can only combat those forces, which threaten the future of the human race, with our love and our unity.