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You’ve no doubt heard all of the problems climate change causes and will cause—so would you like to hear some actual solutions?
Let’s see if we can look beyond the standard individual prescriptions—living more conscious, environmentally-aware lives; recycling; using less energy; eating organically and locally; conserving water; utilizing fuel-efficient appliances and cars and buildings.
We’ve somehow come to believe that when enough people eventually make those kinds of lifestyle changes and adjustments, we will have successfully dealt with the challenges of climate change. Sadly, that is not true—not by a long shot.
Harvard research scientist Gernot Wagner, an Environmental Defense Fund economist and the author of the book But Will the Planet Notice?, says no amount of environmentally-responsible personal actions will rescue the Earth from its ongoing atmospheric heat build-up:
News flash: recycling isn’t going to stop global warming. All of these individual steps don’t add up to nearly enough. You are one of seven billion people on Earth. Whatever you or I do personally—eat tofu in a Hummer or hamburgers in a Prius—the planet doesn’t notice. In our confrontation with climate change, species preservation, and a planet going off the cliff, it is what several billion people do that makes a difference. – p. 12.
Wagner warns that oceans will continue to get hotter, extreme weather patterns will become the new norm and our rapidly-rising global temperature will keep going up—as long as the major industrial nations continue in their historic inability to unify around a serious, binding climate treaty. Climate change, Wagner says emphatically, has only one potential solution: “Policy. That’s what makes the difference.”
Such a stark, sobering analysis doesn’t mean, of course, that we should all give up on our efforts to reduce our own environment impacts and carbon footprints. Each one of us should still make the individual contributions we can, because it’s the right thing to do.
Instead, the Baha’i teachings say, the global crisis of climate change requires going beyond solely individual actions, finding ways to join forces with others, then identifying and implementing the policies that will address such a massive global problem:
The unity which is productive of unlimited results is first a unity of mankind which recognizes that all are sheltered beneath the overshadowing glory of the All-Glorious; that all are servants of one God; for all breathe the same atmosphere, live upon the same earth, move beneath the same heavens, receive effulgence from the same sun and are under the protection of one God. This is the most great unity, and its results are lasting if humanity adheres to it; but mankind has hitherto violated it, adhering to sectarian or other limited unities such as racial, patriotic or unity of self-interests; therefore no great results have been forthcoming. Nevertheless it is certain that the radiance and favors of God are encompassing, minds have developed, perceptions have become acute, sciences and arts are widespread and capacity exists for the proclamation and promulgation of the real and ultimate unity of mankind which will bring forth marvelous results. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 192.
So, for the first time in human history, our continuing existence depends on our ability to unify with one another.
Our fractious, divisive and polarized political systems have not produced that unity—so we need to do it ourselves.
Our whole family—the human family—must tackle climate change together. How can we do that?
- We can educate ourselves about the climate, and talk about it with everyone we know.
- We can raise, explain and discuss the issue among the groups we already participate in—clubs, civic organizations, religious gatherings, our local and regional governments.
- We can join or form climate change coalitions locally, nationally and internationally, and ask our elected representatives to initiate Earth-friendly policies.
- We can support, vote for and advocate the public policies that truly address the problem.
- We can initiate unified, supportive collaboration with like-minded people.
- We can become active, aware and caring members of the human family who promote and build unity—and we can become active members of spiritual and religious communities, like the Baha’is, who actively seek real solutions and work to implement them.
When we marshal our efforts in unity, the Baha’i teachings point out, that powerful force will truly change the world and heal the planet:
It is my hope … that these many rivers, each flowing along in diverse and separated beds, will find their way back to the circumambient sea, and merge together and rise up in a single wave of surging oneness; that the unity of truth, through the power of God, will make these illusory differences to vanish away. This is the one essential: for if unity be gained, all other problems will disappear of themselves. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 29.