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OK – worried about climate change, you’ve developed a more environmentally-aware lifestyle. You recycle, drive an electric car, eat organically, conserve resources. All good, right? Well, not so much.
We tend to accept the idea that when enough people eventually become environmentally conscious and change their behavior, we will reverse or at least stop climate change – but is that true? Sadly, the increasing scientific consensus says no:
The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] studying climate change.
With global emissions showing few signs of slowing … the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found. – “The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say – ‘there is no documented historic precedent’ for the scale of changes required, the body found,” by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, 7 October 2018.
This stark scientific analysis means we have to go beyond individual actions, find ways to unify with others across the globe, then collectively identify and implement the policies that will address such a massive worldwide problem – all of which points toward that “rapid and far-reaching transformation of human civilization” the IPCC scientists identify as the real solution. In other words, climate change compels us toward a more unified world.
As the Baha’i teachings point out, we all breathe the same atmosphere and live upon the same Earth. If there truly is no documented historical precedent for transformative unification around this crucial global issue, then we have to create one:
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. 191.
The Baha’i teachings also proclaim that humanity can only solve our massive environmental and social problems with deep, profound, and unprecedented solutions. The old policies, politics and parameters won’t work. This means, for the first time in human history, that our continuing existence depends on our ability to unify with one another. Our fractious political systems have failed to produce that unity, so we must do it ourselves:
The current economic order has promoted unsustainable patterns of consumption in pursuit of financial return. Its messaging has equated the status and value of the human being with the accumulation of wealth and luxury. And its logic of unlimited individual gain has enriched a privileged few while degrading the natural world and impoverishing masses of humanity. To varying degrees, far from advancing our highest values, the system before us rewards dishonesty, encourages corruption, and treats truth as a negotiable commodity.
A global order based on different understandings of human nature can be created. The proposition that human beings thrive when we cooperate, find fulfillment through harmonious and friendly relationships, and have transcendental longings that no stockpile of possessions can satisfy – these can be the foundations for serious and effective social systems. But efforts toward that end must draw on the very qualities they seek to promote. Noble aims must be sought through noble means. – “To Address Climate Change, Ensure Coherence Between Principle and Action,” the Baha’i International Community, statement issued to the United Nations Climate Summit, 20 September 2019.
Accordingly, we will need to inspire our whole family – the human family – to tackle climate change in a completely new way. As important as they are, individual actions, demonstrations, or effectuating policy changes in any one nation will not solve the problem. But the effort we put forth to unify humanity and collectively protect the planet can have an enormous impact, not just on individuals, but on entire groups, movements and nations.
So how do we begin? The global Baha’i community has a plan:
We must find unity, solidarity, and even opportunity in the common struggle increasingly faced in every corner of the world. We must draw on the insights of science and the universal values of the world’s great religions to inform our next steps, and to guide our current trajectory. For religion without science becomes pure superstition, and science without religion becomes the instrument of materialism. Transformation will result from the insights gleaned when both systems of knowledge are judiciously applied to the crises humanity faces—climate foremost among them. – Ibid.
To unite the spiritual power of religion and the material power of science, we can educate ourselves about the climate, and talk about it with everyone we know. We can raise, explain and urgently discuss the issue among the groups we already participate in – with friends, relatives, schools, clubs, civic organizations, religious gatherings, our local and regional governments. We can join or form climate change coalitions locally, nationally and internationally.
We can become active members of spiritual and religious communities, like the Baha’is, who actively seek global solutions and work to implement them. 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:
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.
None of us can achieve it alone. No amount of individual action will suffice. Each of us takes part in a larger community – and transforming our communities will lead the way to a much greater and more sustainable outcome. If our municipalities or countries or companies or governments behave irresponsibly, if they fail to understand the massive global challenge climate change represents, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for them to gradually come to a better understanding on their own. If we do our kind and loving duty as members of the human family, we’ll start today, urging and helping those people and organizations to realize and act on their role as the stewards of humanity’s future.