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As a scientist, I have watched in terror as warnings from those who study our world’s land-based and ocean ecosystems have grown increasingly dire.
Yet the world seems to blithely go on its way in a fossil fuel-drunken haze. The Baha’i teachings address the scientific warnings this way:
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 286.
We can trace the natural and unnatural problems which seem to be coming to a head to the manifest truth of this statement from Baha’u’llah, made over 150 years ago.
Only now I am afraid it’s not only the “peace and security” that is at stake, it’s our very survival as species. According to the current rate of environmental degradation it would seem that human beings have very little time to address this before it is too late.
In all our deliberations about climate change, and the rapid wholesale destruction of the habitats that support our very existence, what seems neglected is the fact that all these issues require very complex and collective action of all humans on this planet to resolve. Relying on periodically-negotiated international agreements, while a good thing, will not suffice.
Here’s my conclusion: exaggerated individualism will drive us to extinction. If we want to survive as a species, we need to unite.
We see this type of atomization embodied in our overly-compartmentalized suburban living spaces, materialistic social life and automobile-centric transportation systems. We see it, too, in the rejection of all science-based viewpoints. So for example, conclusions drawn from a large scientific consensus are rejected by some as ‘elitist’ conspiracies upon which outright lies and quackery are permitted to cast doubt. As a whole our country doesn’t do that…some of the politicians do…so I think we need to be careful and say” “some”….and not all.
The ideal of ‘rugged’ individualism resonates deeply in the American psyche. The notion of the self-sufficient homesteader, the iconoclast who challenges the establishment, actually defines American-ness. It has driven a strain of American antipathy towards internationalism, from George Washington’s famous admonition against foreign entanglements to the rejection of the League of Nations and post World War I isolationism.
The American nation, though, did accede to internationalism during and after World War II, as a justified crusade against what was seen as the threat of exaggerated communalism embodied in fascism, and later communism. The end of the Cold War brought the ideal of American exceptionalism—which meant that we wanted the international rule of law for other nations, but not ourselves. This manifested itself in the visions of a Pax-Americana given by the Project for a New American Century. The upshot of course, easily predictable, was that none of the other great world powers saw fit to abide by the rule of international law either, thus destabilizing global affairs.
Now, though, time is running out very quickly. The Earth cannot sustain humanity’s protracted adolescence any longer, nor continue to operate as a disconnected, dis-unified mélange of warring fiefdoms. We have to grow up, and now, or we will face great difficulties. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, presciently observed over a generation ago:
The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. – The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.
The rule of absolute national sovereignty, in lieu of the global rule of law, threatens humanity’s existence—but the Baha’i teachings say that “… the fetish of absolute national sovereignty is on its way to extinction.” – The Universal House of Justice, April 2002, To the World’s Religious Leaders, p. 4.
We face the obvious problem of international anarchy and its ultimate fruit of war, which the unfettered autonomy of nation-states inevitably bring. However, in addition to this, the problems of gross economic disparity and the distortion of natural resource utilization and pollution plague us all and threaten the planet’s environment. In addition, the fact of globalized movement of goods and capital without the globalized movement of labor, or the rule of uniform labor and environmental laws, has destroyed or stagnated the growth of the politically-stabilizing middle class, while permitting the growth of absurd amounts of wealth by a very small privileged superrich class.
Additionally, this economic trend has led to the off-shoring of pollution, so we find an attendant massive shift in environmental costs from the developed countries. This is epitomized by the current share of global mercury production.
It should be obvious that one of the important competitive advantages of the human species is our ability for collective action and unity. On this basis, humanity has built successive—and successful—stages of civilization. However, we have now arrived at a state of technology and population density that creates a dire need for a single coherent global civilization, along with its attendant mechanisms for global governance.
What we need is the kind of global governance articulated so clearly over 30 years ago in the Promise of World Peace statement, issued by the democratically-elected worldwide institution established by the pen of Baha’u’llah—the Universal House of Justice. For a more detailed analysis of some of these issues, please see the statement of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015: Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together
What’s the absolute best thing any one person can do to avert the tragedy we’re headed for? In your capacity as a citizen of the world, do your absolute best to bring about the global unity the Baha’i teachings advocate.