For the past two years, the Baha’i Chair for Studies in Development at Devi Ahilya University, Indore, has been organizing a series of webinars on the social and economic impact of the pandemic on India’s most vulnerable populations.
At its most recent gathering, the Chair brought together academics and economists to explore the nature of transformation that would be required in the systems of society and collective understanding in order to bring humanity into greater balance with the natural world.
“In the long term, efforts to address the multi-dimensional and complex issues related to climate change will need to go beyond technical solutions and beyond even strategies for mitigation. Rather, they must enhance consciousness about a new set of fundamental values central to addressing climate change, such as the principles of the oneness of humankind, justice, and the stewardship of the earth’s natural resources,” said Arash Fazli, Assistant Professor and Head of the Baha’i Chair, at the gathering.
Ashwini Hingne, of the World Resources Institute, stated: “So far, what we’ve seen is that the conversation [on climate action] has largely been top-down and technology centered. Conversations have largely focused on building an economic case for moving in the right direction and have led to a slow political process, with private sector interests at the forefront.
“However, what is needed is a change in the discourse on climate action that acknowledges and integrates more meaningfully the interconnectedness of our lives, nature, and the effects of the economic activities that we undertake.”
Participants discussed how any attempt to achieve such a change in the discourse on climate action would need to address the deep-rooted assumption underlying political, economic, and social structures — that human beings are incorrigibly selfish.
“We don’t have the luxury of making these assumptions about human beings. … We have to believe that people are capable of a different value system free of egocentrism,” said Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow of the Centre for Environment and Development at the Ashoka Trust.
Discussions highlighted that such a value system would promote universal participation in climate action and see capacity in human beings and institutions for transcending differences in order to make collective decisions for the common good.
Reflecting on the event, Dr. Fazli draws on insights from the Baha’i teachings that highlight consultation and cooperation among individuals, communities, and institutions as essential for addressing the pressing issues facing humanity.
“Whether mobilized through agencies of the state or through voluntary action in communities, people in local settings, communities, government, academia, and the private sector need to work in concert to identify achievable milestones and context-specific solutions to their challenges,” he said.
The webinar hosted by the Indore Baha’i Chair can be viewed here.