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…let us strive like flowers of the same divine garden to live together in harmony. Even though each soul has its own individual perfume and color, all are reflecting the same light, all contributing fragrance to the same breeze which blows through the garden, all continuing to grow in complete harmony and accord. Become as waves of one sea, trees of one forest, growing in the utmost love, agreement and unity. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 24.
The Baha’i writings, filled with beautiful organic metaphors, encourage us all to become trees of one forest. When you think about it, and even when you look at it from a scientific point of view, that metaphor contains an enormous amount of spiritual wisdom.
In forest ecology, we now know that a mature old-growth forest fosters enormous biological diversity, which supports thousands of species and sustains the life of living creatures not only within, but far beyond the borders of the forest itself. A healthy forest generates breathable air, stores carbon, produces nutrients, purifies water, maintains soils, provides habitat for a wide variety of species and even germinates and sustains rare plants that can become cures for disease. An amazing meta-organism, a healthy, highly intricate and biodiverse forest ecosystem represents the apex of nature’s synergy and interdependence.
We human beings, all of us trees in the forest of humanity, have a similar ecosystem. We rely on one another for our sustenance and continued existence. None of us could exist entirely alone, outside the wide web of human society. We each produce what others need. Our healthy growth and development depends on the health of the community around us. Like a thriving forest biome, worldwide human ecology links together in a mutually supportive, advantageous and interdependent chain of life.
But instead of recognizing the scientific and spiritual facts of our interdependence and unity, we continue to violate the deep connections that relate us to each other. We wage war on one another, whether with weapons or with wealth. We artificially separate ourselves by skin color and social class. We draw arbitrary borders and boundaries across the Earth and then make them centers of conflict. We employ and enforce materialistic, consumption-based economic systems that enrich a few and impoverish many. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we continue to wage war on the natural world, extracting the Earth’s fossil fuels and burning them, creating a hotter and hotter planet and gradually destroying our own home.
These self-defeating behavior patterns do not have to continue. We have the power to change them.
Now, with clear scientific proof from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their most recent report, we know that humanity’s collective path must lead in a different direction, toward a sustainable, healthy environment. But the inability or unwillingness of contending national governments and profit-making multinational corporations to chart a path toward an environmentally responsible human future has become increasingly clear.
The climate change crisis clearly demonstrates that we have reached the end of the usefulness and utility of nationalism. Unless we curtail the dominant global paradigm of unfettered national sovereignty and find ways to regulate and control unbridled market-based capitalism, the Earth and its peoples will suffer terribly.
We can best and most effectively address our world-encircling environmental challenges, truly global in nature, only with a global approach. We must act, and act quickly. We have no other choice.
As a species, Baha’is believe, we can take action in our collective best interests, stand and grow together like trees in one forest, and oppose the winds of despair blowing across the face of the Earth–by hearing, considering and actively supporting Baha’u’llah’s call for a unified world:
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men… Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth…. It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence…
Please God, the peoples of the world may be led, as the result of the high endeavors exerted by their rulers and the wise and learned amongst men, to recognize their best interests. How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?…
The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective. I beseech God, exalted be His glory, that He may graciously awaken the peoples of the earth, may grant that the end of their conduct may be profitable unto them, and aid them to accomplish that which beseemeth their station. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 215.