Collective action on behalf of the planet

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Saskatchewan oil well.  Photo by the late Alex Barta

Recently the Baha’i International Community released a statement to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  It’s quite down to earth and emphasizes the role of collective human thought and action, how this is to be found and focused.  Below I’ll share a few excerpts.   If you’ve been eager for something a little beyond science and geopolitical solutions, this is quite exciting!

The full text is available to read or for PDF download at:  BIC Statement on Climate Change for Paris

…A rich and deepening consciousness of the oneness of humankind is the only way that the obstacles inherent in dichotomies like rich/poor, north/south, developed/developing can be overcome. Designations of this kind are not without basis, for some countries do have more financial resources than others. But while such realities are not to be denied, neither should they be allowed to paralyze constructive action. Rather, they should be incorporated into the perspective that an integrated, sustainable and prosperous world will not be built by “us” working together with “them”, but by all of us working on behalf of everyone. …

…The principle of the oneness of humankind highlights the powerful connections found between raising the well-being of people and reversing environmental degradation. It is true that the ecological footprint of certain areas is far larger than that of others. This is a reality that will need to be addressed through both voluntary choice and governmental regulation. But equally important will be lifting billions out of poverty in ways that not only reduce harm to the environment, but actively improve it. Addressing social needs in the context of environmental ones responds to the pressing moral imperatives of climate change. But its rationale is highly pragmatic as well, for climate change calls for urgent action, and the dividends of such steps are greater the sooner they are taken.

Efforts of this kind also lay a foundation for valuing people and the planet as explicitly as profit has been. It is widely recognized today that the single-minded pursuit of financial gain has all too often led to the destruction of both natural systems and human lives. This legacy has left deep ambivalence about the role the corporate sector and market forces should play in sustainability efforts. Such questions are complex and not simply answered. But what seems imperative is that good faith efforts be integrated into a just global effort that avoids all forms of exclusion that breeds opposition, hostility, defensiveness, and distrust….

…What might this look like in practice? Consumption habits provide a helpful illustration. People might be open to recycling, for example, but live in areas without services such as drop-off centers or community composting. Without appropriate supports from government, then, possibilities for individual change are severely constrained. Institutional action to create an enabling environment is needed. Government has a vital role to enact the policies, laws, and regulations needed to support the desired actions and behaviors.

This framework, however, merely sets the stage. For ultimately it is individuals who take the initiative to adopt new patterns of action or continue with business as usual. Human behavior and personal decision-making are therefore critical to the success of sustainability efforts, particularly in the sphere of values, ethics, and morals. Such qualities might seem diffuse or somewhat “soft”, but changes in lifestyle will not be sustained if normative drivers of behaviors such as attitudes and beliefs do not shift as well. Consumption habits will not change if acquisition and the ongoing accumulation of luxury goods are seen as powerful symbols of success and importance. Building more sustainable patterns of life will therefore require continuing conversation about human nature and the prerequisites of well-being…

…Setting humanity on a more sustainable path to the future involves transformation in attitudes and actions. Reform of institutional structures will be critical …. Yet ultimately it is people, whatever their role or place in society, who implement the policies of a central administration or ignore them, who participate in well-conceived programs or continue patterns of life as before. We all have agency and none of our decisions are without consequence. Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will therefore require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world…

Chaco Canyon raven
Raven overlooking a scene at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico — a civilization which overstepped its available resources, and collapsed.

Author: Rising Over the Smoke

Rising Over the Smoke is me looking for larger patterns, hidden meanings in what goes on all around us. The world gets more conflicted and confused from one year to the next, or so it seems. Some days life feels fresh, open, energized, connected, others more nuanced, confused, distanced, lethargic. To me writing is a way of exploring my place, and perhaps that of others. I am Baha’i, thus my thoughts are affected by my faith. Beliefs include independent investigation of truth, equality of men and women, the essential harmony between science and religion, that there is one God from whom all the world’s religions spring, that we diverse humans are all of one family. The Baha’i Faith is unlike other existing world religions as it does not claim to be the only “true” path or religion. The Baha’i Faith acknowledges all sacred traditions and religions as equal.

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