World Conservation Strategy for the 1990's
Perspectives on the second draft of "Caring for the World: A Strategy for Sustainability" presented to the General Assembly of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
The Baha'i International Community welcomes the opportunity to comment on the second draft of "Caring for the World: A Strategy for Sustainability." We applaud its vision and unifying spirit and are pleased to offer the following thoughts, as the General Assembly of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) considers a world conservation strategy for the 1990's.
In the view of the Baha'i International Community, the decade of the 1990's will be marked by two interrelated trends - one environmental and one social. On the one hand, man's impact on the environment is altering the atmosphere and climate, degrading the productive capacity of the planet, and threatening a significant portion of the biological diversity resulting from hundreds of millions of years of evolution. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly evident that the many local, national, and regional programs to stop and redress this process of destruction must be integrated into a world strategy, requiring widespread changes in values, attitudes and practices among the generality of humankind.
From the Baha'i perspective, the trends toward environmental disintegration and toward global integration are part of an organic process of social evolution leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race into a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet. Nothing short of a world federal system, guided by universally agreed upon and enforceable laws, will allow nation states to manage cooperatively an increasingly interdependent and rapidly changing world. Supported by a consciousness of world citizenship, this system must, in addressing the problems of economic relations and the sustainable use of natural resources from a global perspective, provide for the needs of all peoples. It must, at the same time, avoid the evils of excessive centralization, respecting the rich diversity of cultures and climates and engaging communities in making the decisions that affect their lives.
"Caring for the World" calls for a world ethic of sustainability, defining it as "an ethic that helps people cooperate with one another and nature for the survival and well-being of all individuals and the biosphere." We fully agree, believing further that such an ethic can be founded only on the unshakable consciousness of the oneness of humanity, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm. Acceptance of this one spiritual principle necessitates the transformation of attitudes and practices and implies an organic change in the structure of society.
Principles for the structure and functioning of such a world system were laid out over a hundred years ago in the writings of the Baha'i Faith, with a clear understanding that such dramatic changes in the structure of society would require equally dramatic changes in moral and spiritual values. Baha'is are convinced that no serious attempt to change behavior and set human affairs aright can ignore the role and significance of religion in the development of human civilization. The indispensability of religion to social order has repeatedly been demonstrated by its direct effect on laws and morality. Religion must now demonstrate its relevance to the contemporary world by calling attention to the moral and spiritual values which can transform attitudes and induce the will to sacrifice, where necessary, to reorient the world toward a just and sustainable future.
Further, the Baha'i International Community is encouraged by the increasing attention of the conservation movement to the role of religion, as evidenced by the creation of the World Wide Fund for Nature's Network on Conservation and Religion, of which it is a member. Moreover, we are inspired by the recognition of the importance of spiritual values in such declarations as the "Universal Code of Environmental Conduct" proclaimed by the Non-Governmental Organizations gathered in Bangkok for the recent NGO/Media Symposium on Communication for Environment.
Animated by Bahá'u'lláh's vision of the fundamental oneness of humanity and of a united world, Baha'is in more than 20,000 local communities throughout 166 independent nations, are engaged in a wide diversity of activities serving the spiritual, social and economic needs of all peoples. Deeply concerned with the environmental crisis, the Baha'i International Community has reinforced the long-standing Baha'i involvement in environmental issues through the establishment of an Office of the Environment and through efforts to mobilize Baha'is around the world to conserve the environment in ways that blend with the rhythm of life in their communities.
It is with great pleasure, therefore, that we support the recommendation, proposed in "Caring for the World: A Strategy for Sustainability," that an international coalition be formed to promote a world ethic of sustainability. It is our ardent hope that the leaders of thought will see the creation of this coalition as both a challenge and an opportunity to rise above their ideological and doctrinal differences to work together for the sake of humanity. The Baha'i International Community stands ready, through its Office of the Environment and its 151 affiliated national and regional Baha'i communities, to participate fully as a member of this proposed coalition.