The CanWest News Service published a story on the “greening” of religion which briefly mentioned the Baha’i Faith, and that got me thinking a bit about the Baha’i take on environmental stewardship. The Baha’i Writings contain lots of insight about ecological principles and environmental stewardship. I prepared a workshop about ecology for the U of Ottawa CABS a while back, and I found lots of good resources in the compilation on the conservation of the earth’s resources and the Universal House of Justice’s response to a believer’s question about James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. Most relevant to this age of environmental crisis, perhaps, is Bahá’u’lláh’s admonition that “[i]f carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.”
Ottawa’s Baha’i community is heavily involved in environmental affairs; besides hosting conferences—such as the upcoming International Environment Forum conference in October—and participating in interfaith dialogue on the environment such as that pioneered by Faith and the Common Good—the group cited in the article above—its efforts have extended to the greening of our very own “sacred space”, the Ottawa Baha’i Centre, which was renovated in the summer of 2006 with energy efficiency in mind (compact fluorescents ftw). Waste is reduced by keeping dishes on hand for community functions such as Nineteen-day Feasts and Holy Days and banning the use of disposables. Recycling is a major commitment at the centre, which our local children’s class underlined by creating special decorations for the centre’s many recycling bins.
I can say all this and feel like it’s all good, but the fact is there’s always lots of room to improve when it comes to being “green”. Like the article says, there are so many ways to do a little bit more to be planet-friendly; install rain barrels, for example, or compost bins. Encourage the faithful to use alternative forms of transportation, such as bicycles or public transit (we’re lucky—the bus system is good in Ottawa). Install solar panels, or a grey-water system. One good source of inspiration, FYI, is the Otesha Project—I’ve always wanted to blog more about them. They go around promoting environmental and ecological stewardship through the adoption of healthy, sustainable lifestyles that reduce our dependence on wasteful and/or socially unjust practices. I bought their book at a Baha’i fireside and it’s full of awesome tips.