I read this thing:
(It's a bit long, by the way.)
I was wondering. What would be your take on it, from a "Baha'i" point
of view? I find it interesting it mentioned about religion being so
I think you need to ask specific questions which come to you when you
read this. Is it about the Baha'i view about the environment? Here's
a link to a paper inspired by the Baha'i Writings by the Baha'i
International Community (BIC) about conservation and the sustainable
Hope this helps.
Well I was just more curious about how much of the stuff in there
disagrees and to what extent with the Baha'i viewpoint of things.
has the environmental issue as the focus, it also touches on how it
to other sorts of issues such as social and religious ones and those
where I'm curious as to how much agreement there would be.
If you want more specific questions and comments, here I go. I'll be
some pieces of the talk.
For example, it mentions "genuinely progressive tax for the rich and
income support for the poor" as being important. Is this something
agree with the Baha'i idea? (I think so, I think something along those
mentioned in the Baha'i religion.) It also mentions "a parallel
objective has got
to be to move beyond our runaway consumerism and hyperventilating
and doesn't Baha'i Faith abhor such rampant consumerism and
The talk also "we have channeled our desires, our insecurities, our
demonstrate our worth and our success, wanting to fit in and also to
out increasingly into material things, into bigger homes and fancier
and grander appliances and exotic vacations, but at some level we know
that we are slighting the most precious things of all, things that
truly worthwhile." and doesn't Baha'i Faith also again say that the
things are not the things that truly make life worthwhile? Also, other
would seem to carry the same message, too.
Also, he mentions about religion, and how important it is: "It's
absent from the book. I talk at several places about the extraordinary
of religious organizations and to driving major changes and reaching
a way that no other institutions in our society can. Indeed, I did
talk about it in
my talk when I talked about young people and religious organizations
two places that I see the most hopeful changes occurring today. We
a conference at Yale on religion and ecology. We produced for that
conference I think a major film called "Renewal" which goes through a
series of vignettes with different religious organizations taking up
environmental issue and it begins with a group of evangelicals going
inspect mountaintop removal and has them commenting on this
destruction of the creation as being something that's very different
what their religious views call for in our society. So I'm with you.
If I didn't
say it enough I apologize."
However there are also some bits of which I'd not be sure of the
of. E.g. this,
"83 percent of Americans say that society is not focused on the right
81 percent say that we're too focused on shopping and spending, 88
say that we're too materialistic. If these numbers are even half
right, there's a
powerful base on which to build change. Our bookstores now are full of
about how to take back your life, how to cope with spiritual hunger in
of plenty, how to overcome nature deficit disorder, how to live more
more slowly, and of course the internet is full of advice on how to do
and more. Psychological studies show that materialism is indeed toxic
happiness and that more income and more possessions don't lead to
increases in our sense of well-being and in the satisfaction we have
lives. What does make us happy are warm personal relationships and
giving rather than getting." Does the last bit about what makes people
to any extent with Baha'i viewpoints?
He also mentions stuff about the connection-to-nature issue, which is
touched on the Baha'i paper you mentioned, though I'm not 100% sure
much or little his viewpoint would agree with the Baha'i paradigm
issue, so how much do you think it would?:
"I think things will move toward a localization of life. I think we
advocating trying to strengthen our communities, putting more
There is very disturbing data on people's exposure to nature and to
natural world. National Park visitation is down, the amount of time
are spending in connecting with nature is down. So we need programs
like No Child Left Inside and begin to reconnect people with the
world and let nature nurture. So I think on all three dimensions,
our communities and our relationship to our communities, building up
social capital, having more time with our families for leisure, for
lots of all
the things you can do with leisure. We're just hyperactive and
today. So I would look for a slower world, a more gentle world, a
where it was more localized, and people had much stronger and more
resonant connections with the natural world."
Sorry it took me a while to write back. I've been away for a while.
The principle of social justice; of the elimination of the extremes of
wealth and poverty; is a central theme in the Baha'i Writings.
Huquq'u'llah is actually a graduated taxation. Here's what 'Abdu'l-
Baha says about graduated taxation:
"The rich should be merciful to the poor, but with their free-will,
not with force. Should it 342 be with force it would be useless. It
should be according to law and not by violence, so that through a
general law every one might know his duty. For example, a rich person
has a large income and a poor person a small income. To put it in a
more explicit way: a rich person in this case must be exempt from
taxes. If the poor person gives one-tenth of his income and the rich
person one-tenth of his income, it will be unjust. Thus in this way a
law should be made that the poor person who has only ten kilos and
needs them all for his necessary food, be exempt from paying taxes.
But if the rich person, who has ten thousand kilos, pays one-tenth or
two-tenths taxes on his products, it will not be a hardship to him.
For example, if he gives two thousand kilos, he will still have eight
thousand kilos. If a person has fifty thousand kilos, even though he
gives ten thousand kilos he will still have forty thousand kilos.
Therefore, laws must be made in this way. .."
(Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 341)
It also mentions "a parallel
> objective has got
> to be to move beyond our runaway consumerism and hyperventilating
> and doesn't Baha'i Faith abhor such rampant consumerism and
Yes. If you search for "rampant materialism" in the Baha'i Writings
you get several hits for that exact phrase. It's one of the ills of
today's society along with racial prejudice and moral laxity.
> The talk also "we have channeled our desires, our insecurities, our
> need to
> demonstrate our worth and our success, wanting to fit in and also to
> out increasingly into material things, into bigger homes and fancier
> and grander appliances and exotic vacations, but at some level we know
> that we are slighting the most precious things of all, things that
> make life
> truly worthwhile." and doesn't Baha'i Faith also again say that the
> things are not the things that truly make life worthwhile?
Yes. They do. Here's an example of a quote which says this:
"Man is, in reality, a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the
spirit is he truly happy. This spiritual longing and perception
belongs to all men alike, and it is my firm conviction that the
Western people possess great spiritual aspiration.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 72)
.. I talk at several places about the extraordinary
> of religious organizations and to driving major changes and reaching
> people in
> a way that no other institutions in our society can.
Yes. Absolutely. This is from a One Common Faith, a document
written by the Universal House of Justice:
"...Throughout history, the primary agents of spiritual development
have been the great religions. For the majority of the earth’s people,
the scriptures of each of these systems of belief have served, in
Bahá’u’lláh’s words, as “the City of God”, 1 a source of a k
that totally embraces consciousness, one so compelling as to endow the
sincere with “a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind”. ...
No other force in existence has been able to elicit from people
comparable qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and self-discipline.
At the social level, the resulting moral principles have repeatedly
translated themselves into universal codes of law, regulating and
elevating human relationships. Viewed in perspective, the major
religions emerge as the primary driving forces of the civilizing
process. To argue otherwise is surely to ignore the evidence of
I need to stop there for now.
All best wishes,
Hmm. So it would seem there are many points of agreement. I'm
curious about a couple things:
1. so what's the difference between a "graduated" and "progressive"
2. I'm curious about that statement by Abdu'l-Baha, "...and it is my
firm conviction that the Western people possess great spiritual
But it seems the West is mired in materialism. What gives here?
<<curious about a couple things:
1. so what's the difference between a "graduated" and "progressive"
I think they're both different words for the same thing.
<<2. I'm curious about that statement by Abdu'l-Baha, "...and it is my
firm conviction that the Western people possess great spiritual
But it seems the West is mired in materialism. What gives here?>>
There are many in the west who are "mired in materialism" and there
are many people in the West who are very spiritual people. It's not
good to generalize. To understand 'Abdu'l-Baha's statement you really
need to read the whole passage the quote comes from. Here are a few
snippets of it:
"In the East it is often said that the people of the West are
without spirituality, but I have not found it thus. Thank God, I see
and feel that there is much spiritual aspiration among the Western
peoples, and that in some cases their spiritual perception is even
keener than among their Eastern brothers...
... As for the spiritual perfections they are man's birthright and
belong to him alone of all creation. Man is, in reality, a spiritual
being, and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy. This
spiritual longing and perception belongs to all men alike, and it is
my firm conviction that the Western people possess great spiritual
It is my fervent prayer that the star of the East will shed its
brilliant rays on the Western world, and that the people of the West
may arise in strength, earnestness, and courage, to help their
brethren in the East.
(`Abdu'l-Baha: Paris Talks*, Pages: 70-72)
In essence, we're all spiritual beings, and it doesn't matter where we
I find a host of quotes in the Baha'i Writings that appear to me to
indicate that the advance of civilization is caused by indirect and
direct human reactions to Revelations from God. However I would like
to see some evidence that either validates or invalidates this
proposition. I'm sure the further back we go in time the more
difficult it would be to find such evidence but at least we might find
some validation in researching the Bible, Qu'ran and Baha'i Writings?
Thanks for your opinions,
The article that you reference was written by James Gustave
Speth, who is the Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental
Studies at Yale University. I found many of his suggestions for
restructuring of the economy counterintuative.
He operates under the premise that all economic activity is
destructive to the environment. Some economic activity he says is
more destructive and some economic activity is less destructive but
all economic activity is destructive. He is alarmed at the
quadrupling of the world economy over the past 60 years and believes
that continued world-wide economic growth with ruin the planet.
Consequently, in his thesis Dr Speth voices contempt for the profit
motive of Corporations who work on behalf of shareholders and who, he
mistakenly believes, do not work on behalf of the common good. He
then proposes what he calls moving into a “post-growth society” and
ending, even reversing, the grow of the overall economy.
I can find nothing in the Bahá’í Writings that would suggest tha
economic activity is necessarily destructive to the environment,
indeed, there are many real world examples to the contrary, nor any
indication that Bahá’u’lláh suggested that there is an inherent lim
to the amount of economic growth that human beings can enjoy.
Dr. Speth speculates that the current level of economic activity
is not necessary because overall satisfaction in life does not
necessarily increase with an increase in the acquisition of more
I would ask: What about the hundred of millions of people in the
world who want for food? If the “stuff” we are talking about is food
wouldn’t having more such “stuff” increase their overall satisfaction
in life. What about the hundred of millions of people in the world who
want for electricity? If the “stuff” we are talking about is
electricity wouldn’t having more such “stuff” increase their overall
satisfaction in life. What about the hundred of millions of people in
the world who want for transportation? If the “stuff” we are talking
about is motorized transportation wouldn’t having more such “stuff”
increase their overall satisfaction in life. What about the hundred of
millions of people in the world who want for . . . Well, I hope you
get my drift.
What is economic activity after all? What exactly are these
corporations that are making all of these profits for which Dr Speth
has so much contempt? Are they not collections of individuals that
come together voluntarily in a contractual agreement to supply the
public (customers) with something that it needs or wants, i.e., food,
shelter, transportation, communications, clothing, medical care, etc?
If a corporation does not supply something that the public wants or
needs it ceases to exist; it goes out of business and has no profits
to pass on to the shareholders.
Dr Speth’s proposal to “save the planet” is to decrease the above-
mentioned economic activity, (i.e., have the world voluntarily submit
to perpetual economic recession or even depression) while he naively
believes that all of the above mentioned products and services upon
which humans depend for there physical wants and needs will magically
appear out of thin air without the concomitant “economic activity.”
Here are his list of proposals:
1) “They include measures such as more leisure time to enjoy life
shorter work week and longer vacations”
If you decrease economic activity you, by definition, will
decrease the amount of available gainful employment and, indeed,
people will have more leisure time and longer vacations. Ask those
who are currently out of work during this recession (which, again, is
Dr Speth’s perpetual proposal) how much they are enjoying their
2) “greater labor protections and job security and benefits”
How can there possibly be greater labor protection, job security
and benefits concomitant with decreased economic activity, i.e., a
recession or depression, which is Dr Speth's proposal?
4) “restrictions on advertising”
Restricting advertising will perhaps clean up the roadway but it
would put many of the above businesses out of business since not
advertising would result a severe drop in sales.
5) “strong social and environmental provisions in trade agreements”
Without the economic activity, which produces goods in the first
place, what would there be to trade?
6) “rigorous environmental and consumer protection”
These already exist, at least in the United States.
7) “Greater economic and social equality including a genuinely
progressive tax for the rich and greater income support for the poor.”
There would, indeed, under Dr. Speth’s plan be greater economic
and social equality, since everyone would be equally poor. Without a
robust economy, without corporations and their profits where would
these “rich” people with “greater incomes” come from that they migh
be taxed on behalf of the poor? Wealth has to first be created before
it can be distributed. Decreased economic activity decreased wealth
creation increased poverty.
8) “Major spending on public sector services and environmental
With decreased economic activity where is the money going to come
from for “public sector services and environmental amenities.”
9) “A huge investment in education and skills and new technologies.”
Again, with decreased economic activity where is the money going
to come from to pay teachers and invest in new technologies. Perhaps
Dr. Speth will volunteer to teach for free.
10) “Initiatives to halt population growth.”
This is counterintuitive, sociology has shown that affluent
countries voluntarily drop their birth rates and poor societies,
paradoxically, have high birth rates. Remember, Dr Speth’s proposal
is to decrease world-wide economic activity thereby making everyone
11) “Measures that guarantee good, well-paying jobs.”
Again, this is counterintuitive in that guaranteed, good, well-
paying jobs can only exist in societies that have robust economies.
So, on the one hand Dr. Speth wants the world to voluntarily enter a
state of perpetual recession, yet on the other guarantee everyone a
good, well-paying job!
12) “Measures that provide for universal health care and alleviate the
devastating effects of mental illness.”
Again, with decreased economic activity where is the money going
to come from to pay for universal health care? Perhaps Dr. Speth will
volunteer to become a Doctor, nurse, pharmacist or hospital
administrator and work for free.
14) “Measures that ensure care and companionship for the chronically
ill and incapacitated.”
This traditionally has been the role of the extended family, but
without the support of an extended family only a robust economy can
foot the bill for long-term care. Perhaps Dr. Speth will volunteer to
become a dietician, a nurse’s aide or a nursing home administrator and
work for free.
In the Bahá’í Faith everyone is told to engage in gainful
employment and the Faith goes so far as to say that “Work is
Worship.” In the real world, present economy all work is done, either
individually or within a corporation, to provide goods and/or services
which one’s fellow human beings wants or needs. If your fellow
human beings don’t want or need what you or your corporation produce
you are out of business and must find something else to do for gainful
Dr. Speth would have us collectively reduce the amount of
“Worship” that we engage in, under the misguided notion that too much
“Worship” will destroy the environment.
The problem here however would seem to be that you're saying
that "no growth everyone is poor". But that seems to me to be
limited to thinking in terms of the current type of economic
systems and paradigms, which needs growth to run. But why is
that the only way one can possibly have an economy? Why can't
one have an economy that doesn't require growth, a system that
doesn't need to keep increasing its store of wealth just to have
wealth? Especially if we were to reduce the population growth to
zero, so the population of the planet was stable, then there'd be
no increase in demand for, e.g. food for example, and so eventually
we could stop cutting down trees to make room for farms and
You mention that getting more stuff isn't necessarily "bad", using
e.g. starving people getting more food as an example. But there
they need that food. Yet beyond the amount of food needed for
health given their lifestyle's nutritional requirement (more food for
more physically active lifestyles, less for less so), one does not
need additional food. Thus "more stuff" is better _up to a point_.
The problem is going BEYOND that point, and especially going
way beyond it. We see for many things there is a sweet spot,
such that going over or going under that level leads to harm.
Then there's the other type of "getting more stuff" like getting
giant gas-hogging SUVs, getting big private jets, etc. If SUVs
are necessary for doing some kind of job, then maybe they're
acceptable, but to drive them round the town is absurd and
wasteful and definitely over the limit and so a "no-no". And of
course there's a whole spectrum of types of "stuff" in between
with their own levels of necessity, situations in which they
are necessary, and reasonable bounds. It's not black and
white with a black and white or even a single answer. Yet some
things are clear, such as that infinite growth on a finite planet
What is your take on the ecologic question, in light of the
finitude ofthe Earth (a proven fact beyond a doubt) and in
light of the damage that excess causes to its systems
(which we all depend on)?