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Arthur Lyon Dahl, “Navigating the Storm: The Transition to Sustainability”

Arthur Lyon Dahl, “Navigating the Storm: The Transition to Sustainability”
The world is on a very unsustainable trajectory and, while the news is filled with the possibilities of economic crises, mass movements of refugees and migrants, climate change disasters, threatened species, health impacts of pollutants, food crises, and other symptoms of unsustainability, it is hard to imagine what they all imply together other than disaster. The only safe prediction is that the years and decades ahead will not be smooth sailing. Placing all this in a broad systems perspective, we shall look at the concepts from science and Bahá’í principles that can help us to see that these are all symptoms of a world in transition towards a better future. They teach us that we must break free of the old ways of doing things, and can already start building, from the community up, the elements of a new world order based on ethical principles. The expected adoption of the post-2015 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals at the UN at the end of September shows that all governments now recognize that we must transform our world, supported by the Pope’s recent encyclical, and hopefully by the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. This convergence of global aspirations with the Bahá’í vision will open many opportunities for constructive learning and change as we face the inevitable challenges in the years ahead. See a summary of the talk here.

Arthur Dahl, PhD

President, International Environment Forum

I have always been a Bahá’í, loved nature since I was taught about it in children’s classes, and set my goal to become a Bahá’í pioneer at the conference launching the Ten-year Crusade in 1953. I was finishing my Ph.D. in marine biology in 1969 when the Santa Barbara oil spill covered my research material and I was doing pollution studies by default. While doing coral reef research at the Smithsonian Institution, I lectured at the first Earth Day in Washington, DC in 1970, and represented the Bahá’í International Community at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. I was finally able to pioneer to New Caledonia in 1974, becoming the Regional Ecological Adviser to all the Pacific Island Countries at the Pacific Community, where I organized the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. I then joined the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya, as Deputy Director of the Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme, before serving in the Secretariat of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to prepare Agenda 21, the global action plan for sustainable development, and then coordinating the UN System-Wide Earthwatch from Geneva, Switzerland, where I am still based. I have been President of the International Environment Forum, a Bahá’í-inspired organization for environment and sustainability, since 1997, and am also on the governing board of another Bahá’í-inspired organization, ebbf – Ethical Business Building the Future. I teach sustainability in several academic programmes, participate in international research projects on values-based indicators and education for sustainability, and have been Visiting Professor at the University of Brighton, UK, and the European Center for Peace and Development in Belgrade, Serbia. I have been a consultant to the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and other international organizations. Among my many many scientific papers and books are: “Unless and Until: A Bahá’í Focus on the Environment”, “The Eco Principle: Ecology and Economics in Symbiosis,” “In Pursuit of Hope: A Guide for the Seeker” and (with two co-authors) “Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century,” based on proposals that won the New Shape Prize of the Global Challenges Foundation in 2018. My personal web site includes a complete CV and bibliography.See Faculty Bio


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