New Attitudes and Actions Emerge from Climate Change Course

Fayyaz Rehman, a learner from Lahore, Pakistan, enrolled in the Wilmette Institute course on Climate Change (faculty, Christine Muller, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Laurent Mesbah) because he felt the topic is “the most critical issue of the contemporary world” and because lack of awareness of the importance of the topic is due to humanity’s lack of spiritual awakening.” He hoped to “be able to learn the spiritual dimensions of environmental conservation” so that he would be able to make “better plans and activities on environmental conservation for the schools’ kids and their families.” The first Pakistani to enroll in the Climate Change course, Fayyaz proved to be a conscientious learner, with a deeply spiritual approach to life. What did the “after” look like? What did he learn in the course? Here are some of his insights:

This course has opened newer dimensions of climate change to me. Though I have been involved in gaining knowledge, arranging discussions, and imparting education on this subject, yet I was missing the holistic approach about how our inner states form our outer actions. When we study the world problems from this perspective, we come to know that a human, material mindset lacks enrichment and fulfillment; thus to fill this vacuum we try to accumulate the maximum and to have “over-consumerist” practices. To live a wise and just life, we need to cleanse our inner side through a spiritual process. Bahá’í teachings provide the most comprehensive, developed, and practical ways to look at the matters/issues in their realistic and holistic forms and offer appropriate/practical ways to efficiently deal with/address those.

Speaking about how he managed to take time away from his “multitasking” to work on his goals in the course, he described the insights he gained:

I am delighted to report that, at the end of the course, I have gained a much better insight about the subject of climate change than I previously had. To me, the most important aspects of such learning include:

  • There is no dispute between religion and science; rather those are the two complimentary dimensions of the subject/ matter.
  • The human spiritual dimension widens one’s ordinary consciousness and helps in looking at the natural phenomena/life in their realistic perspectives.
  • The most critical issues faced by our world are caused by human unrealistic action under the materialistic (spiritual-less) approach.
  • If we fail to understand realistically such critical issues and act positively, all humanity and life on the planet are going to face severe repercussions.
  • Spiritual principles, as expressed by all religions and as presented by the Bahá’í religion in their most developed and practical forms, are the wonderful options we have to understand realistically subjects related to human life and to deal with them practically.
  • Due to the lack of spiritual wisdom, many of the environmental subjects including bio-fuels, nuclear energy, carbon capture/storage, carbon tax versus cap and trade, and hydraulic fracturing are critical and thereby need to be properly assessed and addressed.
  • The most critical of all is the denial of climate change by a group of people and the use of pseudoscience by them to deceive a large number of people by using the platform of the media.
  • Humanity has fewer options and little time to rightly understand our status as stewards on the planet and to critically check our lifestyles to efficiently perform this role.
  • The best way we have for doing so is to study the Bahá’í principles and implement those in our lives being the best spiritual options in their most advanced forms.

Fayyaz goes on to say that, by posting his comments in the course’s forums, he has gained skills in expressing his views and hopes to choose wisely in selecting relevant materials for modules he is planning for youth. More important, he is grateful for a deeper understanding of spiritual principles undergirding his understanding of climate change. Then Fayyaz said something that every teacher longs to hear:

Truly speaking, the course has not ended for me. I think, and suggest to the participants, that they go through the course at least twice more because there are dimensions, links, and side materials that can never be grasped through one-time participation. It is an ocean—the justice we can do it is to take it as a starting place and give it at least six more months to deeply study, fully grasp, and then properly implement in our lives.

I have planned at least five ways to use the knowledge gained from the course in my practical actions during the next twelve months. (1) I will propose to the Executive Council of the Green Living Association (GLA) that it adopt climate change as the topic of its yearly campaign and that it launch the first activity in October 2017; (2) This campaign will start with Climate Quest, which will have modules in four categories for students from preschool to grade 12; (3) GLA has launched Greenways for providing economical services to make individual’s lifestyles environmentally friendly (with home/office solar systems and in 2018 with Green Printing on recycled paper); (4) My colleagues and I will meet with Pakistani paper suppliers to find green (non-tree, recycled) paper; and (5) I will work to establish a forum in Pakistan to develop young Pakistanis as peaceful citizens who have a spirit of contributing to society and the world in a positive and productive manner.

Fayyaz’s final words came after he submitted his Learning Self-Assessment at the end of the course and expressed his profuse thanks to the faculty Christine Muller, Arthur Lyon Dahl, and Laurent Mesbah and to Robert Stockman, the Institute’s Director, for their “contributions in lighting the way for humanity to walk through”:

Thanks for your valuable words. During this course I benefited from the noble Bahá’í ideas and principles and brought some improvement to myself because the slate of my mind was clean and prepared to write something valuable on it. 

I believe one of the reasons why humanity is so slow in progressing toward peace and sustainable development is its human-colored lenses to view the outside world, which force us to question the presenter instead of enjoying the beauties in a presentation. And I sincerely wish to raise the value of being impartial and just for our personal development and for the development of our societies.

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If you are interested in climate change and related topics, you will want to check out Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind. The course begins on September 10 and runs through October 28, 2017. Click here to learn more and sign up for the course.

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