Wilmette Institute Courses Spark Long-Distance Accompaniment

The Universal House of Justice frequently urges Bahá’ís to make accompaniment a regular part of learning activities and the development of capable individuals in their local communities and clusters. The Wilmette Institute often sees long-distance accompaniment in its courses when one learner in a course reaches out to another to provide support and encouragement across the miles. The most recent example is John Herbert’s talk on climate change in Gainesville, Florida, USA, published in our February 2016 issue, prompting the letter to the editor (below) from Peter Haug, who lives in Colfax, Washington, USA. A check of our electronic files reminds us that Peter, when he was taking the course on Climate Change inspired Rebecca Gonzales Gilleran, from Asheville, North Carolina, USA, recently retired and just back from a trip to Ecuador, to sign up for Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind so that she could link her leisure travel and interest in sustainability to her Bahá’í ideals and activities. And so a chain of support and accompaniment stretches almost from coast to coast in the United States (from Colfax, Washington, to Asheville, North Carolina, and from Gainesville, Florida, back to Washington State). Here is Peter’s letter to the editor.—THE EDITORS

“First, your write-up of John Herbert’s activities and his talk inspired me to share some of the things I am working on with respect to climate change and sustainability. I thought his talk was spot on, not only with the scientific information he presented, but also the way he presented it as a Bahá’í. I particularly like the way he emphasized that he was not representing the Faith but speaking only as an individual presenting certain applicable principles from the Faith.

PeterHaug“Bahá’u’lláh has written (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 106: 213): ‘Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.’ This is what I have become focused on, as apparently so has Mr. Herbert. From my half-century (including a two decade hiatus) perspective of trying to decipher how ecosystems function and how our activities impact those functions, I have come to believe that our changing climate, driving unnumbered and incomprehensible ramifications, is the most profound catastrophe humankind has faced.

“Again in Gleanings (16: 39) we read: ‘Witness how the world is being afflicted with a fresh calamity every day. Its tribulation is continually deepening.’ This is followed by (104: 209–10): ‘O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity is following you, and that grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight. By My beauty! All your doings hath My Pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.’

“Now, I couldn’t put those quotations in a newspaper column—at least not yet—but I am working up to it. The few responses I have had to columns and letters to the editor have been positive. Even the editor tossed a few compliments my way. Those columns, however, have enabled me to get a message out more broadly. In addition, last winter I presented a six-class evening course on climate change through the Pullman, Washington, Parks and Recreation Department. This winter I was scheduled to do one on sustainable development, but only one person signed up. However, I have been able to give talks at two local libraries and three service organizations, and I am scheduled to do a two-class presentation through the Community Colleges of Spokane, Washington, in April. Finally, I have been working with the local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, although I have made it clear that I am not into lobbying. The local chairman is a Quaker who has very favorable things to say about the Bahá’ís. The population mass here is much smaller than in Gainesville, but we do have two state universities close by.

“My point is that I continue to explore possibilities for reaching out to the broader thinking community. I hope to start blogging soon with the long-term goal of turning the blog essays into a book. I am seeking help from some local Bahá’ís to set up the blog and get started. I hope to title it ‘A Climate of Hope’ and dwell on the unpleasant stuff only to construct a launching pad for presenting principles and ideals central to the Faith, thus to the ultimate redemption of the situation we have got ourselves into.

“Here is a bare-bones outline of where I have gone so far with a book. A tentative title is ‘Climate of Hope: A Harmony of Science and Religion.’ It would have six main sections, with a possible seventh, as follows:

“Understanding Climate Change: History, Background, Information
“Interrelationships, Risks, Ramifications: A Systems Approach
“Adaptation: Adjusting to the Inconceivable
“Mitigation: Buying Time
“Sustainable Choices: Options for the Long Haul
“Shaking and Moving: Individual and Collective Efforts
“ Transformation: Toward a Global Civilization

“So, this is where I would like to go with my ideas. I welcome any comments and suggestions.

“And this is largely because of Wilmette Institute encouragement of its mentors, specifically Christine Muller. I have downloaded all the materials from the two courses I took [Climate Change and Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind], and I am supplementing those with information from a broad spectrum of on-line media sources.”

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