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Florida Student Taking Unified Approach to Climate Crisis

Jun 01, 2020

Photo: Students at Bambino School, a Bahá’í-inspired school in Lilongwe, Malawi plant a tree outside the school as part of a service project. Bahá’í Media Bank

My name is Matteen Kashef and I am a student at the University of Florida. Over the last two months I’ve had the pleasure of working with We, the World and Elders Climate Action on a youth and elder intergenerational climate conversation. I wanted to share some experiences with you all! 

Over the last few years, I’ve become aware of the impacts of human activities since the 19th century on earth’s rising temperatures, and have decided to exert my efforts to learn more and become an advocate for sustainability. As said by Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, “be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”

Every one of us has the responsibility of caring for the gigantic and magnificent ball of rock we all live on, and our decisions affect ourselves, people on the opposite side of the planet, and our great-grandchildren. As we have seen with the current COVID-19 pandemic turning the world upside down, we are interdependent world citizens. 

These experiences have reminded me of one of my favorite passages from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding humanity’s relationship with nature and the interconnectedness of earth:

“Even as the human body in this world which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together…Co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a tablet to an individual Bahá’í

This view is also pronounced in the Earth Charter, an international declaration of principles launched in 2000 for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful world. The preamble states that “Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world.”

Over the past two months, I have worked with Sue Blythe, Farhang Darabi, and Savannah Roemhild to plan how we can educate everyone, regardless of age, demographics, or faith, on the importance of fighting the impact of climate change. By enlightening individuals on the effects of human activities on the rapidly warming earth, and cultivating patterns of action, we can decrease our future impacts- and maybe even reverse the actions of past generations as well as our own. Before we can act, we must all understand what we are working for and the impacts of our actions. Education must be a precursor to action. Although, what are words when they are not followed up by deeds? Nothing more than the pinnacle of inefficiency. 

Our group has discussed the barriers for individuals from believing what is considered by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a “virtual certainty” that the climate system has warmed since the mid-20th century and that it is “extremely likely” that human actions are the “dominant cause of the observed warming”. One potential barrier is the interpretation of religious scriptures, which is why we would like to use an interfaith approach to promote the learning of the effects of climate change and how to limit its impacts. Based on the core teaching in the Bahá’í Faith of the oneness of religion, we would like to take a unified approach to this unprecedented crisis in human history. 

In our first step of working towards action, our group took part in an online panel discussion with the Wilmette Institute. We discussed some of the ways youth and elders can collaborate in the journey for environmental justice. This is our first step. Events like these help us “Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life”. We look forward to continuing our efforts for a more sustainable future.  We hope you will join us. We all have a role to play in ensuring the future well-being of life on Earth, our home.

Contributors

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Matteen Kashef

Matteen Kashef, from Jacksonville, Florida, is President of the Bahá’í Association at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His first WI course was Climate Change with Christine Muller. Learn more about Matteen on BahaiTeachings.org: "Changing the Way We Think of Climate Change" and the WI monthly Newsletter: "Florida Student Taking Unified Approach to Climate Crisis."

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