Problem: Nature is seen primarily as a storehouse of resources to be managed, harvested, and industrially processed for unmoderated Human consumption. This materialistic philosophy is accelerating destruction of planetary ecological systems.
Solution: A vision of wholeness in relationship to the Nature is required which incorporates the spiritual dimension.
FOUNDATIONS FOR AN ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY
Rapidly progressing environmental alterations - global warming, ozone depletion, soil degradation, forest depletion, and species extinction - threaten the delicate ecological balance of the ecosphere. As the twentieth century draws to a close, the threat of irreversible degradation of planetary life systems by these and other possible unanticipated dangers has come to replace nuclear war as the primary concern of collective security.
The predominant response to these issues has focused on the concept of sustainable development. For development to be sustainable, social and economic decisions need to recognize the finite biological and chemical limits of ecosystems and ecosphere as a whole. However, continued economic growth is still considered necessary, particularly if nonindustrial nations are to raise large segments of their population out of poverty. Sustainable development thus links environment and development issues. From the point of view of "deep ecology", "ecofeminism" and "ecophilosophy" groups, present sustainable development approach does not go far enough in examining the cultural attitudes towards Nature.
The deep ecologists suggest, What is needed, is the development of an "ecological consciousness" that other forms of life have intrinsic value and we are not above the rest of Nature. Deep ecology draws on a diversity of philosophical, cultural and spiritual traditions as well as the science of ecology. It asserts that beyond our narrowly materialistic scientific understanding of reality, the spiritual and material aspects of reality fuse together. It asks which society, which education, which form of religion is beneficial for all life on the planet as a whole.
Ecofeminism believes that women are more naturally attuned to the interrelatedness of life and the development of an ecological sensibility requires a revaluation of women's experience and greater involvement of women in the production of knowledge.
Ecophilosophy, in addition to be ecologically conscious, is holistic and global and it is concerned with wisdom, quality, and health. It sees human beings as spiritual agents in an evolving world endowed with grace and meaning and thereby emphasizes participatory commitment, compassion, and responsibility.
The call by deep ecologists and other social theorists for decentralized small scale, community-based technologies and economies, at first glance, seems to represent movement in the direction opposite to the globalism. It is on a small scale that individual responsibility can be upheld within a participatory community democracy and that technology can be harmonized and made more environmentally appropriate.
Exist a three-fold relationship between humanity and Nature involving principles of unity, detachment and humility. There is a cohesiveness within life's ever-increasing differentiation - an underlying spirit that animates all of existence. The prevailing view of Nature as environment made up of material components of air, water, soil, and organisms is therefore inadequate. The very word ENVIRONMENT implies that which is external and peripheral to what is assumed to be the central object of concern, human beings. As we begin to understand the ecological principle that everything is connected to everything else in the physical world, we are learning the truth of the essential spiritual law of unity that pervades and animates all of creation. The paradox between our oneness with the rest of existence and our detachment from it can be seen on deeper reflection as representing the multidimensionality of our humanness. An attitude of awe and gratitude towards earth and Nature is part of attaining spiritual humility. Humility means literally of the ground or humus.
Developing new attitudes of respect for and cooperation with Nature requires, first of all, a vision of wholeness in our relationship to Nature. This requires a perspective of human evolution and human purpose that unifies material and spiritual realities.
Appreciating that creation is sacred and whole and understanding the role of human beings to be conscious, compassionate, and creative participants in the evolution of life are the fundamental conceptual requirements for achieving an ecologically sustainable society. Developing this society, however, requires not only a transformation in our individual attitudes and values but also a complete and reformation of our social structures.
Planetary unity is a necessary and inevitable fruition of humanity's collective spiritual and material development. It calls for a reflection in the world of humanity of the fundamental oneness in the whole of creation and requires a new understanding of the relationship of parts to each other and to the whole. Restoration of sense of wholeness on a conscious level is a process related to the root meaning of RELIGION - to reconnect or bind back. Systems of thought and governance must give way to new patterns and new institutions necessary to manage cooperatively an increasingly interdependent world.
The call by deep ecologists and other social theorists for Decentralized, small-scale, community-based technologies and economies, at first glance, seem to represent movement in a direction opposite to the globalism. It is on a small scale that individual responsibility can be upheld within a participatory community democracy and that technology can be humanized and made more environmentally appropriate. A global society is one based on individual, family, and local self-reliance, integrated with sophisticated interdependence on the national and global levels.
The emergence of a new world order require appropriate institutions for global coordination and for fostering individual and community empowerment.
Robert A. White holds a master's degree in environmental studies from York University. He is currently involved in research and writing on environmental issues and working with community-based sustainable development organizations in Canada. This partial summary was extracted by Farhang Sefidvash from an article with the same title published in the Journal of Baha'i Studies, vol.7, no.2, 1995.