Montreal, Friday Decembre 16, 2022 - Two Montreal Baha’is hosted a special reflection and conversation on zoom to coincide with the recent COP15 meeting.  Three conference delegates were invited, including two Baha’is.  One Baha’i delegate, Mwayi Mkanthama, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malawi and Environment Officer for his government, was too busy to attend the Friday afternoon reflection. Speaking from the Baha’i Centre downtown were Baha’i speaker Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, assistant professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and Fae Sapsford, a friend of the Faith and Marine Research Fellow with the Sargasso Sea Commission, an NGO based in Washington DC and Bermuda. Sylvia, who also serves on the governing board of the International Environment Forum, a Baha’i-inspired NGO, spoke about the laborious decision-making process within the COP system and a growing awareness of the value of aboriginal knowledge in addressing global biodiversity challenges.  Fae illustrated with colorful slides the significance of an enormous marine ecosystem known as the Sargasso Sea, a part of the Atlantic Ocean without land borders, and the awkward system of agreements and conventions that seeks, with very limited success, to provide sustainable protections for its important services, including the provision of food.

While most of the 21 participants in the zoom session were Baha’is, there were notable exceptions. Three friends of the Faith participated at the invitation of a Baha’i in Mont Royale. The Mayor of Saint-Laurent also responded to a personal invitation. His comments referred to the long-term contributions of the Baha’is in his borough working in partnership with his office on various community building projects, and he also shared details of the various biodiversity and climate adaptation projects in which his office is engaged both locally and nationally.

Notably, however, the COP15 final agreement is devoid of any attempt to address the centrality of a moral imperative or spiritual basis to the successful accomplishment of such high-minded environmental goals, in a world struggling under the burdens of disunity and tension, socioeconomic disparities, climate related upheavals and displacements, health and food crises, and war.  The absence of any attempt at defining those features of the inner human terrain that must be engaged in such a colossal and historic undertaking seems to ignore the irreplaceable role of those motivational forces which lie at the foundation of human progress.  Shoghi Effendi offers insight into the nature of spiritual forces that connect man to his environment:

“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions”. – Shoghi Effendi, from a letter to an individual Bahá’í, 17 February 1933.

The two-week long UN COP 15 (the 15th session of the Conference of Parties on Biodiversity), concluded in Montreal on Monday December 19th, was the most important gathering on biodiversity in a decade, where 12,000 delegates from 160 countries agreed on 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. This agreement holds comparable importance to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  Indeed, protecting biodiversity within the earth’s ecosystems, such as its oceans and forests, safeguards the services they provide for humanity, including the oxygen we breathe.  At the same time, these protections are an essential factor in limiting global warming. Montreal’s Le Devoir (December 20th edition) reported that the agreement had been enthusiastically received by the environmental and scientific communities.  The 23 agreed targets range from a commitment to ‘reduce to “near zero” the loss of areas that are rich in biodiversity, to the restoration of natural open spaces, stopping the human-caused extinction of species, minimizing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, elimination of plastics pollution, making agriculture and fisheries more sustainable, expanding ‘blue’ and ‘green’ spaces in cities, and assuring that decision making about biodiversity will include the voices of indigenous peoples, women, youth and disabled persons. 

Source: Fred Ming and Peter Adriance, Montreal Bahá’í Community

Photo : Courtesy CBC / AP


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