Bahai Philosophy and the Question of the Environment

A Bahá’í Approach to the Environment

Nader Saiedi

The environment has become recognized as one of the most urgent and critical problems facing humanity at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In response to this fundamental and universal challenge, a new form of consciousness which recognizes the necessity of protecting the environment has slowly been emerging. But in spite of the adoption of some policies aimed at saving the environment, the protection of the environment has remained a residual and secondary issue for both political leaders and popular cultures in many parts of the world. The failure to give primacy to this crisis has many interacting causes among which a materialistic and mechanistic worldview and the structural imperatives of the nationalistic and military organization of the world are among the most important. At the same time, however, for some groups environmentalism has become a new form of the sacred, substituting for traditional religious orientations. This paradoxical approach to the environment represents a blend of materialism and spiritualism, an evidence of the inadequacy of traditional religious solutions when applied to modern global problems, and humanity’s longing for a new dynamic, progressive, and globally oriented spiritual perspective. In this paper I will argue that the Bahá’í teachings provide a new spiritual and cultural perspective in confronting the contemporary environmental crisis. Here I will concentrate on the Bahá’í philosophical position on the question of the environment. Through a systematic analysis of Bahá’í theology and social teachings I will investigate the Bahá’í approach to nature and the normative and structural reorientations necessary for saving the environment. I will first explore the roots and forms of the modern mechanistic approach to nature and culture which legitimizes and informs the existing pattern of human behavior. Next I will discuss the Bahá’í conception of nature and culture by explicating the Bahá’í conception of being. In the following section I will discuss the modern normative concept of social contract and contrast it with the Bahá’í concept of covenant as the central organizing principle of life and culture.

1. The Rise of the Mechanistic Conception of Nature and Culture

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