I have always prided myself on being a good steward of the earth. As a child, I wouldn’t litter and always picked up after myself when I was outdoors. I adored birds, tadpoles and crickets galore. As an adult I learned about carbon emissions and pollution. We haven’t put any pesticides on our lawns for decades so we aren’t polluting the water being led downstream to our creeks, wetlands and lakes. My biologist husband planted flowers and plants that attract bees and butterflies.

To deepen our commitment, we made our own cloth bags and we stopped using paper plates several years ago. Unfortunately, those small practices, although making me feel noble, weren’t enough to even make a dent to alleviate our global crisis. So many of these issues seem out of my control and, frankly, nothing has really changed in our overall practices. We are so trained to choose the most absorbent paper picker upper to wipe up a spill instead of a towel that can be washed. The video of the tons of plastic floating in our beloved oceans was a shocker. What really hit home for me was to experience my first red tide last September in Venice Beach, California.

I began studying the Baha’i teachings for inspiration that have helped shape my new course of action. Shoghi Effendi wrote back in 1933 that:

“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 molds the environment and is itself also 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.”

As a result of studying this quote, I realized that if we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us. This is my new incentive so I really began to examine my habits because my small actions can make a difference. I have gone cold turkey with plastic. I have replaced plastic containers with glass (but they still have a plastic lid), I use wax paper bags, I have switched to bio-degradable garbage bags, I use freezer paper to freeze items, and I discovered reusable silicone Ziploc bags. My food products come in plastic so I am not totally plastic free but I am trying. Clearly, we need a larger more systematic and collective strategy to change.

I studied the “Conservation of the Earth’s Resources” and found this statement by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. It puts in perspective how I will continue to focus my lens on sustainable actions. He wrote:

“However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained. For although, on the one hand, material achievements and the development of the physical world produce prosperity, which exquisitely manifests its intended aims, on the other hand dangers, severe calamities and violent afflictions are imminent.

“Consequently, when thou lookest at the orderly pattern of kingdoms, cities and villages, with the attractiveness of their adornments, the freshness of their natural resources, the refinement of their appliances, the ease of their means of travel, the extent of knowledge available about the world of nature, the great inventions, the colossal enterprises, the noble discoveries and scientific researches, thou wouldst conclude that civilization conduceth to the happiness and the progress of the human world. Yet shouldst thou turn thine eye to the discovery of destructive and infernal machines, to the development of forces of demolition and the invention of fiery implements, which uproot the tree of life, it would become evident and manifest unto thee that civilization is conjoined with barbarism. Progress and barbarism go hand in hand, unless material civilization be confirmed by divine guidance, by the revelations of the all-merciful and by godly virtues, and be reinforced by spiritual conduct, by the ideals of the kingdom and by the outpourings of the realm of might…”

This intersection of the spiritual, happiness and the material within the context of nature is compelling. It provides a road map of inspiration toward creating a heavenly civilization guided by the divine. I would love to hear from you what you are doing in your homes to personally keep our waters and land safe for our future generations.

Educator and writer Nanette Missaghi shares this space with Dr. Bernard E. Johnson, Beryl Schewe and the Revs. Rod Anderson and Timothy A. Johnson. “Spiritually Speaking” appears weekly.


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