Retroactivity Is Still Activity, Right? (IEF 2)

I live in a mental and emotional framework in which, much to my bride’s consternation, time is elastic and late is a long sight better than not at all. Besides, as one of the great thinkers said, literature is news that STAYS news…

Not that my two-week-old reports on the International Environment Forum’s 11th conference are literature — my hubris has bounds — but the ideas and the challenges that bubbled during those consultations are as current as next year’s news. Such is my justification for this late report: this stuff MATTERS, no matter how tardy the messenger is. As before, I’ll give you a quick taste and link to the more full report on the IEF site, where there’s even some moderate-quality video, too.

Saturday afternoon, October 13: Local Eco-Action

Here is the briefest of summaries of a panel discussion on the theme “Value-Based Approaches to Environmental Action”, and featured two of Ottawa’s citizen leaders and an American guest.

Jessica Lax spoke of the Otesha Project, a “light living” NGO that seeks to empower and train young people. This initiative of Ms. Lax and friends came after a life-changing period of service in Africa. With joy and practiced optimism, Otesha’s theatrical and bike-tour activities have made a strong impact on the youth culture of Ottawa.

Clive Doucet is one of Canada’s strongest voices for re-imagining cities. His work for the greening of Ottawa, as a city councillor, has allowed him to see both what is possible and the nature of the obstacles to those advancements. Check out his book Urban Meltdown here.

Peter Adriance is the NGO liaison for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. He outlined some of the experiences and learnings of various elements of the American Baha’i community, and its collaborations with other faith-based organizations. Movingly, he told of grassroots development among impoverished women in Kenya, and struggling American fishers.

Session 2: The Development of Moral Capabilities

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own selves.” This famous passage from the Baha’i writings, Gordon Naylor (a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada), began, is a radical call to moral and ethical advancement.

He urged the participants to adopt a humble, learning mode about the developments of human civilization to come. We don’t know and can’t imagine the civilization that we need to build, and we shouldn’t waste time and energy trying to make it in our own drastically limited images. Mutual encouragement is key. We must find ways to joyfully appreciate the talents and capacities of others. A mature respect for the rights of others is another of these capacities.

At Nur University in Bolivia, a set of 19 moral capabilities was developed to allow rural communities to move forward. They include the capability to:

• evaluate one’s own strengths and weaknesses without ego
• imbue one’s actions and thoughts with love
• take initiative in a creative and disciplined way
• contribute to the establishment of justice

Mr. Naylor advocates the following elements of a moral framework.
1. An orientation of service to the common good.
2. Leadership whose purpose is individual and social transformation.
3. Twin moral responsibilities to truth: know it, enact it. (Serve it.)
4. Transcendence through vision.
5. Belief in the essential nobility of the human being.
6. The development of capabilities.
7. Commitment to a world-embracing vision.

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