Over the past few weeks I have been working with a committee of the Baha’i Community of Ottawa to organize Ottawa’s World Religion Day celebration. World Religion Day is in Ottawa is normally themed around one of today’s major global challenges such as peace, the rights of the child and education. In the past the event has rarely dug very deep into these issues as it adheres to a strictly family-friendly format. This year we want dig a bit deeper while still being friendly to the families.
Our special guest speaker will be David Chernoshenko, the new City Councillor for Ottawa’s Capital Ward. He is well known for his involvement in the environmental field as a filmmaker and the former deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s his inspired ad for his successful bid for a seat in council:
The title of the event is “Faith and the Environment: Celebrating Common Ground” and it can be seen as part of an important discourse about the interaction between science, religion and the environment.
I’m tempted to call it a new discourse, but in reality religion has been talking about science and the environment for as long as there has been science and religion. It’s just that it can feel like a new discourse because it’s moving really fast right now as more and more religious people, scientists and environmentalists are taking each other more and more seriously at the same time as everyone is getting a little freaked out about the future. What do our religions say about how we should be interacting with with the planet and all the other people who live on it?
There’s a statement of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s (one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith) from a lecture he gave in 1912 that I don’t think can possibly be quoted enough where he claims that
…Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism. (Paris Talks, p. 143)
Ottawa’s World Religion Day celebration will be happening from 2pm to 4pm on Sunday, January 16th at City Hall (110 Laurier Avenue West). If you can’t come (or even if you can) check out Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Gary Gardner’s 2006 book Inspiring Progress: Religion’s Contributions to Sustainable Development. It’s the resource that came to mind as I tried to think of the first best place to dive into the subject. I’ll write more about this discourse into the future as I plan telling the internet more about the things I am up to in this area.