The Environment and Human Values

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, June 1972



Bahá'í International Community
June 1972
[Prepared originally for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm]

"The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." - Bahá'u'lláh

"If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation." - Bahá'u'lláh


The obvious causes of our current environmental symptoms should not conceal the nature of the basic illness. No single analysis of the problem of the human environment has exposed the root of the difficulties facing the world today: that the social structures of the world and the systems of values on which they were built cannot meet the new human needs.

Man has developed a new relationship to both his natural environment and his fellow. The radical transformation of his physical environment by science and technology during the last century has given him the power to control and modify natural forces. It has eliminated physical barriers to world unity, but it has created at the same time complex and divisive social relationships. We are consequently allowed the alternatives of either regressing to a primitive level of technology, or fulfilling the potential of a united world.

To achieve the latter - a world civilization - we must recreate our societies and their values.

Aware of the interdependence of the major elements of the world ecosystem - an interdependence evident also at the social, economic and political levels - we are beginning to see that integration of life on the planet requires unified action on a scale we have not yet achieved. Partial solutions seem only to prolong the difficulties; yet we hesitate to adopt a new and workable system of values for the world. For until there is unity at the most fundamental level - that of human values - social problems, simple or complex, will remain unresolved.


Strangely, religion, which has traditionally been the area of human experience most centrally concerned with human values and the definition of man's purpose, is seldom considered in the search for solutions to current world problems such as those of the human environment. Yet religion (in the broadest sense) has not been static: new teachers, new movements have come many times in human history, providing new social and cultural directions for man. The major religions in particular have succeeded, at least for a time, in unifying many disparate elements into a common social force based on a common set of values.

Today our need is similar. A lack of understanding or agreement between men at the most basic level - their goals and purposes - undermines attempts at comprehensive and long-range solutions to specific world problems, whether environmental, political, economic, or social.

Man's predicament was foreseen over 100 years ago by Bahá'u'lláh, a Persian exile and prisoner and Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Through His writings, which Bahá'ís believe have divine authority and power, He gave mankind a plan for achieving the human understanding and world order necessary to reform and unify human society. Many of the principles established by Bahá'u'lláh have immediate application to the problems of the human environment. In fact, the great majority of current world difficulties can be traced to our failure to observe the spiritual and moral standards and to apply the social concepts set down by Bahá'u'lláh, some of which are outlined below.


An Ever-Advancing Civilization for all the peoples of the world with a reorientation to the quality of life that comes from an emphasis on spiritual values.

Harmony of Science and Religion, of material and spiritual values which deal with complementary aspects of man's needs.

Oneness of Mankind, involving the recognition that all men are brothers, and that prejudices of race, religion, class, sex and nation must be abolished.

Unity in Diversity, accepting the differences among men and societies as assets, and uniting individuality with social responsibility.

World Order, including a world government representing all nations and peoples, capable of maintaining world peace and providing leadership for a world society.

A World Economy, with resources developed for the good of all, and an emphasis on renewable resources.

Social Justice, establishing equal rights and privileges for all people and the commitment of each individual to the welfare of his fellow man.

Universal Education for world understanding, based on the rational and independent investigation of truth, and leading to a sense of joint responsibility for the family of man.

Moderation in all things, including the material development of civilization.

As the people of the world are taught these principles and apply them in their daily lives, the imbalances in the human environment will diminish. The pattern is very simple and world-embracing, yet adaptable to the local needs and conditions of each region and people.

Already the world-wide Bahá'í community, including every major race, class, creed, and culture, and established in over 50,000 centers around the globe, is working to bring about this basic transformation in human values and understanding. Indeed, Bahá'ís today demonstrate the practicability of this approach. As the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh change the lives of people from all parts of the globe, uniting those from less developed and more developed regions in service to the human race, Bahá'í communities are making a positive contribution in creating both a world unified in its diversity and an environment promising justice and fulfillment for the whole of mankind.

"In cycles gone by, though harmony was established, yet, owing to the absence of means, the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided, nay even among the peoples of one and the same continent association and interchange of thought were well-nigh impossible. Consequently intercourse, understanding and unity amongst all the peoples and kindreds of the earth were unattainable. In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one.... In like manner all the members of the human family, whether peoples or governments, cities or villages, have become increasingly interdependent. For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age, this glorious century. Of this past ages have been deprived, for this century - the century of light - hath been endowed with unique and unprecedented glory, power and illumination. Hence the miraculous unfolding of a fresh marvel every day. Eventually it will be seen how bright its candles will burn in the assemblage of man." - Bahá'í Writings

Last updated 28 February 2005