Study Course: Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change

Muller, Christine

Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change

A Study Course

An interfaith course of 9 classes for group study
compiled by Christine Muller

The purpose of this course is to facilitate the study of climate change from a scientific and a spiritual perspective. Any faith group can use these materials. The course was first published here on 9 November 2009. It was up-dated in 2011, 2015 and again in 2017 and 2018. The materials have been evolving for about eight years. The feedback of many participants and facilitators of study circles, weekend courses and summer schools in the UK, the USA, and Australia are incorporated in the present version. 
Suggestions for further improvement and feedback about your experiences with the materials are always appreciated. Please contact Christine Muller at (write “study course” in subject line).

last revised 17 March, 2020

Introduction: The Purpose of this Course

To the Facilitators

Recommended Reading, Web Sites


Class 1
Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind
Section 1:  Nature and Creation
Section 2:  Science and Religion
[Short version of Class 1]

Class 2
The Impacts of Climate Change

Section 1:  Melting of Glaciers and the Polar Ice Caps
Section 2:  Sea Level Rise
Section 3:  Water Scarcity

Class 3
More Impacts of Climate Change

Section 1:  More Extreme Weather Events
Section 2:  Soil Erosion and Desertification
Section 3:  Deforestation
Section 4:  Wildfires Loss of Biodiversity, Changes in Ecosystems
Section 5:  Loss of Biodiversity, Changes in Ecosystems
Section 6:  Ocean Acidification
Section 7:  Effects on Human Health
Section 8:  Multiple Stresses
Section 9:  Conflicts over Natural Resources
Section 10: Displacement and Migration

Class 4
The Causes of Global Warming

Section 1:  Scientific Observations of Global Warming and Changes in Climate 
Section 2:  What Is Global Warming?
Section 3:  A Look into the Past
Section 4:  The Present and the Future

Class 5
Spiritual and Practical Dimensions - the Individual

Section 1:  Stewardship of the Earth
Section 2:  Spirituality as Opposed to Materialism
Section 3:  Moderation
Section 4:  Fostering Unity
Section 5:  What We Can Do as Individuals

Class 6
Climate Change Mitigation

Section 1:  Mitigation and Adaptation
Section 2:  Energy Generation and Use
Section 3:  Transportation
Section 4:  Sustainable Agriculture
Section 5:  Reforestation
Section 6:  Garbage – an Obsolete Concept
Section 7:  Economic Changes
Section 8:  Four Difficult Issues

Class 7
Spiritual and Practical Dimensions – the Role of Society

Section 1:  Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Justice
Section 2:  Poverty and Climate Change
Section 3:  The Empowerment of Women
Section 4:  The Oneness of Humankind
Section 5:  The Need for a World Federal System
Section 6:  Consultation and Decentralization
Section 7:  Trustworthiness - the Antidote to Corruption
Section 8:  Education

Class 8
Some More Climate Science

Section 1:  Historical Perspective
Section 2:  Future Threats
Section 3:  Present Challenges
Section 4:  Prospects for the Future

Class 9
A Challenge to All of Us

Section 1:  Dealing with the Emotional Stress Caused by Climate Change
Section 2:  What is Progress?   
Section 3:  The Role of Religious Communities
Section 4:  A Promise and a Responsibility

Each class can be viewed online or saved to your computer from the links above. Most files in html are over 200 kb.
You can also download the complete course as a pdf file (1.1mb). However, the pdf file contains an older version from Nov. 2017. 

Introduction: The Purpose of this Course

Welcome to this Interfaith Study Course on Climate Change!

As a person of faith you are probably very concerned about the ongoing destruction of the natural world and worry about the future of our children. You may consider humanity’s role in changing the climate an assault on God’s creation. You may regard climate change as a moral issue and would like to do something constructive to mitigate it. However, like many people, you may be overwhelmed by the complexity of the issue. This is the reason why this course was created. It provides a systematic scientific explanation of climate change, relates the issue to our spiritual reality and to the ethical teachings inherent in religion, and empowers you to take action in a personal way that fits your beliefs and circumstances.

Some people though may argue that there are many other pressing social issues to learn about. Why should we engage in a study course on climate change? We could tell them to consider this:

Climate change may not be a threat to planet Earth, but it is a threat to the survival of a majority of plants, animals, human beings, and to human cultures and civilization. Such a threat is unprecedented in human history. Many people are already suffering from the devastating impacts of climate change such as increased water scarcity, more severe storms, floods, droughts, famines, malnutrition, diseases, and dislocation from their homes. The threat of climate change to our children and grandchildren is immense.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It has far-reaching implications for our efforts to relieve poverty, to establish and maintain peace, and for the economy. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of human civilization is at risk because we are destroying the foundation for life on this planet. Climate change is probably the greatest threat and the greatest challenge for humankind in the 21st century.

Al Gore said the following words after receiving the Nobel Peace Price together with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

Baha’u’llah, prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith, counsels us "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." [1]

In recent years, the awareness of the climate crisis has been increasing geometrically. There are now thousands of local, national, and international organizations working to mitigate climate change in one way or another. Many religious communities have also started to take action. In the recently released Encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis points out that climate change must be addressed as a moral issue in order to protect the Earth, "our common home". This tremendous increase of global concern about the climate and of commitment to transform economic activities to be environmentally sustainable is a real cause for hope.

At the time of the publication of this course in 2009, no educational material was available. Therefore, it was considered necessary to provide a basic introduction into the causes and impacts of climate change in order to meaningfully relate spiritual and ethical principles to this issue. Today, the situation is very different: We are drowning in too much information. Now the course aims to provide the essential knowledge, based on trustworthy scientific and spiritual sources, to help participants navigate their own exploration of the topic and to be able to distinguish true scientific information from deliberate misinformation which has also proliferated.

This course has four objectives:

  • To gain a deeper understanding of climate change by learning about its underlying causes and some of its impacts.
  • To explore ethical questions connected to climate change, and to address them within the context of the spiritual teachings found in the world’s religions.
  • To practically apply spiritual teachings in your every-day personal life which will benefit the environment and future generations.
  • To develop skills to be of service to your community.

In the process of exploring the various issues raised by climate change we will use both science and religion:

  • A scientific approach is used to provide a basic understanding of climate change.
  • A spiritual approach is used to explore the ethical dimensions of climate change.

The following materials are a compilation of up-to-date scientific research and spiritual texts from the world’s religions. The course is “text” based, that means that authentic scientific sources, experts in the field, and religious scriptures are quoted as much as possible.

The course is based on the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), especially on its most recent report released in 2014. This panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme; both organizations of the United Nations.

The impacts of the rapid warming of the planet are becoming more and more apparent all over the globe, which has prompted intensive research on climate change. New findings are made public frequently and some of the most recent research is also included here. You will find all references listed at the end of each class.

As scientific understanding of climate change is constantly evolving and growing, the course is up-dated frequently. You can find the date of the last up-date on the front page and at the bottom of each class. Feedback from participants and facilitators is also considered with each up-date.

You are encouraged to investigate areas of special interest to you by using additional materials. Some resources are listed further down on this page.

This is an interfaith course. It includes the teachings and wisdom of many religions. A deliberate attempt was made to draw directly on the original holy writings, for example the Bible. Only occasionally, secondary source materials are used. The participants will notice that some sections feature predominantly Baha’i sources. One could explain this with the fact that the writer of the course is a Baha’i. It is unavoidable that this has influenced the author’s thinking, but not the selection of texts. Scriptures were selected for their relevance in the context of climate change. That’s why different religious scriptures are not represented equally in quantity. However, the respect shown for all religions is the same. Any faith group can use this course. The most interesting study groups may be those that represent the most diversity in the participants.

The course contains 9 classes. They can be studied on average within 11 sessions of about two and half hours’ duration. The Facilitator's Guide (see next section below) explains how to use the course creatively, how to adapt it to the needs and wishes of the participants, and how to shorten the course to 8 sessions or use it as a weekend workshop.

Some videos have been added to this recent edition. (They replace the power-point presentations that were part of the original 2009 course.)

All participants share the responsibility of nurturing a spirit of love, respect and unity within the study group. One helpful tool in that endeavor is to avoid talking about other people.

Throughout the course there will be many opportunities for discussion. This is a chance to share our knowledge, to learn from each other, and especially to stimulate and broaden our thoughts. It is not necessary to find the “right” answers to the questions discussed, as usually there will not be just one right answer. It is best to keep these conversations short and focused. Be satisfied with pointing out some major aspects, as it would be impossible to cover all aspects of the topics raised.

The purpose of this course is to spread accurate knowledge about climate change to many people. It should not be regarded as merely an enrichment for the participants. Therefore, you will be encouraged to practice presenting specific topics to family and friends. In this process you can practice the skill of explaining the problem of climate change and thus become an agent for positive change.

Service is an integral part of the course, as well as developing skills for service. This is accomplished by small educational service projects and a simple community service project.

The course emphasizes action. A major objective of this course is to lead the participants to an environmentally responsible life so that they will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. This will happen by deepening our awareness of our interconnectedness with the earth and with all other people, and by realizing that an environmentally sustainable lifestyle is necessary for a spiritual life.

The despair that can be caused by the realization of the seriousness of the state of our world will be counteracted by opening up a spiritual perspective and by empowering the participants to action. A section in class 9 is devoted to dealing with the emotional stress that can be triggered when becoming more aware of the real threat of climate change.

Much effort has been made to compile the materials in an objective way. However, if the opinion of the author ever shines through, it constitutes only her personal view and does not represent the views of any particular religion or institution.

This short course doesn't claim to be comprehensive. The issue of climate change is vast and complex and its ethical implications are profound. Our purpose here is to lay a foundation upon which you will be able to build your own knowledge, to think on your own about the ethical dimensions, and to help make all your actions a service to humankind and a contribution to save the foundation for life on this planet.



[1] Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section CVI

To the Facilitators

Thank you for serving as a facilitator of this course!

The first task of the facilitator is to help the group get together and to organize the time and place for the meetings. You are also asked to help provide an atmosphere where everyone is welcome and where different opinions may be expressed without fear of judgment or ridicule.

The role of the facilitator is

  • To ensure that everyone gets to participate in reading and discussing.
  • To keep the group focused on the materials to be studied.
  • To keep track of time so that the material is covered in a timely manner.
  • To prepare for the class by looking through all the materials ahead of time to be able to make good decisions about the allocation of class time.
  • To let the group know about the assignments and the service project(s).
  • To encourage the participants to follow up on their project(s).

You don’t need to be an “expert” on climate change. It is also possible to have two facilitators who plan the classes together and take turns during the sessions.

If possible, ask the participants to read the brief Introduction “The Purpose of this Course” before the first class.

It is suggested that you begin each class with a prayer (alternating religious traditions if possible) and/or a short piece of music. Try to give all participants a chance to offer a prayer throughout the course.

As plenty of materials need to be covered in each class, encourage the participants to focus on the topic. It is desirable that, while reading the materials, participants add comments and engage in short discussions. Such discourse will make the classes lively and interesting. However, it may often be necessary to remind the participants to keep these discussions short so that you will be able to read through the whole lesson.

The primary objective of the course is to understand the scientific concepts and the meaning of the sacred texts. A few paragraphs in the materials may be difficult to understand with just one reading. You may help the understanding of the participants by asking someone to summarize the paragraph, to ask a key question, or simply to read the paragraph once more.

Feel free to adapt the course to the needs and interest of the participants. The course contains 9 classes. Most groups may like to study them in 11 sessions of about two and a half hours’ duration. However, some groups may choose to come together less often, but longer. Some groups may want to spend more time discussing issues during class. In this case they may want to meet longer, more often, or may need to read a little bit more in between the classes. You can also shorten the course to only 8 sessions.

The number of times groups meet can vary quite a bit:

Class 1 Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind               0 - 2 sessions
Class 2 The Impacts of Climate Change                                              1 session
Class 3 More Impacts of Climate Change                                           1 session
Class 4 The Causes of Global Warming                                               1 session
Class 5 Spiritual and Practical Dimensions - the Individual           1 - 2 sessions
Class 6 Climate Change Mitigation                                                       1 session
Class 7 Spiritual and Practical Dimensions – the Role of Society  1 – 2 sessions
Class 8 Some More Climate Science                                                     1 session
Class 9 A Challenge to All of Us                                                             1 – 2 sessions
Total sessions                                                                                            8 – 13 sessions

Therefore, study groups may meet about 8 to 13 times.
It is also possible to use the materials for a weekend program; see below after the instructions for each class.

Group work is often encouraged in this course. It is more interesting and enriching for the participants if groups are formed differently each time. In this way everyone will have the chance to get to know and to work with everyone else.

There are many different ways to use the materials. Below you find suggestions for each class, how to structure it, and what activities may be included. Feel free to make changes and to incorporate your own ideas and the wishes of the participants.

For studying the materials in a group setting, it is best if all participants have their own paper copies of the materials. Printing double sided saves trees. You can also print on paper that was previously used one sided. For an easy printout you can download the complete course as a pdf file (1.1mb).

The course materials contain several videos. If your group is large, it would be best to use a projector and screen. Small groups can watch the videos from a laptop. Perhaps you don't have internet or technical equipment available for your group study. In this case, you can encourage the participants to watch the videos at home before or after the sessions. If this is not possible, it's fine to only read the materials.

When studying the materials together, you may like to encourage the participants to highlight/underline the parts they think are important and those they would like to discuss.

Class 1: Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind

This class includes three sections of reading materials and the video Home. The movie is about 1½ hours long.

You have several options to cover these materials:

  • Meet twice: In the first meeting, read the three sections, and in the 2nd meeting watch the movie.
  • Only meet once, but longer: Read the materials on a weekend afternoon, have dinner together, then watch the film.
  • Only meet once for about two and a half hours: Choose the short version of the reading materials which you can cover in half an hour, then watch the movie together.
  • You can read and discuss the full version of the class in one sessions and have participants watch the film at home.

If you must cover the whole course in only 8 meetings, you may leave out Class 1.

Optional Activity: After reading the section about "Interconnectedness in Nature", play a game, practice a dance or do any kind of art project that expresses interconnectedness. (Think about an activity your group might enjoy when preparing for this class.)

When using the short version of the first class, it is suggested that the two pages are studied in groups of two, changing the groups for each page. The study of each page takes about 15 minutes. This short version includes all three sections. No further reading will be necessary. When using the longer version, try to also incorporate some group work in Section 2.

Assignment: If you cannot cover all the materials planned for the class, ask the participants to finish reading the materials of Class 1 or to watch the video at home.

Class 2: The Impacts of Climate Change

This class contains three sections of reading materials and two brief videos. You should be able to cover this class in one session.

First, read the short opening paragraph and watch the 12 min. video Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability with the whole group.

Afterward you have two options:

  • Stay together as a whole group. This works especially well if you are a small group of seven or less participants. Read each section together allowing for brief comments and questions during, and a longer discussion after each section. Watch the 8 min. video Encroaching Seas - the Marshall Islands (8min.) between the 2nd and 3rd section.
  • Divide the participants into three groups. This works well with a larger group or a minimum number of 6 participants. Each group will study a different section and create a poster that contains the essential content of the section. The poster can consist of words or pictures or both. Then, with the help of the poster, each group will teach their studied impact of climate change to all the participants and lead a short discussion on the topic. (The suggested discussion questions may be used.) Reserve enough time at the end of class for these presentations and discussions. Watch the 8 min. video Encroaching Seas - the Marshall Islands after the group presentations.
    Remember to bring poster boards, crayons, and markers to class.

Assignment: Encourage the participants to practice explaining the studied impacts of climate change with their family members or friends.

Class 3: More Impacts of Climate Change

This class contains 8 sections of reading materials and two brief videos. It would be best to cover all the materials in one class.

At the beginning of class, stay together as a whole group. Read the first section “More Extreme Weather Events and Changes in Weather Patterns” and allow some time for discussion. Then watch the video The Human Impact of Climate Change: Personal Stories from Somalia, Ghana, and Kenya. (almost 8 min.)

Then, divide participants into several small groups for the study of further impacts of climate change. This is one possible way of assigning sections to groups:

Group A: Section 2 “Soil Erosion and Desertification, Effects on Agriculture and Food”
Group B: Section 3 “Forests”
Group C: Section 4 “Loss of Biodiversity” and Section 7 “Multiple Stresses”
Group D: Section 5 “Ocean Acidification”, Section 6 “Effects on Human Health”, and Section 8 “Conflicts over Natural Resources”

If your study course has only a few participants, these short sections can also be assigned for individual study. Allow about half an hour to 40 minutes for this study and the preparation of a simple presentation.

Then each group (or individual) will present their topic(s) of study to all the participants. The presentations can be done with words, with a poster, with a skit or in any creative way the group chooses to communicate. After each presentation, encourage all the participants to ask questions on the topic just presented. The discussion questions may also be used to stimulate a whole group conversation. Reserve enough time for these presentations and discussions.
Remember to bring some poster boards, markers, and crayons to this class.

Watch the other video World Oceans Day - Ocean Acidification (4 min.) at the end of class.

Assignment: Continue to practice explaining some of the impacts of climate change to family and friends as the opportunity arises.

Class 4: The Causes of Global Warming

This class contains four sections of reading materials and a 9 min. video. You should be able to cover all these materials in one session.

Start the class with a prayer and/or meditate on the three short excerpts from Holy Writings.

Then read and study the four sections with the whole class together. This class on the causes of global warming is a prerequisite for participants to understand before studying the ethical and spiritual dimensions in the next class. 

If you have a large group, you may like to split them into smaller groups of about four to eight participants. Each group would study the same materials.

Watch the video Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (9 min.) at the end of section 2.

At the end of this lesson, you will find some review questions. Depending on the needs and interests of the group they can be used in different ways. One meaningful way would be for the participants to write down the answer in their own words, either during class time or at home. This would help them to explain the causes of climate change to family members and friends. Perhaps the participants like to discuss some of the review questions.

Educational Service Project: Encourage the participants to do a presentation of the causes and impacts of climate change to a circle of friends, or a youth group. Such a project would give the participants some practice explaining what they have learnt so far. They could do this individually, or present together, for example by distributing the topics among themselves. Take some time at the end of class to consult on this. Aim to carry this out within the next two weeks.

Class 5: Spiritual and Practical Dimensions - the Individual

This class contains five sections of reading materials and a 20 min. video. It is best to allow two sessions for this class. If your circumstances allow for only one session, it would be possible to squeeze most of the materials into 2 ½ hours. However, this would require brief and disciplined discussions and leaving out the video (or asking the participants to watch it at home).
In either case, if you are short of time, make sure to allocate at least 40 min. for the brainstorming of practical actions (Section 5) at the end of class.

Begin the class with reading section 1: “Stewardship of the Earth”.

Then view the video The Story of Stuff (20min.). It is available on the internet for free. You will find many other educational materials on that website as well.

Continue to study Sections 2 and 3 and then engage in the discussion questions.

Then read the brief Section 4 “Fostering Unity- Avoiding Judgmental Attitudes”.

It is best to cover Section 5 “Actions of Individuals” as a brainstorming session: Discuss practical actions individuals can take to reduce their own harmful impact on the environment. Use the course materials to make sure that all important aspects are being covered, especially that ideas are shared from the three domains of energy, transportation, and food. Do not distribute the materials of this Section 5 ”Actions of Individuals” to the participants before this class. If participants already have all the materials of the course printed out, they can just put them away before this discussion. Let a participant write all the ideas on a blackboard. At the end, encourage a short discussion about which actions may save the most greenhouse gases.

Assignment: Encourage the participants to carry out some of the suggested practical actions each individual can take to mitigate climate change. 

Educational Service Project: Take 5 min. to check in on the educational service project. If it's still in the planning stage, encourage the participants to include some of the spiritual principles and practical actions that were discussed in this class.

Class 6: Climate Change Mitigation

This class contains seven sections of reading materials, one optional section, and a 9 min. video. The materials would work for one session (in this case, leave out the optional Section 8), or you can take more time and study the materials in two sessions.

After the opening prayer, read the introductory paragraph and Section 1 “Mitigation and Adaptation” and watch the video Everything you need to know about the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report - WG3: Mitigation of Climate Change (9 min.) with the whole group.

Then study sections 2 to 7 in small groups, each group covering one or two sections. Form the small groups according to the participants’ interests in the topics.

Let each group present a short report on their section for the benefit of all participants.

Section 8 “Four Difficult Issues” is optional. You may choose to read together the topic(s) that are of most interest to your group. Or the participants can read this section at home.

Allow at least 20 minutes to consult about the Community Service Project:
As participants of this study course you are encouraged to take some action to help mitigate climate change. This service project can be very simple. You may confine it to just your group or invite others to participate. You may choose an educational project reaching out to a community of your choice (faith community, youth group, school, neighborhood), or a project to promote energy efficiency and conservation, or any other idea you may have.
You may also consider service in the area of adaptation, especially if you live in a developing country. An important objective of this group project is to create unity while planning and implementing it. Today, just brainstorm about what you would like to do. Write down some of your ideas.

The assignment is to think about the group’s community service project. Let them know that next week you will decide on a project and begin to plan and carry it out.

Class 7: Spiritual and Practical Dimensions - Society

This class contains eight sections of reading materials and no video. It is best to allow two sessions for this class.

As all the materials of this class are central to this course, you can just read and then discuss each section.

If you are short of time, you can also divide the participants into four groups. Each group will study two sections. Allow enough time for the group work. Afterwards, each group will present the main points of their sections to all participants and lead a short discussion on their topics.

Community Service Project:
Reserve at least half an hour at the end of class to consult about and decide on your community service project. Apply the ideas for consultation and decision-making, which you discussed today (section 6). Consider the special circumstances of your group such as time constraints, special interests, and talents, as well as the needs of your community. Keep the project small and simple enough so that you can carry it out with joy. Plan to finish the project by the end of this course or shortly afterwards.

The assignment is to take some action in preparation of your service project until you will meet again.

Class 8: Some More Climate Science

This class contains four sections of reading materials and no video. It is best to cover these materials in one session.

Study all four sections as a whole group. Read, summarize certain paragraphs, ask questions and discuss some of the topics.

Set some time aside at the end for the discussion of two topics:

1. The emotional stress the participants may have experienced when learning more about the huge threat of climate change. It is important that everyone is able to share their views. If there are more than six participants in your study class, form smaller groups of three or four people for this discussion. It is not necessary for the small groups to report back to the whole group. Tell the participants that next week's class will address this emotional stress and will hopefully relieve much of it by the application of spiritual principles.

2. Consult about the Community Service Project as needed to carry it forward.

Class 9: A Challenge to All of Us

This class contains four sections to read and one very short video. You may cover these materials in one or two sessions.

Read section 1: “Dealing with the Emotional Stress Caused by Climate Change”. (If you didn’t have time during last class for sharing and discussing the emotional stress caused by climate change, begin this class with asking the participants what kind of emotions they have experienced and why. You may like to write down the main points on a blackboard or poster board. After about 10 minutes, proceed to read section 1.)

Then watch the brief video Katharine Hayhoe: Climate Change Evangelist 2:50

Then continue reading and discussing the three remaining sections.

At the end of class, encourage a discussion about topics that you think would be useful or of interest to your group. Here some ideas:

  • The group's community service project, if further consultation is required.
  • How did this course change your view of the world?
  • Would you like to share any plans or ideas how you could further serve humanity in your efforts to mitigate climate change?
  • Would you be interested in facilitating a new study circle using this study course?
  • Would you like to learn more about climate change and its spiritual dimensions? The Wilmette Institute offers an 8-week online course on climate change. Based on this IEF course, the Wilmette Institute course includes more topics, readings, and videos, and numerous additional resources, and provides a forum for online discussions with participants from all over the world. 
  • Would you be interested in helping improve this study course by sharing your experiences and/or making suggestions for improving this course? If yes, please, contact Christine Muller (write “study course” into the subject line).

Suggestions how to use the course for a weekend program:
In this case, it is recommended to cover the basics of climate change with a video as this is most time efficient, for example Earth the Operator's Manual. It provides a brief summary of classes 2,3,4, and 8, introducing the causes and impacts of climate change. Make sure to watch the film before studying the materials of classes 5, 7, and 9 about the spiritual and ethical dimensions of climate change.

  • Earth the Operator's Manual (53:43) The film is perfect in length. This will allow for a half hour discussion afterward, before taking a good break. While providing a global perspective, the video contains some specific information about the USA.


“Dire Predictions – Understanding Global Warming”, the illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump, DK Publishing Inc. New York, NY, 2008. A very accessible book with helpful illustrations and graphics

”Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet” by Bill McKibben, Times Books; First Edition (April 13, 2010), a clear analysis of the present climate crisis, suggests valuable community based solutions.

"Down to the Wire - Confronting Climate Collapse" by David W. Orr, 2009, Oxford University Press. This book provides illuminating insights to the climate crisis. If you enjoy reading the writings of Shoghi Effendi, you will enjoy this book as well.

"World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse" by Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute, W. W. Norton & Company (January 6, 2011), available for free download at This book is a treasury of up-to-date data on the state of the world’s ecosystems and of its people, and provides very practical solutions.

“The Rough Guide to Climate Change” by Robert Henson, 2nd edition published by Rough Guides Ltd. London WC2R ORL, 2008, distributed by the Penguin Group. A comprehensive book, also suitable for looking up specific topics

"State of the World 2009 – Into a Warming World” by the World Watch Institute, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009

“State of the World 2008 – Innovations for a Sustainable Economy” by the World Watch Institute, W. W. Norton & Company, (January 17, 2008)

“Hell and High Water, Global Warming – the Solutions and the Politics - and What We Should Do” by Joseph Romm, HarperCollins Publisher, New York, NY, 2007

“Field Notes from a Catastrophe – Man, Nature, and Climate Change”, by Elizabeth Kolbert, published by Bloomsbury USA , New York, NY 2007. This captivating travel account is not diminished by the fact that a few scientific data are outdated by now.

“The Heat is On – the Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription” by Ross Gelbspan, Perseus Books, 1997

"Right Relationship – Building a Whole Earth Economy" by Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009. This book offers a spiritual and moral perspective of the economy, a prerequisite to any progress in addressing climate change.

“Storms of My Grandchildren – the Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our Last Chance to Save Humanity” by James Hansen, Bloomsbury USA, 2009. Dr. Hansen has been a leading climate scientist for the past decades. This book is not easy to read, but If you have some scientific knowledge and like to deepen your understanding of the science of climate change, this book is excellent.

“Climate Change and its Ethical Challenges” by Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl, p. 157 of “The Baha’i World 2005 – 2006”, World Centre Publications, 2007

“The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices - Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists”, by Michael Brower and Warren Leon, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY, 1999


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

The IPCC AR4 Frequently Asked Questions:

Climate Science from Climate Scientists:

The US National Academy of Sciences:

Climate Solutions:

For News about Climate Change:

International Environment Forum:

Interfaith Power and Light:

The Renewal Project:

Web of Creation:

Eco-Justice Ministries:

“Living Oneness – Restoring Wholeness in a Fragmented World”, A Global Oneness Project Study Guide:

“Suffering the Science - Climate Change, People and Poverty”, a report by Oxfam International, July 2009,


Anomaly: Change from long-term average

Anthropogenic: Caused by humans

Anthropocene: The new geological epoch that started after the Industrial Revolution, during which humanity has begun to significantly alter the Earth's natural systems

Arable land: Land suitable for agriculture

Aquifer: A water-bearing stratum of permeable rock, sand, or gravel

Biosphere: Our biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth

Carbon dioxide: CO2, chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure, a component of the Earth’s atmosphere

Carbon sequestration: The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir (in trees, algae in the ocean, ultimately in rocks and ocean sediments)

Decentralization: The process of dispersing decision-making closer to the people and/or citizens

Decomposers: Organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, agents of the natural process of decomposition

Exigencies: Urgent needs or demands

Feedback mechanisms: Self-reinforcing cycles

Habitat: The place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows

Half-life: Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half, frequently used for radioactive decay

Mangroves: Tropical maritime trees or shrubs that send out many prop roots and form dense masses important in coastal land building and as foundations of unique ecosystems

Methane: CH4 , chemical compound, a powerful greenhouse gas

Mitigate: To make less severe or painful, to lessen in force or intensity, to make milder or more gentle. Similar words: alleviate, moderate

Orbital forcing: Slow changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis and shape of the orbit affect the climate by changing the total amount of sunlight reaching the Earth

Permaculture: An approach to design in human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human ineeds, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants

Primordial rainforest: Primordial means existing at or from the very beginning. Primordial rainforests are very old, mature forests that have not been disturbed for hundreds of years

Primeval: Of or belonging to the first age or ages, especially of the world. Synonyms: primary, primordial, pristine

Phytoplankton: Planktonic plant life

Plankton: Minute animal or plant life in a body of water, most of them so small that they are not visible to the eye

Quagmire: 1. Soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot, wet spongy earth (as of a bog or marsh), 2. a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position: predicament

Radiative forcing: A measure of the influence a factor has in altering the balance of incoming and outgoing energy in the Earth-atmosphere system. It is an index of the importance of the factor as a potential climate change mechanism

Saline: Consisting of or containing salt

Salinization: Increasing salt content in the soil. Salt harms plants

Sequester: To remove or set apart; segregate; to hold (as a metallic ion) in solution especially for the purpose of suppressing undesired chemical or biological activity. See Carbon Sequestration

Slough: 1. A place of deep mud or mire, a swamp 2. an inlet on a river. 3. a creek in a marsh or tide flat, 4. a state of moral degradation or spiritual dejection. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the pronunciation of “slough” rhymes with blue, crew, or glue

Soil erosion: Loss of top soil by heavy rain, floods, and wind

Species: A species is one of the basic units of biological classification. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring

Twain: An archaic term for the cardinal number two

Zooplankton: Plankton composed of animals. (See plankton)


Warmest thanks and deep appreciation go out to many friends around the world – from the UK, Honduras, the US, Switzerland, Australia, and Bosnia Herzegovina – who contributed to this course and have made it a consultative ongoing project. The following individuals helped in big and small ways with sharing experiences as facilitators, with contributing their professional scientific or technical expertise, with proof reading, and in other ways: Arthur Dahl, Peter Adriance, Michael Richards, Larry Staudt, Ray Frackelton, Carol Curtis, Michel Muller, Martina Muller, Gerhard Muller, Philip Koomen, Jenny Lockwood, Al Riebau, Sharon Miller, Melodie Taylor, Margie Smith, Mary Hansen, Michael Moum, Gary Colliver, Laurent Mesbah, and Wendy Wisniewski. The feedback of the many participants of study groups, of weekend courses at Louhelen, Green Acre, and Bosch Baha’i Schools in 2010, and of the Wilmette Institute Courses in 2013, 2014, and 2015 has been especially helpful in shaping the course.

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Last updated March 2020
© Christine Muller and International Environment Forum