Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Three important things

Three Important Things

By John Taylor; 2008 Dec 3, 10 Qawl 165 BE


Tutoring Retrospective

More on the Crash

Extreme Climate Emergency


Tutoring Retrospective

I have been tutoring a Ruhi Book One class with two non-Baha'is every day for the past week, in addition to our daily children's class -- in the latter we have moved on from Paris Talks and are now launching into Abdu'l-Baha in London, as well as an overview of world religions written for children called God's Messengers, by David Hoffman. While looking for something else in the Writings, yesterday I stumbled upon the following words of encouragement from the Master for those of us who are involved in study classes like this.

"It is imperative to acquire the knowledge of divine proofs and evidences, and to acquaint oneself with convincing testimonies which demonstrate the revelation of God's resplendent Light. The study group thou didst organize hath imparted much joy and happiness to the heart of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Thou must exert much effort and show forth perseverance and constancy that, God willing, through the reviving breaths of His mercy, souls may be so educated as to become like radiant candles shining in the assemblage of divine knowledge and understanding. This matter is highly important. It is binding on every one and must be regarded as an obligation...." (Abdu'l-Baha, tablet translated from the Persian Compilation of Compilations, #387, vol. I, p. 194)

I cannot help but notice that when Abdu'l-Baha talks about such activities, he always puts stress on perseverance, continuing on with it no matter what, year after year. Our children's class is over a year old now, and looking back our experience, I realize that the secret of sticking to it for me is to do it every day. If I try to do something every other day, it just does not work. I soon lose my pizzazz and give up.

This is unfortunately true even for the foods I eat.

For a long time I was preparing two eggs every day and felt quite a bit better; then I tried eating eggs every other day, and the time between eating them gradually stretched out until now it is often weeks on end before I consider going to the trouble of cooking eggs.

More on the Crash

On this blog I often complain that world religions are not taught in public schools below the high school level. Ignoring faith issues in early education results in widespread ignorance of what religion is and what other people believe. This in turn allows xenophobia, fundamentalism and fanaticism to spread unchecked. One result of that the world just witnessed in Mumbai.

We have been discussing on the Badi Blog a recent study by educators in economics that showed up gross ignorance of financial fundamentals all the way through the system, from the householder making up the week's grocery list to the suits in skyscrapers manipulating millions of dollars at a keystroke. For a commercial, capitalistic society, it is surprising that so many citizens know next to nothing about how to handle money. The crash and burn of economies around the world makes these findings very timely. They are convincing evidence that must start teaching economic basics earlier. Some are even suggesting that skills like budgeting, diversifying savings and compound interest be introduced in the early grades of primary school, sometimes as early as kindergarten.

We stressed that ignorance of economic fundamentals is not untangled with sin, alienation from God. Most religions, including the Baha'i Faith, condemn usury and other economic excesses. Usury has many definitions, but most faith traditions interpret it to include any sort of dependency on interest income rather than productive work. Scripture suggests instead of selling money by means of loans for interest, that one's expenditure be primarily be directed at charity. Charity and almsgiving creates the intangible wealth of goodwill rather than the onerous obligations of profit by lending.

Extreme Climate Emergency

"We are still digging trenches, even as the sky fills with bomber planes."

George Monbiot's latest column offers suggestions for the rapid about-face that politicians are required to do in the face of the even more compelling evidence for rapid, drastic climate change if we do anything less than total de-carbonization and electrification within the next five or ten years. Monbiot writes,

"My reading of the new projections suggests that to play its part in preventing two degrees of global warming, the UK needs to cut greenhouse gases by roughly 25% from current levels by the end of 2012 - a quarter in four years. But how the heck could this be done? Here is a list of measures which could be enacted almost immediately. They require no economic or technological miracles; but they do demand that the government is brave enough to govern." (

He offers several suggestions designed for Britain's particular situation. Here are a few of them that seem to me to apply here as much as anywhere:

"A crash programme for training builders. As the major component of a green new deal, delivering jobs as well as carbon cuts, the government will immediately launch training schemes for tens of thousands of specialist builders, insulators, window-fitters, plasterers and decorators."
"A home improvement scheme like Germany's, but twice as fast. Every year between January 2010 and 2020, 10% of homes will be fully insulated and fitted with good windows or secondary glazing, at state expense. Landlords will have a legal obligation to join or lose their right to take tenants. Announce that when the scheme is complete, gas and electricity bills will be subject to an escalating tariff: the more you use, the more you will have to pay for every unit."

This is a bare minimum, but in my opinion the housing of today is hopeless and we would all be better off tearing it all down and starting from scratch. That is why I have been writing on this blog about what I call "mound housing." I just posted to the Badi' blog a short YouTube video about "Earthship" buildings. These are the way to go, though I have no idea if this Reynolds, the most brilliant architect of our generation, has plans for higher density housing, as opposed to the freehold dwellings that he advertises.

Here are a few more of Monbiot's ideas:

"Announce that incandescent lightbulbs will no longer be sold in the United Kingdom by next April. Announce that no fridge or freezer with an energy rating below grade A++ and no other appliance rated below grade A will be sold from July."
"Increase vehicle excise duty for the most polluting cars to #3000 a year (from the current #400). Use the money this raises to:
"Start closing key urban streets to private cars and dedicating them to public transport and cycling.
" ... Increase the public subsidy for bus and train journeys.
"Train thousands of new coach (bus) drivers and public transport operators. Create coach lanes on all the motorways and start moving coach stations from the city centres to the motorway junctions, to enable coach travel to become as fast and efficient as car travel. Link them to city centres with dedicated bus lanes."

These are not minor changes, and they have to be done fast. I think they will require legislative backing. For example, it should be illegal, starting tomorrow, for corporations or other bodies to corrupt the process. That means no contributions, no charity, no influence peddling. This would not only purify politics, it would allow families and family businesses to compete on even ground with faceless corporations.


John Taylor



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