Each year, the Earthshot organisation awards prizes to groups who have
innovative and practical ideas for improving our physical environment. These
could be for restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving the oceans, lessening
waste or for preventing climate change. Within each category, three groups are
nominated and one is ultimately chosen each year as the prize-winner for that
category. The £1 million prize then enables the group to move their project
forward at a faster rate.
The Earthshot process is the brainchild of Prince William, heir to the British throne. Personally, I regard this as significant. The Bahá’í view of kingship is rather different from the traditional understanding of a king’s role, and Bahá’u’lláh (the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith) was clear that this institution, like all others in human society, will evolve and change. William’s inauguration of the Earthshot process shows a judicious use of his prominent status in promoting something for the general good.
A related, but also notable, aspect of the Earthshot process is that a prominent member of a royal family, the crown prince no less, is working alongside people from different backgrounds as part of a team. This fits in perfectly with Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to all mankind to do away with divisions of all kinds: “Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land.”
William’s father, the present King Charles III, has himself always been noted for his love of nature and for his disappointment with the way that many parts of society seem to regard it as unimportant. Bahá’u’lláh Himself was an ardent lover of nature, and took great pleasure in being among the trees, flowers, fields and creatures. His many long years of unjust imprisonment deprived Him of His natural enjoyment of the outdoors. Bahá’u’lláh (speaking as the Voice of God) wrote about Nature: “Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator… Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise… it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp.” This is a powerful statement of its importance.
If we are to protect nature, we need to give far more attention to everything which affects the environment. Bahá’u’lláh specifically warned that everything has to be in moderation, and foresaw the over-development in which we seem to be actively engaged: “If carried to excess, civilisation will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.” He urged us to see all creation as one entity: “…even as the human body in this world which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together.” A conscious understanding of this point on the part of businessmen, politicians and administrators - and, indeed, all of us - would lessen the damage which is unwittingly done.
In all these initiatives, there is a need for mankind to work together. The planet will not be preserved by having two hundred nations each seeking to make itself more powerful than the others. Bahá’ís see the need for oneness – everybody working together in a common goal. Bahá’ís see that our future lies in the evolution of a world society. To achieve this, we need to abandon warfare and destruction, and even aggressive competition. While conflict divides us, we are unable to function as one species, as one people, and different parts of the planet will continue to work against one another. The Earthshot prizes do not yet cover this aspect of our dilemma, and perhaps additional categories of prize could be established for ideas which promote the unity of the human world and thus preserve and restore nature.
Earthshot is currently playing its part in helping to restore our environment. Meanwhile, the climate change conference, COP 28, is meeting in Dubai next week. Perhaps the spirit of Earthshot can permeate this conference, and the nations of the world will be able to recognise that we are one people, the inhabitants of our world. Then we can work together so that we are able to claim our inheritance – a beautiful, harmonious world.