Lord St. John of Bletso delivers annual Baha'i lecture at University of Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND, United States (BWNS) - Lord St. John of Bletso, a member of the British House of Lords and noted authority on environmental policy, told an audience of some 250 gathered at the University of Maryland on 31 May 2002 that the environmental challenges facing the planet will require both a passionate commitment to action as well as a balanced approach that does not dwell on "gloom and doom" predictions.

A hereditary member of the House of Lords since 1978, Lord St. John was at the University of Maryland as a guest of the Bahá'í Chair for World Peace to deliver the Eighth Annual Bahá'í Chair Lecture, on the theme of "Environmental Ethics and Public Policy."

The Bahá'í Chair is an endowed teaching and research chair established in 1993 at the University's Center for International Development and Conflict Management. Its mission is to develop alternatives to the violent resolution of conflict by identifying and applying universal ethical and moral principles.

"Environmental pressure groups have started to believe that they must depict worst case scenarios, and exaggerate their dire predictions, to 'scare' the world into paying attention to this issue," Lord St. John said, adding that such tactics often have the opposite effect by inducing a paralysis of will and a desire to ignore complex and seemingly intractable problems.

Instead, what is needed is a new global consensus that will engage and inspire people everywhere to make the changes and adjustments required to live in harmony with the earth's life support systems, said Lord St. John. He pointed to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development, to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002, as an opportunity to forge this kind of consensus.

"It is crucial that the Summit succeed in showing that sustainability is far from being as abstract as it sounds, but rather is a life and death issue for millions upon millions of people around the world, and potentially the entire human race," he said.

- Bahá'í World News Service