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‘Office’ star Rainn Wilson calls for community, industry response to climate change at Globe Summit

Actor Rainn Wilson participated in a virtual fireside chat with Globe reporter Sabrina Shankman (at right) on Tuesday.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Rainn Wilson is best known for causing interpersonal conflict as “assistant regional manager” Dwight Schrute on the long-running NBC sitcom “The Office,” but it’s the inclusive, community-focused values of a very different TV show that he’d like to see more people emulate.

“‘Star Trek,’ I actually believe . . . is a very spiritual show, and it has to do with humanity’s spiritual evolution and the role that we all play as individuals to help humanity move forward,” Wilson said Tuesday at the Globe Summit during a virtual chat about using faith to combat climate change.

Wilson, who spoke by videoconference from New York with Globe climate reporter Sabrina Shankman in Boston, said his upbringing in the Baháʼí faith and recent rediscovery of his spirituality helped lead him to environmental activism.

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“The founder of the Baháʼí faith says, ‘Let all men be concerned with ushering forth an ever-advancing civilization,’” he said.

Wilson, 57, made headlines last fall when he jokingly said he was changing his name to Rainnfall Heat Wave Extreme Winter Wilson as a “cheap little stunt to help save the planet.” Wilson said the prank was inspired by his efforts as a board member of Arctic Basecamp, a scientist-led climate advocacy organization.

He said Tuesday that the group is launching a spinoff effort this week during Climate Week NYC called Climate Basecamp, which will “speak science to culture in unique and interesting ways, using a lot of humor and visualizations that get people outside of the same old kind of dialogue.”

Amid the talk of climate and faith, Wilson also paused to shout out his local ties.

“I did one year at Tufts University,” he said. “I love Boston!”

Now in its third year, the Globe Summit brings together influential figures across many fields for three days to consider some of the greatest challenges society faces. This year’s summit, with the theme “Today’s Innovators, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” takes place Tuesday through Thursday at WBUR CitySpace and livestreams at globesummit2023.splashthat.com.

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Wilson, who published a book in April called “Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution,” about rediscovering his spirituality, said “there are spiritual ideas that connect with climate change” in the Baháʼí faith, which teaches the unity of humanity and includes a “spiritual mandate . . . to try to make the world a better place,” and the same values exist in many other religions.

“If you look at the behavior of Jesus . . . he was out helping the poor, feeding people, bringing communities together. He was ushering forward an ever-advancing civilization,” Wilson said. “The same with the Buddha . . . there are so many incredible writings about . . . having so much compassion that you cannot live without reducing the suffering of others.”

But while the work to address climate change must begin with individuals and communities, Wilson stressed that polluting industries must take action, and said people have power as consumers and investors to push companies toward more ecologically responsible actions.

“We need to let companies know how we feel about sustainability,” he said.

The actor said he believes everyone has a role to play in bringing their communities together and “in helping humanity reach that that final stage in its evolution where we live together in peace and harmony and unity.”

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“I know it seems far-fetched,” he said. “It may produce some eye-rolls ... But I do believe that world peace is possible, nay even inevitable.”



Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.