blog action day: buddhists and climate change

once again, blog action day and the october buddhist carnival fall on the same date. let me present to you, then, a few colourful strands from that corner of the blogosphere where buddhism and climate change intersect.

icebergs are buddhist monks
we always start that buddhist carnival with a poem. here is an excerpt from yann martel’s long poem that was part of guy laliberte’s poetic social mission which he broadcast from space. it features a water drop speaking:

icebergs are buddhist monks i send forth,
released into the world from the great monasteries of the poles.
their mantra is the blue light humming within their frozen cores.
their message is peace and oneness,
but alas they simply vanish.
every year monks leave me and never return.

read the rest here.

how much impact?
one of the criticisms that guy laliberte received was that he frivolously spent millions on his space trip, money that could have been spent much more wisely down on earth. the next article is in a similar vein. one city is one of beliefnet’s buddhist blogs. the next post is a discussion of colin beavan’s no impact man. paul griffin, the author of this blog entry, mentions another review of the book by elizabeth kolbert

kolbert, a seasoned environmental reporter (her 2006 three-part series “the climate of man” was terrific), sharply criticizes beavan’s project, calling it a “stunt” and “shtick.” she compares beavan’s book, along with alisa smith and james mackinnon’s “plenty: eating locally on the 100 mile diet” and vanessa farquharson’s “sleeping naked is green: how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 266 days,” to thoreau’s “walden.” she claims that all of these books, thoreau’s included, are mere stunts.

griffin uses this criticism to muse on the perhaps false dichotomy between personal and political activism. is the no impact man, who spent a year leaving as small of an ecological footprint as possible just middle-class cute? or does his influence reach deeper? it’s a question that most of us bleeding-heart-do-gooders often ask ourselves. i don’t think there is an easy answer bit i also think it’s an important question to revisit once in a while.

buddhist declaration on climate change – walking the noble eightfold path
towards froglessness discusses the buddhist declaration on climate change and points out how the noble eightfold path lays out ways in which it can be walked in an environmentally conscious way, for example

right mindfulness – we have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully, with gratitude, and to share examples of good practice

right concentration – we have a responsibility to focus on the issues at the heart of our modern malaise, both spiritual and material

who is nature?
andre from belarus – it’s nice to have a voice from outside north america – gives a general overview over a buddhist answer to the climate challenge, citing thich nhat hanh:

we classify other animals and living beings as nature, acting as if we ourselves are not part of it. then we pose the question ”how should we deal with nature?” we should deal with nature the way we should deal with ourselves; we should not harm nature… human beings and nature are inseparable.

the vancouver buddhist fellowship, a socially engaged local group, also talks about nonduality – the nonduality of ecology and economy, pointing out that

what motivates our economic system is the drive to use anything and everything (now “natural resources,” including “human resources”) to create something that is really nothing. we don’t usually notice the absurdity of this because we are preoccupied with the more and more that the system produces. the fact that so many of us already have more than we need is addressed by manipulating our awareness, in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that we always want something else that we don’t yet have. it’s always the next _______ (fill in the blank) that will satisfy us.

max frisch said that technology is the knack of arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. that’s why modern technologies fit so well with consumer capitalism, which works to transform the whole biosphere into consumer goods. together they are making mother earth into a gigantic walmart.

paul gilding at ecobuddhism, on the other hand, talks about duality – the crazy-making experience of looking at what science seems to clearly indicate on the one hand, and what happens in many boardrooms on the other hand:

it is very clear when you listen to these scientists and read their peer-reviewed reports that, on any calm and rational analysis, we should be preparing for a carbon reduction war. yes, a war – with all that implies about focus, effort and sacrifice. the threat posed is, after all, a “clear and present danger” and the response should be strong, global and immediate. this should be a ‘whatever it takes’ moment.

then i shift into the parallel universe. i spend time in corporate boardrooms and listen to the analysis of business executives who explain how we mustn’t damage the economy by “over-reacting”. they explain their concern about protecting jobs and economic growth, how we must not jeopardise “our” (insert india, china, south africa, USA, australia etc) national competitiveness by acting “early” because, after all, without a global solution what difference will our actions make anyway?

(thanks for reminding me of this blog, george!)

the himalayas, part 1

apa sherpa , the world record holder for mt. everest ascents, has once again scaled the world’s tallest peak, but this time as a member of WWF nepal’s climate for life project.

apa reached the summit on the 21st of may as part of a ten person team, six of whom made it to the top. the idea behind this project was twofold. one to highlight climate change and place a holy bhumpa at the peak personally blessed by the venerable rinpoche of tengboche (buddhist spiritual leader). (the bhumpa is an eight-inch tall copper-made sacred vase which contains 400 elements including precious metals, buddhist relics, shreds of robes worn by venerated monks, holy water and soil, among other things).

the rest of the article is here

the himalayas, part 2

[in december of 2008,] high up in leh, ladakh, one of the most remote and mountainous areas of india, over 1,500 people gathered for a beautiful display of their concern for climate change and their call for a world returned to less than 350 ppm co2.

ladakh, like more and more places around the globe, is already facing real challenges in face of climate change ” unpredictable weather, floods, and the prospects of diminished water supply from glacial melt. all this and more, is reason enough for the people of ladakh to stand up and call for bold action around the world as they did today.

a bit more wisdom, please
the wisdom quarterly american buddhist journal features a number of articles on climate change. while they are interesting (for example, an article on climate change in canada’s nunavut, formerly known as northwest territories, and another article on how climate change nurtures the growth of diseases) they are reprints from news services, not original articles. it would be interesting to have a commentary on the wisdom quarterly’s buddhist views of these world events (i’m thinking of the good work alexander does in this area with his commentaries from a baha’i view.)


what do you/i/we take from all this? nonduality and duality; the personal and the political; water and ice; mountains, higher than most can imagine, and stuffy, air-conditioned boardrooms. what would buddha do? what IS buddha doing?

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