NEB Statement on Climate Change
Water flows over my hands.
May I use them skillfully
To preserve our precious planet.
From Earth Gathas – Thich Nhat Hanh
In the Son’s Flesh Sutra, the Buddha tells the story of a couple who try to escape across the desert with their young son, but run out of food while only half way across. To survive, they have to kill and eat their son. Each time they eat a morsel of his flesh, the couple ask each other “Where is our beloved child now?” The Buddha told this story 2,500 years ago, to teach people to practise eating in such a way that they could retain compassion in their hearts. In our current drive for maximum consumption, it is now clear that we have endangered our future generations just as much as the couple who set out with their son to escape across the desert.
According to many teachers, Buddhism can help us to accept the truth of climate change. Once we can accept this truth, we no longer have to live in despair, anger or fear. We can instead try to cultivate enough serenity to accept the suffering we are facing, and that materialist economic thinking needs to cease. We can then use our energy productively, to work together to save our civilizations and our beloved planet.
The fires of greed are stoked in a culture of individualism, where the need to bolster the sense of self to relieve a sense of lack is fostered. Greed and the need for permanent gratification are also profoundly integrated and amplified by the social structures around us and feed the consumerism which is devouring the world. Our entire political/economic system is based on the goal of permanent economic growth with its need for ever-growing craving -hence the difficulty in stopping humanity’s dash to destruction.
Just as Buddhism gives us a framework for explaining climate change, it also provides a way forward.
Buddhism encourages us not just to think of ourselves as not being separate from the Creator/creating/creation, but also to experience nondual kinship (“interbeing”) with all beings. Since this co-arising includes phenomena such as perceptions, thoughts, personal habits, cultural “memes”, social arrangements, technologies and political economy,as well as natural physical and biological realities, it follows that we need holistic remedies for our current crisis.
Buddhist practice has much to offer the world as a solution to climate change. Taking practice into the world in myriads of ways can help relieve suffering caused by indiscriminate human consumption.
As a general theory of addiction, Buddhism has a vital part to play in helping Westerners Anonymous (Westanon?) emerge from comfortable denial about our “progressive lifestyles”, reliant as they are on “apolitical” co-existence with “our” cancerous military-industrial, intel-media and financial systems. To the extent that we deepen our individual practice we redefine “development” and discover the grace which can come from downsizing, recycling, sharing, right speech, right livelihood and “the wisdom of insecurity”. The whole of life becomes a field of practice. Practice-based “cultures of spiritual awakening”learn to recognise each other across confessional boundaries and the “spiritual”-”political” divide. Buddha learns community horticulture in Havana and Dharma-centres discourage motorcars, recycle sewage and plant orchards.
In 2008 NEB tried an experiment. Using the NEB eforum “NebSangha”, we asked people to submit 500 words on the topic of Buddhism and Climate Change. These contributions were then combined into a single 500 piece which was then submitted to the Triple Gem website http://triplegem.terapad.com/ itself an eforum for Buddhist debate on contemporary issues. This project was called VOICE and we hope to repeat is using a different theme as a starting point. This was the result of the Climate Change VOICE exercise.