Our commitment for the Planet
student in a course, every donor and every person in retreat, we
will plant a tree
Welcome to some basic reflections on “Buddhism and Ecology”
witten by Lama Tilmann, director of Ekayana Institute and Norbu Verlag.
How to live ecology based on an inner path of compassionate wisdom? I will be writing notes on this theme as the days come, quite regularly, but depending on how much time I can take, also for some research and reading. At the same time I will learn how to format articles, make headlines, paste links and make this whole thing look nicer… Please excuse the simple formating for right now — help is welcome! Let us dive right into the topic:
- I join the UN report’s declaration (from October 2018) on climate change that it is high time for a RADICAL, QUICK CHANGE in our attitude towards our planet, our climate, and towards the coming generations.
- WE ALL have to act NOW — and change our behaviour as quick as possible — to keep the global warming at 1.5 °C by 2030.
- We need a revolution of COMPASSION, become rebels of PEACE, and most of all: we can travel a path of JOY while taking care of this planet and our future as mankind.
- It might not be easy, but it can be FUN. I will try to share that with you. It will need TIME, my time, your time, everyone’s time.
- Wise ecology is not about speeding up, getting everything fast, travelling faster, growing bigger — and other dreams of omnipotence.
- It is very much about CONTENTMENT, being happy with what we have, MODERATION, using only what we need, PACING, slowing down and taking our time, JOY, enjoying simplicity, cultivating FRIENDSHIP, and enjoying our mind.
- Are you ready for change? Are you willing to participate in RADICAL CHANGE?
- Then, please take your time, and enjoy yourself reading these notes, discussing them, researching, following the links, and act with deepening insight into our mutual INTERDEPENDANCE.
To take my time and to dedicate some energy every day (!) to this theme of ECOLOGICAL RESPONSABILITY was my first step, in the beginning of December 2018. And now I wish to share with you some of my reflections. As you read, you might want to reflect, whether the following statements could be yours:
- I regard it as an integral part of my inner, spiritual path to take care of the environment.
- I am concerned with maintaining good outer conditions for inner development for all those who live on this planet now — and in the future.
- I esteem healthy living conditions to be an important part of a precious human life, which allows us to practise the path of awakening.
- Ecological messages, intended to stimulate an environmental consciousness, need to be messages of LOVING KINDNESS, otherwise they might in the end prove to be counterproductive.
- How can we most effectively stimulate a radical change in everyone of us towards a planetary perspective? My answer is, only through the forces of INSIGHT and COMPASSION.
- In writing and talking I will search for ways to express my concern about the current development and my understanding of what needs to be done in inspiring ways. How can I do that? By constantly relying on a peaceful, loving, unmistakingly clear, joyful mind.
- My practice is joy whenever I take care of a situation, of a person, an animal, a plant, a lake, the ocean, the air, nature… — all the so-called “environment”… just as it is a joy to care for someone beside me.
- “Caring”, in a deeper sense, means for me to open up to the overall situation, to include the welfare of all living beings into my way of leading life: how I act, talk, eat, dress, travel… which goods I purchase, and so on, nothing excluded.
In the early 1980’s, five of us founded the “Bunte Liste” in Freiburg, who was two years later the third ecological party in Germany to pass the 5% hurdle and enter a city council. Also I sold food in the first biological food store in Freiburg. But in those early days of political activism my emotions were strong. I felt anger, fear and despair when seeing what was done to the environment and how ruthless people in posts of decision behaved. In those days the acid rains were destroying many trees in the black forest, nuclear power plants were built in most countries, more and more cars produced everywhere, with very little consciousness on the amount of waste that was produced, and I could not walk through nature without becoming upset at seeing the damages. Also, in our ecological party, there were lots of tensions, and I came to see that we were just as caught in strong emotions as those politicians and business-minded people, which we were criticising.
In those days, since the age of 18, I already meditated regularly and felt that deep mind training could be the long term solution to the ecological problem: to first work with my mind and later help others to work with theirs. I decided to follow an approach from within, without fighting anyone on the outside. The real “enemy” — if there is one — is our own lack of awareness. So I left party politics, and dedicated myself fully to “liberating my own heart-mind” as the Buddha suggests. After finishing my studies I stayed some years in meditation retreat, became a Buddhist monk, then teacher, and recently came “back to normal life” as a meditation teacher.
These many years of meditation have made a difference: Now I feel neither fear, nor anger, nor despair when looking at the state the world is in, which actually is much worse now in compariosn to the early 80s. The problems are basically the same as then, but they have just grown enormously. However, at the same time, the available solutions have also developed. So everything is ready now: The pressure of global warming and pollution increases — and the means to combat the problems are also there. Time to act!
I feel a strong dedication to stimulate the necessary radical change, and I see how that could be brought about by a balanced approach using inner and outer resources. And I believe that now we can communicate the ecological message with a warm heart. That’s how it feels inside — quite calm and relaxed, inspite of the urgent need for action. It is late, but not too late to effect the necessary change. We have all the information needed, we have the technology, pilote projects all over the world show us the way, and a rapidly growing number of people everywhere are calling for that change, especially the young generation. I myself seem to have come a full circle in those 40 years, or rather: I feel like having done some turns in an upward spiral, which gives me a clearer perspective of the whole issue: Ecology with a warm heart is possible!
But let us get down to the facts now, before engaging in more descussion on deep ecology with a warm heart.
I wish to give you a summary of the United Nations’ Report (Special Report “SR1.5”, investigating the effects of “Global Warming of 1.5 °C”) issued by the UN’s scientific advisory panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018. Hundreds of scientists have worked together on this for 2.5 years, since the famous Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, when this report was commissioned.
You can yourself download the whole report by follwing this link or simply read it online. For those who do not have much time (smile), there is a “Summary for Policy Makers” which only has 32 pages of dense information. It is difficult to read, technical and scientific English, but other language versions are also avaible. I shall give you only highly reliable information.
Here are the most important observations and conclusions:
- In 2018 the global warming has reached 1.0°C already, with noticeable climatic changes everywhere on the planet. The temperature increase varies from 0.8 to 1.2°C in differnet parts of the planet during the years 2006 — 2015.
- If we apply radical measures, it is still possible to keep the global warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial levels measured during the years 1850 — 1900.
- Global warming caused by humans is currently increasing at an estimated 0.2°C (0.1 — 0.3°C) per decade. This means we might reach the climate threshold of 1.5°C global warming in roughly 25 years (by 2043), if the warming does not speed up (!) .
- Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean (e.g. Arctic).
- The accumulating effects of the already produced (!) warming due to human activity will create an unavoidable further warming; but it is possible that this stays within 0.5°C over the next 2–3 decades (until 2050) — and then stops there, if we apply all means at our disposition right now.
- To say it more clearly: If all possible efforts are made in the coming decade up to 2030, and we reduce the human made CO2 emissions to zero, plus have other factors of non-CO2 radiative forcing decline, then we can half the continuous global warming at 1.5°C by 2050.
Day 4: Insights from the United Nations’ Report on Climate Change
I know, it takes a little patience and perseverance to read through all of this. But this is exactly the energy we need to put into this topic to produce the necessary change. WE NEED TO BE WELL-INFORMED, because still people in our environment come with all kinds of uninformed arguments on what is true and not, and on what to do and not to do, and we need to be able to give reliable information. so, here we go again:
- We now become aware that additional warming up to 2.0°C and more will have desastrous effects on natural and human systems, much more than it was expected by scientists so far.
- This is due to mutually enhancing negative factors, which lead to an exponential curve in climate risks, like crossing the critical temperature limit that will lead to liberating Methane gas from the permafrost regions or the melting of further larger ice shells like the one on Greenland.
- Future, climate-related risks depend on the rate, peak, and duration of warming. The quicker the rate or speed of warming, the higher the peak of warming that we reach, and the longer the duration of that warming, the more desastrous ae the consequences.
- So it is highly advisable:
- to slow down the warming rate as quick and much as possible,
- to avoid further peaks and increasing peaks of climate warming, and
- to reduce the duration of warming to as short as possible, coming back to lower temperatures once the climax is reached.
These are the three goals we need to keep in mind and address all our efforts towards. They are so important, because some impacts of climate changing may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of whole eco-systems (for example the Great Barrier Coral Riff or the fauna of the polar regions, or tens of thousands of plant and animal species).
Day 5: What can we do?
The measures to combat global warming fall into two categories:
- “mitigation measures”, which slow down the warming to net-zero, and then reduce the global temperature below the reached peak of warming back to less dangerous levels, and
- “adaptation measures”, which help eco-systems to adapt to the increasingly difficult situation.
If we ONLY continue with the present efforts (2015–2018), we might reach a global warming of 1.5°C already by 2030, and reach 2.0°C by 2050, which is expected to have desastrous consequences.
OUR PRESENT EFFORTS ARE NOT ENOUGH TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING.
The UN report suggests the following FEASIBLE AIMS, in order to bring global warming to a halt and then reverse it:
- to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2040, and
- to slow down until 2030 the unavoidable increase in emissions of non CO2 green house gases (like methane, nitrous oxide, aerosols etc.), and then to reduce them back to lower levels
I myself, as a citizen of this planet and integral part of nature, am asked to adopt the same aim on a smaller scale:
- to reduce my own CO2 emissions to net-zero as soon as possible, and
- to reduce my own non CO2 green house gas emissions as far as possible.
How we can do that will be the main topic of this whole ecology section. Later on, when I have written more, you are invited to scroll down to read directly those more practical passages. However, well-founded information is really needed, and it only needs 15 minutes of reading each day for two weeks. Take the TIME!
Day 6: Impacts of Climate Change
The UN report states the following sure impacts of global warming on the climate in general:
- ongoing increase in mean temperature over land in most regions
- increase in ocean temperature and ocean acidity with decrease of ocean oxygen levels
- occurence of days with extremely hot temperatures (+ 3–4°C) in most inhabited regions
- heavy precipitation (rain, snow, hail storms) in several regions, with increasing frequency, intensity,and amount
- increasing probablility of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions
- increasing social and political tensions due to migration induced by climate change
- more frequent extremely cold nights (minus 4.5 to 6.0°C) in higher latitudes
- more hot days, especially in tropics
- more tropical cyclones
- increased flood hazards
- unavoidable sea level rise well beyond 2100 (0.26 — 0.77 m), but slower and approximately 10 cm lower, if warming is only 1.5°C instead of 2°C, which means less risk for ten million people
- if the marine ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland are lost, this could result in a multi-metre rise of sea level — this could be triggered by a global warmingat of about 1.5–2°C
- species extinction (plants, corals, insects, animals…) and survival struggle
- many risks for human beings (see next chapter)
To summarize the above one speaks of 5 “Reasons For Concern” (RFC):
- increasing stress on unique and threatened systems
- increasing occurence of extreme weather events
- uneven distribution of the impacts of climate change
- increasing global aggregate of impacts of climate change
- large scale singular events
All these risks are much higher at 2.0°C global warming compared to 1.5°C (expected for 2030–20140) or 1.0°C (2018).
Day 7: Risks for Human Beings
The impacts of climate change will also greatly effect human beings, directly and indirectly. We will have to face:
- health problems, especially for old, disadvantaged, and indigenous people
- losing agricultural and coastal livelihoods (reduced income from farming and fishing)
- increasing poverty and migration pressure for several hundred million people by 2050
- increasing number of cases of illness and death due to heat
- increasing number of deaths due to ozone
- high health risks in urbane heat islands (big cities)
- diseases like malaria, dengue fever etc. spreading widely
- decrease in crop yields (maize, rice, wheat etc.) especially in tropical and subtropical regions
- smaller harvests also in the Mediterranean, central Europe and Amazon
- livestock (cattle, pigs, chicken etc.) suffering from lesser quality of their food and lack of water with diseases spreading
- decrease of economic growth due to the costs of fighting global warming and adapting to its impacts (climate mitigation and adaptation)
- lack of food and water for humans
This list gives us an idea of what we will have to face in in the near future, if we do not act radically now to stop global warming. If we consider the big enough difficulties of dealing with the migration problems that we have at present, our difficulties in combating famine and drought, the seeming impossibility to end the many armed conflicts, then it is clear: WE DO NOT WANT MORE! It is already difficult enough. Where shall those people go, which lose their homes due to rising sea levels, poverty, inequality? Who will receive these hundreds of millions? Let us prevent the suffering and conflicts which we can still prevent.
Day 8: Let us Turn the Problem into Gold!
The coming problems pose an incredible challenge to all of humanity: Every person, every group, every nation, every smaller group of countries realizes: WE CANNOT DO THIS ALONE! That’s where this mega-problem can turn into a golden opportunity: WE CAN LEARN TO ALL WORK TOGETHER. This would be a revolution in human history: from rivalry to union. The problems originate from self-serving attitudes — the solution needs to come from attitudes cultivating a spirit of togetherness, serving the whole planet and all the living creatures on it in a deep understanding of our interconnectedness. This is our chance, to participate in the biggest revolution ever: FROM A SMALL MIND TO A BIG HEART! So, all our steps of combating global warming and the other desastrous consequences of self-cherishing attitdes need to serve a spirit of INTER-BEING, PEACE, COMPASSION, JOY, SHARING and similar qualities. That’s the challenge, that’s the opportunity — I am happy to live in such times! The pressure of impending suffering is sufficiently great to stimulate the human race wiser ways of participating in this world. Ignorance, denial, desire, anger are strong indeed, but wisdom and love are finally stronger, and in fact the only solution we have: A WISE TOGETHERNESS:
Day 9: URGENT: We need to Plant Trees and Big Forests!
Okay, that’s enough for now with the general outline of the topic. Before I continue with that, let’s become practical. There are hundreds of possibilitites to do something to help with this ecological crisis, but one activity has by far the most outstanding positive effects: Planting trees! There is no other ecological activity that is so effective in reducing global warming as planting trees.
The United Nations has started the “Trillion Tree Campaign”. It is a collective effort all over the planet to use the available spaces for reforestation. We human beings can actually grow back the trees we have recently cut, which has deeply disturbed the ecologiacal balance. By global reforestation we can capture an additional 25% of global annual carbon emissions, and at the same time create wealth in the southern regions of the globe. One trillion trees more (in German: eine Billion) than at the beginning of this century is the aim. This means: 1 billion people (those who have the means) should on the average each plant 1.000 trees! So far, since 2006, this campaign has registered more than 14 billion (in German Milliarden) trees that have been planted.
Did you already plant your 1.000 trees? If not, please do so as soon as possible. The trees we plant this year need time to grow. There maximum carbon intake is in the time of their maximum growth, usually, when they are more than ten years old, depending on the species. So, if we want to have the effect by 2030, we need to plant them NOW!
I have recently planted my first 2.000 trees, and it is great fun. I was searching the net for reforestation project, which I could support. I found two big projects that make it really easy to give:
I stayed with the second option (I am sure there are many more, please let me know), because it is the most eaysy, and most fun!
I have to finish for today. But I will be back with you soon. All the best, Tilmann
Day 10: How to make my “Carbon Footprint” smaller?
Today I am turning 60 — will I continue “Business as usual”?
Well, not quite. I wish to share some ecolgocial reflections with you:
Yes, I appreciate life and I want to live long, in order to serve people and to support life on this planet, and definitely not to be a burden to others. But what does a long life imply from the ecological point of view? I have recently — by sponsoring trees through Tree Nation — neutralized the approximately 600t of greenhouse gas, which my life has caused so far to be blown into the air. I also sponsored trees to offset additional 250t for the years to come (hopefully). If you like to see my “tree sponsoring profile”, follow this link. But the trees still have to grow — it is quite late! But perhaps this inspires you to do the same. It has been my greatest joy at Christmas!
Also, I checked my CO2 output with a precise, free carbon footprint calculator. I was happy to find out that my emissions are down to 6 tons (including two return flights) in 2018 compared to 16 tons in 2010 when I was travelling a lot to teach and to see my parents. However 6 tons are still far more (!) than what the planet can “digest” from an average citizen. The German average per person is very high: 11.02 tons/year, and we should all come down to about 1 ton. I want to help with that in the next years, but how exactly, I am still finding out.
To give you an example: When I teach in Brazil, almost all students come by plane, since the distances are big, usually around 1.000 km, and I myself from Europe. I just checked with the Carbon Offsetting Scheme for Internatinal Aviation (CORSIA), a free online tool, the CO2 emissions for our flights: Together we will be responsible for at least 10 tons… but we will definitely sponsor more trees than that! Also, we can try to connect with students via internet, in the form of a webinar, so that more can participate from their homes.
In December 2018 we started the Ekayana Forest Project on Tree Nation to neutralize our group activities. As a Buddhist community we share a common forest worldwide in various reforestation projects with the aim to develop a climate supportive and environment-friendly spiritual practice. Within 2 months, we have sponsored 2375 trees and offset almost 700 tons of CO2. I feel, this is the minimum we can do to compensate for our activities. And I wish to continue like that. If you wish to participate, contact us by email under [email protected] Maybe we can also find and directly sponsor some reforestation project in Brazil or Greece, two places where I teach! Direct contact seems to be best. Then, we really feel part of the project with a long term commitment.
Day 11: Tony Rinaudo and the Natural Regeneration of Forests
Dear reader, after my birthday it took me 11 days to start Day 11! But in the meantime I read a fantastic documentary on “Tony Rinaudo — The Forestmaker” (also available in German) and his discovery in the Sahel Zone of the enormous power of the roots of former trees to bring forth new trees, if pruned properly.
From his discovery, in the early 80’s in Niger, originates a rapidly growingc movement, mostly in the dry tropics, called the “Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration” (FMNR) and a slightly different form called “Assisted Natural Regeneration”, which up to date have recovered more than 7 million hectares (!) of land from desertification. Instead of cutting down the trees in their farmlands, the farmers keep some of the trees among their crops to protect the soil from the sun’s direct heat and the sandy winds, draw water from underground, use their leaves as fodder, eat their fruits, and of course — when the time is ripe — use the wood for construction or burning. The roots continue to live underground even some years after a tree has been cut and show signs of life as little bushes coming out of the sand. One simply has to select the strongest branches, cut off the others, and the tree comes back.
The costs are practically zero, just a little training in pruning and selecting the most favourable type of trees, and the farmers spread the word by mouth once they are convinced by the results. Some funds are needed to support farmers to see older, more experienced colleagues some distance away in order to learn from their years of experience. Other costs might be occasioned when trying to protect the trees against animals eating them up prematurely. But otherwise these trees prove to be very resistant and fast-growing, since they have the support of a vast network of roots, which have not died yet.
The biggest learning process is for the farmers to stop with the idea that they need a “clean land” without trees to grow crops, and for the governments to give back the right to farmers to own their trees with the right (and responsability) to make complete use of them (growing, harvesting, cutting, replanting). This needs changes in the laws of many countries, which prohibited the personal use of trees so far and paralyzed the initiative of farmers to take care of them themselves.
Because of this, Tony Rinaudo, the Australian agronomist, won the 2018 “Alternative Nobel Prize” for his trailblazing reforestation technique, mainly used in desert and semi-desert areas in Africa. In the Sahel zone, millions of hectares of land have been restoring vegetation, thereby helping to stop desertification and re-green drylands.
I personally find this to be one of the most encouraging news I ever heard. I could go on giving more details, but I advise you to read the book yourself or listen to Tony Rinaudo give a 9‑minute keynote speech or simply visit the website of World Vision Australia on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration where he works and where we can also leave a much appreciated and very effective donation. Best wishes, Tilmann
Day 12: Living the Path of Awakening with Ecological Understanding
Actually, taking care of our environment is simply wise. It is a sign of wisdom not to neglect one’s own basis. Of course it is also a sign of love and comapssion.What could more essential to a path of transformation or awakening than wisdom, love and compassion? For me, a true spiritual path is as conected to environment-conscious behaviour as a flame is connected to its heat.
Relying on the Buddhist approach, we can define the path of liberation and awakening as:
- avoiding all possible harm,
- enhancing whatever is truly wholesome
- developing deep and vast awareness until we are fully in tune with reality
- acting in helpful ways towards all sentient beings.
We can easily see how this immediately applies to our ways of being on planet Earth:
- We will avoid as much as possible to harm ourselves, other human beings, and all other creatures by our ways of using this earth and its resources.
- We will do what we can to provide and protect good conditions for life, health, well-being, peace, happiness, and freedom for everyone living with us on this planet (and beyond).
- We will develop the awareness of our interconnectedness and mutual interdependance with everything around us, see the fragility and beauty of life, understand our responsibility for our own states of mind, and learn how to open up and free this mind from self-centered perspectives.
- We will naturally reach out to other sentient beings in a spontaneous activity of compassionate, wise, and joyful love offering them all possible support.
The next obvious step is then the practical application in daily life, in a million ways, for example:
- not creating harm through producing more CO2 heating up the atmosphere, not producing more plastic wastes which destroys life in the oceans etc.
- planting forests to absorb CO2, enhancing ecological production chains, fair trade etc.
- developing greater sensitivity of our interpendance with nature and other beings, learning to relax stress patterns, learning to let self-centered impulses dissolve by themselves, developing the capacity enjoy our own mind and be truly happy without depending on outer circumstances etc.
- engaging in helpful activities in this world, which encourage the above learning processes etc.
Well, these were 12 points for the 12th day — a nice coincidence! Have a wonderful day!
Day 13: Let us make our lives ecologically sustainable
The goal is to make our own lives ecologically sustainable fot his world, which is directly applying point 1 of the above list: to create as little harm as possible. The planet can sustain the present number of human beings, if we do not produce more than 2.5 tons of CO2 per person per year. Let’s aim for that, even if it means big changes in life-style! It might take 10–20 years to reach that goal, which for me is an ethical obligation towards the yunger generations. Soon it might anyhow become an economical obligation for all of us, because of the increasing costs of devastating climate change that will force our governments to impose CO2 taxes. So, let’s shoulder the task right away — if we do it already now, it gives us a little more time to adapt to the new life style. Two months ago I formulated some personal commitments, which go into that direction If I share them with you, this is to inspire, not to create super-ego-stress, okay — it is with joy that I live them!
- It is my joy to live a healthy life with love for all beings including nature, taking care of this planet, sometimes affectionately called “Mother Earth”.
- I enjoy eating food, which is healthy and whose production respects the longing for health and happiness of animals as well as humans.
- As an expression of that I prefer to eat vegan, if that fits my health and does not create undue complications.
- I prefer to eat organically grown natural products, reaching me in ecocologically responsible ways of transport through fair trade.
- I use food leftovers to make good compost, which can be used in the garden.
- I prefer recycable food packaging and try to create as little waste as possible.
- I take the time to use the means of transport, which are most respectful of the environment: walking, cycling, trains, busses, ferries, and the like.
- When that is not possible, it is my joy to sponsor reforestation or similar projects in ways that exceed the damage I create.
- I do not encourage others to travel in order to see me in ways that pollute the environment; telecommunication and online-contact will help with that.
- I strengthen my body and relax my mind so that I can live with less heating.
- To reduce the heating I take care of a healthy room climate, wear warmer clothes, and sometimes rather use a hot water bottle than heat the whole room or house.
- Also, I will not pollute the air through unnecessary fires — rather I contribute to healthy forests.
- Knowing that pure water, the life elixir of this planet, becomes rare and that always more energy is needed to produce it, I use it with moderation and reserve its luxurious use for times, when it is available in abundance.
- I protect the purity of water by using only the necessary amount of biodegradable soap, washing powder and so on.
- I collect rain water for gardening and flushing toilets.
- I use electricity from 100% “green” sources or produce it myself through water, wind, sun and other respectful technologies.
- However, since the production, transportation and storage of electricity produces a considerable stress on the environment, I use only what is really needed.
… to be continued…
Day 14: Continuing with Joyful Commitment
- Purchasing goods I am attentive to not create avidable waste.
- I verify whether already used second hand articles could not serve my purpose just as well.
- Whenever possible I buy 100% recycable, biological products.
- I prefer products generated through ethical and environmentally respectful work.
- I support the conditions of fair trade.
- Purchasing regional products has priority over easier-to-get products from far away.
- I use my possessions for as long as possible and as it makes sense ecologically.
- I find other ways to make myself and others happy than through buying new stuff.
- I rejoice in repairing and mending machines, buildings, clothes etc. for as long as it makes sense.
Actually, I am joining the global campaign to create and preserve good conditions for human development and the happiness of all creatures.
If this is to be a truly ecological campaign I will use the already existing resources for that, avoiding to create more harm and waste through the campaign.
Internet communication together with talking to those around me is actually all that is needed to communicate my insights, inspirations, discoveries and experiences to others.
Day 15: Deep Ecology from a Buddhist point of view
The good old Buddhist teaching, 2,500 years old, is about finding true happiness free from stress, and thus addresses the core issue of our modern problems: the unskilful search for happiness creating stress for individuals and the environment.
The best way to find true happiness is to awaken to our innate potential, the inborn qualities of mind, which provide everything we need to be happy, much more than we ever longed for. To discover the inherent qualities of mind is like discovering a wish-fulfilling jewel!
Deep ecology needs to be about liberating that inherent potential of joy, love, ease, and happiness — and not to waste our time and energy striving for temporary happiness coming from outside.
Actually, you will see, all resistance to the necessary ecological changes comes from a clinging to one’s favourite ways of searching temporary happiness outside, and the incapacity to envisage fulfillment coming from within.
Whatever “ecological” proposition we make, it will be checked against an inner estimation of just how much that new way of doing things might bring more or less satisfaction, more or less happiness.
Most people react to ecological proposals in the same way as they react to a threat, fearing that this different way of doing will infringe on their happiness.
We have to be aware of that fear to be less happy and show everyone that behaving in ecologically responsible ways is actually the path to a more reliable happiness.
Deep ecology is all about liberating and using that deep potential of joy, compassion, and happiness.
As a practitioner of deep ecology I am aware that I am completely interconnected with everyone and everything around me.
The air, water, earth, climate, plants, insects, animals, and the presence of human beings — including theier acts of body, speech and mind — all influence me. And I influence them.
Let us use this influence skilfully, responsible, with love and wisdom, to promote excellent conditions of life.
On the relative level I am concerned with rapidly accelerating climate change, global warming, species mass extinction, global pollution, and the denial of that.
It seems to me that the human species is acting in ways that might lead to its own extinction — a kind of suicidal pursuit of happiness!
In this highly unskilful pursuit of human happiness almost all other species on this planet are dragged into suffering and the risk of extinction.
I do not want to die without having done my share in reducing this suicidal human activity. Not becoming active now, I would die with a feeling of regret.
Day 16: Joyful Mind leading to Joyful Action — the Central Axis of Ecological Change
My life is dedicated to deep, overall ecology using the mind (!) as our main ressource, because this is actually and ultimately where the change needs to happen.
Mind and behaviour are complety interrelated. All behaviour is preceded or directed by mind.
A change of mental attitude will almost automatically produce a change in our behaviour.
And what produces the deepest positive changes in mental attitudes? JOY
Joy is the central, fourth quality in the Buddha’s Seven Wings of Awakening. It is what actually gives stability in our activity to benefit the world: Joyful energy, joyful perseverance.
When the joy is lost in our endeavours, the energy of transformation slackens; we might even become bitter…
So, let’s go with the joy, the inspiration, the energy of a happy mind — this will be much more effective than their absence. Let us take joy as the guide!
With joy let us become examples of a responsible behaviour, and joyfully inspire others by talking, sharing information, insights, and so on.
This is actually the easy way, which involves hardly any effort: it is all about rejoicing in what we already are and already have, which generates joyful contentment and simplicity.
Joy is the end of complaining!
Ecology — the wisdom of inter-being — is simple and wise, full of respect and gratitude, a source of well-being and joy.
Day 17: Creating our own Ecological Oasis
We need to live now the “ecological counter-revolution”, which counteracts the ill effects of the industrial revolution. A big part of it will depend on political decisions, which guide the economical evolution. But as always, there is also a grass root dimension to it. All revolutions start from individual people taking a theme to heart. Let us do exactly that and not wait for the big decision makers to do it for us.
How about transforming our living and working places into places of well-being and healing? We can transform our home and our office to some extent already right now, within the limits imposed by our current situation, into an “ecological oasis” which inspires myself and others to relax and open up, to feel closer to nature and to my own likings.
- I can put plants into my room(s), on my staircase and onto my working desk.
- I can use natural materials which breathe to furnish and decorate my surrounding.
- I can participate in cultivating an ecological garden or forest.
- Perhaps someone with a garden can make good use of my kitchen leftovers for compost.
- Maybe in my garden, in a friend’s place or even on the balcony I can create places for bees, insects, birds and other animals to feed and live.
- Possibly I can recycle water and other resources.
- I can think of gifts to offer which sustain healthy environments.
- I can reduce the electromagnetic pollution by switching more often to “airplane mode” or using a LAN-cable instead of a wireless connection for internet.
- Certainly you will have so many more ideas. all of them together will make our immediate environment develop into a healthy place — the best thing we can offer to this world.
And — please, don’t forget: Take your time and enjoy!