Day 1: Ecology as the natural Expression of our Inner Path

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.

Day 2: A Warm-hearted Approach to Ecology

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!

Day 3: Facts on Global Warming

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: 
    1. to slow down the warm­ing rate as quick and much as possible,
    2. to avoid fur­ther peaks and increas­ing peaks of cli­mate warm­ing, and
    3. 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:

  1. “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
  2. “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.


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):

  1. increas­ing stress on unique and threat­ened systems
  2. increas­ing occurence of extreme weath­er events
  3. uneven dis­tri­b­u­tion of the impacts of cli­mate change
  4. increas­ing glob­al aggre­gate of impacts of cli­mate change
  5. 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:

  1. avoid­ing all pos­si­ble harm,
  2. enhanc­ing what­ev­er is tru­ly wholesome
  3. devel­op­ing deep and vast aware­ness until we are ful­ly in tune with reality
  4. act­ing in help­ful ways towards all sen­tient beings.

We can eas­i­ly see how this imme­di­ate­ly applies to our ways of being on plan­et Earth:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. not cre­at­ing harm through pro­duc­ing more CO2 heat­ing up the atmos­phere, not pro­duc­ing more plas­tic wastes which destroys life in the oceans etc.
  2. plant­i­ng forests to absorb CO2, enhanc­ing eco­log­i­cal pro­duc­tion chains, fair trade etc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!