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Home Religion and Ecology A Climate in Crisis

A Climate in Crisis

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"Many civilizations have already come and gone. Global warming may be an early symptom of the death of our current civilization."

A combination of powerful factors is rapidly undermining the global ecological system that supports and integrates all living species and their interactions with land, water and atmosphere.

The Earth’s climate system provided the foundation for human civilization to develop over the last 10000 years. Collectively, we are only now beginning to recognize the depth of this interdependence. We are unwillingly facing an anthropogenic (man-made) climate crisis, unleashed by our own waste stream of carbon gas. Meaningful corrective actions are now a matter of urgency for the survival of our own species, and up to half of all species alive at the time of the industrial revolution. On the fortunate side, the clean energy technologis we need to avoid climate breakdown already exist. On the downside, a hugely wealthy corporate sector of society derives its profits from the status quo; continuous economic growth based on fossil carbon fuels.

Climate Crisis

The global ecological crisis is existential, fast-moving and multi-faceted. If we drift inadvertently past a critical juncture, we will be unable to halt the process--an outcome termed "runaway" global warming. Such is the context in which we established this website, as an educational resource, primarily for the international Buddhist community. The Science section covers the origins, dynamics and evolutionary implications of the climate crisis. Its aim is to provide an accurate, pithy description of the problem, as in the diagnosis of an illness. This is complemented by a Solutions section that describes key technologies, policies and actions to resolve the crisis. Once we understand the character and extent of a problem accurately, it is constructive and transformational to focus on the solution. A unique section of this website concerns Wisdom in relation to both individual and collective spheres of the climate change issue.

Dalai LamaWe are confronted with convergent self-created dangers—climate, ecological and evolutionary. Albert Einstein noted that intractable problems cannot be solved by the same mindset that created them. A paradigm shift is required. We believe that a key element of this shift emerges from a synthesis between the sciences of external phenomena and those of inner awareness and the human psyche. The Dalai Lama [1] states:
In one sense the methods of science and Buddhism are different: scientific investigation proceeds by experiment, using instruments that analyze external phenomena, whereas contemplative investigation proceeds by the development of refined attention, which is then used in the introspective examination of inner experience.  But both share a strong empirical basis: if science shows something to exist or to be non-existent, then we must acknowledge that as a fact.  If a hypothesis is tested and found to be true, we must accept it. Likewise, Buddhism must accept the facts—whether found by science or found by contemplative insights. If, when we investigate something, we find there is reason and proof for it, we must acknowledge that as reality—even if it is in contradiction with a literal scriptural explanation that has held sway for many centuries or with a deeply held opinion or view. So one fundamental attitude shared by Buddhism and science is the commitment to keep searching for reality by empirical means and to be willing to disregard accepted or long-held positions if our search finds the truth is different. 

Thich Nhat Hanh [2] defines the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism as follows:
Thich Nhat Hanh "The First Noble Truth is that suffering exists. The Second Noble Truth is that suffering has causes. The Third Noble Truth is that happiness is possible.  The Fourth Noble Truth is that there is a path that leads to happiness. We have to distinguish between the first truth and the third one. The first is called dukka in Sanskrit, suffering. The third is called sukha, happiness. They are quite different. Very often we mistake our desire or craving for happiness. We don’t need to be afraid of suffering; we can confront it. If you run away from it you will never have a chance to transform it."

The collective suffering of anthropogenic climate chaos has a specific cause: fossil fuel-driven economic growth. This has almost attained the status of our collective raison d'etre. Yet it is a blind will to power, driven by the shared subconscious beliefs and mass manipulation of consumerism. Nhat Hanh states [3]:

"If we can accept the death of our own human bodily form, we can perhaps begin to accept the eventual death of our own civilization. This civilization of ours is just one civilization, and one day it will have to die in order to make room for another civilization to arise. Many civilizations have already come and gone. Global warming may be an early symptom of the death of our current civilization. If we don't know how to stop our over-consumption, then the death of our civilization will surely come more quickly. We can slow this process by stopping and being mindful, but the only way to do this is to accept the eventual death of this civilization, just as we accept the death of our own physical form. Acceptance is made possible when we know that deep down our true nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death." 

1. Dalai Lama XIV [2005] Universe in a Single Atom
2. Thich Nhat Hanh [2007] The Art of Power
3. Thich Nhat Hanh [2008] The World We Have

The author is John Stanley PhD, a former research group leader at the UK Health Protection Agency & member of the New York Academy of Sciences.



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