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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 21 Climate change will devastate the global economy, cause widespread conflict, and displace millions of people—this is how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarized its latest report released in March. Numerous other recent scientific studies have similarly sounded the alarm about the tremen- dous suffering that lies ahead if climate change is not addressed. Despite these clear warnings, it would appear that many in the Buddhist community are reti- cent to engage the issue. Individually, more than four hundred Buddhist teachers have signed a document titled “The Earth as Witness: Interna- tional Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change,” but how many are using the platform they have within their own communities to rally others to action? How many sanghas are taking up this pressing work as community practice? In my experience, many in the Buddhist com- munity feel they should remain focused on the dharma and that sanghas should not take an active role in issues that seem political. Climate change, however, is unquestionably a dharma issue. The roots of the problem are ignorance and delusion: ignorance about how it is that life exists on our planet, and the delu- sion that we can continue unbridled fossil fuel and material consumption without grave con- sequences. Since we strive as Buddhists to cut through ignorance and follow a path that can relieve suffering, the path by which climate change can be skillfully confronted is, by defi- nition, an expression of dharma practice. In my book From Me to We, I describe five commitments, each based on fundamental dharma principles, that I believe can establish the shift in consciousness required to diminish climate change. BOB DOPPELT facilitates the Dharma Teachers Climate Collaborative and directs The Resource Innovation Group. He is the author of From Me to We: The Five Transformational Commitments Required to Rescue the Planet, Your Organization, and Your Life. by Bob Doppelt PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN The first commitment: See the systems you are part of The first and most important commitment each of us must make is to openly recognize the context in which we exist. In order to effect meaningful action on climate change, we must acknowledge the truth of our interdependency with all ecological processes and living beings. This is the dharma principle of dependent origi- nation, or emptiness. Everything is intercon- nected—all things arise due to multiple causes and conditions. The principle of shunyata, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, also applies. There is nothing solid, no separate or permanent self, no actual “me.” There is only “we”— com- plex interdependent process and organisms. A simple way to expand your awareness of the systems you are part of is to physically map them. You can, for example, map your food system. Be specific about the many human and ecological interactions that combine to produce the food you eat. Great harm can occur when we fail to account for those interrelationships. The second commitment: Account for all the consequences of your actions “We reap what we sow”— this, of course, is the principle of karma. Our actions have conse- quences. To reduce our contribution to the cli- mate crisis, we must account for the full impact of our activities on the climate and on the other systems that created and sustain life on Earth. You can examine your map and identify how your use of fossil fuels contributes to warmer temperatures, altering precipitation and other natural inputs that make your food possible. Consider how those changes affect the lives of people worldwide. Can Buddhists Come Together on Climate Change? LET’S TALK