Buddhist teacher Judy Lief, who was present at 2015’s Paris climate conference, takes a step back for some perspective.
In December 2015, I witnessed firsthand an outpouring of inspiration at the Paris COP21 climate conference. Over one hundred countries sent representatives to talk about how to respond to the changing climate and its impact. In parallel to diplomatic activity, international NGOs had gathered to share ideas, inventions, ethical insights, and passionate energy. Although the ensuing treaty had many weaknesses, I left with a feeling of cautious hope: the challenges of climate change were beginning to be taken seriously.
In spite of Trump’s cynical withdrawal from that treaty last week, I still am hopeful, because of that very real passion and innovation I’d seen was continuing coming from the grassroots, from people on the ground. Change was bubbling up, rather than coming from on high.
Instead of being caught in self-righteousness and blame, we can begin to face and understand our own contribution to this problem and what we might do about it.
An example: last week I attended a talk by the environmentalist Paul Hawken, in which he outlined 100 substantive solutions to address global warming. Lindsay Allen from the Rainforest Action Network, which sponsored the talk, followed by talking about how persistence in the face of opposition, respectful dialogue, and a practical, nonjudgmental approach can lead to unlikely partnerships for change.
Like many others, I was shocked and discouraged when Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Accord. I was ashamed for our country and angry at his deliberate campaign of confusion about climate warming. But I also saw how the continual media buzz about Trump captures my mind and attention. The shock, outrage, and righteousness are titillating. I saw how easy it is to be drawn to all the drama and entertainment.
So I decided to take a step back, to take a look at what is considered “news,” and how I tend to react. There is something appealing, I realized, about being slightly hysterical about every new shocking thing; it is kind of addictive. But bouncing from one momentary reaction to the next leads to a very fearful and negative view of thing and feeds our feelings of outrage.
However, we can cut through that, and not let it take us over.
We can calm down and take the time to really try to understand the causes and conditions that underlie climate change and our society’s polarized response to it. Instead of being caught in self-righteousness and blame, we can begin to face and understand our own contribution to this problem and what we might do about it.
And we can remember that, while the news keeps feeding our drama addiction, hard-working individuals are persisting, doing amazing things every single day, because they care so deeply about our mother earth and the difficult environmental challenges we face.