Buddhist teacher and Lion’s Roar contributor Judy Lief is back from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and back with one more installment of her ongoing behind-the-scenes reportage on what’s taken place there.
Now she shares her thoughts upon returning, asks who has the courage to make the next big move for positive change, and reflects upon the personal implications of practice in and for our ailing world.
Report from Copenhagen #9: Thoughts upon returning
What is most inspiring in the Heal the Earth movement is seeing all the small and large scale efforts of ordinary people around the globe beginning to mesh in a web-like pattern. And even more, it is actually possible that this global concern could at least temporarily bring together people who usually have nothing to do with each other, ranging from left-wing activists to evangelical stewards of the earth, from secular scientifics to devout Hindus.
I teach a lot on the topic of death and loss and about the terrible damage done by our personal and societal avoidance of the reality of death. I see this same fear, the fear of mortality, as an obstacle to dealing with the global ecological threat. Most of us do not even want to consider the possibility of our own death, much less the possibility of the dying off of the human race on this planet. If we look courageously into the extent of our potential for self-destruction, then maybe we will gather the collective will to do something about it in time to ward off disaster.
On another note, while it is essential to face bald reality, that in itself might lead to despair and inaction unless it is paired with a recognition of human potential, and the inherent force of all beings towards growth and awakening. Tapping into the bank of energy that swells forth from the ground of basic goodness can liberate both compassion and skill so that actions come from love and appreciation rather than fear, panic and despair.
All for now,
Report from Copenhagen #10: Who has the courage to make the first move?
The Copenhagen negotiations are bringing into sharp focus the division between the haves and have-nots of the world. The issues of climate and environment cannot be separated from the interconnected issues of social and economic justice. The areas of the world least responsible for the current level of global warming are the very areas that are most damaged by the results of global warming. So the question is whether any of the so-called developed countries (how “developed” is it to blindly consume resources without regard to consequences?) will be brave enough to make the first move. Who will be courageous enough to acknowledge the extent of their own responsibility for this mess? Who will offer to contribute their fair share in addressing this problem? If just one of the wealthier nations took the lead, it might begin to turn the tide a bit from self-interest alone to a more statesmanlike global perspective. And many economists think that such thinking would in fact not further depress a stressed-out economy, but lead to an era of enhanced creativity and productivity aligned with Mother Nature rather than being exploitative and nihilistic.
It is no surprise that the poorer countries threatened to back out of the Copenhagen negotiations in protest. Partly it is an issue of simple fairness. And beyond that, there is an understandable desire to attain a reasonable level of prosperity, with food to eat, water to drink, access to education and health care, and the ability to enjoy the comforts and conveniences of modern life.
The more challenging issue for the rich and poor nations alike, and all people struggling to get by, is the fact that the current economic model based on greed and endless consumption (which depends on people never being satisfied no matter how much they acquire), is bankrupt both in practicality and in values. Without a major thinking of this economic model, our future looks bleak indeed. A treaty is desirable, sure, but the issue is much bigger than that. To address the causes and conditions for our alienation from our Mother Earth who sustains us will require a shift of consciousness of major proportions.
All for now,
Report from Copenhagen #11: Personal Implications
It is timely to reexamine how we go about our daily life, and of course there are many simple changes we can make to reduce our individual carbon footprint. There are also opportunities to study and understand the issue of global warming and its effects on society and the environment. There are ways to use our own personal networks to bring this issue into broader awareness and to expose the concerted corporate campaign to confuse and muddy the issue. But the contemplative path suggests that we must go deeper.
Traditional buddhadharma talks of three root negative forces of greed, anger, and delusion. How are we relating to those forces in our personal life and how are they manifesting structurally in our own society? How are we relating to the teachings on impermanence? What would it take to be contented and at ease in the world? There is a danger of a pinched self-righteousness and a moralistic self-oriented asceticism in responding to the excesses around us. On the other extreme, we could continue to be completely captivated by the net of materialism based on deadening consumerism, deadening ideologies, and deadening spirituality. But we could find a middle way, working both on the individual scale and in concert with others outside our usual comfort zone. We could link up and appreciate that we are being given a very profound teaching and a timely wake-up call.
All for now,