I’m writing this as a part of my “climate takuhatsu”. Soon after we moved to Boulder last year, I started this practice. I go door to door in our neighborhood, knock, wait, if someone shows up, I offer my business card that says “PhD, climate scientist”, express my worry, and offer to speak anything about climate and how it related to the lives of people in front of me. Now, I’m knocking on the door of White Plum sangha and Zen peacemakers.
As a part of a large environmental organization, I hear about and work on many potential policy and technology centered “fixes” for our climate dilemma. These “fixes” are important but can be compartmentalized. When we think about fixes to reduce atmospheric carbon pollution, we end up forgetting about water or soil quality which directly affect food security for millions even today. While we might acknowledge the need for climate justice with respect to developing countries, we forget to face racism (or caste system) in our own backyards. “Bottom up” activists work hard, lose their balance, get discouraged and burnt down. “Top down” policy-makers can get sucked into the same corporate quarterly-profit oriented mindset that might fundamentally need to be changed given the socio-economic and ecological crises we have been facing.
I feel that being far ahead of many other Zen lineages wrt engaged Buddhism, Zen peacemakers can really help advance the dialogue on our ongoing eco-crisis as well. We need all the tools we can muster to face the multi-faceted crisis that calls for both tremendous sense of urgency and limitless patience, both personal and collective action, adaptation to what will happen even if we stopped all emissions today and collective action to reduce emissions so that we don’t enter run-away climate change scenarios. I feel we need to work more systematically on development of communities such that they become a meeting place for top-down and bottom-up strategies, are well equipped to honor individual and collective stories and can transform the fears, denial and anger into collective courage and even delightful energy — which are all much needed for any kind of fundamental personal or institutional change.
Zen peacemakers three tenets that are rooted in our inter-connectedness, need to embrace complexity and groudlessness, importance of sangha while we grieve and Bodhisattva’s endless vow of acting out of compassion irrespective of assurance of success have a great deal of wisdom to offer not only to Zen practitioners but to wider society at this time of immense challenge. As I look around, I see several climate related initiatives that might resonate with Zen communities. One that I have had the honor to become connected with is One Earth Sangha (1ES)– a large online community that is supporting Buddhist response to climate change and other threats to our shared home through education, sustainable living and advocacy. 1ES recently concluded an excellent set of five online conversations on Mindfulness and Climate Action (Click here for the archives) led by 13 Buddhist teachers. They are now preparing to launch a three month long “Eco-sattva training” on Earth day in April 2015. They have sought my advice on reaching out more deeply into the Zen community, including providing a platform for stories/blogs from Zen communities about their “green” efforts, and more general input on how they might support the larger Zen community along this path. If Zen peacemakers feel inclined, I will be delighted to facilitate the connection to the 1ES founders to explore synergies, if that sounds useful.
Irrespective of ZP’s inclination to get involved in 1ES initiatives, I hope that together we can find ways to raise awareness about the dire threat that our planet (along with all its species and ecosystems) faces, how our individual and collective action can ease, transform or exacerbate suffering.
Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
Zen priest and teacher, Boundless in Motion
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