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TOPIC: The Dharma of Climate Change

The Dharma of Climate Change 04 Mar 2019 09:15 #110713

On my own thread yesterday I asked a question about climate change, people took me up on it, and Mark suggested a new thread. So here we are.

I know a number of meditators who are environmental activists (well, one in particular) and have read some stuff to the effect that we’re heading for catastrophe soon. What’s the takeaway, if this is true?

Chris posted Kenneth’s Twitter reading list on my thread: awakenetwork.org/forum/111-personal-prac...gs?start=1325#110712 which I thought I’d link because of its breadth. I’ll add some other items in a bit, but have to run off for a physical therapy appointment. More soon . . .
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The Dharma of Climate Change 04 Mar 2019 10:55 #110714

It's hard to know wtf is going on with climate change because my only information is from popular press and random nooks on the internet.

It seems like 1.5C increase over baseline is baked in to the system, we will probably go over that. The story I'm hearing is: The un-alarming couple of feet sea level rise that come with 1.5-2C is from the thermal expansion of the ocean. But the real problem is that higher temps make icecaps slide into the ocean which makes the ocean jump many feet. Just a few degrees of temperature rise unlocks methane from under permafrost and other methane stores under the ocean. When methane release kick in, the atmospheric temperature jumps by many degrees and we are literally in the historical 'great dying' mode of planetary change.

If I was in the deep state, media elite, try-lateral commission etc clan, I'd want to over-hype the chance of disaster to motivate people to change habits drastically. If I was an asshole, I'd want climate change to go full throttle because I have the time and resources to prepare for it, and it's time for housecleaning, go ahead and clear off 80% of the brown people from the planet.

If sea level is going to keep up with atmospheric temperature, then we will see dozens of feel of rise and that is going to crush coastal communities and inland cities will be good places to own property. But in the southern US there will be immigration/demographic chaos and deadly summer heat waves.

As an under-employed and imaginative dude, I figure I should sell my lower 48 real estate, migrate to Canada where my cash can buy into a co-housing tribe near a town, get my son into online medical school and let the world do its thing. It's hard for me to join my wife on a work trip to Italy for a couple weeks because my 180lb ass in an airline seat will pump out enough extra jet exhaust to overwhelm my EV credits. Eating red meat is clearly a brain dead asshole thing to do.

I gotta run now. Not sure this right speech here, but I'm trying to err on the side of communication.

Best to all!
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The Dharma of Climate Change 04 Mar 2019 19:40 #110718

What brought climate crisis home to me was when I read that 60% of the world's wild coffee crop, described as some of the best varieties, is threatened. Similarly for chocolate.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 00:55 #110720

Well, my opinions for what they are worth ... I'm inclined to think that the human race will adapt - although it won't be pleasant. Perhaps as impactful as a world war, or worse. I do think metres of sea level rise are possible over the next 100 years. Big changes to habitats, food chains, species location, extinctions all seem to be ongoing already. But the thing that worries me the most is the permafrost and oceanic methane. There is some weird stuff going on (big methane bubbles in the ocean, giant craters appearing in the permafrost). It could be this has always been happening, and we just didn't notice until we starting looking. Or it could be warning signs of runaway feedback effects on methane release. I believe we would still adapt and survive as a species, even if there were runaway feedback effects, but it could be pretty icky for a long time.

From a practical point of view, I think the immediate task is not to be perfect but rather to do better. I'm in favour of starting with smaller changes, compatible with peoples existing ways of living. We have to evolve our society towards sustainability, because attempts at rapid change just meet too much resistance. So make small changes, and build pressure within the social system, and then sustainability will eventually reach a tipping point. For me, dharma is a great analogy - societal sustainability is a journey with many steps along the way, and I'm not sure there are many shortcuts.
Last Edit: 05 Mar 2019 00:57 by Curious Malcolm. Reason: fixing html
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 07:41 #110721

oneearthsangha.org

Expressing a Buddhist response to climate change and other threats to our one home.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 07:56 #110723

*
Last Edit: 18 Mar 2019 04:44 by Andromeda.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 08:18 #110724

I agree that we're well beyond any ability for one-by-one personal actions like recycling to make a significant difference. We need governments to step in and mandate the sunsetting of fossil fuels and the adoption of solar, wind, geothermal, safer nuclear (fusion & fission) power and other renewable sources of energy. Again, much of the effects of climate change are baked in unless we figure out how to get greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere efficiently.

Where we need individual PEOPLE to step in, and where they CAN make a significant difference, is with their votes.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our educational system, which has flat out failed us here in the U.S. People no longer even believe the scientists, and they don't know how to evaluate the science of pretty much anything because it's just not important to folks on local school boards. What seems to be more important is that some form of religious belief be taught alongside science in elementary, middle school and high school curriculums. It's as if we have bought a gun and are aiming it at our own head.

/rant
Last Edit: 05 Mar 2019 08:24 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 14:39 #110725

Chris Marti wrote:
.... We need governments to step in and mandate the sunsetting of fossil fuels and the adoption of solar, wind, geothermal, safer nuclear (fusion & fission) power and other renewable sources of energy. Again, much of the effects of climate change are baked in unless we figure out how to get greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere efficiently.

...

/rant

I bought a solar array for my backyard, I'm not flying to Europe for a vacation, I turned down the thermostat... I'm not carbon zero, but I wonder if 20% of the population in the US really Just Became Carbon Negative, politicians might have a much easier time doing what's right. I just don't think we can expect positions politicians in the pocket of the .1% will lead anywhere.
Last Edit: 05 Mar 2019 16:14 by matthew sexton.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 15:52 #110726

Chris Marti wrote:
I agree that we're well beyond any ability for one-by-one personal actions like recycling to make a significant difference. We need governments to step in and mandate the sunsetting of fossil fuels and the adoption of solar, wind, geothermal, safer nuclear (fusion & fission) power and other renewable sources of energy. Again, much of the effects of climate change are baked in unless we figure out how to get greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere efficiently.

Where we need individual PEOPLE to step in, and where they CAN make a significant difference, is with their votes.
/rant

Votes are all good for making a difference at the individual people level – I think politicians also have a tendency to look at what the people around them want so they can get elected, and so making it clear that the people want these issues dealt with in public will make it more likely that the right politicians will step up, or at least some politician might work for these issues.

Also as an individual you can choose what you buy and where your money goes, how much of an impact the produce has from what it takes to produce and how far away it comes from; if it's organic it (hopefully) means that there'll be less toxins in the ecosystem and I suspect more insects and life that is important to support it (you'd probably also be less likely to support Monsanto...).

Apart from a possible short-term benefit of not using something more harmful, you also support the more harmless area of the market, thus helping it grow. It's quite surprising the level of organic and fair trade stuff I see these days round here in basic round-the-corner supermarkets, and it seems to be growing from what I can tell, and I can't see any other reason each supermarket chain would be doing this other than the fact that people want to buy it. It can sometimes cost twice as much as non-organic, but health and environment are obviously important enough for people to demand it. Supermarkets are obviously cashing in on it, but I reckon as the market grows, further benefits will come.

The electricity company for my flat generates its power from solar, wind and water. In the same way, The energy we use hasn't been made by damaging the environment as much as other sources, but also the company uses the money I spend to research further and develop new and better technology.

I reckon talking to people about it is important as well, then more people start to do more beneficial stuff. I suggest using your best judgement of the person though, to gauge if striking apocalyptic fear into people's heart will help or just make them decide sod it all.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 05 Mar 2019 18:15 #110727

I just don't think we can expect positions politicians in the pocket of the .1% will lead anywhere.

Matt, my point was that we need to elect different politicians. Ones who care about the future of the earth.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 06 Mar 2019 14:10 #110729

Chris Marti wrote:
I just don't think we can expect positions politicians in the pocket of the .1% will lead anywhere.

Matt, my point was that we need to elect different politicians. Ones who care about the future of the earth.

It seems like we're pointed in the same direction. I guess I'm leaning towards the idea that we can try to elect politicians that enact stuff that reduces carbon emotions, and we can also simply abstain from carboniferous behavior.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 09 Apr 2019 09:35 #111079

I began and then didn’t follow up on this topic awhile ago, but in the past day or so have been reading/listening to Jem Bendell on the effects of climate change. His paper, “Deep Adaptation,” has gone semi-viral. He argues that we are past the point where sustainability practices will avert catastrophe. There will be widespread system failures, leading to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (my language; seems apt for what he’s saying). Things are in the process of falling apart. Our only recourse is to develop the discipline to behave well in the coming crisis.

Daniel Thorson’s podcast series Emerge has an interview with Bendell, with a trigger warning at the beginning. This is the person I was thinking of when I started this thread, but couldn’t remember at the time (hadn’t actually read anything yet). Not for the faint of heart. If you feel inclined to read and discuss, have at it.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 09 Apr 2019 20:09 #111081

Laurel Carrington wrote:
... He argues that we are past the point where sustainability practices will avert catastrophe. There will be widespread system failures, leading to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (my language; seems apt for what he’s saying). Things are in the process of falling apart. Our only recourse is to develop the discipline to behave well in the coming crisis.
...

Just to be explicit: I'm wondering if the best way to develop good discipline to behave well is to model, enact what we want pol's to do, what we want our neighbor to do. If %5 of the population went carbon negative, it would be much easier for the next 1% to do so, that much easier for social/political/financial/etc forces to point in the right direction.

I am only an egg. :)
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The Dharma of Climate Change 10 Apr 2019 07:50 #111082

I had linked to Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation paper in this thread last month when it was started, but then went back and deleted it. Personally, I made my peace with a take on the situation that is basically the same as Bendell's a long time ago, but for people first encountering this idea it is clearly very upsetting. Most of the people I'm close to have also been on this page for awhile, but it's just starting to percolate into the mainstream.

I've lived through a number of serious and frankly horrifying disasters plus gone on to do some disaster relief work (yeah, I'm that kind of crazy) and this has been one of the biggest motivations for my practice. Being able to keep one's head (or at least not totally fall apart) in these situations when most people are thrashing around making things worse is huge. Being able to step into a leadership role and make difficult decisions under pressure--when bad things are going to happen no matter what you choose--is even bigger. We tend to think of compassion as a warm and fuzzy thing, but sometimes it means simply doing what one can to make a situation as least bad as it can be. In a collapse scenario or the events leading up to it, things are going to be really, really bad, but that means there will be a lot of room for compassion. Just as there is in war, though this is something else that seems to get little discussion in liberal Western Buddhist communities.

There is actually a very interesting group called The Dark Mountain Project which is making art about this. I met one of the founders, a writer named Paul Kingsnorth, who was an environmental activist before he realized it wasn't going to help and quit (he actually wrote a book called Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist). Making art--another compassionate response, in my opinion.

Anyway, I'm game for discussion if people want to go there and it's relatively comfortable territory for me. But I'm used to the dark!
Last Edit: 10 Apr 2019 11:21 by Andromeda.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 10 Apr 2019 08:37 #111083

I think there is room, and a really good argument to make, that we have to both accept the reality of where we are heading, probably inevitably, in the shorter term (decades to a hundred years) and fight as hard as we can for policy changes and investment in technologies that might solve the greenhouse gas issues that are causing the problem in the long term (hundreds and thousands of years hence). I do not see a contradiction there.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 10 Apr 2019 10:09 #111084

Chris Marti wrote:
...fight as hard as we can for policy changes and investment in technologies...

But what does this have to do with dharma and practice and awakening?

I'm being a little bit provocative here... There is a growing movement of engaged Buddhism that is concerned primarily with political and social agendas such as this, and then there's the Dalai Lama on climate change--he wants to start a new religion to combat it, so this article here says. Certainly, there are lots of good intentions here, but that is rarely enough. Is religion really an appropriate vehicle to advance political and social agendas?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 10 Apr 2019 17:41 #111085

But what does this have to do with dharma and practice and awakening?

What doesn't it have to do with dharma practice and awakening? Do we think dharma practice is just about sitting on the cushion? Isn't awakening about being able to see clearly? Is dharma practice and awakening just a "religion?" My personal experience is that dharma and awakening affect everything. My experience isn't compartmentalized into "dharma versus not-dharma." I think being able to integrate and maintain points of view that are unpopular, counter-intuitive and seemingly unintegrated is part of the benefit of the ability to see things with less self-interest and innate bias.

Or were you using my comment as a springboard to bring up an entirely different angle?
Last Edit: 10 Apr 2019 18:07 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 10 Apr 2019 18:21 #111086

... then there's the Dalai Lama on climate change--he wants to start a new religion to combat it, so this article here says...

I don't think that's quite what the article says. It's a nuance but I think this is an important one - it's saying that Buddhism is in large part a process that allows for human beings to awaken to new circumstances. The process that Buddhism is based on might, the article says, be able to get people to accept the new reality of climate change:

To adequately address the planetary crisis then, it would seem we need a culture-wide transformation akin to a spiritual awakening. Indeed, McFague uses such language when she says, “We need to wake up to the lie held in the current worldview of individualist, selfish fulfillment… We need to wake up to a different worldview, one that shares all our resources with our fellow creatures.” Such an “awakening” sounds comparable in scope to a religious conversion. “The change has to happen at all levels of our life,” she confirms, ”personal, what we eat, how we get to work, taxes, car emissions, everything.”

In responding to McFague, the Dalai Lama pinpoints what is at stake. There are theistic and nontheistic religions, he observes, “but we need a third religion.” As the chapters progress, conference participants sketch an outline of what that “religion” might look like. (Dalai Lama: “One without scriptures, that is based simply on common sense, our common experience, our inner experience, warmheartedness, a sense of concern for others’ well-being, and respect for the rights of others.”) Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s primary interpreter, contributes a Buddhist mechanism for facilitating a value-system shift. And the Karmapa adds his personal environmental conversion story, conveying what environmental awakening might look like from a first-person perspective. Creating a new social consciousness to bring about an alternative future might seem like a brazen undertaking, but cutting-edge theorizing of this very sort is already well underway in academic fields like science studies and the environmental humanities. Moving forward, it could be fruitful to connect the dialogue that emerged from Dharamsala more explicitly with that broader conversation.

The word "religion" is being used as a metaphor for the process of changing minds and eventually habits (maybe). This segment of the article is also more or less an indictment of capitalism and the consumer economy, isn't it?
Last Edit: 10 Apr 2019 18:35 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 06:38 #111087

Here's what I'm trying to get at:

Of course, as you say, awakening affects everything. Every moment of our lives is practice. Decades ago, I started using toothbrushing as a mindfulness exercise and have since then periodically switched which hand holds the brush just to shake things up. Does this mean I'm any better at toothbrushing than my neighbor next door who doesn't practice? Well, it's possible that my increased attention results in more thorough brushing, but my neighbor could be really into dental hygiene so this isn't necessarily the case. And my practice definitely hasn't given me any privileged insights into oral health. For that, best to consult with the dentist up the street who doesn't meditate but has the subject-specific training.

So why would the advancement of political/social agendas be any different? We participate to whatever degree in these things as citizens and having a practice doesn't necessarily make us any better suited to these things than our neighbors practicing different forms of spirituality or perhaps none at all. If I recall correctly, Chris, you have a degree in political science and so your opinion on these things may be better informed in that respect, and of course your practice is going to help you out, but it's still really due to subject-specific knowledge. Being able to see things with less self-interest and bias is helpful but we are all still limited by what we don't know, our ability to understand the information, the quality of the information available to us, etc.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 06:57 #111088

Andromeda wrote:
Here's what I'm trying to get at:

Of course, as you say, awakening affects everything. Every moment of our lives is practice. Decades ago, I started using toothbrushing as a mindfulness exercise and have since then periodically switched which hand holds the brush just to shake things up. Does this mean I'm any better at toothbrushing than my neighbor next door who doesn't practice? Well, it's possible that my increased attention results in more thorough brushing, but my neighbor could be really into dental hygiene so this isn't necessarily the case. And my practice definitely hasn't given me any privileged insights into oral health. For that, best to consult with the dentist up the street who doesn't meditate but has the subject-specific training.
It sounds to me like your practice was designed to develop mindfulness through the medium of brushing teeth, and that with it you had no specific intention to brush your teeth more effectively.
You could use that mindfulness to develop your effectiveness in brushing teeth and dental hygiene, which could include mindfully studying dentistry and anything else your insight might lead you to. But that would be a different practice.
My understanding is that practices that develop mindfulness and their fruit a part of a much broader aspect of life, perhaps all life, including death, and the nature of mindfulness is one that reveals what needs to be known. If it is an antidote of ignorance, then it necessarily as an effect on the knowledge of all subjects, but specifically the ones we just happen to be involved in.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 07:37 #111089

Of course, as you say, awakening affects everything. Every moment of our lives is practice. Decades ago, I started using toothbrushing as a mindfulness exercise and have since then periodically switched which hand holds the brush just to shake things up. Does this mean I'm any better at toothbrushing than my neighbor next door who doesn't practice? Well, it's possible that my increased attention results in more thorough brushing, but my neighbor could be really into dental hygiene so this isn't necessarily the case. And my practice definitely hasn't given me any privileged insights into oral health. For that, best to consult with the dentist up the street who doesn't meditate but has the subject-specific training.

Well, I didn't claim that meditation practice provides domain expertise from any other arena or endeavor or knowledge. I'm was saying that meditation practice might make people more willing, and more able, to address serious issues more openly and honestly. This is just my opinion but the willingness to see clearly that which we don't really want to see, or that our ego or other prejudices might blind us to, is the domain of meditation and the dharma.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 07:48 #111090

To add a bit of backstory so you can understand my thinking:

I recently had an encounter with an Engaged Buddhist in a leadership position who didn't seem to have much insight (so far as I could tell, could be wrong) or even a belief that awakening in the traditional sense was a real possibility for people. She did have a lot of self-righteous anger and surface reactivity, though, and expressed contempt for people with a deep meditation practice. She seemed of the opinion that this was selfish and people should be spending their time and energy on advancing social and political agendas instead. I've been reading the mainstream Buddhist magazines lately and have seen a few comments in a similar vein from teachers espousing engaged forms of Buddhism.

So it got me thinking: if newer strains of Buddhism view the traditional practice of waking up as shameful, selfish, and wrong because people should be fixing samsara instead... What does that mean for the people who actually want to seriously practice? Especially since so much of Western Buddhism is already heavily psychologized?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 07:52 #111091

Chris Marti wrote:
I'm was saying that meditation practice might make people more willing, and more able, to address serious issues more openly and honestly. This is just my opinion but the willingness to see clearly that which we don't really want to see, or that our ego or other prejudices might blind us to, is the domain of meditation and the dharma.

I think you're right if people are actually practicing with the intention to see clearly. But what if people are practicing more like Junglist mentioned in regards to dentistry--with the intention to be better at advancing political and social agendas? What happens then?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 08:25 #111092

Aha! I now see a prejudice of my own. I assume that when people use the word "practice" that they mean a serious "WTF is really going on" type practice in the spirit of serious investigation into their own experience. So yeah, if someone is practicing just to further some other agenda from politics or organized religion or whatever, then phooey on them.
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2019 08:26 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 08:42 #111093

Yeah, this was a wrong assumption of my own until quite recently someone pointed it out to me. When people use meditation with an agenda, be it social/politics, therapy/healing, productivity, etc. then their potential for genuine insight is quite limited. Chasing the fruits of practice is, after all, a classic and well known mistake.

Edit: and of course I don't know what people's intentions for practice are in these situations. But I'm thinking at this point that it's probably better not to just make assumptions.
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2019 09:07 by Andromeda.
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