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TOPIC: The Dharma of Climate Change

The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 11:08 #111095

Andromeda wrote:
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?

I get that a lot. I’m FB friends with a former student who is a rara avis, a true communist. He thinks any time spent meditating is just self-indulgent bourgeois bullshit. Awakening is a fraud. He spent years in a cabin in Alaska reading the Frankfurt school, Marxist critical theorists like Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. He can argue rings around me, his old teacher, who was instrumental on setting him on this path when he was a baby undergraduate and I was a baby assistant professor. But I guess I haven’t heard these arguments from self-professed Buddhists, most of whom I perceive having a both/and, or maybe a first/then (first wake up, then go out there and act) approach.

Daniel Thorson is an interesting case. I met him at Buddhist Geeks back in the summer of 2012 and he has since gone on to live in Vermont at Monastic Academy, which combines action with contemplation. He has an interview on Emerge with a fellow retreatant about the role of the monastery in the future. Mostly, he and others conclude that Deep Adaptation doesn’t mean trying to fix the problem—it can’t be fixed, and thinking it can be is a form of denial—but rather to train the mind rigorously to face what lies ahead, while at the same time bearing witness to the truth. It may be in the tradition of preparatio ad mortem. We have all been conditioned to avoid thinking about our own death, and yet when we focus on it we find ourselves rearranging our priorities. Well, what’s happening here is that we’re contemplating not only our personal death, but the end of any meaningful legacy we might have hoped to leave behind. That is the main thing we must adjust ourselves to facing.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 11:33 #111096

This person would be my personal model of engaged Buddhism:

Thich Nhat Hanh
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 12:05 #111097

Laurel Carrington wrote:
Daniel Thorson is an interesting case. I met him at Buddhist Geeks back in the summer of 2012 and he has since gone on to live in Vermont at Monastic Academy, which combines action with contemplation. He has an interview on Emerge with a fellow retreatant about the role of the monastery in the future. Mostly, he and others conclude that Deep Adaptation doesn’t mean trying to fix the problem—it can’t be fixed, and thinking it can be is a form of denial—but rather to train the mind rigorously to face what lies ahead, while at the same time bearing witness to the truth. It may be in the tradition of preparatio ad mortem. We have all been conditioned to avoid thinking about our own death, and yet when we focus on it we find ourselves rearranging our priorities. Well, what’s happening here is that we’re contemplating not only our personal death, but the end of any meaningful legacy we might have hoped to leave behind. That is the main thing we must adjust ourselves to facing.

Are you saying that Daniel Thorson agrees with Bendell (and me) that "collapse is inevitable, catastrophe is probable, extinction is possible"?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 12:13 #111098

From what I got out of the interview, it sounded that way. I’d hate to be wrong about it. So I’ll listen to it again and make sure. Right now I’m on the intro, where Daniel refers to the “symmetries of his experience” with Bendell’s.
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2019 12:16 by Laurel Carrington.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 12:15 #111099

I just started listening to the podcast so we will see...
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 12:17 #111100

Let me know what you think.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 11 Apr 2019 16:19 #111103

Yep, sounds like he's on board with the idea, too. The Dark Mountain Project got a mention which was good to hear. I find it a big relief that more people are starting to talk about this.



This is a map of the ladder of awareness regarding this subject by a Buddhist who used to be an activist until he realized the futility of it and totally disappeared from public life in 2012 to do the things he loved and spend time with his wife.
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2019 18:26 by Andromeda.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 07:38 #111104

This is my first introduction to Deep Adaptation. Hmm. Are there any equally viral scholarly rebuttals?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 07:52 #111105

Here's one detailed critique:

patternsofmeaning.com/2019/04/04/what-wi...-your-grandchildren/

I'm tracking on Deep Adaptation but I don't believe the danger is as imminent (within a ten-year time frame) as Blendell suggests. I'm also of a mind that the climate situation is very, very dire, but not hopeless.
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 08:00 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 08:38 #111106

My hope is that by looking honestly at the worst-case scenario predictions, people in leadership roles will have the motivation and support to make changes which slow/delay the onset of the badness and mitigate what will happen when/if the worst does comes along. A broader awareness of the situation may facilitate that. The world is already experiencing a variety of effects from climate change and we can expect that to increase regardless, but for all we know this is just the beginning of a slow decline and the worst won't come for generations. And of course you never know--humans are incredibly resourceful creatures, and you never know what we'll come up with.

The military has been preparing for climate change for years now--it's about time the rest of us catch up. It sucks to have the uncertainty of if/when/where/how bad, but this is our reality and it does no good to try to pretend these things aren't happening. Things are really good right now and we aren't in imminent danger, so this is an opportunity to focus on living full, meaningful lives. There's certainly no need to panic. Something I noticed at a talk on this subject given by a Dark Mountain Project writer was that it was the old folks in the audience who objected the most, and felt that kids needed some sort of hope for the future and should be protected from the idea of collapse. But the kids in the audience were much more realistic and okay with it. They're not dumb and the fact that the world is burning has been all over the news since before they were born, and they were happy people were just talking about it openly instead of denying what they saw as a reality. There was definitely a sort of, "Shut up, Grandpa" eye rolling kind of vibe from the younger generation.

One key and important point that Bendell made in the interview: don't get all fired up and join a movement because that is just a distraction. After working with the Tibetan 5 elements practice, I can't help think--air reaction, noooooo! :)
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 08:40 by Andromeda.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 08:49 #111107

Also... I'm gonna just throw this out there...

Some of my happiest, most cherished memories are from times of serious disaster that resulted in a complete breakdown of society. Seriously! And not just because it was the right time and place for my morbid sense of humor to shine. So even when the worst happens, there's usually a lot to be grateful for if you're paying attention.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 08:53 #111108

It's possible that the effects of climate change over time resemble a positive feedback loop. They are interconnected and reinforce each other. So what starts as a small set of effects accelerates in a way that is more exponential than linear. This is sort of like compounding interest over a long period of time - you get small increases at first but they add up fast as the accumulating interest gets compounded along with the principle you started with. Before you know it you're rich. Or, before we know it, we're in a full-blown climate crisis. That's why it's important to act sooner rather than later, which is another way to say "urgency matters."

By the way, it has been demonstrated time and time again that human beings simply do not process exponential change, We easily grok linear change and expect that's the way things always work. Wrong-o!
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 08:55 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 09:01 #111109

As a father and potential grandfather, I'm very concerned. I know that my own kids, all in their 20s and 30s, are very concerned. Sometimes even pissed off at those of us who could have done more decades ago. The effects of climate change will be felt unequally, and fall mostly to those who don't have the resources to deal with them effectively. And they will just go somewhere to adapt, and that will cause massive problems. Famines, energy crises, unpotable water, and all manner of diseases will come. This can cause massive migration and ultimately war. It's not going to be pretty, on a global scale. I'm pretty sure that's why the military pays so much attention to this.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 09:43 #111110

Chris Marti wrote:
It's possible that the effects of climate change over time resemble a positive feedback loop. They are interconnected and reinforce each other. So what starts as a small set of effects accelerates in a way that is more exponential than linear. This is sort of like compounding interest over a long period of time - you get small increases at first but they add up fast as the accumulating interest gets compounded along with the principle you started with. Before you know it you're rich. Or, before we know it, we're in a full-blown climate crisis. That's why it's important to act sooner rather than later, which is another way to say "urgency matters."

By the way, it has been demonstrated time and time again that human beings simply do not process exponential change, We easily grok linear change and expect that's the way things always work. Wrong-o!

"It's possible"? The basic premise of the DA paper, and it is (I think) impossible to refute is that it *is* a positive feedback loop. The major takeaways to me are:
  1. Is is a reversable process?
  2. What is the "exponent"? Or, what is the timescale?

The sea ice and albedo argument was the wild card for me. Clearly warmer temperatures will melt sea ice. Intuitively, sea ice contributes to the albedo, and the loss of albedo contributes to additional warming. The degree to which the two are linked is sobering. AND THEN, that same warming will eventually (again, over what time scale) yet another more potent greenhouse gas. The positive feedback loop doesn't seem mysterious here.

The engineer in me looks for things to incrementally solve. For example, the planting of sea grass/kelp on a massive scale (a) doesn't sound like rocket science, and (b) will measurably help the acidification problem. Then, what about temporarily replacing the effect of the sea ice with space-based geosynchronous shades?

Clearly I have not thought about this deeply, or long, enough. But if the "imminent" message of DA is mitigated by attacking the specifics that tipped things from a shitty situation into a holy fuck moment, then....?
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 09:45 #111111

Oh, and if you read the comments on the main DA page, there is one scenario mentioned by the author that is not in the paper that is also troubling. If things collapse and you can no longer maintain/cool the nuclear reactors sprinkled around the globe, then they'll all melt down. Nice.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 10:44 #111112

As an additional resource to look over, Bendell created a list of denial responses and how to effectively deal with them in Barriers to Dialogue here.

Apparently, the World Bank has committed half its climate change funds to go toward adaptation (rather than prevention/mitigation).
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 10:53 by Andromeda.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 13:45 #111114

While the DA paper is interesting and informative it's not a scientific publication. I'd argue that reading up on the science of climate change is also a good idea. I'll find some good links over the weekend.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 14:30 #111115

The engineer in me looks for things to incrementally solve. For example, the planting of sea grass/kelp on a massive scale (a) doesn't sound like rocket science, and (b) will measurably help the acidification problem. Then, what about temporarily replacing the effect of the sea ice with space-based geosynchronous shades?

I was at a seminar in Silicon Valley a few years ago and a scientist who does research on nano-scale materials said that in order to reduce global temperatures we could build and release a hoard of self-replicating nano-particles into the atmosphere, engineered to self-destruct after a certain period of time. I like the orbital sun shades idea better :)
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 14:31 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 17:58 #111116

Chris Marti wrote:
The engineer in me looks for things to incrementally solve. For example, the planting of sea grass/kelp on a massive scale (a) doesn't sound like rocket science, and (b) will measurably help the acidification problem. Then, what about temporarily replacing the effect of the sea ice with space-based geosynchronous shades?

I was at a seminar in Silicon Valley a few years ago and a scientist who does research on nano-scale materials said that in order to reduce global temperatures we could build and release a hoard of self-replicating nano-particles into the atmosphere, engineered to self-destruct after a certain period of time. I like the orbital sun shades idea better :)

Yes, I think that releasing a ton of stuff into the atmosphere is too uncontrollable to work effectively, or without unintended side effects. Look how well releasing stuff into the atmosphere has worked so far.

Regarding your other comment about not being a "scientific publication", is that based on it having been rejected for publication? Did you read the comments on why it was rejected? I think that, like anything, one has to do due diligence on who the writer is, whether they are representing facts correctly, and whether the logical flow makes sense. I think that "review papers" that take stock of an area of research are just as publishable, and "scientific" as something original. And he did a lot of literature review before writing DA, apparently. Not being in the field, I would be at the mercy of, for example, the critical responses from those that know more than I about this and weighing their arguments over the DA paper's.

But I am all for getting more informed on the science, so if you have links send them along.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 18:04 #111117

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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 18:12 #111118

Regarding your other comment about not being a "scientific publication", is that based on it having been rejected for publication?

Tom, I'm basing my comment on the fact that Bendell is not a climate scientist engaged in climate research. He's definitely an accomplished person and I'm impressed by his bio. This is from his website:

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, he had twenty years of experience in sustainable business and finance, as a researcher, educator, facilitator, advisor, & entrepreneur, having lived & worked in six countries. Clients for his strategy development included international corporations, UN agencies and international NGOs. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recognised Professor Bendell as a Young Global Leader for his work on sustainable business alliances. With over 100 publications, including four books and five UN reports, he regularly appeared in international media on topics of sustainable business and finance, as well as currency innovation. His TEDx talk is the most watched online speech on complementary currencies. In 2012 Professor Bendell co-authored the WEF report on the Sharing Economy. Previously he helped create innovative alliances, including the Marine Stewardship Council, to endorse sustainable fisheries and The Finance Innovation Lab, to promote sustainable finance. In 2007 he wrote a report for WWF on the responsibility of luxury brands, which appeared in over 50 newspapers and magazines worldwide, and inspired a number of entrepreneurs to create businesses in the luxury sector.

Did you happen to read the critique I posted a link to?
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 18:12 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 18:43 #111119

By the way, don't worry, Wall Street is on the case:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/11/magazine/climate-change-exxon-renewable-energy.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

FYI: Sunday's New York Times magazine section is focused on climate change
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2019 18:45 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 12 Apr 2019 23:42 #111120

Chris Marti wrote:
Regarding your other comment about not being a "scientific publication", is that based on it having been rejected for publication?

Tom, I'm basing my comment on the fact that Bendell is not a climate scientist engaged in climate research. He's definitely an accomplished person and I'm impressed by his bio. This is from his website:

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, he had twenty years of experience in sustainable business and finance, as a researcher, educator, facilitator, advisor, & entrepreneur, having lived & worked in six countries. Clients for his strategy development included international corporations, UN agencies and international NGOs. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recognised Professor Bendell as a Young Global Leader for his work on sustainable business alliances. With over 100 publications, including four books and five UN reports, he regularly appeared in international media on topics of sustainable business and finance, as well as currency innovation. His TEDx talk is the most watched online speech on complementary currencies. In 2012 Professor Bendell co-authored the WEF report on the Sharing Economy. Previously he helped create innovative alliances, including the Marine Stewardship Council, to endorse sustainable fisheries and The Finance Innovation Lab, to promote sustainable finance. In 2007 he wrote a report for WWF on the responsibility of luxury brands, which appeared in over 50 newspapers and magazines worldwide, and inspired a number of entrepreneurs to create businesses in the luxury sector.

Did you happen to read the critique I posted a link to?

No, I have not read the critique but I certainly will. As to the street cred of Bendell, I took his paper to mean that he was an established researcher in "sustainability", which I take to mean something related to, not necessarily exclusively, climatic impact of business. I don't think one needs to be a climate researcher to be able to be fluent in the research. But I could be very wrong, and I did *not* read the bio you quoted, so shame on me.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 13 Apr 2019 09:18 #111121

I don't think one needs to be a climate researcher to be able to be fluent in the research.

Yes, anyone can read the research and form opinions and write about climate change. Sustainability isn't the same as climate, though. I think being a full-fledged, full-time researcher in a specific area, with the deep background, the education, and the knowledge that brings is different than reading the studies and doing literature surveys and then writing about the topic. I think it's very hard to be deeply knowledgeable in an area like climate change without all the underpinnings. Bendell could very well be an exception. I don't know.

And that's just my opinion, of course.
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2019 10:59 by Chris Marti.
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The Dharma of Climate Change 13 Apr 2019 11:02 #111122

Tom, I found the Wikipedia page for sustainable business:

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Sustainable_business

It's an interesting read.
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