Harmonizing Our Planet

A draft UN report to be approved this week says that climate change may have “serious, pervasive and irreversible” impacts on the planet and human civilization, but that governments still have time to “avert the worst.”

A recent paper released by the Department of Defense, “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” labels climate change a “threat multiplier” because “it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism.” Climate change is also classified as an Immediate Security Risk, one that approaches the level of the Cold War threat as nations with nuclear arms struggle to deal with resource shortages and environmental dislocations.

While other countries, especially those that belong to the European Union, are taking climate change seriously, here in the United States there is still a great deal of skepticism about it. Hopefully, this warning from one of America’s most “establishment” institutions will help change that. In the meantime, according to Reuters, the United States has stated that much of the information contained in the UN report “may be impenetrable to the policymaker or public.” Whether this means we are too thickheaded, or if our minds are simply closed, I don’t know. Probably a combination of the two.

But I do feel, as I’m sure most of you do, that we must continue to change our concept of the environment. Far too many people still see humans as rulers of the planet. We should be the harmonizers of our planet.

Human beings suffer the disease of separation – separation from the environment and each other. Buddhism sees this as a root cause of all suffering.  To meet the challenge of harmonizing our planet, each of us should try to establish harmony in our life, and share harmony with others.

Harmony is not just some lofty or pleasant notion to aspire to, it is practical, even critical. The EPA says,

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”

What the EPA describes is being called environmental wisdom worldview.  Survival for all depends on how well human beings sustain the earth. Historically, we have not done a very good job. This “new” environmental wisdom mirrors the wisdom found in the principle of interdependency taught by the Buddha 2500 years ago. How successful we will at implanting this wisdom depends, I think, on how well we can grasp another bit of Buddhist wisdom, shared by Taoism, that if your harmonize your inner world, you will be capable of acting with wisdom in your relationship with the external world.

Do you think you can conquer nature and control it?
I do not believe you can succeed
Nature is sacred
One cannot control it
If you try to control it, you will ruin it
If you try to hold it, you will lose it

– Tao Te Ching

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