Universal Responsibility & the Climate Emergency By His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Universal Responsibility & the Climate Emergency By His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

A reflection on practice by Other Teachers & Folks We Value

“Let us adopt a lifestyle that emphasizes contentment, because the cost to the planet & humanity
of ever-increasing ‘standards of living’ is simply too great.”

It is difficult to fully comprehend great environmental changes like global warming. We know that carbon dioxide levels are rising dangerously in the atmosphere leading to unprecedented increases in the average temperature of the planet… Human activity everywhere is hastening to destroy key elements of the natural ecosystems all living beings depend on. These threatening developments are drastic & shocking. It is hard to imagine all this actually happening in our lifetime, and in the lives of our children. We must deal with the prospect of global suffering & environmental degradation unlike anything in human history.

If we can begin to act with genuine compassion for all, we still have a window of opportunity to protect each other & our natural environment. This will be far easier than having to adapt to the severe & unimaginable environmental conditions projected for a “hothouse” climate. On close examination, the human mind, the human heart & the human environment are inseparably linked together. We must recognize we have brought about a climate emergency in order to generate the understanding & higher purpose we need now. On this basis we can create a viable future – sustainable, lasting, peaceful co-existence.

Ignorance of interdependence has harmed not only the natural environment, but human society as well. We have misplaced much of our energy in self-centered material consumption, neglecting to foster the most basic human needs of love, kindness & cooperation. This is very sad. We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not machine-made objects. It is a mistake to seek fulfillment solely in external “development.”

This blue planet of ours is a delightful habitat. Its life is our life; its future is our future. The Earth, indeed, acts like a mother to us all. Like children, we are dependent onher. In the face of such global problems as the climate emergency, individual organizations & single nations are helpless. Unless we all work together, no solution can be found. Our Mother Earth is now teaching us a critical evolutionary lesson – a lesson in universal responsibility. On it depends the survival of millions of species, even our own.

The destruction of nature & natural resources results from ignorance, greed & lack of respect for the Earth’s living things. Future human generations will inherit a vastly degraded planet if destruction of the natural environment continues at the present rate. Our ancestors viewed the Earth as rich & bountiful. They saw nature as inexhaustible. Now we know this is the case only if we care for it. It has become an urgent necessity to ethically re-examine what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations. We ourselves are the pivotal human generation… We must take the initiative to repair & protect this world,ensuring a safe-climate future for all people & all species.

* You can view full article in a 2009 issue of the Shambala Sun. It originally appeared in the book “Climate Emergency” edited by John Stanley, David R. Loy & Gyurme Dorje.
* The Dalai Lama was the first to sign the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change.
* View an hour-long video of His Holiness speaking about the impact of climate change at University of California San Diego conference.

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