I arrived back in New South Wales just as the 16th Sakyadhita International Conference for Women in Buddhism was happening in the Blue Mountains, and I was fortunate to be able to attend a keynote address by Roshi Joan Halifax on the theme of “Wise Hope.”
Her reflections on the differences between optimism, pessimism and what she refers to as “Wise Hope” struck a chord.
Since then, the word hope seems to keep appearing everywhere I look, even as the news it emerges from feels increasingly hopeless – particularly in relation to climate change. But the words of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist also hit a nerve for me.
Instead of looking for hope, look for action.
Then, and only then, hope will come.
A conversation with a climate activist friend in Sydney gave me plenty of leads to follow, and has inspired me to set up a new page to draw some of this information together. From the explorations I’ve done so far, it’s clear that I’m not nearly as powerless as I’d previously believed, and that if enough of us take even seemingly small actions, change is possible.
Through insight meditation teachers such as Yanai Postelnik‘s climate activism in the UK, I knew a little about the Extinction Rebellion movement, but only recently found out about the research behind their methods:
Extinction Rebellion operates on a metric drawn from the research of political scientist Erica Chenoweth and policy analyst Maria J. Stephan. In their long-term study of campaigns for revolutionary, secessionist and regime-change movements from the past 150 years, they come to a few vital conclusions. First, that nonviolent movements have a vastly improved chance of success over those that pursue armed struggle or terror tactics, including under authoritarian regimes where the consequences of even peaceful dissent can be life threatening. And second, that you don’t need everybody: you only need about 3.5 per cent of the population to achieve a critical mass of sustained popular noncompliance.
“Extinction Rebels” by Scott Ludlum The Monthly July 2019 See full article here
Aside from direct action, there are plenty of other initiatives we could take that are less personally risky, but can have a big impact if enough of us make these changes. The book “Drawdown” describes 100 of the most substantive solutions to climate change, and surprisingly, two of the top five solutions are to do with food. Number three is reducing food waste, and number four is about moving to a plant-rich diet:
Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved. … As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said, making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.
A summary of solutions by overall rank from the book Drawdown can be found here
I’m mostly vegetarian myself, but as a start in this direction, I plan to try eating a vegan diet once a week. I’d also love to hear from any of you, what changes you’re making in your own lives as a result of the climate emergency, and any book references and website links you’d like to contribute to the new page.
Suggested resources from readers
I’m an ordinary person who joined an Extinction Rebellion blockade. Here’s why you should too. It was way out of my comfort zone, but as a scientist I can tell you that the climate emergency is much more terrifying.
Applied philosopher Jonathan Rowson insists on holding a deeper appreciation for how our inner worlds influence our outer worlds. His research organization, Perspectiva, examines how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.” “If we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater,” he says. We engage his broad spiritual lens on the great dynamics of our time, from social life to the economy to the climate.
RED Group is a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation who has developed and implemented the REDcycle Program; a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic.
Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson exhibition: In Real Life
11 July 2019 – 5 Jan 2020 Tate Modern, London
Part of his goal here is to highlight climate change. At the Paris climate conference in 2015, and on multiple occasions since, he has placed lumps of melting ice in cities to highlight the glaciers’ demise. Here, he has cast an ice block in bronze to emphasize the space where lost ice should be. Eliasson is also capturing the ebb of Icelandic glaciers in a series of photographs, some on display. Like all his works, these seem to transport you to another world — then remind you that it is this world.
You mentioned in the blog only 3.5% of the population is required. Here are some figures:
In Australia, that’s 861,000 people
In New Zealand, 167,790 people
In the UK, 2,311,400 people
In the USA, 11,452,000 people
In Canada, 1,297,100 people
Do we know how many people in each of these countries are on board, i.e., how close are we?
From JC and JW
Here are some of the papers and books we have been looking at:
Norman Fischer “The World Could Be Otherwise”
Pema Chodron “Becoming Bodhisattvas”
https://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf and a number of Jem Bendal’s Youtube presentations. (His work on Deep Adaptation seems really important, to support people to look at how things are)
“A Buddhist Response to The Climate Emergency” editied by John Stanley, David R Loy and Gyurme Dorje
“This is not a Drill” An Extention Rebellion handbook
“No one is too small” Greta Thunberg
“This changes everything” Naomi Klein