“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The Walk for Climate is a pilgrimage to the centre of Britain. It seeks to find a way back to the strongest values we all share. In order to do this we must include all people, not just those who already share our views. The Walk for Climate is a walk for solidarity with all of Nature. It embraces the deepest and most empathic values the British people hold dear. A day’s walk with people from your community that not only includes the usual ‘greens’ but encompasses people from all walks of life can bring forth the creativity that is vitally needed if the 21st century is not to be one of the last for humanity and many other species. The reverse can be true: a flourishing of Nature and the interconnectedness of us all. Join us.
A precept for Buddhists says, “Do not waste, but conserve energy and natural resources.” It is now clear beyond question that Western industrialised countries have caused climate destabilisation, which in turn has brought many species to the brink of extinction. Over the last 250 years the British landscape has been devastated by the mining and use of coal and the development of industries that depended on it. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has exacerbated climate change, leading to an increase in rainfall and in turn to the flooding that so many communities have experienced in the last few years. The effects of the greenhouse gas emissions already present will be part of the legacy of ‘civilised’ countries for a thousand years. However, a reduction and stabilisation in greenhouse gases in the 21st century can be achieved by a rapid increase in the use of renewable energy in the form of wind, solar, tidal and geothermal as well as other strategies, and thus mitigate a further deterioration in our climate.
The precept “Do not harbour enmity against the wrongs of others, but promote peace and justice through nonviolent means” is very important. The climate dialogue has so often been an argument between ‘them’ and ‘us’. We will make greater progress to prevent climate chaos when we connect with those we perceive to be different from ourselves, whether in political affiliation or otherwise.
Fortunately, the debate about whether human activity since the 1750s has contributed to changes in the Earth’s climate is over. We must now get on with finding the solutions that will protect our climate, and include everyone in finding those solutions. The ‘wrongs of others’ can easily be found in those who profit from the destructive legacy of fossil-fuel production and use, but those people too need to be part of the discussion. A shift from blame to collaboration and communication has the potential to solve many ecological concerns.
Another precept “Do not lie, but speak the truth” leads Buddhists to actively pursue the truth when we ask ourselves how climate-change mitigation can take place. Most of humanity in the West has been deceiving itself about the enormous impact our lives have on the planet’s biosphere. Even though the average carbon footprint of a European is half that of a North American, that footprint is still too high if real steps are to be taken to solve the climate issue.
A Buddhist life is a simple life. Our consumption of goods must be scrupulously looked at and appraised. All too often we rationalise our opulent way of living. It is time to stop lying to ourselves and speak the truth, first to ourselves and then to others.
Finally, the precept “Do not harm, but cherish life” makes it impossible for me as a Buddhist to accept the suffering humans have brought to each other and to the rest of Nature. The Dalai Lama calls the destruction of Nature “an abomination”. How can we stop the relentless destruction of Nature, of which we are an intrinsic part? After eight years of writing on climate for Canadian newspapers, starting community gardens, employing young people to cut grass using hand-pushed lawnmowers and to put up washing lines, and taking a thousand children to organic farms to learn to respect the Earth, I realised that most of society still did not wish to look at the enormity of the ecological crisis. However, many people, Buddhist or not, can feel deep anguish for the plight of Britain’s biodiversity in the face of the scourge that climate change brings to Nature. For this reason the Walk for Climate can reach out to all of society’s shared values, which include love of the land and the biosphere.