Climate change will devastate the global economy, cause widespread conflict, and displace millions of people—this is how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarized its latest report released in March. Numerous other recent scientific studies have similarly sounded the alarm about the tremendous suffering that lies ahead if climate change is not addressed.
Despite these clear warnings, it would appear that many in the Buddhist community are reticent to engage the issue. Individually, more than four hundred Buddhist teachers have signed a document titled “The Earth as Witness: International Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change,” but how many are using the platform they have within their own communities to rally others to action? How many sanghas are taking up this pressing work as community practice? In my experience, many in the Buddhist community feel they should remain focused on the dharma and that sanghas should not take an active role in issues that seem political.
Climate change, however, is unquestionably a dharma issue. The roots of the problem are ignorance and delusion: ignorance about how it is that life exists on our planet, and the delusion that we can continue unbridled fossil fuel and material consumption without grave consequences. Since we strive as Buddhists to cut through ignorance and follow a path that can relieve suffering, the path by which climate change can be skillfully confronted is, by definition, an expression of dharma practice.
Excerpted from the Summer 2014 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.