From Crisis to Collaboration

It was a big month for the climate, (Sept 2015)

Leading on from August 2015 USA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce CO2 emissions, the U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change committed to meaningful (climate) mitigation action and to transparency on joint implementation of USD 100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. 

China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2030. While not soon enough, China and U.S agreements will enable them to enter the Paris accord as committed leaders.

India just submitted its 38-page plan to the UN for Paris. With its opening quote from the Vedas, (Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and the Earth be Peace, Peace be unto the Water, Unto the Herbs and Trees be Peace), India commits to an ambitious target to raise solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022. Overall India aims to increase its renewable energy capacity x5, which will bring it to supplying 50% of the world’s renewable energy.

The Pope made clear that, Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development, and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.

Hilary Clinton came out against the Keystone pipeline, I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.

The governor of the Bank of England gave a stark warning that climate change poses a huge risk to global stability, alongside six major banks (Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo) who wrote a letter to world leaders warning that Global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity. 

UK polar bear protests Shell
UK polar bear protests Shell

Shell abandoned their exploration for Arctic oil, and while citing low returns for investment, it is clear activists, including the indigenous Inupiat and Greenpeace, after a three-year engagement, impacted public opinion, which in turn ethically challenged Shell and undermined its reputation. Among many activist events, kayaktavists, St. John’s Bridge (with Buddist Peace Fellowship support), UK’s Dharma Alliance Network Climate Engagement, was the month long Requiem for the Arctic played outside Shell’s London HQ.

Flood the System has been out at San Francisco financial district, while many activist events that focused on climate and racism, (showing strong Buddhist participation), coincided with the Pope’s speeches in New York and Washington DC. Meanwhile around the world, Our Voices are coordinating numerous people’s pilgrimage’s to converge on Paris.

As climate emergency catalyzes a social, economic and energy revolution, we have a unique opportunity to explore the roots of this crisis, which is a dualistic consciousness that repeats old paradigms of exploitation. Our assumption of ‘subject’ (me) in relationship to an ‘object’ (it), while fundamental to our everyday experience, veils the truth of a seamless whole where, the plurality we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real. (Schrodinger) The Buddha stated that our experience of the objective world arises within the mind and is dependent on attention.

Erica Simone & Jaci Berkopec, Human Nature 2015
Erica Simone & Jaci Berkopec, Human Nature 2015

The fundamental nature of attention is conscious awareness. Wherever we direct attention is where our experience of the ‘world’ happens. (Mulaka ‘Root’ Sutta AN58) The training of mindfulness, as an open, non-judgmental awareness that is empathetic and curious, directs attention to the body, feeling and sensation, mind states, and phenomena, both personally –internally, and globally –externally. Under investigation, as the Buddha pointed out, both “self” and “world” are seen as a co-arising dynamic that is mutually shaping and informing of each other. When we glimpse this subtle level of reality, we begin to understand that the self and the world are reflections of each other. In other words, the state of the world is a reflection of our minds. If this is the case, then what does a divided, devastated and abused world, on the brink of mass extinction, say about how we feel about ourselves? (I explore this further in Time To Stand Up.)

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Siddhartha Gautama was called the Buddha after his enlightenment as the word Buddha, (buddhi, ‘to know’) best describes the essential nature of awakening. Pure knowing is inquiring, and perceptive. This is an intelligence and clarity that is less concerned with objectifying the world as something to be controlled and owned, and more focused on coursing the depths of the mystery (as stated in the Heart Sutra), where the world and its ‘objects’ dissolve into profound subjectivity. It is here that the intimacy of all things is revealed. Things are ‘known,’ but not as objects. They are known as part of an undifferentiated subjectivity.

The iconic line of the Heart Sutra, Form is emptiness; emptiness is form, inducts us into the deepest mystery of consciousness and matter. In reality, they are not separate. There is no objective world without the subject. Who that ‘subject’ is, is the ultimate mystery. A mere glimpse of that adamantine ‘I Am That’ burns up eons of ignorance, and in an instant we are delivered from craving. This revelation is opposite of splitting the atom, which led to the most destructive power ever unleashed. Instead, all things merge within atomic consciousness, which cannot be further divided, as it has no location in time or space and no boundaries. In Buddhist understanding, the fundamental nature of mind is this very same undivided consciousness.

Peoples Climate March, NYC, Sept 21, 2014 (poster One Earth Sangha)
Peoples Climate March, NYC, Sept 21, 2014 (poster One Earth Sangha)

Seeing the illusion of our separate, hyper-individualized sense of self, orientates us within the inner shifts that can support the outer revolution we now need to ensure a sustainable future. Our climate crisis is accelerating us into a paradigm shift. We have a journey to undertake that has the potential to bring us back home on every level. Inwardly, we listen into the intuitively intelligent awareness, present within the kaleidoscope of the phenomena. Here we meet what is longed for, our own intimate heart. When we touch our true heart, the world is transformed and the search for what is lost ends. We no longer endlessly the Earth to fill up our inner desolation. Instead, we know our true worth. We enter our authentic being as an inner intuitive intelligence that informs the imperative to engage.

The Heart Sutra encourages a leap, a radical shift. We are to Relinquish all that is false, all dream thinking, and leap beyond the walls of the mind. We are instructed to place our trust in our aware, undivided heart that awaits our return. It is this heart that will save us because it brings us back to being truly human, sensitive, ethical, and responsive. This heart will unhook us from the disembodied, fractured, addicted, and crazed machine that we suckle from, even as it poisons us in our attempts to alleviate the desperate ache

Alberta tar sands - a failing project, that has devastated the Borel forests and land the size of England
Alberta tar sands – a failing project, that has devastated the Boreal forests and land the size of England

of our inner void. The void that we fill through endless consumption: a consumption that bequeaths a wasteland in its wake, and sees humans as disposable; for example, like what is happening in Greece. A country decimated by a predator-driven austerity drive is the future for all countries under oligarchic capitalism; of which Chris Hedges offers a scathing assessment,

The Greeks and the U.S. working poor endure the same deprivations because they are being assaulted by the same system—corporate capitalism. There are no internal constraints on corporate capitalism. And the few external constraints that existed have been removed. Corporate capitalism, manipulating the world’s most powerful financial institutions … does what it is designed to do: It turns everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse.

In response to fiercely grueling demands of Greece by its debtors, which is turning it to a beggar state, French economist Piketty calls for conference on all Europe’s debt.’ What we really need, however, is a conference on Global debt. We need to ask what debt is really owed and to whom. If we consider the foundations of current capitalist wealth, then, as African American artist Nona Faustine demonstrates in her art statement ‘From Her Body Sprang Our Greatest Wealth’, we are indebted far beyond our current European crisis.

Our wealth is ‘From Her Body;’ that is, the bodies, blood, sweat and tears of millions of enslaved, indentured, and murdered bodies, and from the body of our magnificent and abundant Earth. An earth that can no longer sustain and support the

Khalil Bendib,
Khalil Bendib,

increasingly extreme demands we place upon her. Those who now profit most from oligarchic capitalism, through the extraction of the earth’s resources, semi-slave labor, and exploitation of the working classes, are the most indebted. With 1% accruing 99% of global wealth in a system that rewards egotistical CEO’s who make thousands of dollars an hour while resisting a minimum wage of a measly $10 an hour; and a system that allows grossly inflated corporate wealth while abandoning everyday workers to poverty, then the logical outcome is a global feudalistic state, or, more likely, a revolution.

Actually, the revolution- evolution is already upon us, as reflected in last weeks statements of those representing spiritual power (the Pope), political power (US-China Presidents, Clinton), and financial power (6 major banks), and the increasing effectiveness of activits (people power.) We are already seeing massive investment and extraordinary innovation in renewable energy across the world. Germany has set a stunning example as the world’s first major renewable energy economy. In 2014, it set a new record, generating 74 percent of its power needs from renewable energy.

At the UN Climate Change Summit in September 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received commitments from more than a hundred countries to undertake climate action. The Congo and Uganda committed to restoring thirty million hectares of damaged forest, and Iceland and Costa Rica committed to being entirely fossil-fuel-free economies. Most countries are now setting ambitious goals that invest in renewables, cap the use of fossil fuels, and restore forest and wilderness areas that act as carbon sinks. Demonstrating the complete viability of renewables, Denmark, through its government-backed offshore wind farms, can now generate 140% of its electricity needs.

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Meeting our climate crisis presents us with new possibilities and a very obvious choice. Either we change our ways exceedingly fast, or we set the course of unmitigated suffering for generations to come; hurtling them, and most all life forms, toward extreme conflict, an unmerciful scramble for resources, and likely mass extinction; all of which is entirely driven by our human activity. To avoid that outcome, we have to appreciate that environmental, social, political, and economic systems are profoundly interconnected. Buddhism teaches that in reality the boundaries we construct are false. This understanding revolutionizes everything because we finally understand that the root of our human ills is the human mind, its delusions, and its projections.

While the mind is the source of our problem, it is also, as the Buddha pointed out, the source of our personal and collective redemption. A mind purified from the projected shadows of its own misconceptions, is capable of insight, wisdom, compassion, and quantum leaps of evolutionary thought and action. All of which can be applied at a systemic level. In spite of humanity’s tormented past, our deeper reality is that of a seamless world, divided only by the human propensity for delusion, fear, and greed. The veils can part, from such an afflicted history, when we allow ourselves to touch into the truth the Buddha spoke, vimuttisara sabbe dhamma, meaning freedom is the essence of every circumstance (Mulaka Sutta), We are not just cogs in a corporate wheel. Our human spirit will ultimately revolt against injustice and inequity, whether for others or ourselves because

earthheartbeatingin truth we are part of one another. And so, the threat to our collective survival offers the chance to move forward in collaborative ways. The belching of carbon into our biosphere knows no boundaries, and so solutions have to go beyond geographic, and nation-state borders, in order to forge global alliances and necessary action.

Such action, to be effective, has to clearly identify the causes and gross offenders that  jeopardize a possible world for future generations. Those, who use their political power to pedal doctrines of denial and deceit, those who subscribe to socio-psychopathic behaviors in their quest to own and control it all, and war mongering, cold-hearted manipulators who use crisis to destabilize mass populations for profit; all have to be called out and stopped. To know that all beings are resident in our awareness* does not preclude the truth that to secure a beautiful world for future generations, is to enter a battle of mighty proportions. As demonstrated by Gandhi, Rev. King, Mr. Mandela, and many, many other spiritual warriors, taking on those who perpetuate destructive and deadly systems can be done without entertaining hatred or committing acts of violence. It can be done through daily acts of resistance, fuelled by inner spiritual focus, and through mass mobilization. It can be done by also understanding our own contribution and collusion with systems that perpetuate greed, fear, oppression, and exploitation.

The future belongs not to wastelands of burnt and tortured landscapes or a return to feudalistic servitude. In the midst of devastation and destruction, as we negotiate the ‘the sixth extinction’* the future is already emerging. It is in the shape of our awakening awareness regards the nature of reality; the immutable nature of consciousness, matter and energy is being mirrored in collaborative, interconnected ways of working, and in new energy systems, which move us out of a fossil fuel-based system that is married to an extinction consciousness.

As centralized systems implode, we are already moving within smaller self-empowered processes, where we can access global information, and are free to create, love and share in ways that seek to express the truth of our deeper spirit, alongside our aspiration to live the truth of interdependence as the Elders, our First Nation ancestors, demonstrated.


At the end of the day, we humans are only here for a finger snap. Our empires and attempt to hoard up possessions will inevitably be defeated by the shifting sands of time. Whether we manage to turn our dramatic global crisis into a different kind of dream, one that is driven by deep desire to connect with others and share,* or whether we fall under the weight of the dying dinosaur of our capitalist system, is yet to be seen. But what it clear, is that a tiny window of opportunity is still open. Let us not fall back to sleep. Instead, let us wake up and pick up the challenge for the sake of those to come, encouraged by Mr Mandela’s words, It seems impossible until it is done.

Thanissara – Oct 3, 2015

* Alex Grey

 * Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

*Rifkin, Jeremy. 2014. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, And The Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan