Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

A discussion on all aspects of Engaged Buddhism
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Polar Bear
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Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Polar Bear » Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:50 pm

(Head’s up: I don’t know how to write this topic without sounding a bit incendiary. I’m interested in a sincere discussion though. I’m not a revolutionary, at least not yet, and not sure I even have the courage, the belief, or the confidence in my predictive capacity to engage in revolutionary action in an attempt to mobilize the US and the world to tackling climate change like it’s world war 3)

Climate Change is a disaster greater than anything this world has faced, it is a greater threat than the Nazis and even (arguably) nuclear war. The United States government is allowing the planet to be destroyed thanks to the lobbying and money donating power of the industries and the mega-rich causing the climate disaster and the pollution of the world. The Brazilian government is failing to protect the Amazon against cattle ranchers, logging, and other exploitative business practices. Governments around the world are either completely failing to halt the destruction of the biosphere through climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution or they are moving so slow and ineffectually that the world will be a wasteland with billions of refugees, or dead people, before solutions become available through the slow progress being made.

If ever there was a time for revolution, it could be argued that time is now or within the next 12 years. What does Engaged Buddhism have to say about revolution which almost necessarily includes destruction of property and violence against the individuals and institutions the people are revolting/rebelling against?

A theravadin who believes in samsara, that we have all been cycling through birth and birth for incalculable iterations of the universe might very well consider it more ethical to sit back and equanimously watch the world burn, and billions of humans and quintillions of animals die, than to fight for the world and destroy corporate property and likely kill a few hundred or a few thousand corporate plutocrats and corrupt politicians, but do all Engaged Buddhists hold such a belief? In Mahayana there is an idea that a Bodhisattva might kill or steal out of compassion under some circumstances. Is the endangerment of all life on earth an appropriate time to invoke the fierce compassion of such a bodhisattva?

If it came down to it with a reasonable degree of certainty, that you had to choose between either watching the planet die but maintaining your precepts and meditation practice, or to engage in a violent overthrow of the systems, industries, and persons holding the most responsibly for the destruction of the world, what do you think you would do?

Does Engaged Buddhism, or any Buddhism, have a real solution to the problems of this physical world, or is it a largely ineffectual movement comprised of a very small group of people vainly thinking their values are going to peaceably change the course of history?

I’d also be interested in whether you think revolution will be necessary or not, the probability of violent action have any positive effect etc etc.

Other things to explore, what would be more effective, a million civilians marching into Washington DC and burning down the Whitehouse and the Capitol Building without trying to kill anyone and marching on oil operations and headquarters of companies, or a group of individual terror cells executing high powered oil/gas executives and climate denying politicians? Or both? Or neither?

These are the sorts of unbuddhist and dangerous things I’d like us to calmly consider in this thread. Thank you for your time and may this world and it’s many lifeforms not perish.

:anjali:

PS I’ve recently felt like the beginning to the Declaration of Independence could have been written today in regards to our need to abolish the governments obstructing the right of the people and the biosphere to life and liberty. Text below:

“When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experi- ence hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems
of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.”

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Polar Bear » Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:29 am

One of the problems with revolution might be that it would potentially destroy the systems or organizational power necessary to mobilize nations in overhauling the energy grid, improving sanitation, and getting rid of plastic pollution. I’d like to think that a non-violent but still radical approach would work, and honestly, even the consideration of violence is an impediment to my Buddhist practice, but I have a fear that if people completely psychologically close themselves off to the possibility of forceful revolution the world could be lost and we’d all just passively die, which in my more judgmental moods I would call pathetic.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:48 am

It's a difficult but worthwhile topic, Polar Bear.

We could approach it from a rationalist, ethical-humanist POV, and ask what kinds of actions (that any ordinary folk can take) will benefit all living beings the most. I think that anything up to and including civil disobedience is clearly justifiable. Illegal actions against infrastructure (e.g. blocking rail lines used by coal trains) ... I don't know, but probably. Going out and killing people? Probably not, although I have to say that I would shed no tears if some people conveniently died.

Would these kinds of actions be enough to change the economic and political system enough to avert catastrophe? Not if only one or two people per thousand took part, which I guess is what we're seeing now in the Western world, but one or two hundred people per thousand could certainly make a difference. And the way they - we - could make a difference is basically peaceful and evolutionary rather than violent and revolutionary. As such it is in line with Buddhism.

And revolution comes with built-in hazards, anyway.
Remember Animal Farm? Remember the Russian revolution - Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin? Remember the Spanish Civil War? Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? Hutu vs Tutsi in Rwanda? Ended well, did they? :toilet:
But also, I really doubt whether any popular revolution can ever succeed in any modern state. Back in the old days, when one guy with a sword was as good as the next, it was largely a matter of numbers - violent democracy, if you like, but still reflecting the genuine will of the people after a fashion. Now, with 24/7 surveillance tech, and military hardware which lets one armed person kill dozens or hundreds of civilians at any distance you like to imagine, what chance would a popular uprising have? :toilet:
In fact, as far as I can rememberoff-hand the only successful revolutions (regime changes, at least) in recent times have been orchestrated by the people with the firepower - the army, in fact. And then you have the army in charge. :toilet:

So - no revolution, I think.
Which is a pity, in a way, because all of our democracies are of an age at which they are no longer democratic and no longer serve the majority of the people. Power corrupts, as we know. I want to add another two-word rule: privilege accumulates. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the rich get more powerful and the poor lose their voices, etc, etc. And that has been going on, without any violent overthrow, for well over a century in most Western nations. We chucked out the aristocracy all right, but we now have another ruling class, with dynastic succession in both business and politics being so common we hardly comment on it - and revolving doors between the top levels of business, law and politics. :toilet:

To me, then, it looks like the only plausible way forward is the peaceful, community-based way. The fact that it is also the only way which aligns with Buddhism is either coincidence or evidence that Buddhism has a very solid commonsense core. :smile:

Whether we can energise it quickly enough remains to be seen, but I think we're bound to try.

:namaste:
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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Jun 23, 2019 12:01 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:48 am
...Would these kinds of actions be enough to change the economic and political system enough to avert catastrophe? Not if only one or two people per thousand took part, which I guess is what we're seeing now in the Western world, but one or two hundred people per thousand could certainly make a difference. And the way they - we - could make a difference is basically peaceful and evolutionary rather than violent and revolutionary. As such it is in line with Buddhism. ...
e.g. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/ ... -shut-down

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by DNS » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:03 pm

Polar Bear wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:50 pm
If it came down to it with a reasonable degree of certainty, that you had to choose between either watching the planet die but maintaining your precepts and meditation practice, or to engage in a violent overthrow of the systems, industries, and persons holding the most responsibly for the destruction of the world, what do you think you would do?

Does Engaged Buddhism, or any Buddhism, have a real solution to the problems of this physical world, or is it a largely ineffectual movement comprised of a very small group of people vainly thinking their values are going to peaceably change the course of history?

I’d also be interested in whether you think revolution will be necessary or not, the probability of violent action have any positive effect etc etc.
It comes down to the question of if there are any just wars or not. Or if all wars no matter how seemingly justified, are not. There was an interesting and long debate on DWT with the open debate letters back and forth from bhikkhus Thanissaro and Bodhi. As I recall, the polling showed Theravadins on DWT about even divided between which side they supported.

And then there is the saying something like, "millions have died in the name of trying to make the world a perfect place."

Theravada seems to be more passive and focuses on liberation in this life or the next one and does not (at least at first glance) seem as open to engaged activities (of course there are Theravadins who do support engaged buddhism, however). Mahayana has the famous ship story where the crew is saved by killing the potential killer and appears to focus more on the results and consequences of actions.

I am mostly Theravadin, but also like utilitarianism where the greatest good is sought for the many, rather than the few. But I also strongly support the First Precept and non-killing, so it is a difficult balance to find the best solution for complex problems.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Bundokji » Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:48 pm

I think the problem arises when we try to connect a scientific idea such as climate change, with metaphysical concepts by raising moral questions.

If i may illustrate the problem by raising another theoretical question, not as a deviation from the OP, but as an attempt to better frame the problem:

Why not consider suicide as the most revolutionary act a human being can take? It seems to eliminate the hierarchical structure within you which enables you to make moral judgements!

If we use scientific evident as guidance to moral action, dead people no longer react to external stimuli, hence they are morally blameless, unlike living beings who have to deal with difficult moral situations such as the one you raised.
'Too much knowledge leads to scepticism. Early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints.' – Will Durant.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Kim O'Hara » Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:37 am

Bundokji wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:48 pm
I think the problem arises when we try to connect a scientific idea such as climate change, with metaphysical concepts by raising moral questions. ...
But climate change is no more a "scientific idea" than the fact that a car heading towards you will squash you unless you get out of its way. It is an observed fat. It is not as obvious to the senses as the car, which is why it took scientific study to notice it, but it is something which is happening in the world today.
So the moral question is completely relevant. We ask, "Now that we know X, what should we do about it?" - "Now that we know cigarettes harm our health, what should we do about limiting the harm they do?" or "Now that we know so-and-so is a murderer, what should we do about it?"
In exactly the same way, the question is, "Now that we know that our use of fossil fuels is making our world unliveable for future generations, what should we do about it?"

Having asked that question, we might add, "And why?" - with answers like "compassion for all living beings" and "intergenerational justice" or "because I want my kids to have good lives."

:namaste:
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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Bundokji » Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:37 am
But climate change is no more a "scientific idea" than the fact that a car heading towards you will squash you unless you get out of its way. It is an observed fat. It is not as obvious to the senses as the car, which is why it took scientific study to notice it, but it is something which is happening in the world today.
So the moral question is completely relevant. We ask, "Now that we know X, what should we do about it?" - "Now that we know cigarettes harm our health, what should we do about limiting the harm they do?" or "Now that we know so-and-so is a murderer, what should we do about it?"
In exactly the same way, the question is, "Now that we know that our use of fossil fuels is making our world unliveable for future generations, what should we do about it?"

Having asked that question, we might add, "And why?" - with answers like "compassion for all living beings" and "intergenerational justice" or "because I want my kids to have good lives."

:namaste:
Kim
I think climate change is a scientific idea because it creates a perception with moral implications. Throughout our lives, we observe on a daily basis that the weather change and we deal with it either by wearing suitable clothes or storing food in case we expect a lengthy storm. Of course, being prepared to weather changes helps people avoid suffering in the same way avoiding a car heading towards you seem to be a good action, which most people by the way, do "naturally" all the time when they drive. However, the moral problem in the context of this thread arises only through the new perception of "climate change" as something distinctly different from what is happening all the time.

I attended a conference last year linking the drought in my country with climate change. One of the panelists was a senior member of the water authority and he made an interesting remark. He said that whether we talk about climate change or not, the fact from his vantage point did not seem to change, that the country needs more water, and that time is better spent on discussing projects which can increase water supply than talking about abstract ideas such as climate change.

The moral problem can also be approached through introducing the issue of "competing demands". Our conscious experience seem to be a constant negotiation, both internally and externally, between competing demands. When i go for a glass of water, it means that thirst had the upper hand for that short period of time until a new demand replaces it. In the market place of ideas, different perceptions presents themselves as competing demands. For an environmentalist, the perception of climate change is his area of interest and expertise and through it he contributes to the collective and justifies his existence, hence he presents it as the most urgent. Decision makers are usually in the middle of these competing demands between different groups, and one can imagine that none will be completely satisfied with his share of the cake hence the call for revolution can be echoed by many groups each seeing their agenda as the most urgent and most worthy of attention.

To give another example is our knowledge of death. We somehow know that we, and other beings will eventually die, but that does not seem to stop us from copulating and bringing new beings to the circus. The urge to fall in love and make sex becomes part of the competing demand within the human psyche and most people act on it. Should we call them irrational or immoral for acting in such a way?

The knowledge of death does not stop us from doing our daily activities. However, when death is perceived as imminent, moral questions arise inline with the new perception "imminent". However, the validity of that perception is never questioned for what constitutes a crisis is not where it begins or ends, but when it is declared. Same thing can be said about climate change.

In light of the above, what is it that we should revolt against (if any)? Choices as presented in this thread so far are between Theravada which is portrayed as turning your back to the world and see it as irrepairably flawed, and Mahayana which encourages active involvement.
'Too much knowledge leads to scepticism. Early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints.' – Will Durant.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Kim O'Hara » Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:55 am

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:37 am
But climate change is no more a "scientific idea" than the fact that a car heading towards you will squash you unless you get out of its way. It is an observed fat. It is not as obvious to the senses as the car, which is why it took scientific study to notice it, but it is something which is happening in the world today.
So the moral question is completely relevant. We ask, "Now that we know X, what should we do about it?" - "Now that we know cigarettes harm our health, what should we do about limiting the harm they do?" or "Now that we know so-and-so is a murderer, what should we do about it?"
In exactly the same way, the question is, "Now that we know that our use of fossil fuels is making our world unliveable for future generations, what should we do about it?"

Having asked that question, we might add, "And why?" - with answers like "compassion for all living beings" and "intergenerational justice" or "because I want my kids to have good lives."

:namaste:
Kim
I think climate change is a scientific idea because it creates a perception with moral implications. Throughout our lives, we observe on a daily basis that the weather change and we deal with it either by wearing suitable clothes or storing food in case we expect a lengthy storm. Of course, being prepared to weather changes helps people avoid suffering in the same way avoiding a car heading towards you seem to be a good action, which most people by the way, do "naturally" all the time when they drive. However, the moral problem in the context of this thread arises only through the new perception of "climate change" as something distinctly different from what is happening all the time.
But it is "distinctly different from what is happening all the time," because climate has never changed this quickly in all of human history.
I attended a conference last year linking the drought in my country with climate change. One of the panelists was a senior member of the water authority and he made an interesting remark. He said that whether we talk about climate change or not, the fact from his vantage point did not seem to change, that the country needs more water, and that time is better spent on discussing projects which can increase water supply than talking about abstract ideas such as climate change.
Again, it is not an "abstract idea" but an observable reality (you just need to observe over decades rather than minutes, which is why systematic observation, i.e. science, was crucial to noticing it). And if he goes ahead and increases the water supply so that it would be adequate in a one-in-a-hundred-years drought, he is relying on the future being the same as the past. And it won't be, and people will die.
The moral problem can also be approached through introducing the issue of "competing demands". Our conscious experience seem to be a constant negotiation, both internally and externally, between competing demands. When i go for a glass of water, it means that thirst had the upper hand for that short period of time until a new demand replaces it. In the market place of ideas, different perceptions presents themselves as competing demands. For an environmentalist, the perception of climate change is his area of interest and expertise and through it he contributes to the collective and justifies his existence, hence he presents it as the most urgent. Decision makers are usually in the middle of these competing demands between different groups, and one can imagine that none will be completely satisfied with his share of the cake hence the call for revolution can be echoed by many groups each seeing their agenda as the most urgent and most worthy of attention.

To give another example is our knowledge of death. We somehow know that we, and other beings will eventually die, but that does not seem to stop us from copulating and bringing new beings to the circus. The urge to fall in love and make sex becomes part of the competing demand within the human psyche and most people act on it. Should we call them irrational or immoral for acting in such a way?

The knowledge of death does not stop us from doing our daily activities. However, when death is perceived as imminent, moral questions arise inline with the new perception "imminent". However, the validity of that perception is never questioned for what constitutes a crisis is not where it begins or ends, but when it is declared. Same thing can be said about climate change.
That's all true, but one of the things that makes climate change such a wicked problem is that although it's fast by natural-process standards (things like glaciers and coastal erosion), it's still really slow by the standards we instinctively respond to as urgent threats (things like a sabre-toothed tiger smiling at us, that is).
In light of the above, what is it that we should revolt against (if any)? Choices as presented in this thread so far are between Theravada which is portrayed as turning your back to the world and see it as irrepairably flawed, and Mahayana which encourages active involvement.
I think the OP is about revolting against political apathy - whether we're Theravada, Mahayana or, perhaps, just sensible.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by lyndon taylor » Thu Jun 27, 2019 11:05 am

I think the climate changed much more quickly when asteroids hit, or when massive volcanoes went off in a short period of time.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Bundokji » Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:26 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:55 am
But it is "distinctly different from what is happening all the time," because climate has never changed this quickly in all of human history.
I understand that what you described is integral to the rational behind presenting climate change as distinctive phenomena, along with attributing it to human activities. From a Buddhist perspective, and correct me if i am wrong, it is precisely because climate change is dependent on these assumptions that can always be perceived as uncertain or unreliable knowledge, evident by the fact that the meaning of it (as action) is disputed and rarely agreed upon outside the circle of environmental activism. The process of defining a phenomena (to make it distinctive) is rooted in biases and that includes climate change. You can always perceive and present the concept of time or what constitutes human activities in many different ways and reach different conclusions. The bias lies in negating other interpretations (which would equally begin with the process of defining things differently) and present the particular theory as the valid one.

Associating knowledge of certain theories that have strong explanatory power with human well being is a product of linear thinking and in itself counter productive and a cause of suffering due to its self-fulfilling nature. If we take a cancer patient as an example, who does not know that he has cancer, he might experience some pain and die peacefully without much mental stress. On the contrary, those who get diagnosed might experience much more stress due to the mental images associated with the "idea" of cancer.

This thread is a good case. As if life is not difficult enough, we watch documentaries and read reports about climate change and human impact on the environment, and the theory, becomes the glass which we use to interpret phenomena, then we might contemplate revolting against the system.

In all of the above, what seems to be missing is the human well-being even if the theory implies or pretends to contribute to it (as every other theory out there).
That's all true, but one of the things that makes climate change such a wicked problem is that although it's fast by natural-process standards (things like glaciers and coastal erosion), it's still really slow by the standards we instinctively respond to as urgent threats (things like a sabre-toothed tiger smiling at us, that is).
Hence its invalidity. Responding to urgent threats at the expense of longer term threats is often presented as a human flaw or weakness, overlooking the fact that its a product of our evolution and survival thus far.
I think the OP is about revolting against political apathy - whether we're Theravada, Mahayana or, perhaps, just sensible.
I personally don't see it as political apathy, but more of different interpretations of how priorities should be set. My input is not skepticism of climate change or its potential consequences, but an attempt to provide a counter-argument through justifying the status quo. The status quo is justified by virtue of its existence. By trying to see what is right with it rather than what is wrong, humans can decide to invest their time, mental energies and resources in more productive endeavors than debating over vague terms and our view of what constitutes effective activism can take a different route.
'Too much knowledge leads to scepticism. Early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints.' – Will Durant.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Fri Jun 28, 2019 6:57 pm

Bernie Sanders calls for a political revolution. As to violence, 31% of polled voters think that the U.S. will have a civil war within the next five years.
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_ ... ikely_soon
I can see this happening if Trump loses and refuses to step down. This is conceivable enough that a group of congressional leaders have met to discuss options should this happen.

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:54 am

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am
I attended a conference last year linking the drought in my country with climate change. One of the panelists was a senior member of the water authority and he made an interesting remark. He said that whether we talk about climate change or not, the fact from his vantage point did not seem to change, that the country needs more water, and that time is better spent on discussing projects which can increase water supply than talking about abstract ideas such as climate change.
From a public policy point of view it seems that many societies are poorly prepared for the climate of 100 years ago.
Also there is some real world evidence that groups that don't emphasis climate change make more progress towards effective action.

Yet it seems that perspectives such as these feels like a "sell out" and/or rejected by many climate response advocates.
Why? I think you point to a major factor:
Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am
The moral problem can also be approached through introducing the issue of "competing demands". Our conscious experience seem to be a constant negotiation, both internally and externally, between competing demands. When i go for a glass of water, it means that thirst had the upper hand for that short period of time until a new demand replaces it. In the market place of ideas, different perceptions presents themselves as competing demands.
Competing demands or competing commitments seem to be rife around climate change. Especially when the competing commitments are hidden. One sides opinions about the other sides shortcoming are almost always much attractive than attending to our own hidden commitments.
These and other individual beliefs--along with the collective mind-sets in our organizations, groups and "tribes" --combine to create a natural but powerful immunity to change and constructive action.
This issue has been the subject of study. One outcome of such research is summarized in these links.
https://hbr.org/resources/images/products/1736_500.png
https://www.dropbox.com/s/8vymnzp9bv3mu ... Change.pdf
Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am
For an environmentalist, the perception of climate change is his area of interest and expertise and through it he contributes to the collective and justifies his existence, hence he presents it as the most urgent.
One's perception of climate change "justify our existence" -- in other words clinging.
It's remarkable how little attention this factor of dukkha receives from Buddhists devoted to climate change.

Can you say more about:
Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:04 am
However, when death is perceived as imminent, moral questions arise inline with the new perception "imminent". However, the validity of that perception is never questioned for what constitutes a crisis is not where it begins or ends, but when it is declared. Same thing can be said about climate change.
The validity of the perception of an imminent threat of climate change is never (or not rightly) questioned?

Can you say more about "what constitutes a crisis is not where it begins or ends, but when it is declared."?

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:11 am

Polar Bear wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:50 pm
(Climate Change is a disaster greater than anything this world has faced, it is a greater threat than the Nazis and even (arguably) nuclear war. The United States government is allowing the planet to be destroyed thanks to the lobbying and money donating power of the industries and the mega-rich causing the climate disaster and the pollution of the world.
So you are in favor of increasing the role of nuclear generated electricity in your country?

How to expect others to believe that you really believe that climate change is a disaster of the scale you say it is if you don't support proven technologies that could power %100 of your national electrical grid with zero green house gas emissions?

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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:47 am

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:26 pm
I understand that what you described is integral to the rational behind presenting climate change as distinctive phenomena, along with attributing it to human activities. From a Buddhist perspective, and correct me if i am wrong, it is precisely because climate change is dependent on these assumptions that can always be perceived as uncertain or unreliable knowledge, evident by the fact that the meaning of it (as action) is disputed and rarely agreed upon outside the circle of environmental activism.
The process of defining a phenomena (to make it distinctive) is rooted in biases and that includes climate change.
You can always perceive and present the concept of time or what constitutes human activities in many different ways and reach different conclusions.
The bias lies in negating other interpretations (which would equally begin with the process of defining things differently) and present the particular theory as the valid one.
That's an insightful summary.

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Regarding wicked problems -- it seems this concept is one that many activists struggle with.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem
A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. It refers to an idea or problem that can not be fixed, or where there is no single solution to the problem. The use of the term "wicked" here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Another definition is "a problem whose social complexity means that it has no determinable stopping point".
Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems.
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https://ssir.org/articles/entry/wicked_ ... th_solving
A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. Poverty is linked with education, nutrition with poverty, the economy with nutrition, and so on.
Horst Rittel, one of the first to formalize a theory of wicked problems, cites ten characteristics of these complicated social issues:

1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation. The problem of poverty in Texas is grossly similar but discretely different from poverty in Nairobi, so no practical characteristics describe “poverty.”
2. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems because they bleed into one another, unlike the boundaries of traditional design problems that can be articulated or defined.
3. Solutions to wicked problems can be only good or bad, not true or false. There is no idealized end state to arrive at, and so approaches to wicked problems should be tractable ways to improve a situation rather than solve it.
4. There is no template to follow when tackling a wicked problem, although history may provide a guide. Teams that approach wicked problems must literally make things up as they go along.
5. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem, with the appropriateness of the explanation depending greatly on the individual perspective of the designer.
6. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem. The interconnected quality of socio-economic political systems illustrates how, for example, a change in education will cause new behavior in nutrition.
7. No mitigation strategy for a wicked problem has a definitive scientific test because humans invented wicked problems and science exists to understand natural phenomena.
8. Offering a “solution” to a wicked problem frequently is a “one shot” design effort because a significant intervention changes the design space enough to minimize the ability for trial and error.
9. Every wicked problem is unique.
10. Designers attempting to address a wicked problem must be fully responsible for their actions.
https://ssir.org/articles/entry/wicked_ ... th_solving

Bundokji
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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Bundokji » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:57 pm

Leeuwenhoek wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:54 am
The validity of the perception of an imminent threat of climate change is never (or not rightly) questioned?

Can you say more about "what constitutes a crisis is not where it begins or ends, but when it is declared."?
From my limited understanding of the teachings of the Buddha, the four noble truths begin with the problem of suffering. Humans experience sickness, old age and death which are perceived as problematic. The teachings tell us that the lord Buddha transcended suffering, and yet, he experienced sickness, old age and death. Ideally, this should motivate the practitioner to investigate the conditions that make problems what they are (the second noble truth) through dispassionately analyzing conventional reality and how it is constructed (the path to solve or end problems).

Moral problems arise due to various conditions, such as the perception of control (which implies responsibility) and knowledge. In the context of climate change, the debate takes the form of attributing it to human activity hence humans are considered responsible and can do something about it, and by analyzing evidence that the claims correspond to reality and therefore have predictive power.

The issue of declaration can be approached through the analyzing the notion of birth. We declare human birth when the baby leaves the mother's womb, so he/she can begin to perceive and be perceived. Birth does not trigger moral responsibility right away because it takes time for knowledge to mature into the perception of control. Also making distinctions between physical birth and biological birth bring about different moral problems that humans need to deal with such as the issue of abortion.

While the above might not be seen directly relevant to the issue of climate change, it is an attempt to show how skillful action can be the result of analyzing and understanding conventional reality, not through assertions or being passionate about a certain cause regardless how noble this cause might appear to be.

Considering the above, climate change activism can take a different approach and become more effective when people are sincere in their thoughts and not blinded by passion. If we take the civil war in Syria as an example, some environmentalists tried to find a causal link between climate change, the drought in Syria and the revolt against the government. Indeed, with a stretch of imagination, one can find such a causal link, but is this approach a product of sincere thinking? of using the underlying assumptions of conventional reality skillfully? or is it the product of blind passionate ideologues? and did it have the desirable effect? or did it shed more skepticism about the intentions of climate change activism resulting in the opposite effect?

Imagine a man who has been working under the sun for a long time which caused him dehydration and irritation, then he went back home, fought with his wife and ended up divorcing her. Would attributing his actions to climate change be an intelligent way of using human knowledge? are we, by doing so, motivating him and others to take responsibility of their actions by using climate change narrative?

The question becomes: in what cases using climate change to interpret phenomena is skillful? or what is the added value of using such narrative as opposite to another narrative?
'Too much knowledge leads to scepticism. Early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints.' – Will Durant.

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Polar Bear
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Re: Engaged Buddhism, Revolution, and Climate Change

Post by Polar Bear » Sun Jun 30, 2019 2:30 am

Leeuwenhoek wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:11 am
Polar Bear wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:50 pm
(Climate Change is a disaster greater than anything this world has faced, it is a greater threat than the Nazis and even (arguably) nuclear war. The United States government is allowing the planet to be destroyed thanks to the lobbying and money donating power of the industries and the mega-rich causing the climate disaster and the pollution of the world.
So you are in favor of increasing the role of nuclear generated electricity in your country?

How to expect others to believe that you really believe that climate change is a disaster of the scale you say it is if you don't support proven technologies that could power %100 of your national electrical grid with zero green house gas emissions?
I’m not very educated on nuclear power, but I saw a PBS documentary that convinced me that next generation nuclear reactors are safer than the current salt water ones and that we would be wise to include them in a new energy grid. So yeah, I’m cool with nuclear power.

I’m more undecided on the below thoughts:

The current salt water reactors should keep running and the area surrounding them slowly converted to wildlife refuges by buying out properties, that way if they melt down in the future we can avoid the part of Chernobyl with all the people dying and skip to forests growing and wolves flourishing. If they melt down now, the lives lost will presumably be less than the amount of lives that would be lost in the future if we expanded greenhouse gas emissions by shutting the plants down.

We should also keep looking into the possibility of fusion.

:namaste:

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