Environment and Ecology

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Home Religion and Ecology

A Climate in Crisis

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"Many civilizations have already come and gone. Global warming may be an early symptom of the death of our current civilization."

A combination of powerful factors is rapidly undermining the global ecological system that supports and integrates all living species and their interactions with land, water and atmosphere.

The Earth’s climate system provided the foundation for human civilization to develop over the last 10000 years. Collectively, we are only now beginning to recognize the depth of this interdependence. We are unwillingly facing an anthropogenic (man-made) climate crisis, unleashed by our own waste stream of carbon gas. Meaningful corrective actions are now a matter of urgency for the survival of our own species, and up to half of all species alive at the time of the industrial revolution. On the fortunate side, the clean energy technologis we need to avoid climate breakdown already exist. On the downside, a hugely wealthy corporate sector of society derives its profits from the status quo; continuous economic growth based on fossil carbon fuels.

Climate Crisis

The global ecological crisis is existential, fast-moving and multi-faceted. If we drift inadvertently past a critical juncture, we will be unable to halt the process--an outcome termed "runaway" global warming. Such is the context in which we established this website, as an educational resource, primarily for the international Buddhist community. The Science section covers the origins, dynamics and evolutionary implications of the climate crisis. Its aim is to provide an accurate, pithy description of the problem, as in the diagnosis of an illness. This is complemented by a Solutions section that describes key technologies, policies and actions to resolve the crisis. Once we understand the character and extent of a problem accurately, it is constructive and transformational to focus on the solution. A unique section of this website concerns Wisdom in relation to both individual and collective spheres of the climate change issue.


Buddhism and the Climate-Energy Emergency

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It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.
The Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya

Statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, Bodh Gaya, IndiaEnvironmental and social breakdown is now vast and global in scale. Technological advances have provided the basis for a new kind of social evolution, beyond cultural, religious or spiritual boundaries. Technology, however, is not ultimately directed by reason, but by internal forces of sociobiology and psychology. Human instincts have destructive as well as benign aspects. As much as we may celebrate our art, scientific knowledge or altruism, we can no longer ignore the truth that we are also ‘the most dangerous animal’. [1]

Humans are opportunistic, as are all higher animals, and characteristically greedy. Our high intelligence confers the capacity to manipulate others to accumulate power or resources. We are quite easily trained into violent forms of aggression. Now that we have ‘accidentally’ acquired the capacity to destroy the climate of this planet, what will we call upon to restrain ourselves in time?

Technological prowess alone cannot confer contentment or happiness on us: in ‘advanced’ societies, the rates of anxiety, stress and mental illness are greater than ever previously recorded. [2] On a physical level too, cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and auto-immune disease as well as diverse ‘functional illnesses’ have become epidemic. [3] What will our governments, corporations and politicians now do with the power of life or death over the biosphere from which our species evolved?

Do politicians even understand the scientific facts? Are they as attentive to their citizens and future human generations as they are to the most profitable corporate special interest in commercial history, the fossil fuel industry?  The answer to these questions will determine the course of the Sixth Great Extinction in Earth history, which is now unfolding. It could even provoke the end of an era of geological time [4]—or as Buddhists would say, the end of an aeon:

The poison of global warming due to the harnessing of machines in all places and times,
Is causing the existing snow mountains to melt,
And the oceans will consequently bring the world within reach of the aeon’s end.
Grant your blessings that the world may be protected from these conditions!
Kyabje Sakya Trizin Rinpoche


Spiritual Ecology

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Spiritual ecology is a recent term that refers to the intersection between religion and spirituality and environment. Practitioners of spiritual ecology fall into three categories: the scientific and academic, spiritual or religious environmentalism, and religious or spiritual individuals who relate strongly to the environment.


The scientific and academic study of spiritual ecology is being developed by various university professors in their teaching and research. A growing number of special programs include the Religion and Nature track in the Department of Religion at the University of Florida, the Spiritual Ecology Concentration in the Ecological Anthropology Program at the University of Hawaii, the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt University, the interdisciplinary Project on Climate Change in the School for Forestry, Environmental Studies at Yale University, and the Religion and Public Life [Environmental track] Doctoral Program at Northwestern University. The Boston Theological Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, and Schumacher College in England all offer programs related to spiritual ecology.

The International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture formed in 2006 and is dedicated to multidisciplinary research on spiritual ecology. It describes itself as "a community of scholars engaged in critical inquiry into the relationships among human beings and their diverse cultures, environments, religious beliefs and practices." The society hosts international meetings and publishes the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. Other journals related to spiritual ecology include Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion, Whole Terrain, a journal of "reflective environmental practice," Orion magazine, and Color Wheel, among others.

As the major terrestrial intervention in nature by humans, agriculture is often omitted from considerations of spirituality or relegated to a stewardship role. This embrionic area is addressed under such headings as agricultural spiritualism, and notable in a book on Religion and Agriculture by Lindsay Falvey.

Scientific and academic

Scientists and academics study the relationship of religion and ecology and environmentalism. These scholars do not necessarily consider themselves to be religious or spiritual, but the nature of their work collaborates the concepts of nature and spirituality. Among the foremost scholars in the study and theorizing of spritual ecology are Roger S. Gottlieb at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, John Grim at Yale University, Leslie Sponsel at the University of Hawai'i, Sarah McFarland Taylor at Northwestern University, Bron Taylor at University of Florida, Mary Evelyn Tucker at Yale University, and Mitchell Thomashow at Antioch University New England.

Pro-environmental teachings are present in four world religions – Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam and there is a willingness by clergy and religious teachers to encourage the required behavioural changes through their teachings, hence, pointing the potentials for a spiritual appeal to environmental behaviour.[1]

Spiritually motivated environmentalism

Religion and the environmentIn this context, religion and spirituality provide guidance and motivation to work on environmental causes. Among the most outstanding persons in this domain are the Passionist Priest Thomas Berry, the Orthodox Christian leader the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Greece, Martin Palmer of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation in the United Kingdom, and Sulak Sivaraksa of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists in Thailand.

Environmentally motivated spirituality

People whose experiences in nature transcend the scientific, material environment fall into the third category of environmentally motivated spiritualists. This may include such historical figures as St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Albert Schweitzer, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Sigurd F. Olson, Edward Abbey, Carl Sagan, and Paul Shepard. Contemporaries in this field include Wendell Berry, Jane Goodall, Matthew Fox, Stephanie Kaza, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Satish Kumar, Winona LaDuke, Barry Lopez, James Lovelock, Joanna Macy, Peter Matthiessen, Ralph Metzner, Arne Naess, Theodore Roszak, Gary Snyder, Michael Soule, Brian Swimme, Edward O. Wilson, and Paul Winter.

Although an individual may be involved in only one of these three realms of spiritual ecology, they are not mutually exclusive and have the ability to reinforce one another. Jane Goodall, for example is very well-known for her scientific studies, but equally active in the ambassadorship of environmental understanding and compassion (notably, as a UN Messenger of Peace).


Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory

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Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural System Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural System (Buddhist Studies Series) (Paperback)

By: Joanna R. MacY (Author)

ISBN: 0791406377

Publisher: State Univ of New York Pr


EcoSikh Movement

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EcoSikhEcoSikh is the Sikh community’s contribution to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) Plans for Generational Change Project, which aims to help the world’s major religious traditions create long-term plans to improve their relationship with the environment.


EcoSikh connects Sikhs values, beliefs, and institutions to the most important environmental issues facing our world. We draw on the rich tradition of the Sikh Gurus and the Khalsa Panth to shape the behavior and outlook of Sikhs and the world, ensuring that our deep, abiding reverence for all creation remains a central part of the Sikh way of life. 


Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first embodiment of Divine Light in the Sikh tradition, laid the foundation for a sacred vision for the environment when he composed the shabad:

Pavan Guru Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat.
Air is the Guru, Water the Father, and the Earth is the Great Mother. ’We honor our Gurus’ wisdom by believing that all humans have an intrinsic sensitivity to the natural world, and that a sustainable, more just society is possible, where water, air, land, forests, and biodiversity remain vibrant, living systems for our generation and future generations.


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