The Personal and the Political: Rise for Climate Action

Grounded in compassion and right understanding, the People’s Climate Movement is coming together once again to insist on bold, clear, and pervasive structural change. We invite you to take your place in this moment by organizing or joining gatherings in San Francisco and around the world. On Saturday, September 8, join the Rise for Climate Action.

It’s easy to feel beset by the daily barrage of issues and events that come across our screens and our streets, from hostile immigration policy to attacks on human rights and voting rights to scandal and corruption. As these concerns can touch our hearts and worry our minds, the well of energy for response can run dry. Yet the same, far in the background, global temperatures continue to rise. What’s more, the world has yet to curb green-house gas emissions at the rate required to reverse this trend and enable a just and sustainable future. Captivated by the acute, we can lose track of the chronic. Decisive action is needed and all whose circumstances support it are called to insist on structural change that is deep, broad and justice-centered.

Yet we are not starting from scratch. Whether in accordance with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, We’re Still In or Living the Change, significant movements are well-underway among governments, corporations and everyday citizens of this world to align the way we live with the needs of livingkind. Our opportunity is to embody the fullness of decisive action across the scale of our own lives, integrating both the personal and the political, calling on both the Buddha and the Sangha.

In parallel with our Living the Change, a campaign for aligning our everyday lives with the reality of climate change, we invite you to turn towards political, collective response and join the Rise for Climate Action. The Movement platform includes goals to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas pollution to combat climate change and improve public health, and also to ensure that investments are targeted to help low-income people and people of color to access good jobs and improve the lives of communities of color, indigenous peoples, low-income people, small farmers, women, and workers. As members of the global community, we hope you will join with us in calling for courageous action that is long overdue.

Make Plans

If you are local to the San Francisco Bay Area or within a 8-hour drive, we encourage you to fill every seat in your vehicle (“Buddha Bus”!) and get thee to the main Rise mobilization!

  • RSVP for the California Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice event here
  • Join the faith contingent. Articulating the moral call for climate action, GreenFaith, Interfaith Power and Light and a host of other faith communities are gathering before of the march in order to affirm our grounding and walk together.
  • Join the Buddhist-mindfulness contingent. San Francisco Insight along with other Dharma and faith communities have been working hard to build a strong presence. Learn more about their event here and register to help or join them here (—-facebook event link here—).
  • Finally, we really hope you’ll join One Earth Sangha at Spirit Rock Meditation Center for a post-GCAS day of practice and teachings on Saturday, September 15th. There we’ll be joined by Julia Butterfly Hill, Joanna Macy and a host of other leaders. This event will feature an on-stage conversation between Christiana Figueres, the architect behind the Paris Climate Accord and our own Lou Leonard and Jack Kornfield. Learn more and register here.

For those outside the Bay Area and Northern California, that is all other locations on Mama Earth, there are many exiting ways to get involved:

  • Join or organize a local gathering, no matter the size. There’s something powerful and poignant about even six people gathered on the doorsteps of a city hall calling for the changes necessary for healthy cities around the world. Find or create a general Rise for Climate event here.
  • If you’re creating a local event and want to gather Buddhist / Mindfulness communities, register it with us here (coming 8/29/2018) as well as on the PCM event directory.
  • Gather your people and live-stream the multifaith event at Grace Cathedral at 4 pm on September 12. Register for the live stream here.
  • Gather your people (again!) and live-stream our joint event with Spirit Rock, a day of practice and teachings featuring architect of the UN Climate Accord and Plum Village practitioner, Christiana Figueres. Sign up for the live-stream event here.

Make Art

  • The People’s Climate Movement has a number of signs for printing and customizing. Find all the good stuff here.
  • And part of the joy of these events is the creativity, humor and clarity they inspire. So don’t be shy and no need to be “an artist.” Share your message!
  • Those local to the Bay Area can join the faith art-making party on September 4. Learn more about that here.

Make Friends

  • Be sure to follow or create an event page for your gathering. Someone you know might be going!
  • Reach out to your local Dharma and Eco friends asking them to save the date, help with organizing and/or join you at an event.
  • Talk this up and share online (you can tag with #RiseForClimate)
  • Most importantly, at these events, connect, share, listen, learn, support others, lead where you’re needed and resolve to go forward together. More on that below …

Make a Difference

Are leaders actually listening? Will the Rise event change any policy? Do protests really matter?

Of course, our tradition teaches that every action matters, conditioning all that follows. In addition, there may be a kind of entitlement operating when we insist on knowing that our actions, especially those that principally benefit others, will make a difference, one that is discernible to us in advance. We can remember that early abolitionists lived their entire lives without ever knowing the results of their actions.

But on a practical level, the reality may be that these mass protests provide a forum less for speaking to our leaders and more for signaling to one other, and that, dear ones, is the beginning of durable movements and lasting change. By taking our deep concern about climate change to the streets and town halls, we’re actively normalizing engagement itself.  From this place, we can share, learn, affirm, challenge and create new opportunities for deeper engagement.

Our present conditions require that we both normalize a different way to live, one characterized by sufficiency and contentment, as well as, for those who feel called, a sustained, benevolent and determined call for systems change. We hope you’ll take some time to make some plans, make some art and hopefully make some friends as a way to make all the difference we can in this unspeakably precious world.

Launching a New Campaign: Living the Change

Together with a broad range of faith and non-faith partners, we are launching today a new sustainability initiative and encouraging your participation. The core of this campaign is an invitation to, in the context of supportive community, face the difficulty of our unsustainable personal and household carbon emissions and then, grounded in our deepest values, commit to meaningful response. Specifically, the campaign is calling for

  1. Commit to reduce
    Dharma teachers, Sangha leaders, Sangha members, experienced meditators and brand new practitioners are invited to commit to reducing personal / household carbon emissions in three specific areas, transportation, diet and home energy.
  2. Courageous, compassionate sharing
    To build community, learn from one another and normalize these efforts, we invite participates to share their experiences with keeping commitments, the challenges, rewards, beautiful surprises, vexing frustrations, spiritual insights and logistical roadblocks encountered along the way.
  3. Affirm Goodness
    Join people within and across spiritual communities in local events celebrating our efforts to Live the Change during Earth Care Week, October 7 – 14.

Earth is a blessing. She supports life and is the basis of all our economies. She conveys beauty and evokes our recognition of something greater than ourselves. She is our temple, our mosque, our sanctuary, our cathedral. Our home.
— Living the Change campaign

GreenFaith and our funding partners believe that people can make and sustain significant changes in their lives when they are grounded in their deepest values and supported by communities of meaning. In this energized collaboration, One Earth Sangha is honored to represent Mindfulness and Buddhist communities in partnering with The Bhumi Project, representing Hindus; the Global Muslim Climate Network; Hazon representing the Jewish faith, The Global Catholic Climate Movement, Living Witness, representing Quakers; even the World Evangelical Alliance representing Evangelical Christians and more. In a time when divisiveness is on the rise, we are deeply inspired by this diverse set of organizations in beautiful cooperation, each sharing both the particular gifts and challenges of our Paths, in this project to honor and protect life.

So Many Questions

Together, we’ll be exploring the beauty and the very real challenges in this campaign in the coming weeks and months. Even in our own conversations, we wrestle with difficulties and want to open these up with you. Questions like,

  • Isn’t this a distraction from the real change we need in public policy and checks on corporations? Don’t we all need to keep our focus on systems change?
  • Even if they are not a distraction, at this stage, do household sustainability measures really matter?
  • What about the unsustainable behavior of communities, organizations and governments? 
  • Do people really change their behavior and if so how? 
  • How can we break the deafening silence on climate without alienating others or isolating ourselves? 
  • And anyways, what does all this have to do with my practice, Dharma or Mindfulness? 

The first of these is articles comes out tomorrow: Déjà vu, Recyling 2: Haven’t We Been Here Before? 

Connect, Connect, Connect

The campaign is just underway. We’re hoping you will be able to participate in the following support events, which are all about making connections, and even organize your own.

  • Join our Living the Change webinar on July 26, 12:00 – 1:00 pm US Eastern with Susie Harrington and Lou Leonard. Registration opens tomorrow.
  • Get inspired by people actually working together across lines of difference in multi-faith collaboration at
  • Call for leaders at all levels to make, keep and increase their reduction pledges by joining a local People’s Climate Movement’s Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice event on Sept 8.
  • If you live in Northern California or will be in the Bay Area for the Global Climate Action Summit, join us for a day of inspiration and practice at our daylong, Loving this Earth: Engaging Mindfully in the Healing of Our World at Spirit Rock.
  • Pledge and share your pledge. You’ll soon have the opportunity to pledge your own commitments to reduce personal emissions and then share that with one person, a few friends, your sangha or social media followers
  • Engage your community: Share this initiative, develop pledge buddy and other commitment support ideas and start planning your celebration events for Earth Care Week, October 7 – 14 ( potentially followed by the fall EcoSattva Training series!)

Finally, while on the topic of Earth Care Week, just like in previous years, the final Sunday, October 14 of Earth Care Week marks the opening to this fall’s EcoSattva Training with a community webinar. Registration and more details coming soon, but you might want to start gathering interest and planning your meeting times!

Our Partners

One Earth Sangha is honored to work on this initiative, organized by GreenFaith, with our partners from Mindfulness and other spiritual traditions.

Are you inspired, concerned, skeptical, excited, nonplussed? Great. We want to hear from you in the comments below!

May our collective efforts nourish the potential for a new way to flourish, a diverse, justice-oriented and sustainable way, that protects and respects beings, similar and different, near and far, born and unborn.

Loving this Earth

Engaging Mindfully in the Healing of Our World

In conjunction with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, on Saturday, September 15 from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, Spirit Rock Meditation Center and One Earth Sangha will host an exploration of the power of mindful presence to meet global ecological crises with active compassion. This special day of inspired teaching, music and conversation will feature Julia Butterfly Hill, Jack Kornfield, Joanna Macy, Anam ThubtenVerlinda Montoya, James Baraz, Naomi Newman and more. This event will be live-streamed so we encourage you to gather with others in your community to join all day or the sessions that work with your schedule.

News Flash!

We’re delighted to report that we’ll be joined by Christiana Figueres, the architect of the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement and co-coordinator with Governor Jerry Brown of the Global Climate Action Summit. Christiana is a practitioner in the Plum Village tradition and has spoken publicly about the role that her teacher, Thich Naht Hanh, and her practice played in supporting the forging of the Paris accords. The program will feature Christiana in conversation with Spirit Rock founder, Jack Kornfield, and One Earth Sangha co-founder, Lou Leonard.

Live the Change

This event is part of One Earth Sangha’s collaboration with partners in the faith traditions to bring fully embodied and spiritual grounded, response to ecological crises. Learn more about Living the Change here.

Join Us on September 15th

Whether you’re brand new to meditation or sitting at the precipice of enlightenment, we hope you’ll join us for this unique opportunity to meet this historic moment with a wise and responsive heart.

In a spirit of dana or generosity, all donations will be shared between One Earth Sangha and a Spirit Rock green project for honoring the land. Advanced registration and car-pooling is required.

Inviting Your Support

Generosity is a powerful force,

one that has a way of multiplying.

Between now and year’s end, the multiplication is immediate.

Thanks to one of our generous supporters, if you donate by midnight on December 31,
your contribution to One Earth Sangha be matched, 
dollar for dollar.

“Tara Healing” Original art generously offered by © Jayna Simpson

It has been an extraordinary year. Global environmental change is now manifesting in losses, sometimes devastating, for millions of people around the world. In this year alone, we bear witness to the large-scale suffering caused by climate-charged fires, hurricanes and floods. The world continues to lose the great wealth that is our natural biodiversity and every day, millions of individual animals are treated as units of production instead of dignified, sentient beings.

Meanwhile, empowered political leaders seek to distract our attention and divide social cohesion all while granting more advantage to the already advantaged. We face ever-accumulating and simultaneous environmental and social justice crises, evidenced most recently in Puerto Rico, a perfect storm of climate-charged weather, political callousness, and aggressive racial bias resting on a deep history of the objectification of people and planet.

As you look forward to the coming year, knowing our challenges will continue, what will guide you? What connections, practices and wisdom will help you respond in a way that affirms, nourishes and protects basic goodness?

We at One Earth Sangha have never been more honored to collaborate with all of you to bring the wisdom and practices of the Dharma to this global moment. We support a vision of spiritual engagement on collective issues that includes but is not limited to resistance, that sees and counters harm but is not defined by it. Indeed, we find our own freedom not despite our conditions but through them.

We look forward to continuing this collaboration with you in 2018, exploring new projects and partnerships. But we cannot move forward without your support. With gratitude and humility, we invite you to include One Earth Sangha in your year-end giving.

Now is the time! A generous donor has agreed to pledge up to $5,000 in matching funds if you donate between now and midnight, December 31.

Confronting Whiteness and Privilege in Eco-Dharma

“We can’t be environmental activists/advocates without paying attention to inter-dependence and intersectionality between movements.” In this article, Kritee explores how a Buddhist response to our climate crisis necessarily intersects with a Buddhist response to other social justice crises, and therefore calls us to confront whiteness and privilege, and from there to move forward into compassionate action.

Photograph courtesy Max Johnson ©

As a founding board member of Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC), the first retreat center in the U.S to use the word “Eco-Dharma” in its name, I have been frequently engaged in discussing “What is Eco-Dharma?”

It is easy to see that Eco-Dharma combines the teachings of Buddhism and/or other contemplative traditions (dharma) with ecological concerns (eco). In his recent writings, David Loy, our Eco-Dharma elder and my fellow founding board member of RMERC, clarifies that for him:

“Three aspects or components of Eco-Dharma stand out: practicing in nature, clarifying the ecological implications of Buddhism, and using that understanding to engage in the eco-activism that our situation requires.”

These three aspects are very meaningful. The issue for me has been that most (white and privileged) people tend to think that “ecological” only means “environmental.” “Ecology” is the scientific discipline that points towards a fundamental interconnectedness of all species as well as all non-living processes and phenomena in any ecosystem; it sees humans as embedded in the cyclical processes of nature. Study of ecology also acknowledges that no species, no individual or even non-living process fulfills just one fixed role in our planetary, local, societal or family ecosystem(s). Human beings and communities have multiple identities, roles and needs which are interdependent on those of others.

“Ecology” is the scientific discipline that points towards a fundamental interconnectedness of all species as well as all non-living processes and phenomena in any ecosystem; it sees humans as embedded in the cyclical processes of nature.

So what does this multiplicity and interdependence have to do with how we define Eco-Dharma? Meditating, especially in a natural environment, will certainly help all interested environmental activists ground their activism, go beyond self-righteousness, fear, anger, and frustration and open up to their own innate courage, wisdom and compassion. I also deeply resonate with David in acknowledging that traditional Buddhist teachings need to shift in response to our current planetary crisis. We have definitely been short-selling dharma by applying it only in our individual or family lives instead of our societal and institutional issues. What I have been keen to add to the definition of Eco-Dharma is the argument that (and I’m certainly not the first one making it) ‘Eco’ in Eco-Dharma can not be just about environment or nature or what is defined as wilderness.

Even by other names that are currently associated with the interface between spirituality and activism, “Sacred Activism,” “Contemplative Environmentalism,” “Spiritually rooted action,” or the “Great Turning,” it comes down to the same issue: we can’t be environmental activists/advocates without paying attention to inter-dependence and intersectionality between movements (including the idea of “One Movement” that I have explained elsewhere).

For the purposes of this article, let us first consider this: most native people in this country, from whom Europeans stole the land, and native people elsewhere in the world, did not and do not conceptualize wilderness areas as separate from humans. Wilderness is an interconnected world in which human, plants, animals, rocks, and so on are all spiritually animated. However, in the U.S., the Wilderness Act of 1964 formally defined wilderness as areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Like our theft of native land, our distorted definition of wilderness breeds a sense of separation, both from our human sisters and brothers and more-than-human world of plants, animal, microbes, rock- and fire-people.

Second, well over half of this nation’s national parks were founded during Jim Crow. Not too long ago, a Berkeley Master’s student, Michael Starkey, found that Black people worked very hard to create and maintain national parks and other forested areas but when it came to acknowledging Black people and their socio-economic realities at the time, all historians (who were White) neglected their contributions. Starkey found that in wilderness literature spanning decades, nearly all actors—whether positive or negative—are white (no mention of Latinx and Asians either). He posits that we have consciously, wrongfully, imagined wilderness to be created by and for white people! The complexity of the relationships that African-Americans have felt with woods, from inter-dependence to fear, have not been acknowledged.

Added to these types of willful blindness is the issue that people of color and the poorest in the Global South (whom we sometimes refer to as under-served communities in the dharma world) have historically borne or will bear the brunt of ecological devastation, and are often at the forefront of the most effective spiritually-rooted activism. If one is curious, there is substantial research documenting how the most poisonous and polluted environment exists in the poorest or “lower” caste/race neighborhoods around the world. The privileged among us, including myself, can turn up the air conditioning, but a mother in India or living in reservations in the U.S may have to walk for miles to get a bucket of water!

We need true Eco-Dharma communities that look at the inner, or psycho-spiritual causes, and the institutional causes (institutional, corporate and political greed) of our ecological predicament.

Last, but not least, there is the issue of the same root cause leading to multiple effects! In the light of ever-growing income inequality, it is not hard to see that at least some of the institutional drivers that militantly keep poor people poor, disenfranchised, and in the most polluted environments, are the same drivers that lead to exploitation and plundering of Mother Earth within and outside this country. The sense of duality and separateness that makes us (both as individuals and institutions) objectify nature, non-human species and other humans, also makes us materialistic and causes both environmental and social-justice problems.

To fully heal and restore our sense of oneness with nature, we also need to pay attention to our false sense of separation from human beings of other social races/castes and economic classes. Environment doesn’t exist in isolation and we can’t heal it (or our relationship to it) in isolation. We need to collectively revisit how we define nature and how wilderness was created in this country. We need to create earnest inter-dependent communities that understand that different people have different privilege and abilities. The privileged ones (those with more resources and energy) need to actively include voices that have been historically suppressed. We need to question our economic and financial systems that no longer serve the planet and most beings. Most of all we need true Eco-Dharma communities that look at the inner, or psycho-spiritual causes, and the institutional causes (institutional, corporate and political greed) of our ecological predicament. These institutional causes receive very thorough analysis in David’s work.

Unless the framework of Eco-Dharma acknowledges and encompasses all these inter-connections, Eco-Dharma in this country will become white just like wilderness and the mainstream environmental movement became white in the 21st century! My humble request is that we confront this issue and ask if we will be able to serve well if Eco-Dharma becomes “White.”

My hope is that we can compassionately and skillfully keep facing these questions without blame, guilt, or anger. It won’t be easy and yet the budding Eco-Dharma movement in this country will not become wholesome without our conscious efforts with respect to these issues!

Kritee (dharma name Kanko), is a Zen teacher, scientist, activist, dancer and permaculture designer. She directs and teaches Boundless in Motion Sangha in Boulder in the Rinzai-Obaku Buddhist lineage of Cold Mountain, is a co-founder and executive director of Boulder Eco-Dharma Sangha and co-founding teacher of Earthlovego. Kritee trained as an environmental microbiologist and biogeochemist at Rutgers and Princeton Universities. As a senior scientist in the Global Climate Program at Environmental Defense Fund, she is helping to implement environment and climate-friendly methods of small farming at large scales in Asia with a three-fold goal of poverty alleviation, food security and climate mitigation / adaptation.