A recently released climate impact report from the IPCC clarifies that our situation is growing ever more perilous and that failure to act will result in unmanageable impacts on the systems that support life on Earth. Yet while global climate change is considered a serious threat in many parts of the world, citizens of the United States are relatively unconcerned (four-in-ten say climate change poses a major threat to the US). We at One Earth Sangha are highlighting an upcoming opportunity in the US to engage friends, neighbors, coworkers and fellow practitioners on the truth of what is happening and what we can do about it. We can look and tell the truth of what we see.
A full-length documentary entitled “Years of Living Dangerously” is a new television series designed to break the silence in the US on the topic of global climate change. Leveraging our direct experience of an astounding scale of floods, fires and melting of arctic ice, the producers seek to generate conversations among ordinary people. In a sense, they are provoking the questions: what are we doing; what does that lead to; do we want to go there? In a sense, they are inviting us as a people to be mindful.
Many of us are aware that climate change has become a deeply partisan issue in the US. We may be hesitant to initiate or participate in a conversation that we fear will cause separation. But recent polls show that even that is changing, including in the so-called “red states.” Perhaps we are not as divided as we thought.
Among those who are convinced of the seriousness of the threat, we struggle with how to respond effectively. This has been a conversation dominated by “experts,” yet increasingly the experts are recognizing the limits of their expertise. It is the collective voice of the people that will create the shift. Perhaps we are not as powerless as we thought.
Some advocates for wide-spread action on climate change, such as 350.org, are suggesting that we use the occasion of this series to gather members of our various communities together for a collective experience. We invite you to take up this idea with the first episode, already available for streaming from yearsoflivingdangerously.com, and consider leading a mindful discussion afterwards. You might chose one person in advance to lead the discussion to ensure that the conversation is non-judgmental and inclusive. This person can ask open-ended questions and facilitate a broad listening environment where no individuals dominate the conversation and all voices are heard. Here are some questions you might use to structure the conversation:
- What came up for you – in your body, in your heart and in your mind – as you watched the documentary?
- Is there a spiritual dimension to what arises? If we sense that we belong to something larger, how does that inform your response?
- What skillful responses to your concerns are available to you? Are there barriers (hindrances) to these responses and how can they be addressed?
- Because of the scale of the challenge, we can sometimes believe that our actions won’t make a difference. What might it look like to respond skillfully as a practice, an embodiment of our wisdom and compassion, unbound by any need to be assured of impact?
- (If many in the group are mindfulness practitioners) What do the teachings of the Buddhist tradition have to contribute to our collective response to the threat of climate change and/or its impacts?
Please feel encouraged to share your experience, either as a comment here or as an email to . And finally, if you throw this party and no one comes, or it doesn’t go as you intend, know that you are taking your own risks, acting in service of this life you love. We are in sangha with you!