The Ten Percent Happier podcast has just posted an interview with Bhikkhu Anālayo. The interview discusses one of his recent books, Mindfully Facing Climate Change:
I’ll bet the good folks of Lismore and Ballina are super-grateful right now for the opportunity. And here in Sydney, we’re hoping for some great opportunities later this afternoon to practice mindfully watching peoples houses being swept away and their lives ruined.
Climate change isn’t about self-improvement. We keep the fossil fuels in the ground, or we face the end of the world in the knowledge that we did it.
(The second of three stages of the IPCC sixth assessment report came out on Monday; it’s already off the front pages of the news, if it ever got there.)
Those are good points, Venerable. But the interview does not say that we should sit around doing nothing. I have personally found it worthwhile listening to, especially in light of the IPCC report.
The ongoing rains are helping fungi to flourish and speed up decomposition. What we see on the surface and commonly call mushrooms are just the fungal fruiting bodies. Beneath the surface are hidden vast mycelial networks that are providing vital services not only to plants but whole ecological communities. Their great potential to help transform our polluted world back to health is only starting to be utilised by scientists to reduce pollution and climate change. Their innovative ideas seem like rays of sunlight to brighten the rainy day when news are full of flood reports and disaster warnings.
Here is an example of a good opportunity:
‘the origin of suffering should be given up.’
that conflagration is indeed very terrible. But is there, venerable sir, any other conflagration more terrible and frightful than that one?”
“There is, bhikkhu.”
“But what, venerable sir, is that conflagration more terrible and frightful than that one?”
“Those ascetics or brahmins, bhikkhu, who do not understand as it really is: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’— … they delight in volitional formations that lead to death, in volitional formations that lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. Having generated such volitional formations, they are burnt by the conflagration of … death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair. They are not freed from rebirth
~ SN 56.43
Climate change is indeed a touchy topic. It is very important that we must not cling to the view that there is one perfect climate for the planet or that our current climate (or climates in the past, pre-global warming) were that perfect climate.
Some beings, some animals, some creatures prefer and thrive under a warmer climate. Some beings, some animals, some creatures prefer and thrive under a colder climate. Some in a drier climate. Some in a wetter climate. Some in a neither wet nor dry nor warm nor cold climate, but a temperate one. Any climate that exists will be unpleasant for some beings and pleasant for others.
If the climate of a region warms up, the beings that depend on and thrive from the heat experience pleasures. Their pains and struggles decrease, as they live much easier in the warmer climate. However, if the climate of a region warms up, the beings that depend on and thrive from a cooler climate experience a loss of pleasure. Their pains and struggles increase, as they live with much more difficulty in a warmer climate.
The same reasoning would apply if the carbon in the atmosphere caused mass cooling instead of warming. Of if climate change decreased the frequency of floods and natural disasters.
If dinosaurs were around today and could speak, they certainly would prefer a warmer climate. The world they would prefer would be different than ours. If mammoths were around today and could speak, they certainly would prefer an ice age. Their ideal environment and world would be different than those of modern day humans.
So the world may in full or in part “end” because of climate change, but what will happen in practice is that habitats will shift. Forests may become ocean habitats. Grasslands become deserts. Taiga becomes jungle etc. With regards to survival, some species and individuals will benefit from these changes while other species and individuals will not.
For example, as the planet warms, avian creatures with larger beaks and legs have an easier time surviving because larger bodies are better able to regulate temperature and dissipate heat. Previously, larger beaked and legged animals were a disadvantage because a larger animal needs to consume more calories and food to survive. Previously smaller beaked and legged animals were advantaged because they did not need to eat as much calories and the ability to dissipate heat was not as needed.
Unfortunately for them and us, climate is a conditioned thing. It is impermanent and it will change whether we like it or not. Those deserts won’t stay deserts forever. Those jungles won’t stay jungles forever. Things will constantly shift.
Seeing human beings perish because of climate change is a difficult thing. But let’s not forget every moment, tens of thousands of beings perish in the wild each minute. The world has much death that we fail to notice.