WBPF Meeting June 16, 2009 - Notes

Notes from June 16, 2009 WBPF meeting
At School for Friends in Northwest DC


  1. Conclude discussion of The World We Have, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  2. Identify fundamental premises to guide WBPF work on Climate Change
  3. Identify focus areas for WBPF Activities
  4. Begin to develop WBPF responses to the Global Climate Change Crisis
  5. Involve more WBPF members and friends from local Sanghas
1. Conclude discussion of The World We Have, by Thich Nhat Hanh
We concluded our monthly readings and discussions, begun in February, of Thich Nhat Hanh's The World We Have as a shared basis for our understanding of the Global Climate Change Crisis from a Buddhist perspective (1). At this meeting we discussed, in particular, the surprisingly significant percentage of green house gases released by the world-wide meat industry (2).

We agreed to look into how it is that people make difficult decisions to actually change life-long eating habits, to become part-time or full-time vegetarians, or vegans. We also agreed to look into "Carbon (green house gas) Footprint" as a framework for making trade-off choices (e.g., fly or drive or bike, raise/lower thermostats, insulate, buying locally, etc.) to balance and lower our overall carbon (green house gas) emissions, personally and collectively.

2. Identify fundamental premises to guide our work on Climate Change
So far, we have identified and discussed the following fundamental premises for our work. This is a Provisional Draft subject to further discussion among WBPF Members & Friends. (see below).
  • Climate Change is caused by Global Warming
    To overcome Climate Change we must take mindful action to reduce and even reverse Global Warming.
  • Global Warming is caused by heat trapped in the atomsphere due to:
    * Green House Gases (e.g., CO2, methane, nitrous oxide) released into the atmosphere
    * Reduced reflectivity (albedo) of Earth's surface (e.g., glacier melt, reduced cloud cover, dark surfaces) (3)
  • Reversing Global Warming needs a non-sectarian "Collective Awakening"* As endorsed by Thich Nhat Hanh and by the Dalai Lama's call for "Universal Responsibility", to overcome Global Climate Change and bring about a sustainable world economy and universal social justice.
  • Climate Change causes egregious harm to all beings:
    * Physical and psychological harm; economic, political and social injustice
    * We work to stabilize Climate Change, itself, to reduce the harm it causes
    * We work to directly alleviate the harmful consequences of Climate Change to all beings.
  • Harm and injustice continue from other causes
    * We continue to alleviate harm and injustice from all other causes.
    * We continue to work to bring about a peaceful world through peaceful means.
  • The Dharma alleviates suffering (dukkha)
    * We practice and share the Dharma to alleviate suffering and for the liberation of all beings.

3. Identify primary focus areas for WBPF Activities
From those premises emerge some broad areas of primary focus for mindful engagement with Global Climate Change (distinct from any other WBPF objectives):
  • Reverse Global Warming:
    * By reducing the release of Green House Gases and restoring the Earth's reflectivity (albedo)
  • Promote Collective Awakening:
    * By mindfully working toward a global, non-sectarian "Collective Awakening" & "Universal Responsibility".
    * By educating ourselves and discussing with others the science and ethics of Climate Change.
    * This includes our own Mindfulness practice, such as deep listening to others, especially vociferous Climate Change deniers; and mindfully acting without ego-attachment in all our undertakings to overcome Global Climate Change.
  • Alleviate Harm From Global Climate Change:
    * By immediate and direct mindful action to alleviate harm and injustice caused by Global Climate Change.
In each of these focus areas, we can choose among existing options, and we can also work for systemic change to create new opportunities.

4. Begin to develop WBPF activities to respond to the Global Climate Change Crisis
Our work going forward would be to develop (not prescribe or proscribe) specific activities engaging the above focus areas that WBPF members, friends, and the public can choose among to mindfully act, individually and/or collectively. In order to maximize our effectiveness, we may also join, endorse, adopt, adapt or collaborate with projects being organized by others nearby or elsewhere.

Please see this draft proposed framework for capturing suggestions for discussion and planning of WBPF Climate Change Activities.

5. Involve more WBPF members and friends from local Sanghas

Starting now -- WBPF Members & Friends are invited to use the WBPF email list, to contribute your own insights about these draft notes and the general topic of how we can work together to address Global Climate Change from a Buddhist perspective, leading to development of specific WBPF activities for ourselves and the public. We are also looking for other means to enable broad participation in these discussions and planning. Of course, anyone who is committed to creating a peaceful world through peaceful means may join the WBPF email list.

"Peace in our Hearts ... Peace in the World"

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that livestock is responsible for nine percent of all carbon emissions, 37 percent of methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. Now, even though carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest and most discussed problem for the climate, methane is 23 times more damaging than CO2, and nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential of CO2. [Livestock a Major Threat to the Environment United National Food and Agriculture Organization. 29 Nov 2006]

(3) Paint your roof white and reduce global warming
Painting your roof white will reduce global warming and conserve energy, according to Steven Chu, the Nobel prizewinning physicist who now runs the U.S. Department of Energy. June 9, 2009