Sep 22, 2009 WBPF Meeting - Notes

Fourteen people from local sanghas attended this WBPF meeting at Friends Meeting House, in DC. We began with a brief mindfulness meditation.

Hugh Byrne led a discussion about how Engaged Buddhism relates to the challenges of Climate Change. These points arose, among others: Mindfulness is our way to wisdom and compassion. Opportunities for mindful engagement in social action occur in many areas of our lives. We know there is a relationship between our individual actions and the outcomes of global Climate Change, such as lowering our individual and collective carbon emissions. But what do Buddhists bring to this effort. We bring for ourselves and we model for others: not clinging to particular outcomes; respectfully acknowledging different views; and deeply understanding our interbeing -- no enemies -- no others.

In that same regard, Bill shared these points from a Fall 2004 Turning Wheel article, "What's Buddhist about Buddhist Social Action", by Seth Segall (full text):
  • Buddhist practice is non-dual.
  • Everything that happens happens right here, immediately, in one's own experience.
  • Buddhist practice is continuous.
  • Buddhist practice is universal.
  • We are not struggling against people, but against processes: greed, aversion, and delusion.
  • Buddhist practice is not overly attached to outcome.
Brian mentioned that Climate Change is such a vast and overwhelming topic that there is a risk of perceiving it mostly in highly abstract terms of national and global public policy, as important as they are -- in lieu of focusing on actions that each of us can take right here and right now.

Brian pointed out, for example, that the global livestock industry causes deforestation, methane gas, manure, and fossil fuel use, etc., that amount to 18% of greenhouse gases that contribute to Global Warming, which causes Climate Change. The shift to a fully vegetarian diet has the same impact on greenhouse gas release as does shifting from driving an SUV to driving a hybrid electric car like the Prius.

Brian said that this awareness alone has helped him reduce his own meat consumption by 30% and he urged that there needs to be much more public awareness and broader discussion about how shifting to even just a partial vegetarian diet has a significant impact on greenhouse gas release, leading to more and more people partially cutting back on meat consumption, not particularly for traditional ethical or personal health reasons, but specifically to reverse Global Warming.

These are two publicized meat reduction campaigns:
We brainstormed some things we can do personally, in mindfulness, and even encourage others to consider doing:
  • Drive low-CO2 emitting vehicles (FuelEconomy.gov)
  • Drive any vehicles less often ("No Car Days")
  • Buy down the CO2 that we cause personally and organizationally.
  • Cultivate appropriate/native plantings to preserve ecosystems, which sequester CO2.
  • Encourage people to pledge No Meat Days, Meatless Monday, No Car Days, etc..
  • Begin to calculate and continuously reduce our personal/family carbon footprint
  • Beware of actions that just shift greenhouse gas release out of sight, such as to other countries, especially to underdeveloped countries.
  • Create and distribute mindfully worded bumper stickers, etc..
  • Organize or join peaceful public actions for effective and socially just climate policy.
Hugh encouraged us to bring to our communities a simple message about taking simple steps, to avoid becoming overwhelmed and despondent, even as we continue to work not only on Climate Change, but also continue to reduce the suffering of all beings, and to bring about a peaceful world through peaceful means.

We agreed that there should be a new Blog section on the WBPF.org web site for ongoing discussion and planning for WBPF initiatives and our own personal actions starting with these three topics:
We ended the meeting with a brief mindfulness meditation.
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Please join our now ongoing continuation of that discussion by contributing your own comments in the new Blog section of the WBPF website.