Tag Archives: Animals

CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTINCTION

Ian Prattis, Professor Emeritus, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Climate Change and Extinction

Are we too late to chart a Beginning Anew for humanity? Can we engineer a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing, while power elites ignore their complicity in the destruction of life on Planet Earth? Let us face it – the Industrial Growth Civilization is a system devouring itself, dislocating the organic structures of Mother Earth to the point that all species, not just our own, are at risk. It has taken us to a dangerous precipice. From there we stare into the abyss of climate change, ecosystem collapse, ISIL, resource wars, terrorism, white supremacy, permanent refugees and anarchy. Are we at an end game without a philosophy for the future?

How could the human mind capable of monumental achievements neglect the destruction of a lived-in-ecosystem? Our addictive dependence on carbon based energy propelled the downward spiral of devastation on our planet. The process was enabled because we allowed the environment to become an extension of human egocentric needs and values, an ego-sphere rather than an eco-sphere. In this ego-sphere we consume mindlessly in the global economy without regard for ecosystem balance; without any concern about creating inequality, poverty and ecosystem imbalance. Planetary care is not part of this agenda.

In the 1980s it was possible to make the leap to a zero-net-carbon world. Yet the opposite trajectory was chosen with a rapid increase in greenhouse gases, as wealthy nations and oil, gas and coal enterprises doubled their production of fossil fuels. We have had the scientific knowledge since 1980 to create the solution, but the obstacles were not technical or scientific. The obstacles are the attitudes, values and concepts that define the dominance of corporate values. Their bottom line of profits was upheld by successive governments that devalued science. It was never about the unanimity of science. It was about the brand of economics favored by the carbon cabal of extraordinary power that held governments in their thrall. The focus on the bottom line of economic wealth at all costs was very stupid. Big Oil and government created propaganda campaigns to promote oil and gas extraction, irrespective of the damage caused to ecosystems and populations. They produced false images of reforestation, utmost safety, deep concern for wildlife, populations and clean water. This played to receptive audiences yet decades later we find rivers and lakes occupying a wasteland. Oil derivatives swiftly poured through interconnected waterways. Indigenous populations world-wide that once augmented their households with fish, game and forest products are no more. They either relocated or died. This effectively torpedoed any form of transition to a sustainable, renewable economy.

Did anyone notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves as carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere. Did no-one realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of fossil fuel extraction? The undercover deal between governments and fossil extraction corporations was invested in political and economic structures that centered on that same carbon combustion complex. This collective agenda destabilized world order.

Nathaniel Rich’s brilliant essay (NYT Magazine August 5, 2018) shows clearly that there was a decisive possibility – forty years ago – for a turning point. Only it was never taken. A small group of scientists, politicians and activists in America came to a broad understanding of the causes and dynamics of climate change. Put directly – the scientists had realized that the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then the warmer Earth would become and in doing so – it would trigger a violent atmospheric wrecking of the planet. In 1979 they placed their findings and consensus to the highest levels of government and industry in the United States and around the world. The scientists included James Hansen – NASA climate studies; Gordon MacDonald – geophysicist; Jule Charney – meteorologist; Steve Schneider – environmental biologist; George Woodall – ecologist and many more world class scientists. Politicians such as Al Gore and lobbyist Rafe Pomerance took the scientific findings to the White House and to energy giants such as Exxon. The latter were distinctly uncomfortable about how much they would be blamed for climate change. Despite their early support, the energy giants quickly turned the dialog to finding mouthpieces that could state that the scientific findings were not translatable into global disasters.

The scientists, however, attempted to divert the catastrophe with a clear grasp of what was causing Climate Change. Their lobbying was straightforward from their meticulous scientific findings. Their emphasis to politicians and industry was about the freezing of carbon emissions and the development of alternative energy that did not create carbon dioxide. At that time, some forty years ago, it seemed to be a good idea to many world leaders. A consensus based plan, however, would not happen without American leadership. The United States was the obvious nation to lead such an outcome. It failed to do so, much to the chagrin and reputation of the scientists, as their findings were censored and belittled. They then became targets that the carbon cabal sought to undermine.

The evidence, however, was drastic. In 1990 more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was placed in the atmosphere from fossil fuels. By 2018 it is in excess of 32.5 billion metric tons, accompanied by the deadly tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, sea level inundations and water surges destroying low lying coastal regions of the planet. In 2019 Harvard Professor James Anderson asserts that present Earth carbon levels were last found in the Eocene Epoch – 33 million years ago. Due to present warming oceans he speculates that the amount of water vapor now in the atmosphere triggers storm systems that are violent to the extreme. This is now amplified by the breaking up of the Ross Ice Shelf, which stabilizes the West Antarctic Ice sheet. It is now melting 10 times faster than average and will soon be unable to block other glaciers. As it weakens, rising sea levels of several meters are to be expected. The obvious knock-on invitation is to create even more destructive cyclones, tsunamis and tornadoes that will destroy human habitation along with other species. Professor Anderson also notes, somewhat dryly, that while the sea-level rise is irreversible, university administrators still refuse to divest from fossil fuels! They prefer to join executives of the carbon cabal and media, which fail to fact-check statements made by politicians and corporate oligarchs.

The creature which enabled such an outcome is none other than fossil fuel industries supported by successive government regimes. This collusion successfully suppressed science, confused public knowledge with misinformation, and furthermore beefed up the blatant bribery of politicians. The carbon energy cabal funded million dollar disinformation campaigns. They paid select scientists to distort the truth and state that there was an uncertainty factor to the likely outcome of climate change – if indeed climate change existed at all! Oil and gas executives – and their billionaire backers – protected their profits, downplayed scientific conclusions as “uncertain” and deliberately dulled the intelligence of the general public. Their design was to control, delay and block binding climate change endeavors. Their pathetic, yet successful, message was to reframe climate change as a “dual energy challenge!”

In the spring of 2019 the UN committee on Biodiversity and Environmental Science issued a startling video with a report over 1,000 pages, which showed that one million of the planet’s species were facing rapid extinction from humans. The 145 experts were drawn from 50 countries. The 39 page summary places biodiversity alongside climate change and projects that, without co-operative global action, major biodiversity losses will continue to 2050 and beyond. Added to this list are – oceanic overfishing, burning of fossil fuel, land and water pollution and invasive species. Furthermore – three quarters of Earth’s land and 85% of crucial wetlands have been lost, making it harder for other species and us to survive. This 2019 report rings an alarm yet indicates that the world can actually reverse this crisis. A major block to such optimism is that climate denial is a baseline for Republicans in the US. They are unlikely to see any responsibility or reason to co-operate with any global agenda. Along with right wing politicians in many nations their divisiveness does not allow constructive contributions to emerge that can stave off the extinction of species. What is lacking are the practical solutions for government, business and communities. Alarms do not cut it anymore, particularly as drastic planetary change leaves organisms – including us – little time to adapt.

The 2019 UN video and Report confirmed the radical views of Elizabeth Kolbert who wrote The Sixth Extinction in 2014. The six-mile-wide asteroid that slammed into Earth 66 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species. This was the fifth time that events almost eradicated life on Earth. The difference between the five prior extinctions on Planet Earth, and the imminent sixth, is that the present extinction is due to humans as the agents of mass destruction. Kolbert makes it very clear that the acceleration of the Sixth Extinction is mainly driven by the consequences of CO2 pouring into the atmosphere. The world is changing faster than species can adapt – and that includes us. Are we likely to rein in our economic growth, our carbon emissions and toxic pollution?  Paul Ehrlich in 2014 wryly states, “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.”

I do not think the UN in 2019 offered solutions – just alarms, while the world carries on with life as usual.  This is unfortunate as “life as usual” is no longer an option when the carbon cabal holds all the cards. They continue to promote propaganda to the tune of 200 million dollars per year to bring down the “bogus” climate change agenda – and that includes everything that the UN so carefully delivered in the spring of 2019. The corporate oligarchy is clearly criminal as the mass of humanity is presently being wiped out. In spite of the excellent and provocative UN Video and Report in 2019, the carbon cabal maintains a very long arm. Their organization is presently paying selected scientists to promote the position that the existing evidence on climate change does not support crisis warnings. This is a bought and sold lie. Everyone knows the lack of truth – the US government, oil and gas companies, industrialists, politicians and so on – all know the truth. To keep the bottom line of profits in their favor, they are willing to accept that human civilization would be destroyed in the not so far future – a very unusual suicide pact.

I ponder on MLK’s quote: “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

 

Wise Words from Joanna Macy 

“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. How do we begin to deal with the plastic in the ocean that covers areas the size of countries? What are cell phones and microwaves doing to our biological rhythms? What exactly is in our food? How do we address genetic modification of crops? We are so hooked on all of this, on every level. How do we begin to contain it?

Carrying capacity is the level most people talk about. It’s a defining aspect of the climate crisis. How will we grow the food we need given huge variations and extremities of weather? How will we handle the natural disasters and famines that will result from a chaotic climate? The deeper level is that consequences will extend far beyond the collapse of this civilization. The third level of crisis is the enormous increase in the rate of extinctions – creating a loss of biodiversity so extreme that we can glimpse the doom of complex life forms. It takes highly differentiated, integrated and diverse systems to produce life forms complex enough for consciousness. The fourth level of crisis would be the destruction of everything more complex than anaeorobic life forms, because of the loss of our oxygen production in the oceans and on land.

Our little minds think it must be over, but the very fact that we are seeing it is enlivening. We know we can’t possibly see the whole thing, because we are just one part of a vast interdependent whole–one cell in a larger body. So we don’t take our own perceptions as the ultimate. My world view has been so interwoven between the Buddhist teachings and living systems theory. They inform each other so powerfully. But even in Buddhism, where impermanence is a matter of course, there are no obvious concepts to deal with super-impermanence, in the sense that humans are now bringing an end to the Cenozoic era. In the best case, there may be an Ecozoic era to follow it. Continuing on our “business-as-usual” trajectory will acidify the oceans and trigger runaway global heating, epic mass extinction and a completely new cycle of geological time. A few climate scientists consider we may have already entered into runaway climate change.

So the choice is how to live now. With the little time left, we could wake up more. We could allow this whole experience of the planet, which is intrinsically rewarding, to manifest through our heart-minds—so that the planet may see itself, so that life may see itself. Unfortunately the dominant institution of our time has been created in the image of a psychopath, and it is legally mandated to behave as such. The American broadcast media is thoroughly controlled by corporate ownership or advertising revenue. They have reduced the population to a state of such stupidity. The experiential work, is to help people make friends with uncertainty, and reframe it as a way of coming alive. Because there are never any guarantees at any point in life.

And as far as Buddhism is concerned, I find that Western Buddhists tend to privatize their practice, and look for what I call premature equanimity. They go for peace of mind and that is such an inadequate response. A major change is the relevance people are now finding in Native American teachings. There’s a deep respect for the wisdom that is there, and for the nobility of character that it fostered. I think that it is a precious addition to our triple gem—this fourth gem of our time—that the native peoples are speaking out.”

See also:  http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Our World is Burning is an inspiring and informative read. Ian Prattis offers us valuable insight, wisdom and perspective in finding our way to a healthier world, one based on compassion and commitment, mindful of how everything we do impacts the whole.

  • Laurence Overmire, Author of “The One Idea That Saves The World”

 

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a wonderful legacy left to us by the Buddha. It is a meditative form that can be used for many purposes – for calming and slowing down, for insight and looking deeply and also for healing. We know from our experience of hikes in nature, or neighborhood walks after dinner, that sudden flashes of insight often arise in concert with our footsteps. We then see clearly how to handle a predicament or solve a problem. Imagine what can happen when we add conscious awareness to our footsteps. When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we actually have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body. When we add a third concentration–aware of how our feet touch the earth–we have a meditative practice designed for our times. We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth–Heel, then Ball of Foot, then Toe. We slow down even further and with our body, not our intellect or ego, we make a contract with Mother Earth to walk more lightly on her surface and leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use and commit to decreasing the size of our ecological footprint.

With this concentrated focus of walking meditation there is very little opportunity for the mind to worry about past events or future anticipations. The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive. We slow down internally with the focus on breath, steps and contact with the earth. This is aided by another component we can add to walking meditation–a gentle half smile kept on your lips to nurture the peace and silence within. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs.

Walking meditation is a powerful methodology for healing ourselves and the earth. We start by breathing in and out with full attention to the in-breath and to the out-breath. Co-ordinating our breath with our steps we breathe in, saying silently to ourselves, “Breathing in” as we take two or three slow steps. Then as we breathe out, we say, “Breathing out” as we take two or three slow steps, fully aware of breathing in and out, and of walking slowly step by step. Sometimes you will take two steps, sometimes three or four steps, sometimes there will be more steps on the out-breath than on the in-breath. Allow the breath and lungs to find a natural rhythm with your steps. It is the concentration and awareness that matters, not whether you take two or three steps.

The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive. It slows us down step by step so that our mind enters silence. This is the important first stage of meditative practice, Samatha, learning to stop our busyness and mental agitations. When we come to a stop internally, then the opportunity is there to see deeply into ourselves and know the true nature of our reality.

First of all we must close the external doors of our preoccupations with judgements, ego-attachments and illusions; for then the inner doors to the heart begin to open. That is where Vipassana happens, deep looking and insight into the heart of ourselves and of all matter. Both arise in walking meditation, as we slow down internally with the focus on breath, steps and gatha. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs because in the present moment we touch our true nature and enter heart consciousness. From this consciousness we experience our interconnectedness with all, touching the Divinity in ourselves and others. In this consciousness all our relationships are shaped by the experience of oneness, for our relationships are with Buddha consciousness, with Christ consciousness, with whatever term comes naturally to you to describe the Divinity within all.

Walking meditation is also a powerful methodology for healing, as we automatically discard our distress and anxiety while we are doing it. If we closely observe animals when they are injured or hurt, we would notice that they retreat to a safe place and slow their breathing and metabolism down, so that their internal energies of healing are activated. They do not eat, remaining still and quiet they come to a deep rest and heal as they stop. This is all done instinctively; no one has taught them about Samatha–it is simply the first step animals take in healing themselves. If our modern medical doctors would learn this lesson from animals and the Buddha they could guide their patients to stop and meditate, enter inner silence and enhance the recovery process by allowing the internal energies of healing to arise. All of the components of walking meditation – Samatha, Vipassana and healing – become a single focus as we maintain our awareness of being in the present moment. We just need to practice it.

ian at brook

At the university where I used to teach, I would walk from the bus stop and take a detour around the greenhouses of the Botany Department and come to the Rideau River that runs along one side of the campus. From there I had a kilometer of riverbank to practice walking meditation before arriving at my office building. It is quite secluded in parts and the river has sets of rapids that greatly enrich my walk. One section of the path takes my steps through a cedar grove, and I always feel a sacred blessing from these beautiful trees. I slow my walking right down to a three–three rhythm when I enter the cedar grove. The path is never the same, as the seasons change its character. Autumn leaves give way to snowfall as winter leaves her embrace. My clothes and footwear change, yet my steps, breathing and feet touching the earth remain constant. The rustle of autumn leaves is replaced by the crunch of snow and ice, which gives way to the mud and rain of spring before the heat of summer allows me to walk in sandals or barefoot. The birds and foliage change with the seasons, as does the river–iced over in winter, turbulent in the spring and calm in summer and fall. Students with their books and friends congregate by the river when the weather is sunny.

Autumn Sunset

I notice the changes in the seasonal round of nature, yet remain with my breathing, footsteps and the earth, so that I am not drawn into unnecessary thought. It takes me approximately twenty minutes to arrive at my office. I am in a clear, calm state and better able to be of assistance to students and colleagues and bring my own sense of calm and clarity to the university. On leaving the university I retrace my steps of walking meditation along the river before going home, or to appointments in the city. The experience engenders the same calm and clarity. This walk is Paradise, a constant reminder to me for those occasions when I am not in touch with the Earth Mother. We do not need to walk on water, or over hot coals. We simply need to walk on the earth and touch her deeply with our full awareness. That is all that walking meditation is.

Buddha's Geet