Thursday, January 24, 2008

Life: Global Warming, Polution, and Interconnectedness

Last summer I helped organize the 2nd annual Environmental Ethics Institute in Missoula, MT. Above is Don Brown, former counsel to President Bill Clinton, speaking about the moral implications of consumption in wealthy nations. Brown, who I found out also considers himself to be a "Buddhist-Kantian" (that's two of us so far), spoke passionately about the duty and responsibility of the rich and powerful. I was saddened that, even there, many in the audience responded with phrases like, "not my fault," and "not my problem."

It seems that evidence of human-caused global warming and environmental destruction are everywhere these days. We again saw record breaking heat this summer in Montana and now I guess we have a record-hot January in London, causing premature blooming of trees and flowers. It's difficult, with all the news and statistics and conflicting diagnoses and prescriptions, to know just what to do. For me it was helpful to take the ecological footprint test again. I took it last June and, living in beautiful Montana, discovered that I consumed enough to require 3.8 planets. This time around I guess I'm doing a bit better, down to 2.7 planets. What I make up for in compacted living and not driving anywhere, I seem to lose in having my food imported from all over the world: bananas from Costa Rica (I think I'll give up on these again), apples from Italy (not so far I suppose), fish from Indonesia and Siberia! Speaking of fish, I've been trying to eat more of it to boost my energy levels - mentally and physically - with good success. The downside is that, along with the global warming problem, humans are dumping tons of toxins into the environment, toxins that eventually make their way back - to us.

The other night, some of my flatmates went to a dance performance nearby, in which the choreographer was commissioned by the government to make a statement on the environment. The result, Glacier, brings to the audience the painful struggle and death of animals caught in oil and the gradual melting of glaciers, signifying the steady death of society.
Glacier will paint a glistening and sometimes disturbing picture of society reflected on an icy surface which is gradually thawing away, beautifully distorting the mirrored image. (from their website)
It ends, I am told, with one of the performers frozen in ice with lines of oil being injected into her with intravenous needles.

But, on a more optimistic note, recently my friend Margaret invited me to take part in Earth Hour 2008, which I definitely would love to participate in (sound good, Kelly?).


Speaking of the 2007 Earth Hour in Sidney, Australian actress Cate Blanchett stated, "it's very rare in the pace of modern life that we stop and think about how much we consume and the way we live our lives... so, I think it's a beginning."

A beginning indeed, and a momentous one. The video is, to me, amazingly moving and inspiring. March 29, 8pm. It puts a smile on my face to think about.

12 comments:

Kelly said...

Sounds good, babe.

Margaret said...

Phooey. I went to take the 'environmental footprint' quiz, but I can't find my (adopted) country--Malta--listed. Does that mean we on Malta are particularly pure? or (more likely) just so small that the quiz people didn't think we were worth bothering about? :-(

Anonymous said...

There are two things which you can do to massively cut your carbon footprint. One is to stop flying (Mark Lynas recently said that getting on an aeroplane is the most polluting thing an individual can do). The second is to go vegetarian, or better still, vegan. Red meat and dairy is the real problem, give up those and your footprint will shrink.

As for giving up bananas, I think this is slightly irresponsible given that there are entire economies (such as the Dominican Republic) who are dependent on the banana trade. Seeing how emissions from transporting food around the world make up less than 1% of the total number, we should be worrying about other things. Also, most bananas come by boat rather than plane, which has much less of an impact on emissions levels.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Kelly - groovy, a candle-light
dinner perhaps? :)

Margaret - hehe... Guess you're ok then :) Maybe lump yourself into Italy? or Greece?

Anon. - Great suggestions; I think cutting out flying is a swell idea, but... Well, I'll check into taking boats for my future Atlantic crossings - could be fun.

Yes, I'm all for the vegan life! I'm 90% dairy free and right now fish is a bit of a crutch for me (for Omega 3s) - if/when I can develop a purely vegan diet that keeps me going I'll be set.

It was a while back that I heard a story on NPR giving figures for the amount of fuel it takes to get a bunch of bananas (or other exotic fruits/veg) to our plate and it was pretty bad.

One of these might be it:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6534839

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5709576

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