When the Buddha was passing on his teachings more than 2,000 years ago, 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere wasn’t an issue. The Earth was a far cry from the present day environmental degradation and climate change that it now faces. But we reached 399.89 ppm on May 9, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and that’s a concern for the Dalai Lama.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who Tibetan Buddhists believe is the reincarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, participated in an environmental summit in Portland as part of his trip through Oregon May 9-11. The discussion between Gov. John Kitzhhaber, scientist David Suzuki and Andrea Durbin of the Oregon Environmental Council ranged from local issues, such as coal trains, to global warming.
Many believe that journalists are responsible for the tenacity of climate change denial because they reported denial as being as valid as the science showing global warming exists. Earlier in the day at a press conference attended by EW, the Dalai Lama told reporters they must have long noses “like elephants” to smell things out, both in front and behind, and to be honest, truthful and unbiased. He also called government censorship harmful and morally wrong.
During the environmental summit the Dalai Lama called for people to cut their consumption, pointing out that the Western lifestyle is a problem, as is overpopulation, and he called on people to think about a planet with 10 billion people with 10 billion cars. He said human life is very precious but we face threats from too many “precious lives.”
He said on one side there is greed. “The other side: be careful, awareness.” Education is key he said, though in one of his many humorous moments, he called modern education “bull crap.”
On a personal level, the Dalai Lama said that he never leaves a light on in a room, and takes showers, not baths, to highlight the importance of ecology on personal level. But for more advice than that, he said, ask an expert. Suzuki, who has a doctorate in zoology, called for people to reinsert themselves in nature and be “ecowarriors.”
The environmental summit was followed by a speech similar to the one the Dalai Lama gave in Eugene, a Q&A and a performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.