-In the High Desert-
Today scientists, ecologists, politicians and world leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York to address what is now being called the "crisis" of global warming and climate change. Over the past few days the streets of that city, along with many other major cities around the globe, have been filled with hundreds and thousands of protesters demanding that governments and industry engage in an an "all-out" effort to join in the fight to preserve the life of a "dying planet."
Yesterday I watched a TV reporter interview one of the "climate crisis" protestors in New York City who declared, "Unless we act now, "Mother Nature is going to stop serving us." While I am sure that this man was well-meaning, his statement about "Mother Nature serving us" lies at the heart of the "climate crisis" problem. In our self-centered hubris, human beings actually believe that the world of nature exists to serve us.
Many if not most people think that the earth belongs to human beings. The world of nature exists to meet our needs- oceans supply us with fish, rivers and lakes provide us with water, the earth provides us fuel for driving our cars and heating our homes, the creatures of the earth provide us food to eat, and beautiful mountains provide us with scenic views to help make our vacations more enjoyable.
But I think we have it all wrong - the earth doesn't belong to us, we belong to the earth.
For decades now scientists, biologists and ecologists have argued that the entire planet is in fact one enormous organism, one gigantic "ecosystem." The earth, wind, air, rivers, oceans and mountains, animals, birds that fly and fish that swim, and all of us human beings on this planet are in fact "one body" that lives and breathes and is dynamically connected and interdependent.
The world of nature doesn't exist separately, out there and apart from human beings - with humanity at the center of it all. We all "are" the world of nature. And so when oceans are polluted, we are all polluted; and when the air is poisoned, everything is poisoned.
A story in our local paper reported that due to climate change and global warming, the temperature of the desert is rising, and so those beautiful and exotic Joshua Tress in the High Desert (not far from where I live) are dying off and becoming extinct. As I read that story I realized that as those trees are being killed, I am being killed, each and every one of us is being diminished and destroyed.
Climate change, global warming, the pollution of our air and oceans goes well beyond being a "cause" on the agenda of "tree-hugging" liberals. The climate crisis lies at the very core of our common humanity and is central to a spiritual journey regardless of what path any of us may be on.
Way before the age of science, well before words like "ecology" and "ecosystem" were used, the Buddha taught a wisdom of enlightenment - awake and mindful we become aware that everything and everyone is "one body," one living and breathing interdependent web of relationship, no person, no creature, no thing ever isolated, and nothing or no one more central or more important than anything else.
Jesus taught the same thing.
The climate crisis is a spiritual crisis.
As I sit in my garden at the rising of the sun, I think about something the ecologist, John Muir, once wrote:
The sun doesn't shine on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us,
tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies