Friday, June 2, 2017

A Spirituality of the Climate

Clear Blue Skies
- At the Desert Retreat House -

We have been in Washington DC over this past week visiting our family just a few miles away from the White House, and so I have literally been right in the midst of all the chaos and conversation over the latest announcement that the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. While I am personally distressed over this latest development, I am also reminded that any plans to care for and heal the environment have a potential to fail because they are based on some erroneous assumptions.

Most ecological strategies are essentially grounded in the very human-centric assumption that  human beings "own" the earth and that we need to "save the planet" so that the world of nature will continue to support the life and needs of the people who inhabit the earth.

But I think we have it all reversed (and perhaps this is why "climate agreements" are so easy discarded by some people). The world of nature doesn't belong to human beings, we belong to the world of nature. 

Perhaps our real issue here is that our Western civilization is still very much influenced by the delusion of "duality." We imagine each person to be an isolated individual separated from everyone else and we likewise presume that everything in the world of nature is also isolated and separated, "outside" of us, out there to serve us. 

But when we are able to move away from this delusional worldview and come to understand the deeper is wisdom that everyone and everything is ONE dynamically interconnected web of relationship, our vision suddenly changes. It is only then that we are able to realize that whatever happens to any one part of this web of relationship affects the whole of it. So, what we do to the air or the oceans we do to ourselves because we ARE the air and the oceans.

Buddhist teacher and monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, put it this way:

We need to realize that the earth is not just our environment,
the earth is not something outside of ourselves.
Our consciousness is the consciousness of the earth.
When you look around you, what you see 
is not your environment,
it is you!

When you realize this
you'll be moved to treat the Earth as you would treat yourself.
The future of the planet depends on this.

Yesterday as I watched the news, I sadly observed that some "religious" people seemed rather apathetic about our withdrawal from the climate accord. One person, interviewed on TV, made the specific point of saying that his faith in "God" had little or nothing to do with all this interest in the environment and that he would rather see the government focus more on issues like outlawing "abortion."

As I listened to the TV interview yesterday, I called to mind something Pope Francis recently said about our moral responsibility to care for the environment.The pope taught that you cannot love "God" unless you love other people, AND you cannot love "God" unless you love Mother Earth. What we do to one another, we do to "God," what we do to the Earth, we do to "God." If we neglect our responsibility to care for the climate and disrespect the health of the planet, we neglect and disrespect "God."

You cannot love God unless you love the Earth!

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