By Prof. Dr. Bikiran Prasad Barua
Former Professor and Chairman of Department of Physics, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Senior Vice President-Bangladesh Bauddha Kristi Prachr Sangha
President-Centre of Excellence in Buddhist Studies-Bangladesh
Chairman Standing Committee on Publication, Publicity, Education Culture and Art –World Fellowship of Buddhists.
Let me start with an idea by Prof. Dr. Chammong Adivadhamasit of Thailand about the Buddhist view of the environment. He says that the environment means everything surrounding us, embracing both biotic and non-biotic entities of living or non-living beings, either man-made objects or naturally existing resources. It is true that our beloved earth is gradually being polluted creating a dangerous situation around the globe for the existence of living and non- living beings. As such conscious people are worried about the future consequences of humanity.
Here are some of the world’s problems:
- Global climate change
- Depletion of forest resources
- Biodiversity decline
- Ozone layer hole expansion
- Depletion of mineral resources
- Waste increase
- The pollution of marine life
- The pollution of ocean water
- Soil Pollution
- Desertification phenomenon
- The arms race in the war
- Nuclear waste
- Nuclear hazards
- Ultraviolet and infrared rays
Out of all these problems,‘climate crisis’ is the biggest threat to
peace and global security. It affects rainfall, temperature and water for agriculture which affect life on this planet. Ex. UN Secretary General Kafi Annan once in his lecture on threat to environment, commented that climate change is a threat to peace and global security, and that it is a danger on a par with other armed conflict, arms trafficking or poverty. What is Climate Crisis?
I would like to present from the Human Development Report 2007- 2008 of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) mentioning that the climate crisis caused several human setbacks.
Climate affects rainfall, temperature and water used for agriculture. In 2008, 600 million people in the world were malnourished and 1.8 billion people lived without water, especially in regions such as North China, the Middle East, South America and North Asia. Close to 330 million people were displaced temporarily or permanently due to floods caused by the rise of temperature.
A 2-degree rise in temperature will increase the rate of extinction. From 1920 to 2005, earth’s temperature rose by 1-degree centigrade and by the end of the year 2035, the earth’s surface temperature is estimated to increase by 2-degree centigrade and by the end of the 21st century, by 4 degrees.
What will happen when the temperature of the earth rises? Ice caps will melt. Sea level will rise. Low islands will be submerged. Lands of the coastal belt of many countries will go underwater. Floods, cyclones, storms, hurricanes, tsunamis and tornadoes will occur. Every being on land and sea will be affected by it. How does the climate crisis happen? Most Venerable Dr.Thich Tam Due to Vietnam has beautifully explained in his article.
How does paticcasamuppada relate to environmental preservation?
Scientists confirm that the direct cause of this crisis is greenhouse
gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for industrial development. Most forms of animal husbandry, transport, deforestation (unsustainable logging included) are big contributors to this.
On April 09th 2012, the UN warned of severe weather events. Severe weather events are increasing in number and extremes due to heat and humidity of the environment because humanity continues to burn billions of tons of fossil fuels. I am not going to present what the world leaders think about the global climate crisis as it will take too long. However, as Buddhists, we can view this in a different light. Buddhists practise Buddhism as envisaged by the Buddha. To overcome these environmental challenges we are to find the solution from Buddha’s teachings. The four noble truths as discovered by the
Buddha is scientific prescriptions. There is suffering, there is the
cause of suffering, suffering can be removed and there is a way to get rid of suffering. Environmental disasters are sufferings or problems, definitely, there are causes of these problems, the environmental problems can be removed and there are ways or means to remove the problems or sufferings.
The Buddha taught us many important relevant elements which humanity can apply to get rid of problems. Paiccasamuppada or dependent origination or cause and effect principle, Pancha Shila or five principals, right actions, right livelihood, love for nature etc. are good examples to overcome environmental problems. The Buddha has taught us theories (Pariyatti), application (patipatti) and desirable goals (pativatha).
The environmental crisis arises from humans delusion and greed, overconsumption, over investment, overexploitation of natural resources, overemphasis on material economic growth, overstocking of raw materials and industrial products, world population explosion.
In Buddhism, we are taught to minimise our wants by reducing our greed, extending loving-kindness and compassion to nature and the world as a whole. Ignorance can be overcome by wisdom. Greed can be overcome by the charity. Hatred can be overcome by loving-kindness. We as humans should practice this daily in our lives, regardless of our faiths.
Buddha and his life in nature
The Buddha was born in Lumbini forest in Nepal, achieved enlightenment in Urubilwa forest under the Bo tree and even passed away at Salabana forest.
The Buddha stayed at Sravasti and taught Buddhism in a green atmosphere. From the life of Buddha, we can understand how the Buddha loved nature. This is a great example that how the Buddhists can learn from the life of Buddha.
In conclusion, living life and making decisions from a place of loving-kindness, compassion and respect towards nature, we are able to overcome environmental challenges.