British Petroleum’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest in American history, and as of this writing the crisis continues. To date, every two to three days the ruptured BP oil well spews out the same amount of oil as the entire Alaskan Exxon Valdez oil spill.
By way of preface to a portal onto recent Buddhist response to the catastrophe ————— here’s a quote from scholar activist Joanna Macy, in conversation with John Seed, director of the Rainforest Information Center in Australia :
One day we were walking through the rainforest in New South Wales, where he has his office, and I asked him, “You talk about the struggle against the lumber interests and politicians to save the remaining rainforest in Australia. How do you deal with the despair?” He replied, “I try to remember that it’s not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rainforest. Rather I’m part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into human thinking.”
[from The Greening of the Self by Joanna Macy, from World as Lover World as Self, 1991
Parallax Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-938077-27-9 (also collected in Dharma Gaia, Ed. Allan Hunt Badiner. With thanks to Steve Silberman, & Emily Hoyer, denizens of the Buddhist conference at The Well (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) for pointing this out. ]
On May 27, Marketing Director, Strategist, Producer, Writer, Critic, and Activist Josh Schrei posted an open letter to the CEO of BP, Buddhist Ethics for a Harm-Free Livelihood, in Huffington Post. ["Livelihood" is one of the components of the Eight-Fold Path. It might be summed up: "Do no harm."] . Beginning with a pair of quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh, and the film Iron Man, his epistle has garnered over 200 comments.
Buddhist blogger Barry Briggs spotlights ways people can volunteer.
Science writer and editor Steven Goodheart offers, in Engaged Buddhism — How To Help with the Gulf Oil Disaster, as positive possibility the enlistment of oil-eating microbes
The Shambhala Sun Space published Spin and the Gulf Oil Spill by Ian Prattis, Zen teacher in residence at Pine Gate Sangha in Ottawa and author of Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves. In it, he draws upon an essential Buddhist precept, as interpreted for our times by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Buddhist blogger Nathan DeMontigny weighs in at Precious Metal on the need for clean energy
Matt McDermott published an article in Planet Green on June 2, How Heeding the His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Could Have Prevented the BP Oil Spill — springboarding off something the Buddhist teacher posted in FaceBook :
Because self and others can only be understood in terms of relationship, we see that self-interest and others’ interest are closely interrelated and there is no self-interest completely unrelated to others’ interests. Due to the fundamental interconnectedness which lies at the heart of reality, your interest is also my interest: in a deep sense, “my” interest and “your” interest basically converge.
* * *
For further reading:
Earth Sangha on Green Buddhism
The Greening of Buddhist Practice by Kenneth Kraft
Mindfully Green : A Personal & Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking by Stephanie kaza
Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft