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Reports/Reflections on Chang Ji Fashi's Lecture on COP21

【 A Tale of Two Futures - Planetary Realism in the Time of Climate Change 】 By Tim Dai


Venerable Chang Ji just delivered an amazing talk at Dharma Drum Vancouver Center, and the talk was closely related to each one of us. It’s on Global Climate Change of our common home - earth. As you may already know, in December 2015 there was an important international conference took place in Pairs regarding Climate Change – COP21. Venerable Chang Ji, representing DDMBA US, attended the full conference which lasted for almost 12 days, and we were very lucky to have her sharing with us what she learned. Unfortunately, some people weren’t able to attend her talk. Therefore, here is my report on her talk and hopefully it can give you a little taste of her talk and this important topic.

What is it COP21?

COP21 stands for ”Conference of the Parties” and it was an international conference held in France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. The goal was to get a global agreement from all nations on climate change - saving our common home earth. As a result, 195 countries got together and worked really hard around the clock for weeks to finally make this Paris agreement happen. The key of the agreement is to set a goal to reduce global warming from estimated 4 Degrees Celsius to under 2 Degrees. The agreement could be a historical turning point in the aim of reducing global warming.

Why is it so important?

It is a remarkable result from decades of effort. “According to the organizing committee of the summit in Paris, the objective of the 2015 conference was to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world“. Also from religious point of view, it was an important event, as “Pope Francis published an encyclical called Laudato si' intended, in part, to influence the conference.”

You may wonder why we are so stressed over only 2 Degrees change in temperature. To each of us, we could barely feel anything over 2 Degrees change. However, for earth or humanity as whole, 2 Degrees change could determine whether many cities like New York will be above or submerged in the ocean. Some of us may be an expert on climate change while others know very little about this topic. For this reason, Venerable Chang Ji decided to give a quick introduction lecture in Climate change.

Climate Change 101

Venerable Chang Ji demonstrated it to us using part of a documentary film made by National Geographic - Six Degrees Could Change the World. (It’s available on Youtube). Basically, the idea is that the film shows how raising in each degree Celsius could impact earth in large scale!

Scientists have predicted that if we choose “Business as usual” which means we don’t do anything about global warming, our home planet earth’s temperature could rise around 4 Degrees Celsius by the end of 21st century. (Up to now, it had already risen 0.8 Degree Celsius compared to the pre-Industrial level.) And rising 4 Degrees will trigger dramatic climate changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and could submerge many cities in the world, such as New York, Shanghai, London, Sydney, Taiwan, affecting millions of people. Many other forms of life on earth would also suffer, even to extinctions.

Even with a 2 Degrees change, we will lose many of the beautiful Islands/cities on earth, so many countries were fighting to bring it to 1.5 Degrees change during the conferences. The negotiation was around the clock, non-stop for weeks. At the end, they made it! The agreement says the parties will "pursue efforts to" or try to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

We might think that we still have a lot of time to work on it - till the end of the century. so why making it so urgent? It’s because we are at the cross road now! If the temperature rises above 3 Degrees Celsius, the damage to earth will be irreversible! Yes, it’s critical to act before it’s too late! Now it’s the time!

Why should “I” as an individual care?

We might think that we’re so far doing ok. The climate change hasn’t actually affected my day to day life yet. But it may not be the case. First of all, it has already been affecting us now. Look at the natural disasters happening around the world recently which could very well related to global warming. Remember the forest fire in BC last year? It is getting close to us!

Secondly, think about our children and grandchildren. For those who are from Taiwan, imagine if we don’t do anything about global warming, two third of Taiwan might be submerged under water by the end of the century! Yes, we are in Canada and our cities may not be damaged by the global warming. However, even for people who happen to live in the safer zones like Canada, the environmental refugees from affected areas will have to migrate to the safe areas and the chaos will be on global scale. At the end, we’re all really on the same boat. So the only way out is to work together to start taking better care of our common home - earth.

Also, one key point that Venerable Chang Ji mentioned is that the government officials pointed out that to help reduce climate change, they could not do this alone. They need help and support from everyone! And of course, we can’t not rely on the for-profit business to make this happen. A saying goes “If we wait on them, then it will be after there is only one tree left on earth”. We as the consumers should change our consuming behavior/ habits, so the business will be forced to follow the more environmentally friendly demands.

How is it related to the Buddhists?

One of the key solutions to help climate change is to elevate our human consciousness. And this is exactly what Buddhists could help! In fact, from the Buddhist point of view, we could say the effect of global warming is the result of our human misbehaviors (Greed and Ignorance) in the past. Our greed had caused excessive material consumption (the trap of consumerism) which contributes in pollutions. Another contributing factor is our ignorance of this topic. Many of us do not know how serious the consequences of global warming are. And it may appear that we’re hurting earth, but really we’re hurting ourselves. It’s us getting hurt! It goes around and coming back at us. Karma! The bright side of Karma is that if we start planting good seeds/deeds, there will be good growing out! So we should start taking actions now!

Perfect condition for practice!

For the Buddhists, this is a great opportunity to practice - to benefit all sentient beings. Even for the ones who plan to go to Amitabha’s pure land will need to accumulate enough good merits - and isn’t keeping home earth healthy one of the basic things we could do?

After all, there are many reasons for the Buddhists to care about this issue: for all sentient beings, for our next reincarnations, for taking the bodhisattva path and much more.

Less “I”, “Me” and “My”

One of the precious teachings in Buddhism is reducing the illusion of “self”. Also, nothing really exists independently on its own in this world. Everyone and everything is interconnected ultimately. There is no separate “I” from the whole world. As the “Heart Sutra” says, our view of the world is upside down. Now we should turn it around, from “Me” into “We”! Earth is our common home, we have to face it and treat global warming like our own backyard is on fire.

What can we do day-to-day?

Actions! Venerable Chang Ji along come up with a recommendation list:
●Be eco-friendly on transportations: ride bikes, take public transportation, carpool, buy more fuel economic cars, hybrid or electric cars etc
●The R’s : Recycle, Rethink, Reuse, Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Regift, Recover
●Buy more local foods that are grown from the local farms. Or even grow your own vegetables
●Less consumerism. Buy what we really “need” instead of what we “want”.
●Use more environmental friendly products

Finally, “If we don’t react now, then when? If it is not me, then who?”

It was inspiring to hear that the whole world (over a hundred countries) is willing to put so much effort and worked together on this common goal! It’s a sign of hope and optimistic future for humanity. Also, it once again demonstrates the selfless/Buddha nature is within everyone one of us, as the Buddha said right after he got enlightened. Let’s build a better world together!

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