DDM Global News

Cherishing Our Planet Workshop: Raising Awareness for Climate Change in our Youth

When faced with the climate change crisis, besides feeling helpless, what other options do we have? On the afternoon of Oct 30, more than 20 youths took part in the "Cherishing Our Planet workshop" at DDM Degui Academy, co-organized by the Sheng Yen Education Foundation and the Dharma Drum for Young People (DDYP). The organizers invited Ven. Chang Ji, DDM's delegate on the United Nation's NGO committee, to give a morning talk on this topic, in order to help young people and the general public better understand the link between climate change and protecting the spiritual environment, as well as find solutions to these crises in the afternoon's workshop. Young people were encouraged to contribute their thoughts on improving the environment of our planet. The mood of the meeting made it resemble a United Nation's climate summit.

By exploring the images signifying climate crises, Ven. Chang Ji pointed out how arrogance is actually bringing human society to its own extinction. As part of the natural world, human beings mustn't go against our Mother Nature. When faced with life-threatening challenges such as pandemic, war, or climate change, we tend to deny and reject reality due to our self-centeredness, reflecting the inevitable imbalance of our body and mind when in crisis and under stress. Alternately, we can choose a different mindset that to help others is to help ourselves, by cultivating resilience for rehabilitation and restoration into normal life.
Ven. Chang Ji explored why relying on government policies and launching protests couldn't solve the climate crisis. By quoting Matser Sheng Yen's saying, "When human minds are not purified, society won't be able to become purified," the Venerable explained that, to awaken our wisdom toward nature is to protect our spiritual environment. This reflects the Buddha's teaching: "Not doing evil deeds, cultivating all good, purifying one's own mind—that is the teaching of all buddhas." By gradually purifying and reducing our desires, we will naturally become more caring toward the natural environment, thus making a sustainable future possible for humanity.

The Venerable talked about the victim mindset and its four elements: the need for recognition; a tendency to display entitlement; a tendency to be self-abasing; and the perception of the self's moral superiority. Through role play, group discussion, brainstorming, and equitable dialogue, participants worked together to find common ground, which was the key feature and aim of the workshop. Ven. Guo Chan, DDM’s member delegate on the UN's NGO committee, mentioned that peer-learning helps young people engage in self-exploration. When we know what kind of person we aspire to become, we are less likely to fall victim of our own desires, thus facilitating a common purpose to help solve global crises.

Din Yujuan, who joined the workshop through a friend's recommendation, said that she found the workshop, though brief in duration, most rewarding, and that the monastics leading the workshop were well-versed in global views. More specifically, by combining environmental issues with a spiritual aspect-- from dealing with the external environment to returning to our inner mind, and, in turn, drawing on our inner wisdom to generate an aspiration to benefit others-- we will enhance our observational perspective in identifying and recognizing the problem, and then put our knowledge into practice in our daily life. The realization that Ms. Yujuan found most touching was: even when we think we may be helping others, safeguarding the environment and protecting the animals, from another perspective, this can be just another incorrect way of thinking based on our self-centered notions.

Cai Qingyan, President of Sheng Yen Education Foundation, shared that Master Sheng Yen initiated the campaign of protecting the spiritual environment 30 years ago, and already warned of climate change 20 years ago. Young people are the one group that is most heavily affected by climate anxiety. If they want to improve the Earth's environment and minimize its destruction, they need to start by changing our mindset and values. This event was meant to awaken young people's awareness, which echoed the foundation's ideal of building a pure land on earth and promoting the practice of protecting our spiritual environment.

Text: Yao-chung Chang (張曜鐘)
Photos: Ya-ying Lin (林雅櫻)、Chen-han Hsieh (謝承翰)、Yao-chung Chang (張曜鐘)
Translation: Vicky Wei (韋徵儀)
Editing: Keith Brown, Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠)