Short term and long term – the environment and spirituality

I was at the interreligious ‘march for climate change’ yesterday. Berthe Jansen represented Buddhism there and she noted that the bodhisattva takes a long-term view to problems and theirs solutions. This was relevant to the topic, because one of the problems with any type of environmental activism is that it has to prioritize the long-term future of humanity, its resources, the climate, food, water quality etc. against the short-term aims of corporations and people.

We wanted our politicians to not just talk, but act on the realization that our planet needs our help, for the survival of human culture as we know it. I’m not worried about the human species – however, I don’t particularly fancy a cave-people type existence for the next generations or my own future lives. Our planet is heating up and only if we work together – and that includes government regulation – can we hope to decrease the damage. It’s already too late for total reversal of climate change.

The simple fact is that we’re burning up fossil fuels – that took millions of years to form, and we’re taking a century to burn them up. This is irresponsible, any way you look at it. However, from the perspective of the climate it means we’re releasing millions of years of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of that is being absorbed by the ocean, but experts tell us that the ocean can probably take no more. While there, BTW, it makes the oceans more acidic and destroys coral reefs.

These are facts. Although I know some of my American readers will doubt them – I will treat them as proven beyond a shadow of doubt.

As one of the speakers at the Amsterdam Climate March said – the time has come that solutions are available. We can actively start using solar energy. It has become a viable alternative. If not for all our energy requirements, certainly for a lot of it. The German solar cells have markedly lowered energy prices in Europe, for instance.

However, politics are behind the times. I took a picture of prominently positioned Dutch Democrats (D66) at the march and could not see anyone of the Green Party (Groen Links). A guy turned around and told me he was of that party and that the democrats were hypocrites for being there, as they didn’t support the Green party in the Dutch Parliament.

And that is precisely the snag. 10000 people showed the world in Amsterdam that they care about the environment and want politicians to take responsibility. And yet only local politicians took the stage. Sure – this was organised within a month, very last minute. But still. We do need national and EU politicians to make changes in policy. Local just just isn’t enough. That is, in fact, precisely why I was there: I want our politicians to ACT. To DO something.

As I came home, I found an article in Alternet pessimistically blaming Avaaz (which was apparently behind the whole thing) for being way too corporate about it. That is: they wanted maximum human involvement, with minimum political confrontation. The publicity would help Avaaz raise money, which is apparently the main aim of the organisation. They made sure the march did not meet politicians, and was too early (a Sunday morning and two days before the climate conference) for politicians to be physically bothered at all.

That is worrisome. I don’t want violent confrontation anymore than the next peaceful student of the Dalai Lama does. However, the aim of peaceful protest is for a real-world meeting between politicians and the people who want change. It was awesome to realize that there were 10000 people standing on the road between the ferry and the stage. That realness is what our politicians need to feel when confronting a demonstration of this type. Pictures online just don’t cut it.

The problem: our politicians are (a) listening to corporate lobbyists too much and (b) taking the short-term for the long-term. With the result that they’re focusing on ‘saving the economy’ by creating free money that is mostly inflating the stock market, without any perceptual effect on the ‘real economy’. And they’re simultaneously ignoring real problems and real solutions to those problems.

I guess that green party guy was right. However – perhaps our politicians will listen anyhow. After all, there really were a LOT of protesters all over the world. Our message is clear: we want a safe world for ourselves, our children and our grand children.

5 thoughts on “Short term and long term – the environment and spirituality”

  1. I am surprised every time I watch American politicians denying global warming and climate change. There was a guy, I think he was a corporate guy from GM, on Bill Maher’s show and he was saying that global warming isn’t happening and that the temperature has steadied over the last decade and luckily Neil Degrasse Tyson was a guest as well and he tried to explain it very simply. He said that let’s not get into which study says what on global warming and let’s try to listen to nature because it always knows the truth. He said that plants and animals are migrating north to areas where they weren’t found only decades ago because it was too cold there and that is a clear sign that global warming is happening. But still that guy refused to accept it. He kept saying that he has a house in the Florida keys and they told him it would be underwater but nothing has happened yet.

    It irks me so much that people in power continue to deny global warming, not because they are stupid, but just because they are playing this political game. Corporations want to delay taking action as long as they can and that’s what politicians are enabling them to do. They are trying to milk the cow as much as they can before it goes dry.

    It’s not just shortsightedness but also irresponsible behavior as the most intelligent species on the planet. As you say Avaaz also went for the short term goal instead of the long term. How long are we going to all focus on our own short term benefit, no matter which side of the debate we are, and finally accept that we need to take a lot of action very soon. And for the first time this has to be a truly global action. I always thought that if aliens attacked earth, that would unite us all. Environmental change is one such crisis that needs a united stand if we are to stand any chance of dealing reasonably well with it.

    P.S. I read somewhere that solar cells use a rare element that has also peaked along with oil and all other resources on earth.

  2. First of all thank you for your post. I agree with much of what you’ve stated. For me the urgency is without question vitally important. I think the problem is really that it is left for most part in the political arena., which tend to look at things from a territorial perspective. As you stated, a worldwide movement is needed. But this movement must be spearheaded by truly spiritually enlighten conscious people, who are unrelenting in purpose.

  3. Yes, Our Planet needs our help. We need humanity development. Both The Earth and Man kind moves with the spirt of cooperative work. The Earth can do no wrong. So Man must live in this Earth with the spirit of cooperative work. This is spirituality.

  4. Your blog, “Short term and long term – the environment and spirituality” is very intelligent and insightful article. We hear a lot of talks about environmental pollution, climatic change (Al Gore) and Global warming but ironically these talks and noise come from the world greatest polluting nations of the world. They talk, talk and talk about these issues, but do nothing. The people of this world should consider getting up and going out to do something about this because the greatest asset that humanity has is its environment and atmosphere. If we destroy our environment and atmosphere, we will be forced to become planetless and homeless!

  5. With climate change humanity is asked to listen/adapt to nature instead of its usual stance of lording it over nature. Will we listen? Can we adapt? The answer so far is no. Which need not mean we wont. Let’s hope we can on mass develop enough sensitivity to hear nature’s response to our rampant pollution spewing ways. Still does climate change of necessity have to be bad? Some of the painful experiences in my life when looked back on, after a significant number of years, offer up benefits. So even though life circumstances at a given time can be quite traumatic from an historic perspective we can see a positive side.
    The problem with our politicians is that they are just like us. Think of the corporate lobbyists as our habitual way of being, our favourite philosophies and theologies. The demonstrations of concerned people are like the subtle voice of the spiritual world calling us towards decisive change. For an individual to break from their habitual way of viewing the world and experience the world in a new more subtle light is a giant step. The trouble for me is that I am lazy and though I may see things from a deeper perspective at one time, I am called again and again to enter deeper into a spiritual outlook. The depth of the spiritual world is infinite and it will never be finished with us.

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