Environmental degradation poses a major threat to humanity, yet most people seem oblivious to the urgent need to tackle the problem. It remains to be seen whether efforts to create « global awareness » will succeed. Perhaps humans will just wait until the crisis deepens. As the saying goes, « A tear is not shed until a coffin is seen. » The environment is being destroyed for four main reasons:
_ Too many people still believe humans are its masters and can do whatever they want with its natural resources. They deal with it antagonistically, as an underling.
_ The industrial revolution ended the simple agrarian approach that met basic needs at a slow rate and gave nature a chance to heal. It no longer gets the time to regain equilibrium. We cannot now turn back the clock, but if we show concern for the environment and adopt appropriate rates of production and consumption, we can ease the degradation.
_ Humans in the age of capitalism are motivated to consume more and more. They are led to believe that consumption creates happiness. The accepted « wisdom » is that more consumption leads to economic expansion, but this overlooks the fact that more consumption means quicker depletion of natural resources.
In his book « The World without Us », environmentalist Alan Wesiman notes that millions of apes once inhabited the Amazon forests and humans honoured them as their ancestors. The population is now in the hundreds of thousands because people began killing the apes for food, simply because they had nothing else to eat.
When humans start to eat their revered ancestors, is it not the writing on the wall, warning of tragedy for humanity as a whole? What will happen if, one day, no apes are left to hunt? Will the environmental crisis begin hunting down humans?
_The world’s human population is simply too big to conserve natural resources. Considering large-scale food production, this should not add to the problem, but, as Mahatma Gandhi said, « There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need, but not for man’s greed. »
Our problem is that, today, people the world over are devoted to globalisation, capitalism and the kind of marketing that drives greed. Greed now dominates everything, even democracy, once hailed as the politics of the ordinary man – by the people, for the people.
Those who know how to consume with awareness need not consume a lot, but they are far outnumbered by those who consume senselessly and become dreadful hunters and destroyers of natural resources. The US population is a fraction of the world’s tally, but its citizens consume significantly more than those of any other country.
Consumption in response to real need is not a problem. What creates problems is consumption in response to « artificial needs ».
The environmental crisis originates from the crisis in people’s minds. Therefore, the main methods to solve it should start with a revolution of the human mind:
_ The misconception that humans are masters of the environment must be replaced with the understanding that we are merely a part of the environment. Destroying it destroys us.
_ Large-scale manufacturing to feed vast markets should be scaled down so that nature can heal itself enough to accommodate future generations.
_ Consumption in response to greed should be replaced by consumption in response to need. Real need does not derive from advertising or social trends that emphasise glamour. Garments should be used until they are worn out, and food never wasted. We should return to basics and appreciate the true value of everything we consume.
_ Humanity must awaken to the danger of globalisation, this uncontrolled domination through capitalism and senseless consumption. If not, the passenger bus called humanity will inevitably head towards a deep abyss.
The environmental crisis has its origins in human beings’ error-prone minds. « With our thoughts we make the world, » the Lord Buddha said. Our false conceptions have led us to a world of peril. If we begin correcting our course with the « belief » and the « attitude » of humanity, it should lead to real fundamental changes.
(Source : Many texts of V. Vajiramedhi ,a great boudhist preacher living in Taïland give me the inspiration for this vision ,today)