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Dear Bill McKibben and the 350.org team,
Much kudos and many thanks for the wonderful effort you put into the Copenhagen Conference and for organizing the worldwide demonstration of support for radical change.
In a very modest way, I helped to organize the Fill The Hill gathering in Ottawa and a more recent vigil at the Pine Gate Meditation Community. I also sent a copy of my book Failsafe: Saving The Earth from Ourselves to Bill McKibben at 350.org’s HQ. On Facebook there is a Failsafe page with over 1,300 members. It has intelligent posts on climate change, 350.org and planetary care. The book may be a useful “handbook” - climate change, economic meltdown, stuck mindsets with wisdom tradition solutions. It also proposes a new structure of world governance, tools to tame the wild mind and places in Appendix I: Simple Steps to Empowerment – guidelines for “What do we do now?” That is the question you are now asking.
I offer a few points that may be helpful in this regard.
1. Although the Copenhagen Accord did not create targets and binding commitments I take heart from the global communication infrastructure that has been established by 350.0rg and other umbrella groups.
2. In Canada, the federal government’s response to climate change was abysmal. Yet several provincial governments have ambitious emissions reduction programs, as do municipalities and cities across the country. So it is the grassroots that must provide the leadership that was lacking from political leaders in Copenhagen.
3. Further – the communication infrastructure that now exists permits global citizens and consumers to boycott the products of polluting corporations. This selective boycott needs to be well organized and co-ordinated. One month of not buying Monsanto products worldwide for instance, sends a strong message – then on to the next giant corporate polluter. I spell this out clearly in the Failsafe book along with proposals for a different economic paradigm.
4. I write about tipping
points in consciousness in terms of the 2% option. Recent citizen
protest came very close. Not everyone has to wake up right now – just 2%
will provide the necessary catalyst so that the energy created starts jumping
across the divides.
5. To answer the Question you pose – may I refer you to Appendix I: Simple Steps To Empowerment? This pragmatic conclusion covers: The 2% Option; Take Action; Up Close and Personal; Reduce Your Ecological Footprint; Guidelines for Business and the Workplace; The Big Picture for the Future; Science and Diversity; Journals; Environmental Groups; Warning to Governments.
do hope these comments are useful for your future planning.
Professor Emeritus Carleton University, Ottawa
We need guidance from wise teachings
to calm our deeply troubled minds. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh provides
this (2005; 2002b):
The practice of peace and reconciliation is the practice of looking deeply, the practice of listening with compassion, the practice of using compassionate speech.
That peace has to begin with
you. It has to begin with me. However, if we are not trained
and do not know how to listen to our own suffering and the suffering within
our nation, we cannot know peace as a personal experience and therefore
cannot change the conflict between groups and nations. We must learn
to take the hand of suffering and apply it internationally. Thich
Nhat Hanh (2002a) has proposed that:
This is to calm, restore clarity and wisdom about why so much violence is projected outwards. Surely it is there because the internal violence has yet to be taken care of. There is so much injustice, suffering and discrimination in America. Recognizing it and allowing it to be safely expressed demonstrates that America is capable of listening to herself. That gives hope to the world. This proposal advocates the creation of Councils of Sages. The interfaith councils that already exist in most towns and cities in North America provide natural allies for this endeavor. Their skills and our skills of religious training, meditation, engaging wisely and courageously with the wider society, are the combination to creatively deal with the suffering within the city, the nation and the world. Deep listening, deep looking, reflecting on the suffering, discrimination and issues within our city, nation and world – and then offering wise deliberations to our leaders based on a broad concern for humanity. That is the intention behind creating Councils of Sages - so that we can all take steps to be Ambassadors for Peace.
The emergence of Councils of Sages from our present work for peace acknowledges that present leaders rarely have the skills to listen deeply to the suffering within the nation and the world. Friends with training and discipline in meditation are the ones to listen deeply, to look deeply and examine issues without a partisan flavor. The ability to reflect deeply and touch the core of wisdom and compassion that rests within all is the usefulness of such a council. As they listen, reflect and look deeply, Councils of Sages can present the fruits of these skills to hard-pressed politicians, bureaucrats, CEO's and other leaders. In this way there is a basis for transforming how political decision-making is made in our nation. Throughout North America there are many people capable of doing this; also capable of listening deeply with compassion to the suffering within the nation. They are ready made for Councils of Sages. The spiritual dimension is absolutely necessary for this kind of practice. It takes skill to listen deeply. It takes practice to walk a mile in the shoes of the “other”. It also takes great courage to use the language of compassion.
The lack of such precautionary steps was exposed by the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The devastation to New Orleans and the hinterland of the Gulf coast had long been anticipated, yet no steps were taken to prepare an appropriate rescue response. This permitted the deep scars in American society – racism, neglect and poverty – to dramatically reveal themselves. The post 9/11 policies engineered by the Bush administration have been so detrimental to the well being of American society at home that never before has the need for Councils of Sages been more apparent. The astounding incompetence, misplaced priorities, inability to listen, social injustice, poverty, neglect, inadequate health care and education, lack of environmental and infrastructure protection – the list is endless. Hurricane Katrina exposed America’s present inability to respond to a catastrophic emergency from a place of lucidity and compassion. This natural disaster provided a reality check on the state of emergency that exists within America and is a mindfulness bell ringing in the moment for Councils of Sages to get to work to address the suffering within the nation. There is a model of investigation that the US could adopt to listen and look deeply into the suffering caused by discrimination, racism, poverty, neglect and oppression. It is the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” established by Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa and it provides a mindful precedent for the investigation required within the US. In the world’s richest nation Hurricane Katrina and her sister storms exposed the same wounds of suffering caused by apartheid in South Africa, whose government (post-apartheid) had the courage and insight to listen to the deep suffering of the nation.
So it is up to citizens of the world to do better. We have to be ready and prepared with our boundless compassion whenever an opportunity arises. If you are at a loss about what to do about our world then train yourself to be compassionate, immerse yourself in the practice of mindfulness and allow your actions to come naturally from that foundation of clarity and strength. In this manner we are available for wise action of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction. Such a preparation is necessary for America, as the despair, suffering and self righteous anger in the nation is so enormous. There is such a burning volcano in the United States that no American leader will presently listen to wise voices. There is so much heat and vengeance covering up the dark side of the American psyche (Corbett, 2003), that insight and understanding are prevented from breaking through. We can only put out the volcanic fire with mindfulness and healing the wounds, not with further violence on the global stage. Yet I do have a vision of American renaissance. It is of all sectors of American society diligently practicing to strengthen the energy of mindfulness so that compassion is present in abundance for a process of reconciliation at home and abroad. America can do this. It can heal the fractures and wounds that have split America apart. This is a view of America through the lens of the Ultimate Dimension, where interbeing is a reality.
I look at America’s potential
with such admiration, as a vital aspect of America’ history is that the
nation is a true child of the Renaissance. The wisdom of the founding
fathers, a constitution embedded with notions of universal principles of
justice, of human rights, civil rights, of opportunity for the dispossessed
of many nations - none of this can be overlooked. It is still there
in the store consciousness of the nation. The task is to encourage
these seeds of consciousness to emerge and provide an alternative to the
dangerous posturing of America on the world stage. Mark Hertsgaard
The heart of America still beats to the renaissance of its founding - love, compassion and responsibility – only that heartbeat must be heard once again in homes, communities, churches, corporate boardrooms, Congress, the White House and the media.
With the adoption of deep listening practices at every level of American society and the formation of Councils of Sages to advise the nation in the best interests of humanity, then other nations will have great confidence in America. They may see Ambassadors for Peace on the public stage in America and seek to emulate that example. But at present there is so much fear and so little opportunity for trust to emerge, as the new century degenerates into the continuing darkness of terrorist attacks and American retaliation. World wide, people are afraid of terrorism but what frightens them most of all is the unbridled might and power of America in action on the global stage. Yet America can provide something different, communicate a message based on her founding principles by demonstrating that a Second Renaissance of all that is best in America is taking place. This rests on the ability of America to listen deeply to her own suffering as well as to the suffering in other countries. By committing to an internal dharma talk and to the process of removing wrong perceptions - how differently would America be perceived.