Triratna News

More Triratna climate change actions

On Wed, 9 December, 2015 - 11:43
Munisha's picture
Munisha

Continuing our Triratna News mini-series marking the COP21 climate change talks in Paris, more news of climate change actions from around the Triratna world. 

Dublin Buddhist Centre, in Ireland, released their Statement on Human-Caused Global Warming today. Last week, we hear, Triratna individuals were among those staging a ritual inside the British Museum, as part of the Art, not Oil coalition’s opposition to BP’s (British Petroleum) sponsorship of several British arts institutions.

And what of the marches? Steph Delaney writes from the London Buddhist Centre: “50,000 people, including members of Triratna, marched across London, in the largest of about 2,500 demonstrations taking place around the world. People from Triratna’s London, Cambridge, Oxford, Surrey, Kent and Birmingham sanghas met in Hyde Park, and joined a group meditation organised by DANCE (Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement, who also took part in the Art, not Oil actions) and Wake Up London, to mark the start of the march. 

From Ireland, Lisa Patten reports: “Approximately 35 people from the Dublin Buddhist Centre went to the Dublin climate march with our recently-made banner and colourful peacocks symbolising the transformation of poison into beauty. 

Ratnavyuha adds, from New Zealand: “There were 28 of us from the Auckland Buddhist Centre at the climate march in Auckland on Saturday 28th November. Akasamati organised a team of people making banners and. The NZ Herald reported 15,000 people attended and there was a great atmosphere of care and consideration.”

Lisa writes, “Climate change will cause unimaginable suffering to all forms of life on planet earth if it is not tackled. As Buddhists, together with hundreds of thousands around the world, we were marching to raise awareness that ‘Actions have Co2nsequences’.

The London gathering was co-ordinated by a group called Transforming Self and World, based at the London Buddhist Centre. Steph writes: “The group was established earlier this year by Mitras and Order members dedicated to making social action a greater part of their Buddhist practice.” Read Steph’s full report on the LBC march, over on the Compassion in Action space here on TBCO.

Email contacts for Transforming Self and World: tesshorvath [at] gmail.com (Tessa Horvath) and stephadel [at] hotmail.com (Steph Delaney. )
stephadel [at] hotmail.com (Follow Transforming Self and World on Facebook.)
+Follow Buddhist Action Month next June on The Buddhist Centre Online.
+Follow Compassion in Action all year round on The Buddhist Centre Online.

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james murphy's picture

This is a very interesting development and not necessarily for all the right reasons. Whilst I loathe the desecration of nature (ocean pollution and the destruction of the rain forests make me weep inwardly), I am not at all convinced about AGW. Contrary to what the essentially Leftist world view would have us believe, the science is simply NOT definitive as it stands. Conversely, I am inclined to attribute the alarmism of the AGW brigade to a species of “the-end-of-the-world-is-nigh”-ism which is historically recurrent in human nature itself - mainly as a bi-product of unconscious guilt which then flagellates itself. I may be proven wrong. I may not. What I do slightly resent though is the assumption that all nature lovers and all Buddhists must be pro the AGW brigade, This is both wrong and rude, and as such not very Buddhist actually.

Munisha's picture

Thank you James. How rare it is that someone actually responds to Triratna News pieces! What does the A in AGW stand for?

I agree that we should not assume that all Buddhists are pro climate activism or take any particular political stance. My coverage of environmental activities on Triratna News (or of anything else you see here) does not indicate editorial endorsement. I just report on what Triratna people are doing.

Thanks for your interest. Metta, Munisha

james murphy's picture

Dear Munisha, point duly taken! The A stands for Anthropogenic…. (Just for the record, I don’t doubt some global wamrming is happening, but I continue to blame the sun and its erratic solar flares for most of it. Plus, as vegetarians we are all massively on the side of limiting our own personal CO2 emissions anyway…. How many climate activists bend my ear and beat my metaphorical back with their beliefs, only to skiddadle for a quick burger or three! Ha! The wicked world eh? Kind regards. James.

Munisha's picture

Hmm!

By the way - everyone - I know there are mitras and Oms who hold informed and principled views such as that a) an “obsession” with global warming is obscuring a bigger problem - global cooling, or that b) global warming is happening but is not caused by humans. However, these people are not speaking out.

As soon as a mitra or Om writes to me at news [at] thebuddhistcentre.com () with news of an event/group/project sincerely disagreeing with climate activism, from a Buddhist perspective, I will be very interested to consider publishing something about it.

james murphy's picture

They (we) are not speaking out because they (we) are afraid to, Munisha - simple as that, I’m afraid. The opprobrium is just not worth it. To disagree with a belief that has acquired a vehemence and almost totalitarian self-righteousness is to marginalise oneself in a very unpleasant way these days. The Left can be very vicious. I’m not of course saying Triratna members suffer from this vice. But I’ll bet you the vast majority of them are nominally Leftist and thus prone to antipathy  - albeit uncosnciously - towards AGW sceptics. It’s a bit of a watershed issue really. People - even Triratna members - divide over it. (Bit like Subhuti’s restatement of Bhante’s observations about the sexes’ spiritual aptitiudes in MWA!) I am apolotical myself - and believe Triratna should be too. Both left and right sicken me. As a good buddhist (ha!) I seek to assess every issue on its own merits. But I am in a minority. And that minority just keeps quiet over AGW. After all, there are larger concerns, to wit, one’s daily (dogged) attempts to prove oneself even halfways worthy of pursuing and practising Buddhist ideals of beauty and truth. KR again. James.

Munisha's picture

Thank you again. That’s the most energy ever expended in a Triratna News comment box!

I will maintain my editorial neutrality in this space and reiterate my invitation issued above. Metta, Munisha

ratnaguna's picture

I’m very pleased to read James’ comments. Unfortunately the majority of people seem to have accepted the prevalent climate change rhetoric at face value, and this seems to include many - I suspect most - people involved with the Triratna Buddhist Community. I noticed that in one of the photos of the demonstrations shown in the Triratna News page, someone was holding up a banner with the words Actions Have Consequences. Yes they do, and this also goes for the actions of those who pressurise governments to take action against global warming. These actions are having consequences - governments all over the world are now taking action - and those actions will have consequences. Positive consequences if global warming really is a fact, and if it really has been caused by human action, but negative consequences if those claims are untrue. Climate change activists - do you really know what you’re doing? Have you done your research properly? Or are you merely acting on belief?

james murphy's picture

Hear, hear! More one cannot ask. One last thought, if I may: I think as soon as a group’s convictions become tinged with a degree of animus towards those who don’t share them, then one can legitimately suspect the existence of some sort of unconscious ‘support system’ underlying those same convictions… Similarly, to challenge those convictions is to threaten that support system - with predictable results from those who feel thus threatened! - I see this in many of my acquaintances who are literally fanatical about the climate change issue. Note their accusation of one’s being a so-called climate change ‘denier’; itself invoking a consciously rather nasty comparison with ‘holocaust denier’. It’s all become very unpleasant and insideous and is, in fact, the way genuine debate on an important topic gets shut down. A form of mob tactic - bullying actually, and as such shamefully un-Buddhist. Not that this excuses my own intellectual cowardice at times! Too often I remain silent when I ought to articulate my scepticism. I wish I had the nerve to speak up more - be more intellectually and spiritually independent than I am. It is, however, difficult to stand alone. No doubt practise makes perfect!

ratnaguna's picture

Yes, more than one critic of AGW acitvism has observed that it displays many of the characteristics of an evangelical religion: a group of people with a strong common cause - that cause being saving the world - a highly moralistic attitude, a fanaticism and closed-mindedness expressed in an unwillingness to listen to another viewpoint, and an often angry response to those who do dare to criticise their views, including the ascribing of dubious motives to them.

In my previous post I suggested that the policies that governments have instituted as a result of the very strong AGW lobby have negative consequences. To be more specific, they will cause an awful lot of suffering. Perhaps that’s acceptable if the earth really is warming, and if these policies really do prevent that warming, but if not, then that suffering is unnecessary, and unacceptable. Therefore it’s very important that those people involved in Triratna Climate Change activism do their research before acting. To read more about the negative consequences of climate change policies I recommend a paper called Unintended Consequences of Climate Change Policy by Andrew Montford: http://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2015/01/Unintended-Consequences.pdf

Candradasa's picture

Hi all, a few remarks here as a site editor in relation to this thread, mainly about principles of participation and editorial policy (with a personal note at the end!):

1. As Munisha points out, we do not editorially assume that everyone’s views within our spiritual community are the same - or ought to be the same. Further, on our site we’d like to make it clear that people are free and welcome to speak up and to own their views in public, so long as these fall within the very broad boundaries defined as acceptable in our Community Guidelines. We’d also expect everyone participating to avoid ad hominem responses to views they disagree with, and to consider harmonious speech as the guiding principle in any rebuttals offered.

2. I note that the kinds of problematic responses alluded to in the comments here (to people espousing doubt around human-caused climate change) are, so far as I can see, currently  – and happily – absent both from this site and from this particular post. We’d expect that to continue in both public and private spaces on The Buddhist Centre Online. If you come across a comment that you feel breaks the spirit of our guidelines, please do feedback [at] thebuddhistcentre.com (let us know) and we’ll take a look. 

3. Editorially, we’ll continue to draw attention to issues around climate change because it is a major issue in the world at present, and one that Buddhists (within and beyond Triratna) are actively debating in the context of notions of personal and collective ethical practice.

4. On a more personal note, I’d look for anyone presenting a skeptical position about human-caused climate change to produce the same levels of verifiable evidence as constitute substantiation for those who believe human-caused climate change is real. Otherwise, surely we are just in the realm of mere generalised assertion and counter-assertion?

As someone who has done some research and is persuaded there is a human factor in a verifiable problem with climate change, I’d say http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ offers a model for presenting clearly intelligible evidence which is also, at least, clearly tenable… 

james murphy's picture

Dear Candradasa,

Many thanks for these clarificatory notes: they offer much support to the notion that this subject can - and should - be debated without animus or disguised self-interest.
I disagree fundamentally with you about the skeptic’s position and his/her need to present an equivalence of verifible evidence to counter the AGW viewpoint. I think the weight of empirical responsibility lies firmly on the side of those who are trying to prove something exists. They have to show incontrovertibly that such and such a thing is the case. If they have not done so - and they have not: nb, warming has currently ceased, as even AGW believers admit; moreover Antarctic sea ice is at record levels, a fact again not disputed by AGW believers - then we are entitled to reject the theory as not having been empirically verified. This may change. But until it does, those who reject the general theory of AGW have the right to be treated to basic civility within respectful dialogue. But they’re not. I’m repeating myself I know, but the fact remains that the ridicule, obloquy and downright abuse to which skeptics are subjected reveals the quasi-religious nature of their opponents’ belief. It has become a literal blasphemy to deny AGW - punishable with social and, in some case, professional ostracism. Anything those with a Buddhist inclination for objectivity and fairness can do to subvert this kind of intellectual tyranny has to be a good thing. 

Candradasa's picture

Hi James - glad you’re reassured. As I say, though I’m glad the kinds of abuse you allude to are absent from this forum, I do want it to be clear to any readers of this thread that we have a policy on such matters - one that I hope promotes harmony even in disagreement.

Towit, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree (courteously!) about evidence, etc. I’d be interested to read any clear, fair-minded, verifiable, and well-documented refutation of the points NASA makes in its collated evidence site about climate change and human involvement. Otherwise we’re simply in the realm of counter-assertion backed up by strong personal feeling. The human feeling is valid, and I agree should be met with human respect; but the assertion bit is impossible to verify without evdence to back it up.

james murphy's picture

Indeed, I totally agree (!)  In one sense it seems to me that the whole debate is inherently fragile. The science varies so much (according to the parameters and criteria adopted by each side) that you can prove either argument using different data. In this context I could point you, Candradesa, towards a series of dissenting links and voices in the scientific community, but this would be boring for you. One thing I would ask you: given that one is not a statistician or scientist oneself (personally, I’m a poet, so couldn’t qualify less!), how can one test the truth of a claim whose ‘facts’ are inherently unobservable? If, for example, I am not personally experiencing AGW, why should I believe someone else who tells me I am? Moreover, it seems subtly dishonest to me to claim that I know objectively for sure global warming is manmade, if I have no scientific knowledge or acumen myself. And if I do not indeed possess the latter, to whom do I hand over responsibility for my position on the matter? And why? On what grounds? You see what I mean? It becomes a matter of trust, of abdicating responsibility for one’s own conclusions; becomes, in fact, a matter of ‘faith’. Yes, one can cite the phrase ‘scientific consensus’, but this seems to me no more than a ‘big brother’ authorisation taylored to suit the leftist narrative of our age. After all, the other side of the argument - there on the net if one wants to read it - is simply never broadcast on the MSM. Why not? Because it doesn’t suit the temperament of our unconsciously guilty age, which senses its own hollowness and materialistic cruelty and desperately wants to be able to point a finger, to cast blame, and thus justify a sense of conscience. Human nature has always been like this (in the West). To a large extent the ‘end of the world’ has always been ‘nigh!’ All this is understandable - but science it ain’t.  Bottom line (and I promise this is!) I feel that in the absence of any personal provable experience of the problem the most honest attitude is one of skepticism, of innocent until proven guilty. “The judgement of the future will now preside…”  

ratnaguna's picture

Hi Candradasa,

Thanks for your posts. I’ve just had a quick look at the NASA site you mention, and it’s obvious that they are definitely convinced about AGW. So anyone reading that site would, of course, feel convinced that the case has been made. However, I think we need to be careful. For instance, one of the pages on the site is entitled Consensus, and that should immediately put us on our guard, because consensus is a social/political decision-making mechanism and has nothing to do with science. Science is concerned with observable data. All the scientists in the world can be proved wrong by one piece of evidence, as has happened many times in history. There are other things in the site which are very questionable, but it would take up too much space to mention them all. One of the problems attending the AGW lobby is that it’s become highly politicised, which has made it very hard to get a clear picture of the science. I think if the NASA Climate Change website were purely scientific, it would mention some of the science that contradicts AGW. Instead it dismisses it. Why? Because it’s aim is to convince its readers of its own point of view, rather than to give all the evidence. In other words, it’s partly political, yet pretends to be purely scientific. Just as the IPCC is and does.

As you have asked for some clear evidence to the contrary of AGW, I would recommend reading Robert Carter’s book Climate - The Counter Consensus. (Yes, I know, there is that word again - Carter didn’t want to use it, but his publisher got his own way). Carter is a paleo-climatologist and has his own body of research that contradicts AGW, but he’s also gathered together a lot of other research too. One of the purposes of his book, he says, is to encourage people to look at the evidence  and come to their own conclusions, rather than accept what they hear in the news, or read about in newspapers or on biased websites.

james murphy's picture

Dear Rantnaguna,

Thanks for that post. I must get myself that book for Buddhmas.

Kind regards,

James.

james murphy's picture

Apologies for the typo that contains a Freudian allusion to my own tendencies! That should of course read ‘Dear Ratnaguna’….

KR again

James

Candradasa's picture

Hi Ratnaguna,

Thanks for this. To be clear, I wasn’t presenting NASA’s pages (in my exchange with James) as an example of “proof” - but as a model of how to present information on either side of the debate that is evidentially supported and independently verifiable, even by a lay person. I’ll look out for - and research - the book you recommend. Sounds interesting…

That said, I disagree with a couple of your assertions about NASA - and about the scientific method itself. 

Science is concerned with observable data. All the scientists in the world can be proved wrong by one piece of evidence, as has happened many times in history. … 

I think if the NASA Climate Change website were purely scientific, it would mention some of the science that contradicts AGW. Instead it dismisses it. Why? 

It’s true that science is concerned with observable data. And on that basis throughout history scientists have come to clear conclusions about given propositions (eg. “the earth is warming”, “human activity has some bearing on rising temperature”) and then presented those conclusions, having first looked at and weighed up all the evidence available through peer-reviewed, experimental research. A good scientist holds to such conclusions provisionally still (after all, further evidence may emerge that enhances existing understanding or even contradicts it) but they also are prepared to publicly stand by their conclusions while these represent the best set of understandings available.

That’s how I read what NASA is doing. It’s not pretending to be the definitive word on climate change. It’s saying in a public, non-scientific forum that is informed by a substantial body of research, “As a group of scientists this is our fully-researched set of evidence/experiment-based conclusions about climate change and the human factor in it. We’ve considered the peer-reviewed evidence for and against and this is what we think and are prepared to set out publicly for scrutiny. Here are our sources if you wish to review them.” I think to assert that NASA scientists are supposed (for objectivity’s sake) to set out both sets of evidence on their website - even when (as is presumably the case here) they consider the evidence against climate change to be flawed - is to risk misrepresenting the scientific method.

I suppose at this point one then has to make a judgment call about the reliability of a science-based governmental organisation like NASA in terms of what you refer to as politicisation. And about the integrity of the scientists working there with respect to empirical research and the conclusions reached. Perhaps I misunderstood, but you seem, in your argument, to elide very quickly into the suggestion that NASA’s site is an example of poiliticised climate-change argument. I suppose it might be the case that NASA’s conclusions are “highly politicised” in the way you describe. But where is the evidence of this? And what reason might NASA scientists have for continuing to propagate en masse scientifc conclusions which they, in that light, presumably know to be unsafe?

As it happens, NASA’s view of climate change has not long been aligned with the political consensus in the U.S. And as a scientific body rooted in proper application of the scientific method I’d contrast them favourably with the Global Warming Policy Foundation (sponsors of the paper you linked to earlier in the thread), which was explicitly set up to challenge the idea that climate change was happening and had a human-caused aspect to it. You’ll be aware that the UK Charities Commission ruled on this matter in 2014, noting that as an educational charity GWPF had breached impartiality rules. It also continues to refuse to disclose its sources of funding.

To be fair, the nature of the organisation doesn’t necessarily discount the vaildity of its papers - and I have seen mixed positive and negative responses to the work of Andrew Montford in making sure that scientists stay honest to the methods they are taught regarding experiment and conclusion, thereby avoiding the pitfalls you are properly concerned about. But to dismiss NASA’s public statements on climate change as simply a “biased website” is, I’d suggest, unwarranted…

ratnaguna's picture

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply Candradasa,

I’m going to reply to three of your statements.

First:

“I think to assert that NASA scientists are supposed (for objectivity’s sake) to set out both sets of evidence on their website - even when (as is presumably the case here) they consider the evidence against climate change to be flawed - is to risk misrepresenting the scientific method.”

You are assuming of course that the “NASA scientists” do consider the evidence against climate change to be flawed. The website doesn’t state that as far as I can see. It simply discounts them by ignoring them. If they have found that the evidence against climate change to be flawed, they would surely have posted that wouldn’t they?

And, just to be accurate, we’re not disagreeing about climate change, which is constantly occurring, we’re disagreeing about whether the earth is currently warming, and whether that supposed warming is a result of human activity.

Second:

“…one then has to make a judgment call about the reliability of a science-based governmental organisation like NASA in terms of what you refer to as politicisation. And about the integrity of the scientists working there with respect to empirical research and the conclusions reached.”

What we don’t know of course is who exactly wrote that website. Not all of the scientists who work for NASA surely? I would think that someone, or perhaps a select few, will have been given the task of writing it. We don’t know whether all NASA scientists agree with its contents, so my questioning the content of the site doesn’t constitute a questioning of the integrity of the scientists working there. I am, of course, questioning the integrity of whoever wrote the site, but even on this point I want to be very specific. Whoever wrote the site obviously believes that the earth is warming on account of human activity, and believes it’s his or her duty to persuade the public that this is the case. I’m not questioning their integrity in this sense. But they are doing so in a political, rather than a strictly scientific way. They seek to persuade the general public of their point of view, and they do this by only presenting the science that backs up their point of view, giving links to that science so that we may read it. They ignore the science that contradicts that point of view, so naturally there are no links to that science. In this they are, I believe, doing what Dr Stephen Schneider recommended in October 1989:

“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” (Quoted in Discover, pp. 45–48, October 1989.)

Third:

“I suppose it might be the case that NASA’s conclusions are “highly politicised” in the way you describe. But where is the evidence of this? And what reason might NASA scientists have for continuing to propagate en masse scientifc conclusions which they, in that light, presumably know to be unsafe?”

I didn’t say that NASA‘a conclusions are highly politicised, I said that the science about AGW has become highly politicised. I said that the NASA website is not purely scientific, but is partly political. The evidence is contained in the site itself, with its page entitled Consensus, which is not a scientific concept but a political one, and it’s discounting and ignoring the science that contradicts its own point of view - that is, to use Schneider’s words, it isn’t bound to the scientific method, “which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts.”

Near the top of the page entitled Evidence, the NASA website quotes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” That is simply untrue and dishonest. The first report by the IPCC originally contained “doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts” by the scientists who worked on it, but these were deleted from the report by Ben Santer, an AGW activist scientist. Some of the scientists originally involved in the IPCC have resigned as a result of this, and ever since then the IPCC has been a political lobbying group, employing only scientists already convinced of AGW

james murphy's picture

Dear Ratnaguna,

Thanks for these obervations - definitive, in my view, of the state of the AGW debate (or public lack thereof!)

Can I add how refreshing it has been to exchange views on this subject without facing rabid opponents frothing at the mouth with indignation at the very idea of another side to the argument. 

I would close my own contribution by observing that where ‘views’ are concerned, one ought perhaps never to think one is behaving entirely objectively by holding to them, since one is very often attracted to a ‘truth’ by the hidden emotional appeal it exerts on one’s temperament. I’m with Nietzsche in this connection (he’ll be glad to hear), when he says that all truths attract believers appropriate to the quality of knowledge and the cause they promote. In accordance with this dictum, Nietzsche also believes that higher truths attract higher natures. This is not a species of spiritual snobbery since wisdom is, of course, indifferent to social class, but simply an observation that higher truths attract precisely those natures fascinated by the challenge (and beauty) they present. Conversely, it has been my experience to witness far too many zealots (present company excepted!) amongst the AGW cause, folk who like their moral causes in simple black and white so that they can then use that bit of the moral spectrum as a weapon with which to beat others about the head and shoulders.

It’s also perhaps no coincidence that one can usually predict the list of moral causes to which AGW types affiliate themselves: they will be predominantly leftist, pro-abortion, anti-capitalist, feminist, pro-palestinian, anti-Israel, anti-American, etc, etc.

Now I am no great right-wing lover of our status quo - I detest what the bankstas’ greed has done and is doing to the Body Politic in the West (and throughout the world), but something in me baulks when I see so many mediocre souls manifesting on one side of an argument (there seems no other way of putting this harsh assessment). No doubt in this I am displaying my own prejudice, but perhaps it contains a grain of truth… I leave others to judge.  

Anyway, great good wishes to you both for the seaon and for a fruitful New Year. James.

PS (Incidentally I have written a play about Nietzsche, called ‘To Hell in a Handcart  - [a summer in the life of Frierich Nietzsche]’, which you might both enjoy (as Subhuti was kind enough to confess to having done so recently - shamless plug which I am sure he will forgive… - or perhaps not!) It’s available on Amazon, published by Heretics Press, but I’d be pleased to send you each a free paperback copy if you’d like. Let me know. 

werdnaydarg's picture

For every action, there must be a reaction.

The earth is reacting and our reaction must not be reactionary.

Take action.

werdnaydarg's picture

Many climate scientists agree that sunspots and solar wind could be playing a role in climate change, but the vast majority view it as very minimal and attribute Earth’s warming primarily to emissions from industrial activity—and they have thousands of peer-reviewed studies available to back up that claim.

Vested interests tell us not to do anything about the crass materialism that fires climate change, reassuring us that it is not our fault.  Just carry on breeding and buying.