Enjoy Nature, Create a Meaningful Life

Enjoying nature is an important part of enjoying life, as we slow down to savor the moment and appreciate being alive. When we return from being at one with nature, we are energized to work to heal Mother Earth.

Human interdependence with our environment is an integral part of Buddhist economics. All activities by companies, governments, and people can be undertaken in a way that protects rather than exploits nature and our natural capital. We heal ourselves as we care for Mother Earth.

Yet many people do not take time to enjoy nature, and to decouple from the internet and worldly problems in order to recharge their energy and to remind themselves what is truly important to them. Then we become overwhelmed by the demands of our daily lives, and we become disconnected from Mother Earth and from the activities that make life worthwhile. Soon we are on the materialistic treadmill, and don’t have time to care for ourselves and others, and earth, because we are busy making money, going to school, running errands. Our to-do list again dominates our lives, and we become dissatisfied and restless.

Buddhist Economics shows us how we can heal ourselves as we care for Mother Earth, and provides a path for transitioning to an economy that supports a meaningful life for all people in a low-carbon world.

We have no time to lose, both for ourselves and for the planet. We cannot say,
“Let me finish all the things on my to-do list, and then I’ll work on creating a meaningful life and healing the planet.”

As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival. We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.” Love Letter to the Earth, p 82.

Buddhist Economics on Living in Harmony with Nature

Everyone must live in harmony with Nature if we want to keep global warming under 2 degree C. Our carbon emissions are quickly approaching the maximum allowed by the 2 degree target, and people in rich countries must stop living beyond the earth’s resources. Rich countries need to reduce consumption to meet the goal set by the Paris Climate Accords of 2.1 tCO2e (tons of carbon) per person per year by 2050. The task for the United States with 16.4 tCO2 is much greater than for the European Union with 6.7 tCO2.

Living in harmony with Nature involves changing our daily habits, and caring about the environment. In particular, we must stop driving gasoline-powered car, stop eating beef and eat a mostly plant-based diet, use clean energy for our electricity to run our homes, and stop throwing anything into landfills (reuse, compost, recycle, buy less). These changes will be a large start in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and in becoming more in tune with our environment. We will stop focusing on materialistic lifestyle, and our lifestyles will focus on the relationships, creative activities, and experiences that are important to us.

As our governments provide clean energy for electricity and mandate electric vehicles, as cities increase the density of housing and land use to reduce commuting and driving, as restrictions on livestock reduce beef consumption, more natural options will become the new norms. Lavish consumption will seem as crazy as it is, as people become healthier and happier with natural living.

In our daily activities, people tend to “over clean”, using toxic chemicals to clean the house and laundry, using pesticides in the garden, using antibiotic soap that are harmful. Our homes should be clean, but not sterile. Our garden should support all types of creatures as well as native plants. We can have fun vacations without getting on airplanes. We carefully use water, and reuse water for washing and for watering.

Once we are living in harmony with nature, conserving resources and caring for the environment becomes a way of life. For example, we sleep our laptop when we take a break, pick up litter when we go for a walk, buy veggies at the local farmers market, take public transit or bike instead of driving, and grab a jacket or blanket when we are chilly rather than turning up the heat. Often these activities are a time for reflection and appreciating nature as well. Taking out “gray water” from the shower and the kitchen sink to water plants outside my door provides a time for me to enjoy the beauty around me and to connect to Mother Earth, who sustains us all.

In my daily life, Buddhist economics guides me to be mindful with the saying Don’t have a cow! This translates literally to Don’t eat beef (or lamb), and figuratively, Relax.

As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival. We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.”

Divest Public Portfolios of Fossil Fuel Stocks

The financial risk of holding fossil fuel stocks in public (or private) portfolios has been skyrocketing. However their stock prices do not reflect this escalating risk because the companies are not transparent and do not correctly predict the losses associated with their stranded assets (assets that suffer premature write-downs) and with their potential legal liability as suits filed by communities suffering from climate change seek compensation from those deemed responsible.

A report by Lloyd’s of London Insurance Company and Oxford University urges the insurance industry to require companies that they insure to act on climate change to avoid stranded assets, and to report their climate-related activities.

We already know the math of stranded assets (the amount of fossil fuel reserves that must remain in the ground to stay within a specific limit, called “unburnable carbon”): in order to stay under 2°C rise in temperature limit set by the United Nations COP 21 (Paris 2015), we must keep 80% of known coal reserves, 50% of known oil reserves, and 33% of known gas reserves in the ground. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, published the first math calculations in the Rolling Stone, and began the movement called “Keep It In the Ground”.

Here are some facts from the Lloyd’s report:

  • Constraining the consumption of fossil-fuel reserves to the 2°C scenario will collectively cost upstream oil companies revenues of $20 trillion, gas companies $4 trillion, and coal companies $5 trillion.
  • The 2°C scenario allows an additional global “carbon budget” of 1,000 GtCO2. With oil providing about 40% of global emissions, the oil-specific carbon budget is 400 GtCO2, compared to current oil reserves that are 1.6 times this (up to 2050).
  • Under the 2°C scenario, 60-80% of listed companies’ fossil-fuel reserves would be “unburnable”. These firms had stock capitalizations of $4 trillion and corporate debt of $1.27 trillion in 2012.

Big Oil has not incorporated their already-known stranded reserves into their asset sheets. Any investments to develop potential reserves, or to find new reserves, are wasted money. Yet Big Oil continues exploration and development.

Legal liabilities are only beginning to take shape. New York sued Exxon for hiding their research that demonstrated that burning oil created CO2 emissions that heated the atmosphere and caused climate change, and thus Exxon did not inform shareholders about the related financial risk. Three California communities have filed lawsuits to recoup damages from the storms and floods they have experienced as a result of the extreme weather that is part of climate change.

These potential legal liabilities of the fossil fuel companies will skyrocket, as happened when people started suing the asbestos and tobacco industries for damages. Scientists have presented the methodology for calculating the damages caused by the coal, oil, and gas industries. Now the legal community has the basis for calculating the monetary damages and attributing it to activities of individual companies, which is essential in a lawsuit. The authors of the study published it in the journal Climatic Change. The authors write,

“[N]early 30% of the rise in global sea level between 1880 and 2010 resulted from emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers…More than 6% of the rise in global sea level resulted from emissions traced to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, the three largest contributors.”

For these reasons, public pension funds (and all reasonable portfolio holders) should divest their fossil fuel companies because of their large and growing financial risks. Insurances companies face substantial legal defense fees and pay-outs unless they stop providing insurance to fossil fuel companies at costs substantially below their financial risk.

Now is the time to act, while the stock prices are not reflecting the known financial risks. Once the public refuses to hold fossil fuel stocks and insurance companies refuse to insure them, then these companies will either transform into clean energy companies, or go out of business.

We must Keep It In the Ground, or the planet will become uninhabitable for humans as we push the Sixth Extinction along.

References

https://business-humanrights.org/en/lloyds-oxford-univ-report-urges-insurance-industry-to-act-on-climate-change-to-avoid-stranded-assets

http://www.theactuary.com/news/2017/02/action-needed-to-avoid-climate-change-leaving-insurance-industry-with-stranded-assets/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30709211

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30716664

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0115/070115-fossil-fuels

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/07/big-oil-must-pay-for-climate-change-here-is-how-to-calculate-how-much?CMP=share_btn_tw

Time to Heal Mother Earth is NOW!

Last week I visited Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation in Australia, where I spent two days snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and three days hiking in the Daintree rainforest. The magnificence of the coral reefs as they provided food and shelter to marine life was awe inspiring, yet the tragedy of the coral reefs dying, as they turn brown and then white, overwhelmed me. Trekking in the rainforest, I thanked the trees, ferns, and palms for absorbing carbon and providing clean air for us to breathe. Yet the rainforest lets us know that the carbon is harming it also.

This experience reminds me of my interdependence with nature, and of how our lifestyle based on fossil fuel energy, meat-based diets, and industrial agriculture is overheating Mother Earth. As our activities emit greenhouse gases and destroy the forests and soil, the GHG emissions end up melting the ice caps and glaciers, and warming and acidifying the oceans. We are killing species, including humans, as we change the climate and harm the planet’s ecosystems.

Enjoying nature is an important part of enjoying life, as we slow down to savor the moment and appreciate being alive. When we return from being at one with nature, we are energized to work to heal Mother Earth. Human interdependence with our environment is an integral part of Buddhist economics. All activities by companies, governments, and people can be undertaken in a way that protects rather than exploits nature and our natural capital. We heal ourselves as we care for Mother Earth.

Buddhist economics shows us a path for transitioning to a low-carbon world, and we heal ourselves as we care for Mother Earth. Previous blogs discussed how we can reduce our carbon footprint by not driving gas-guzzling vehicles and by including less meat and more plants in our meals. Here is a quick summary:

Ponder the problems you are causing with each gallon of gas, which is putting an average of 250 grams/mile of CO2 into the atmosphere in California (and even more in other states without California fuel standards). What vehicle you drive makes a big difference to how much you are polluting the air. If you drive the popular Honda CR-V with 27 mpg (miles per gallon), you are polluting 70% more than if you drive a hybrid Toyota Prius with 46 mpg. If you drive an electric Chevy Bolt with 119 MPGe, then you are polluting only 40% as much as with a Prius, and your emissions drop to zero if you use renewable electricity to charge your car. If you drive a pick-up truck or minivan with 22 mpg (or worse), you are polluting 20% more than the Honda SUV. Your vehicle is adding carbon to the atmosphere, and your choice about which vehicle to drive and how many miles to drive make a big difference. Your driving style also matters. Eliminating aggressive driving and speeding can improve fuel efficiency and reduce driving emissions by 10%.

If you eat meat, what kind of meat you eat makes a big difference. Beef creates more than double the emissions of pork, and close to four times the emissions of chicken. Lamb is even worse than beef. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts create less than one-third the emissions of chicken (and a twelfth of beef). So as a first step, drop beef and lamb from your diet and limit your daily consumption of meat to less than four ounces. This starts you on the way to a healthier diet for you and for the earth.

Future blogs will discuss other ways we can change our daily habits to support rather than kill nature. May we join together to heal Mother Earth as we heal ourselves, for the benefit of all.

As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival. We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.” Love Letter to the Earth, p 82

Diet for a Sustainable World

Clair teams up with Pearl McLeod, who is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in sociology with a special interest in environmental justice and food systems.

“We are at a crucial crossroads where our survival and that of other species is at stake as a result of our own actions,” a group of Buddhist leaders said on the eve of the Paris climate talks. To meet the global climate crisis that is approaching, big changes in lifestyle are required of those of us who live in affluent countries. The good news is that our way of life can remain meaningful and worthy as our consumption becomes sustainable.

With right intention, there’s one step you can take right away to reduce harm to Mother Earth—eat less meat and move toward a plant-based diet.

This is one of the most effective things we can do because the food we now produce and consume is destroying the very ecosystems that we depend upon for survival. Here are some of the grim facts.

The US uses about one half of its land for agriculture. Unfortunately, the majority is used to raise livestock such as cattle, hogs, and poultry, or for crops consumed by livestock. For example, the US uses over 90 million acres of good agricultural land to produce corn, which is mostly fed to livestock. This is also true internationally. Much of the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest is for grazing and growing soybeans, of which 80% is used as livestock feed.

Besides its enormous carbon footprint, the meat industry employs other outmoded, unsustainable practices, including the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, monocultures, GMOs, and inhumane treatment of livestock. Industrial agriculture degrades the soil, water, and atmosphere on an unprecedented scale, while harming wildlife and humans.

Another major problem with the way we currently produce and consume food is that more that 30% of food is wasted. So-called “imperfect” produce is left in the field, or discarded on the way to market or at the store. Edible food is left to rot in our refrigerators. Much of it ends up in landfills where it emits greenhouse gases. We can all do our part to reduce waste by using left-overs and eating up the fresh produce we buy (hey, add saggy veggies to a soup).

With 7.6 billion people on earth, the demand for food is enormous and constantly on the rise. It’s easy to get caught up in the panic and feel we can’t make a difference. But we can change our diet and agricultural systems to heal the earth as we heal ourselves. We should not to dismiss the power of our voices and the choices we make.

Even one person—such as you—can make a big difference by eating less meat and moving toward a plant-based diet. Here are some of the contributions you’ll make to the health of the planet (as well as your own):

  • Compared with beans, beef requires 20 times more land and creates 20 times more greenhouse gases to produce the same amount of protein.
  • If you eat 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of meat every day, about one serving for most meat eaters, your diet puts out about 7.2 kg of carbon dioxide emissions (from farm to table). If you are vegetarian, your daily carbon emissions drop dramatically.
  • Replacing meat consumption with plants frees up valuable agricultural land to grow foods eaten by humans instead of livestock. It reduces hunger and helps feed the earth’s growing population with healthy, sustainable food.

If you do eat meat, what kind of meat you eat makes a big difference. Beef creates more than double the emissions of pork, and close to four times the emissions of chicken. Lamb is even worse than beef. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts create less than one-third the emissions of chicken (and a twelfth of beef).

So as a first step, drop beef and lamb from your diet and limit your daily consumption of meat to less than four ounces. This starts you on the way to a healthier diet for you and for the earth.

In addition to caring for the environment, caring about the people along the food production chain is an important aspect of deciding what to eat. Jobs in the animal agriculture industry are grueling and take a physical and psychological toll on workers. As corporations force high production rates, workers slaughter and process animals for hours on end with little time for breaks. US data shows that compared to the industry average, workers in the meat industry sustain higher rates of injury from “tasks associated with musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to chemicals and pathogens, and traumatic injuries from machines and tools.”

Recognizing how the food we eat is connected to other living beings helps us make more compassionate choices. By taking a stance with our buying choices, we help change our unsustainable food system and industry practices, because companies respond to demand. By eating mindfully, we support local, affordable agriculture and help people around the world enjoy more eco-friendly and nutritious foods.

Just as little things matter in your personal relationships, little things matter in your relationship with the earth. By paying attention to what foods you consume, you become more aware of your part in the food system. Start by reducing animal products in your diet, reading labels carefully, and buying food grown closer to your home.

Your choices create positive impacts that reverberate throughout the food system and inspire the people around you. When you change your diet to be more compassionate and sustainable, you become visible proof that changing our food habits is doable, healthy, and enjoyable.

By reducing your meat consumption and supporting sustainable agriculture, you can make a positive change in the world every day. When you pay attention to your impact, you are prioritizing compassion for yourself, for others, and for the environment.

“Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival. We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth

 

Sources:

https://gbccc.org/buddhist-climate-change-statement-to-world-leaders-2015/

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn/background.aspx

http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/

http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676796.pdf)

Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2013), 82

Together We Move to a Clean Energy Economy!

Trump put the fossil fuel industry and investment bankers in charge of energy and the environment, and they are rolling back clean energy programs and pushing ahead with more drilling and pipelines for oil, goal, and natural gas. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising rapidly and overheating the earth.

Our marches and rallies show how resistance can create change, and we cannot stop making demands of the national and local governments to take action to create a clean energy economy that is healthy for people and the planet. As we work together on climate change, we must be ready for the backlash from the wealthy fossil fuel energy companies and the organizations and politicians they fund. Big Oil fights hard to block regulations that reduce the use of coal, oil, and gas. They spent billions of dollars to elect lawmakers to the local, state and national governments. They spent millions of dollars to lobby against demands to reduce carbon emissions. They use their resources to fight “Keep it in the ground,” as they deny they are causing global warming and climate change.

A positive legacy of the climate crisis is that our collective response is building a more caring community, augmenting our citizenship roles with public action, and expanding our participation in, and donations to, environmental organizations and causes that protect people and earth.

In Buddhist economics, everyone belongs to a sangha, which provides support and love. Everyone needs a community for social and emotional support, and our family and friends give us courage and renew our energy. We cannot expect to be fearless in our practice Buddhist economics without a community of like-minded people who share our values and goals.

Most likely you already are part of a community of family and friends, including those who live nearby or share a sport or hobby or religion with us. This primary community expands outward to include old friends, people from work, and families we meet through our kids’ activities. Within our community, we also need a group of close friends with whom we share our ups and downs, with whom we feel free to explore our deepest fears and longings. People who love and trust one another, and who put one another’s well-being on an equal (or higher) level than their own, become a sangha.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that we amplify our energy to live mindfully and to create change when we join with others. He writes,

“Our collective compassion, mindfulness, and concentration nourish us, but it also can help to reestablish the Earth’s equilibrium and restore balance. Together, we can bring about real transformation for ourselves and for the world.”

If you do not have a personal sangha, take the time and care to create one. A sangha is a place where people reach out to help another person who needs compassion and generosity during a difficult time. When we practice kindness to help others without any thought of what they will do for us, then we are building a support network of close friends. Happiness studies show that having people to call on when you need help is an important source of satisfaction in life.

Together we are stronger, we are fearless, and we can prevent Trumpism from hurting people and the planet. Together we are unstoppable in healing the planet and promoting the well-being of all people!

Your Gas Guzzler Is Killing Earth—And People!

Californians want to stop global warming, and yet we continue to drive gas-guzzling vehicles mile after mile.

Transportation is now California’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for one-third of the state’s GHG emissions. We must change our habits—drive low (or zero) emission cars, and drive less!

The government plays two important roles in making sure our economic system reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are overheating the planet to dangerous levels. One is to educate people about how burning fossil fuels causes air pollution and global warming, so that they change their behavior to care for the environment. Two is to set standards so that companies provide greener products, such as more fuel-efficient cars. This could also be achieved by raising the price of oil, coal, and natural gas to include the social costs of carbon emissions, that is, the harm done to the environment and people’s health from burning fossil fuels. However politically it seems easier to pass regulations than taxes, and so mandating fuel efficiency standards for vehicles is a critical part of what government must do, at the national level and in California.

Transportation is the single largest source of GHG emissions in California. With low gasoline prices, Californians have been buying SUVs and pick-up trucks. Automobile manufacturers like the high-profit SUVs and pick-up trucks, rather than the low-profit electric vehicles, hybrids, and smaller cars. In 2015, there were 80% as many pick-up trucks and SUVs as smaller cars registered in California. Car ads glorify the power and comfort of the larger vehicles to entice consumers to buy them. Then the auto companies say that they cannot meet fuel efficiency standards because consumers want larger vehicles with low fuel efficiency. This becomes a chicken-and-egg problem, as consumers respond to advertising and low gas prices and then buy less-efficient SUVs and pick-ups. Then government must make stricter regulations, and the companies push back harder.

Average fuel efficiency of new vehicles reached 25 mpg in 2014, up from 21 mpg in 2008. Then the average fuel efficiency has stagnated for the past three years. Emissions from transportation did not decline over the 2011-20114 period (latest data) as the economy recovered.

We want everyone to ponder the problems they are causing with each gallon of gas, which is putting an average of 250 grams/mile of CO2 into the atmosphere in California (and even more in other states without California fuel standards).

What new vehicle you buy makes a big difference to how much you are polluting the air. If you buy the popular Honda CR-V with 27 mpg (miles per gallon), you are polluting 70% more than if you buy a hybrid Toyota Prius with 46 mpg. If you buy an electric Chevy Bolt with 119 MPGe, then you are polluting only 40% as much as with a Prius, and your emissions drop to zero if you use renewable electricity to charge your car. If you buy a pick-up truck or minivan with 22 mpg (or worse), you are polluting 20% more than the Honda SUV. Your vehicle is adding carbon to the atmosphere, and your choice about which vehicle to buy and how many miles to drive make a big difference. Your driving style also matters. Eliminating aggressive driving and speeding can improve fuel efficiency and reduce driving emissions by 10%.

Driving a Bolt is fun! We drove a Chevy Spark EV for three years, and thought it was terrific except the range was only 80 miles. Next we leased a Bolt EV, and its range is about 275 miles. Note both cars are totally electric, and we plug into 100% green electricity (supplied by Marin Clean Energy and delivered by PG&E). Test drive an electric car, and once you realize that the new EVs are amazing cars, lease one for three years (a good deal).

The government’s fuel efficiency standards are a critical part of the United States’ commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If consumers continue to buy larger SUVs and pick-ups, then the fuel efficiency standards become even more important in ensuring that manufacturers are providing vehicles that will reduce carbon emissions, including electric vehicles. Hopefully consumers will learn that electric and clean energy vehicles are important to people’s health and safety, and to the survival of our planet for future generations.

References
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbsSelect
https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/clean_cars/ldv-ghg-tar.pdf
http://www.energy.ca.gov/almanac/transportation_data/summary.html
http://umich.edu/~umtriswt/PDF/UMTRI-2016-7.pdf

Buddhist Economics on We Are One!

Trump’s tweets supporting white supremacists in Charlottesville hurts us all. Racism and hatred goes against American values. It is cruel and causes enormous pain and suffering. Our political and business leaders have spoken out forcefully against the Charlottesville Marchers, whose words and aggression are immoral and must be stopped. They murdered a peaceful and loving woman, and hurt many others.

Let us turn to Buddhist economics to guide us.

Buddha taught that we are all interdependent. Visualize Indra’s Jewel Net (above), with the net stretched to infinity in all directions, each knot containing a brilliant jewel that reflects every other jewel. Each reflection bears the image of all the other jewels. Whatever affects one jewel affects all jewels.

Buddhist economics teaches all people are interdependent, and people and earth are interdependent. Interdependence brings us together to love and care for each other. Everyone’s well-being is connected. In Buddhist economics, the well-being of everyone diminishes when the well-being of one person is harmed. Individual well-being and societal well-being are intertwined.
All major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism) teach a version of the Golden Rule, “treat others as you would like others to treat you.”
As the Dalai Lama tells us, “Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, and the sharing other people’s suffering,” with all the major religions aiming to help people achieve lasting happiness.

As a Lion’s Roar article states: “The demonstration as it took shape was a flat-out attempt at terrorism by a bunch of white supremacists… It calls us back to our better angels, giving us a moral compass that will allow us to act in ways that might actually be helpful, and that remind us that we are not alone… Heart with heart, and hand in hand, we will build a community of hope and possibility.” https://www.lionsroar.com/everything-we-do-matters-but-two-things-are-critical/
We must stop racism and hatred whenever it occurs, and move forward together along the Buddhist economics path to protect people and the planet.

Here is Buddhist master Shantideva’s teaching of “we are one” (The Way of the Bodhisattva). May this verse live in your heart.

“Since I and other beings both,
In wanting happiness, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should strive to have my bliss alone?

“Since I and other beings both,
In fleeing suffering, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should save myself and not the others?

“May we love and care for each other every minute, every day!”

Buddhist Economics on Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy!

What makes people happy?

This question takes us to the heart of the difference between free market economics and Buddhist economics, which have fundamentally difference assumptions about human nature. According to Buddhist economics, human nature is generous and altruistic, even as it also cares about itself. People’s suffering comes from their own mental states that cause them to desire more and more. The Dalai Lama tells us that our feelings of not having enough and wanting more do not arise from the inherent desirability of the objects we seek, but from our own mental illusions. In Buddhist economics, we end suffering by changing our states of mind—we become happy by caring for others and living a meaningful life.
Free market economics rests on the very different assumption that human nature is self-centered and people care only about themselves as they push ahead to maximize their incomes and fancy lifestyles. According to this approach, buying and consuming—new shoes or a new video game—make you happy. Yet soon you grow tired of the shoes, become disappointed with the game, and are shopping again. In this endless cycle of desire, people are left wanting more without ever finding lasting satisfaction. Free market economics is not showing us how to live meaningful lives in a sustainable world, nor is it offering solutions to our concerns about wars, inequality, and global warming.

Buddhist economics provides a path for being happy in our daily life. “Practice compassion” replaces “More is better,” as we move from a “Closetful” to a “Mindful” way of living. Buddhist economics also guides governments in how to restructure the global economy to create well-being for all in a healthy environment. “Everyone’s well-being is connected” replaces “Maximize your own position,” and “The welfare of humans and Nature is interdependent” replaces “Pollution is a social cost that can be ignored.”

British Professor Layard, who is a co-author of the important book The Origins of Happiness, writes, “The evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health. This demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.”

The reality that having more money and buying more stuff is not the road to happiness has been studied for decades, and yet our society still keeps us on the treadmill. Buddhist economics show us how together we can live balanced meaningful lives and heal the earth. There’s no time to lose!

“One interesting thing about greed is that although the underlying motive is to seek satisfaction, the irony is that even after obtaining the object of your desire, you are still not satisfied.” —Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness (p. 95)

Here’s more: www.nytimes.com/2016/07/26/your-money/more-money-more-success-more-stuff-dont-count-on-more-happiness.html?ref=your-money).

Courage to Live a Worthy Life

 

To embrace and practice Buddhist economics, you need courage. Courage to love, courage to protect the environment, courage to help others, and courage to live with joy.

At the personal level, you need courage to quit the rat race of overworking to make more money, courage to live mindfully as you help others, and courage to focus on what makes your life worthwhile.

At the local and national level, you need courage to demand that your government provide the infrastructure needed for an economy that protects the environment and becomes carbon-free, and one that defines economic growth as improved well-being for all people rather than more income for the rich.

We join with others to amplify our energy and create change. Together we have the political will and courage to take action for ourselves on behalf of all species and future generations. We know the fossil fuel industry will fight back with vicious attacks on our demands to transition to a fossil-free economy and ensure a comfortable, dignified life for all people.

Together we can create meaningful, happy lives for ourselves and our communities.

The guidelines are:

  • live mindfully with love and compassion;
  • care for others and relieve suffering;
  • enjoy and rejuvenate the earth.

We reach out with empathy to those who voted for Trump, and find common ground in ensuring everyone has clean air and water. We look for the basic good in each person. Trump supporters are confused and need help as we uproot our delusions. Buddhism views ignorance as the cause of greed, hatred, and delusions, which then cause conflict. People everywhere are frightened, and in pain.

We work with our Sangha and community groups to support each other. We must not fight among ourselves about petty differences, as we remember that we all want the same goals: clean air and water, a healthy earth, and happiness for all. Ignorance is the enemy, and we must vigorously oppose wrongdoing around the world that harms people and Mother Earth. Buddhist economics reminds us that everyone is interconnected, with each other and with nature. Harm to a person or harm to earth is harm to all people.

Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, writing in his Love Letter to the Earth, focuses on our interdependence with Mother Earth and on the need for us to appreciate and care for her. Earth gave birth to us, and we return to her when we die. Earth provides us with everything we need to live healthy, joyful lives. Thich Nhat Hanh asks us to express our gratitude at each meal, which represents the gifts, such as tea and bread that Nature has produced.

All economies must decouple fossil fuel energy use from economic growth. But Buddhist economics wants us to push further in creating sustainable lifestyles that reduce wasteful consumption and reduce overwork so people have time to enjoy life and help one another.

“Our collective compassion, mindfulness, and concentration nourishes us, but it also can help to reestablish the Earth’s equilibrium and restore balance. Together, we can bring about real transformation for ourselves and for the world.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth (p. 69)