How might we respond skilfully to the climate and ecological crisis?

Buddhists protesting for climate change
Lama Shenpen and friends on the worldwide climate strike day in Bangor, North Wales

A student writes:

Would you be happy to say a few words about why you decided to attend the global climate strike last week? Why did you feel it was important to go? Is there anything more you can say about how we may be able to respond skilfully to the climate and ecological crisis as individuals and perhaps as Buddhists and as a sangha?

Lama Shenpen replies:

I joined the climate strike last Friday to show solidarity and unity with all those who see climate change as the crisis it is and want to unite and make sure governments and corporations wake up to the enormity of the task facing humanity and start acting accordingly immediately.

I was grateful to all those taking the trouble to organise an event such as last Friday’s climate strike – making it easy for me to join in. I was grateful to the press for publicising it – and I am grateful particularly to the young people who are standing up and demanding change.

It is important that we all make a lot of noise protesting at this time.  It is already shameful enough that somehow we have let the situation get as bad as this – to let it go even further without putting up a fight would be unforgivable.

There are so many causes that one feels one should be standing up for that even if one devoted all ones time to activism that would still take more time and energy than most of us can find. We have to prioritise what we think is most important and concentrate on that. We cannot do everything. That is the only reason why I am not a more active campaigner in many areas.

I cheer on those who campaign and donate to many causes. I try to play my part. It would help the situation if everyone did at least this much – that is how I think of it. It is great that different people take up different causes and roles – so much needs to be done!

I wasn’t sure if it mattered whether I was demonstrating simply as a citizen of the world or as a Buddhist.  Buddhists share all the same humanitarian values as the rest of the world.

As Buddhists we have an added responsibility to keep the authentic Buddha Dharma alive in this world to pass on to future generations. It means we have to prioritise our own training and sangha building – these are the actions I mainly concentrate on while cheering on everyone else in what they are doing to help.

Each person has to choose how they want to respond and what they feel inspired to prioritise. That is why I do not particularly raise this issue as something we as a sangha should get involved in.  It is something we as individuals need to get involved in and do whatever we think we can usefully do given our own situation.

So I cheer on all of you who took action on Friday and are getting involved in the campaign to arrest climate change.  At the same time I want to emphasise that in spite of our best efforts our actions may have little effect in saving the planet. However, our actions if well motivated will have a good karmic effect – they are our actual Dharma practice helping ourselves and all beings on the path to liberation whether this planet becomes uninhabitable or not.