Jul 8, 2007

Saving the Earth with Rock and Roll

Well yesterday was 7/7/07 and the big Live Earth Concert which has saved us all just in the nick of time. By the middle of Madonna's second number, the Greenland Ice Sheet had started to refreeze and what with Al Gore's enormous investment in carbon offsets, we should all be laying in extra firewood for the cold winters ahead. Polar bears are celebrating.

Sarcasm aside, this whole event is quite depressing in the way it typifies our pathetic response to the very real climate crisis. Scientists like Monbiot and Lovelock are painting a very grim picture; according to the latter, we may already have passed the critical "tipping point" where the earth system is going into positive feedback through reduced albedo and released methane from the melting of the Canadian and Siberian permafrost. People at all levels, even the thickest of politicians, are finally facing the facts, about twenty years too late.

But what are we doing about it? Putting in flourescent bulbs mostly. And on the political level, setting ambitious "targets" decades in the future, targets without concrete plans in most cases.

And, oh yeah, holding rock concerts. A really good article from the online Daily Mail has the following snippet;

A Daily Mail investigation has revealed that far from saving the planet, the extravaganza will generate a huge fuel bill, acres of garbage, thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions, and a mileage total equal to the movement of an army.

The most conservative assessment of the flights being taken by its superstars is that they are flying an extraordinary 222,623.63 miles between them to get to the various concerts - nearly nine times the circumference of the world. The true environmental cost, as they transport their technicians, dancers and support staff, is likely to be far higher.

The total carbon footprint of the event, taking into account the artists' and spectators' travel to the concert, and the energy consumption on the day, is likely to be at least 31,500 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to John Buckley of Carbonfootprint.com, who specialises in such calculations.

But take solace in the fact that they've bought all kinds of guilt removing "carbon offsets."

The hard fact is that if we can stop this warming at all (which is doubtful, curly light bulbs or no) it can only be done by massively scaling back our (meaning the rich countries) lifestyles. Use less power, travel less, consume less. In many cases it may not hurt to eat less. Nobody wants to face up to that yet, and probably won't until Mother Nature scales back our lifestyles for us, the hard way.

We Have Returned

No postings this last three weeks because I've been travelling, with Samenera Paramito, on a teaching trip to Peterborough and Ottawa. We also took the opportunity to visit Tisarana Monastery for a few days, that is the new establishment near Ottawa of which Ajahn Viradhammo is abbot. Very heartening to see how well it is getting off the ground.

Commenting on Comments

From the comments to my post on Rebirth, Apichato Bhikkhu says;

The three lifetime idea, along with the ‘relative truth’ of rebirth, is Brahmanism, eternalism. Buddhagosa was originally a Brahman, and along with the eternalist view of Paticcasamuppada he also ‘endorsed’ other Vedic practices as part of Buddhism, e.g. meditative practices that are totally irrelevant to the cessation of suffering, and quite a few other ideas (although he was not the first to endorse such a view and such ideas).
No, he wasn't the first. The Buddha beat him to it by about a millenium.

Those who wish to characterize rebirth as a brahminical import into the pure Buddhadhamma would have to account for the numerous times the Buddha explicitly teaches it. Likewise, the strongest case for the "three-lifetimes" model is found in the suttas themselves, where the factors of "birth" and "death" are routinely defined in the literal terms of actual birth and death of beings, not in the metaphorical sense necessary for the momentary model, which is rather contrived for this part of the cycle.

As for the various practices described in the Vissudhimagga "totally irrelevant to the cessation of suffering" I can only infer Apichato is referring to the forty samatha meditations, such as mindfulness of breathing and kasina work. As far as I know, there is no practice in the Vissudhimagga that isn't found previously in the words of the Buddha himself. This is not surprising, as the VM was written as a commentorial encyclopedia, a precis of the canonical teachings. And while samatha meditation does not lead by itself to cessation of suffering, it is far from irrelevant to that endeavour. You have to practice your scales if you want to play at Carnegie Hall.

Lastly, dismissing a teaching as a "relative truth" implies a basic misunderstanding of that term. A relative truth is not a falsehood. In the case of rebirth or kamma, these teachings may be called "relative" because they are stated in terms of individual beings which in the ultimate sense are only conventional names. However, this does not mean they do not actually happen!


I've fiddled with the settings for the comments again, here is the new deal;

1. I've left on word verification. I know it's slightly annoying but less than having the comments fill up with spam for great stock tips and male enhancement products.
2. I've taken off moderation, we seem to have lost the nasties. If they come back, moderation will go back on.
3. Lastly, I've enabled the requirement that you register. We've got a lot of anonymous postings and it makes it impossible to follow any discussion in the threads. Registration with Google seems to be the only way to require posters to use a name (doesn't have to be your real name.) If you have a blog, or use other personalized Google services, you're already registered. If not, it's free and easier than most on-line registrations. We may lose a few posters doing this, but I think it will make the comments more readable for everyone.