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Lions Roar : March 2007
vow is all-encompassing, requiring endless compassion. Green Buddhists have coined the term “ecosattva” to conjure a bodhisattva pledged to ending environmental suffering. Ecosattvas can take their work into any field of environmental concern—agriculture, water pollution, climate stabilization, wilderness protection. The opportunities are endless. Their work carries the strength of the bodhisattva vow to help all who are suffering. Having such a vow as a reference point can relieve our usual anxious pursuit of quick results. Many environmental problems, in fact, are quite intractable and will take lifetimes, maybe even generations, to turn around. A steady intention can provide a grounding point in the midst of what may be a very long battle for environmental stability. Two places where I hear a lot of discussion about reducing harm are in relation to food and energy. The suffering of modern meat production for animals, workers, and the land has been well docu- mented (see Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan). Likewise, industrial agriculture has been exposed for its chemical assaults on soil and human health. Many people are choosing ethical principles for eating that re- duce harm to animals, plants, soils, and the human body. For some, this means eating food produced organically and, if pos- sible, grown by local farmers, thereby decreasing the energy ex- pense of long-distance shipping. For others, this means choosing fair trade products that reduce the toll on field laborers and pro- ducers in a competitive global system. Some reduce the lonely anonymity of food shopping by participating in community- supported agriculture food shares. I find myself especially concerned about energy choices for the future. My students know that oil production will peak in their lifetimes and that alternative sources of energy must be developed. Biodiesel fuel is quite popular, since it offers a way to recycle used vegetable oil. Wind and solar energy both cause comparatively little harm to the environment, especially compared to coal and oil pro- duction. Many people would love to own a hybrid electric vehicle that would allow them to be less dependent on the petroleum economy. While “non-harming” may not be a key word in this conversation, the direction seems clear: why cause any more harm to the environment? Hasn’t there already been enough? Enough Chernobyl meltdowns and Exxon Valdez oil spills? Getting “off- grid” could be seen as a moral ideal, a way to reduce your ecologi- cal footprint and be a better neighbor to the rest of the world.