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Lions Roar : March 2007
EXPLOITATION OF THE EARTH MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY RESTORATION OF THE EARTH. The basis of this precept is simple: the earth is finite. Damaged land cannot be replaced, so it must be restored. The work of re- storing the earth is perhaps the deepest personal practice of the earth precepts. PRESERVE BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY. The earth is currently experiencing an extinction rate one thou- sand times higher than normal. To stop this destruction, the best approach is to focus on preserving entire ecosystems. This protects all the connections in the web of life and automatically preserves most species. DO NOT HAVE MORE THAN TWO CHILDREN. Our overwhelming success as a species has placed human beings in a paradoxical position: to preserve life, we must restrict our own fertility. If a birth rate of 2.0 was adopted immediately and universally, it would produce an essentially stable world popula- tion of about 7.3 billion by 2050. DO NOT ASSERT OWNERSHIP OVER SPECIES OR THEIR GENETIC CODES; THEY ARE NOT OURS TO CLAIM. While genetic engineering may provide benefits, it also entails ecological risks and threatens social inequities that we have only begun to imagine. Our responsibility to the earth requires that this uncontrolled experimentation be halted until we have devel- oped a better understanding of its possible consequences. DO NOT EXEMPT CORPORATIONS FROM THE ENVIRON- MENTAL PRECEPTS THAT INDIVIDUALS MUST FOLLOW. This final precept looks beyond individual responsibility to the actions of organizations. The corporate ideology of limit- less growth is incompatible with the health of our limited earth and cannot be allowed to continue. If humanity does not assert control over corporations, all our efforts to foster a life-centered culture will fail. Reading this list, some may object that these injunctions are impossible to follow. Every day—in some cases every min- ute—we violate one or more of the earth precepts. If they cannot be followed, does this make them meaningless? The Ten Com- mandments and the Buddhist precepts are also quite impossible to follow, if strictly interpreted. Still, almost all of us accept these social precepts as the basis of our moral beliefs. This acceptance makes us more responsible people. In Buddhism, the first bodhisattva vow declares: “Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.” This is equally a social and an earth precept. By declaring our intention to save all living beings, we commit to a goal that is both impossible and indispensable. The bodhisattva and the ecologist share this knowledge: none are saved unless all are saved. We have no choice but to try. ♦ PEPPER TRAIL is a writer, Zen student, and professional biologist. He lives in Ashland, Oregon. Where conflicts have escalated and relations are damaged, a Buddhist practitioner might be drawn to the role of healer. A third side party with a commitment to compassionate action can be a valuable asset in moving a situation forward to resolution. The Buddhist practitioner skilled in relational thinking can ana- lyze the causes and conditions of the conflict and work to heal brokenness and damage. This may take diplomacy, courage, and patience, depending on the degree of the injury. I can imagine bringing this healer role to your own neighborhood if people are angry over bird-hunting cats or chemical spraying. The healer helps conflicting parties understand each others’ positions and find a better solution to the problems at hand. When environmental conflict has become entrenched and resolution is not in sight, taking a third side peacekeeping role requires more courage. I think of the massive gold-mining oper- ations in Indonesia, for example, where the military is well paid by the mining company to squelch local conflict. The history of assault on the land and people is so deeply ingrained that it will not be easy to resolve. Here a Buddhist practitioner might serve in the role of witness, making the public aware of what is happening to the plants and animals under attack. Bringing attention to the problem exposes harmful behavior, which can then generate public pressure for change. A Buddhist approach is not necessarily more effective than other approaches, but it may add less antagonism to the situation. Rather than further polarizing an already tense situation, the Buddhist can act com- passionately toward all parties, bearing witness without accusa- tion, reporting facts without condemnation. To carry out such challenging environmental work, it is cru- cial to think of yourself as an active agent in Indra’s Net. This is a vitally important part of the peacekeeping effort. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as “planting seeds of joy and peace.” You SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 47