Climate change is a term used to describe a persistent and sustained weather change, in the range of anywhere from decades to millions of years. Climate change directly affects average regional or worldwide weather conditions. Some have even argued that it potentially increases the frequency of natural disaster. Despite these inherent dangers, the demands of improvements in human civilization and modern technology have lead to human overdevelopment. This, in turn, is causing harm to the global ecological system. In other words, human socioeconomic activities are at least one factor of climate change in the society today.
Given today’s circumstances, international scientists conclude that climate change has become synonymous with anthropogenic global warming. This poses an enormous danger, as anthropegenic global warming is able to destroy the biosphere of the entire planet. Consequently, scientists, religionists and environmentalist are trying to discover a way to solve the problem of anthropogenic global warming, as it is a significant issue for all humans.
Since the inception and first development of of Buddhism, many concepts and philosophies of the religion have developed based on the evaluation of the environment.
The indivisibility of Buddhist thought and an environmental mindset leads to Buddhism often being seen as antithetical to economic expansionism and harmful activities to the ecology system. Buddhists are trying to use their philosophy and teaching to affect the fundamental mindset of the modern population by inherently recommending Buddhists’ environmental-friendly style of living to the modern society. This, in turn, ought to help prevent the deteriorating effect of climate change.
This paper focuses on how climate change is affecting human civilization and the relationship between Buddhism and climate change in the society today. Other than discussing climate change in and of itself, this paper will demonstrate environmental and social issues related to both climate change and the perspective of Buddhism.
What is Climate Change? One general definition of climate change is the statistical properties of the climate system when considered over a long period of time, regardless of the cause. Climate change directly affects weather conditions, ocean water levels, the ecosystem and human society on the planet. In the modern day, many different factors affect the environment and, arguably, lead to the associated effects of climate change. These societal and technological changes mean that climate change has become more complicated to solve, making it more difficult to be mitigated by human efforts. Some natural environmental changes could affects climate change. For example, activities within the hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are the five main environmental factors that affect the climate system and climate change.
Despite these natural factors, according to scientific statistics presented below, human activity has become one of the main factors that leads to the effects of climate change.
According to some data, Earth’s average temperature had raised 1.4 °F over the past century. Based on the recent data analysis, Earth’s average temperature will rise another 2 to 11.5 °F in the next hundred years. More evidence is proving that global warming is affecting the environment. For example, there has been an increase in the sea level, ice in the north and south poles are melting, and acidity of ocean water is increasing. All this evidence points to the idea that the environment is deteriorating. These apparently small temperature changes in the environment will, in the long run, lead to tremendous and potentially dangerous changes in the ecological system.
What Are the Causes? In today’s society, global warming has become synonymous with climate change.
Pollution produced by human activities, such as the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gasses, lead to the ‘green house effect which, in turn, ultimately leads to global warming. The atmospheric concentration of three of these major greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – all increased by about one-third between the mid-19th century and 2007.3 According to Daniels’ research on greenhouse gas emissions, he considers it to be one of the driving forces of climate change. Based on the requirement of societal and technological development, some activities produce large amounts of pollution, consequently increasing the emission of greenhouse gasses and generating a worse-off environment. Besides the requirements of development, daily human life produces large amounts of greenhouse gasses as well. For example, vehicles exhaust emissions, airplane emissions, and train emissions.
Based on the driving force-pressure-state-impact-response model, used by Daniel, one can comprehend the process of how greenhouse gas is directly affecting the environment. This model uses European countries to analyze the data of greenhouse gas emissions by motor vehicles. More and more evidence is proving human activities as the main factor that leads the climate change.
In modern society, economic demand requires the use of large amounts of nature resource and materials. The development of these collective resources and materials ultimately harms the natural environment. For example, after paper was invented it became a necessity of life, but paper requires a large amount of trees to make. Trees have the ability to assist air purification and keep soil in solid form to avoid landslides. Meanwhile, the requirement of economic activity directly increases the emission of the greenhouse gasses.
Transportation makes up one of the major parts of human daily life. Trading, transporting and communicating are all dependent on transportation. All those daily activities are releasing greenhouse gasses. In the 21st century, global warming is widely regarded as a significant environmental issue. Generally, humans should take responsibility for these recent climate changes.
What is Buddhism? Buddhism was founded in the Northeastern part of India almost 2,500 years ago.
It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who is also known as the Lord Buddha or the Enlightened One.4 Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the world, and after the foundation in northeastern India, the religion widely spread into eastern Asia, coming to cover a large area.
After Buddhism successfully spread in Asia, branches of Buddhism came to American and European countries. A new form of American Buddhism is rising up in America, affecting the local population. The world population of Buddhists ranges from 350 million to 1.6 billion followers.
Buddhism is not a religion; it is a way of life. It teaches moral and ethical conduct for the happiness of oneself and the welfare of the community. Buddhist doctrines analyze human life and the intrinsic nature of things. This is based on reasoning and rational thinking, rather than an initial act of faith. Buddhism express its concept of life through “the Four Noble Truths”, which are the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. These four principles introduce a brief explanation of the perspective of Buddhism on humanity and moral issues.
The Noble Eightfold path is another doctrine of Buddhism, related to “the four noble truths.” Both doctrines represent the ideology of the causal relationship in society; that is, the conception that everything in the environment is dependent on each other. Buddhism and its philosophies guide people to live a balanced and harmonious existence in the environment, participating more in the environment and living jointly with other individuals. Furthermore, Buddhism contends that the solution is based on concept that the suffering, suffering is the cycle of human life, desire for living and dying are a part of the cycle. Everything will always return to where it started to finish the entire living process.
Consequently, the philosophy of Buddhism suggests people live in pristine and chaste form. This is because of the belief that everything will finish their living process by returning to the original point, living away from the ‘mundane and the dirty’ society, which will keep humans from having better understanding to the life journey. As the “root method,” mentioned in American Buddhism, humans will finish their life on the point from which they started. They will not bring anything with them when the time comes to leave this world, but their contribution will exist as an imperishable benefit to the world.
Generally, Buddhism is a concept (or philosophy) that assists humans to live more harmoniously with the environment. This is because most of Buddhist philosophies are developed based on the nature of the environment. Subsequently, Buddhism has the ability to guide human lives in an environmental way. This is expanded upon in the below section.
The Buddhist Perspective In Christian and Catholic philosophy, God created the world. This God is the one dominating the world and commanding what is happening on the Earth – including climate change. As the Bible mentions, climate change can be the method in which the world comes to an end. The flood was the process used by God to rebuild the world by destroying all the livings on the planet. Different from Christianity altogether, Buddhism believes climate change is the result of human activity and should not lead to the world’s destruction. This is because in Buddhism, the causal applies to this reality of society, and is therefore modifiable.
Buddhism is often seen to be antithetical to economics. Climate change and harmful activities to the environment are the main reasons for this. With a Buddhist perspective on climate change, humans should be responsible for the recent climate change. Living more environmentally is the only way to save civilization, and Buddhism will always assist humans by using its philosophy to change the fundamental concept of environment.
The most important Buddhist principles that can be applied to climate change are (a) the Four Noble Truths and (b) the pervasive theme of interconnectedness and interdependence of all things in existence. Based on the interconnectedness and interdependence of Buddhism, everything on the planet is connected, no matter that how static or individual. Buddhists always have their value placed on the society. Consequently, the philosophy makes humanity and environment commutatively in relationship with each other, since humanity is participates in the environment.
Buddhism assumes that everything that happens in the environment and the planet today are the result of human activities. God is not the factor of leading climate change. Humans should be responsible for their society and environment. “The Four Noble Truths” are the central doctrine of Buddhism, and another relevant philosophy to climate change. Buddhism uses “the Four Noble Truth” to inspire humanity. Although life and environment is imperfect for every individual and there are negative aspects dissatisfaction, discontent, disquiet, unease and suffering infused into human life, the solution will always be found in this suffering. Under a Buddhist point of view, the connected nature of all things and events in a dualistic reality may reflect the surfacing of the truth of universal oneness.8 People’s endless desire and greed can hardly be addressed through the advancement of science and technology. Science knows very little about the human individual and it is incapable of changing human behaviors. Buddhism will play an important role in society. The function of Buddhism in society today is to solve the endless desire and greed in human nature, by preventing people from endlessly developing technology and economic goals by destroying the living environment. Buddhism uses its philosophy to affect people’s behavior, mindset and understanding. Therefore people will change their concept of environment.
Buddhists are working to save the environment and society. People in different fields will have different solutions to the problem. Buddhism is affecting people mentally, in a more moderate way. According to Daniels’ framework on Buddhists are trying to affect people’s beliefs, values, and ethics to cause changes in people’s goals, wants, needs, intents, and choices.
This consequently affects human behavior on economic and social issues and finally contributes to the temperance of climate change. Theoretically, a society that embraces Buddhism as a guiding basis for the nature of its social and economic conditions would greatly reduce the factors that currently underlie predicted climate change.
Buddhism’s concept is trying to minimize the desire of human nature on economic terms to minimize environmental impact. Buddhism encourages the change from within, and inspires changes in individuals’ role as producers. If individuals appreciate their role is producers in the society, the greenhouse gas produced by their daily life (such as transportation and socioeconomic activities) will diminish. Furthermore, the role change to producers can help individuals to increase their social environmental responsibility and work against creating harmful gasses.
Furthermore, international policy and assistance for welfare growth and minimum environmental disturbance in the developing world assists the improvement of society. In Daniels’, welfare growth on some higher income countries is possible to assists the environmental control on climate change. His view demonstrates the versatility of Buddhism to various audiences. Buddhism does not only limit human activities to accomplish the goal climate change control, it can also assist the social welfare by reducing the environmental disturbance in the developing world. In general, the role of Buddhism acts to assist minimum environmental disturbance in the developing world. Its impact is guaranteed by large amount of international Buddhists.
Conclusion Insights from Buddhism are presented as a logical and practical basis for required changes in current global modes of production and consumption. Endless desire and greed are the two main factors that lead to human activities being harmful to the environment and society as a whole. Since humans largely participate in the environment, the interconnectedness and interdependence between human and environment is inseparable. The most important contributions from Buddhism are discussed as its discourse on the nature of human well being and the interdependence which explains the adverse consequences of anthropogenic disruption and disturbance of the processes and flows of the natural environment. 10 All humans have one goal in in regard to global warming – solve the problem and keep human civilization in existence Ultimately, this paper has shown that Buddhism uses its philosophy to affect human society on the fundamental concept of living to ensure the integrity of society. According to Buddhism, climate change will not lead the world to the end, but to its true beginning.